*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for Andor*
Andor is good. Really good. It’s possibly the best piece of Star Wars media to come from Lucasfilm since the release of The Last Jedi, and all they had to do was to veer off from legacy characters and The Skywalker Saga. The first three episodes show no references to the expanded universe, no cameos, and no lightsabers. Some say this is “vastly different from anything Star Wars has done.” I wouldn’t say that it is “vastly different.” Still, it feels so refreshing with what has come out of the franchise as of late, especially with The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi being terribly dull and too overreliant on nostalgia and fan service.
But the best part about Andor is that it doesn’t feel like Star Wars. Instead, it feels more reminiscent of Ridley Scott‘s Blade Runner. I may be the thousandth person to say this now, but it’s true. It’s more apparent when its rousing score from Nicholas Britell immediately recalls the late Vangelis from Blade Runner. It manages to suck us into its lived-in world farther than its slowly-paced story because it takes a while to get going.
Some aspects of the first three episodes don’t work, especially when exploring Cassian Andor’s (Diego Luna) past. The show begins with Andor on Morlana One, looking for his sister, but is stopped by two Pre-Mor officers. After an altercation, Andor accidentally kills one of them and has to kill the other to ensure he doesn’t get wanted. However, Pre-Mor deputy inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) is determined to find out who killed the officers and may be from the planet Kenari.
This is where the show starts to talk about Andor’s past through disjointed flashbacks peppered into the story. We see that his real name was Kassa, and he was adopted by Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) and Clem Andor (Gary Beadle) after he stayed to explore a crashed ship and strayed from his tribe. The main problem with its flashbacks is their poor integration into the story. As soon as its tension starts to mount, the show cuts to the past and hinders any sense of character development and momentum it has in the present.
It doesn’t help that most flashbacks don’t add anything to the story because we understand everything in the present. When we see Maarva for the first time, we know that this is Andor’s adoptive mother. We don’t need a flashback to show how they met when Kassa was a child. It’s as clear as day and doesn’t develop anything interesting. The same can be said for sequences where we see Kassa in Kenari with other members of his tribe. It feels as though the show lacks profound confidence in making the audience understand where Andor comes from. We already know his personality and what he strives for through the events of Rogue One. Did we need to see him as a child when his actions in the show’s present speak more than his past? Probably not.
But when Andor soars, it more than soars. Its scenes in the present intricately develop interesting relationships between Cassian, Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), and its antagonists. Diego Luna is terrific as Andor, but it’s interesting to see how its supporting cast is superbly developed and performed. Soller is the standout of the first three episodes as Karn. Obvious parallels will be made between him and Reva (Moses Ingram) in Obi-Wan Kenobi, who is highly ambitious and will stop at nothing to defeat the show’s titular protagonists, even defying the rules in some areas,
But Karn is a character who is far more complex. Since other protagonists around him are better developed than in Obi-Wan, you start to become invested in his quest for what he believes is justice, which leads to one of the best action setpieces I’ve seen in any piece of Star Wars media by far. It not only feels refreshing to have no lightsabers and attempts at fan service, but we have practical action setpieces for what feels like the first time in a long time, with minimal green screen and, more importantly, no volume. Star Wars feels grand and epic again, and all it needed was for it to go back to the basics of traditional moviemaking.
They desperately needed a traditional filmmaker like Tony Gilroy at the helm. He writes enthralling dialogue scenes with finely developed characters for the action to run at its highest when it drops. Director Toby Haynes does a good job establishing the show’s main storyline during its first three episodes and makes us excited for more. The only problem with the episodes was that they all felt like one pilot split into three parts. The first two episodes end in the most abrupt place, and it would’ve worked better as an actual two-hour-ish premiere than having episodes ending at the most random point. But it is what it is. We still have many more episodes to go as the show takes form.
But even amidst its flaws, Andor is still very good. Its action sequences are incredible, the score is pure fire, and its performances from Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, and Kyle Soller are all stellar. It’s just a shame that the flashbacks are hindering the show’s pace, but that could change once the story becomes more apparent and the show attempts to set up Cassian Andor before the events of Rogue One.
The first three episodes of Andor are now available to stream on Disney+.