*Warning: the following piece contains spoilers for episode four of Andor*
Now that the pieces are set in motion during its first three episodes, Andor starts to get the needle moving. The aftermath of episode three causes Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) to lose his duties as Pre-Mor Officer from the hands of the Empire, who are now taking over their operations on Ferrix. Meanwhile, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) travel to the planet of Aldhani, where our protagonist meets members of the Rebel Alliance. Andor and the Rebel Alliance plan to steal payroll data in an Imperial base.
After dropping off Andor, Rael travels to Coruscant and impersonates someone else while talking to Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly). The two seem to be close and are planning something regarding the Imperial occupation, but it’s unclear what their relationship is. But their sequence together is the best of the episode; we know less of Skarsgård’s character than we did when we first met him because his personality completely changes. Who is he? Is he a part of the Rebel Alliance? A con man? For his gain, someone who uses Andor, Mothma, and/or Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona)? What’s his endgame?
I kept asking myself these lingering questions whenever the show would cut to Rael because the character is an enigma. It helps that he’s played by a brilliant actor who steals every ounce of the spotlight away from Luna. Rael’s arc is far more interesting than Cassian’s, who, in my opinion, has had a hard time setting himself as the show’s player. The flashbacks in its previous episodes hindered its pacing and character development. The showrunners didn’t seem confident in naturally growing Andor in the diegesis and have hashed flashbacks that add nothing to the story and slow it down.
Now they have to recover from these poor instances of character development during one exposition-laden episode, where Andor meets Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu), Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther), Lieutenant Gorn (Sule Rimi), Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) and Taramyn Barcona (Gershwyn Eustache) on Aldhani. The episode only sets what will happen in episode five, where Andor (who passes himself off as “Clem,” the name of his adoptive father) and the Rebels infiltrate the Empire to obtain payroll data. And while this episode’s premise certainly sounds exciting, I’m not sure we needed to sit through this amount of plotting to get ourselves excited at the possible sight of major action set-pieces next week.
Perhaps it’s also because the exposition isn’t as riveting as the past few weeks, where it was meticulously building up towards one of the most incredible action setpieces in Star Wars history. Many new characters are introduced this week, most notably Deedra Mero (Denise Gough), who works for the Imperial Security Bureau and longs to find a Starpath unit stolen on Ferrix but is told by her superiors to let it go. And one could get lost in the amount of exposition the episode dumps on the audience as it progresses.
Some have complained about the show’s languishing pace, moving slower than most Star Wars titles and having fewer action set-pieces. I like how lived-in everything feels and that all good things come to those who wait. I prefer episodes that establish the main plot and make us care about the characters we’re going to spend twelve episodes with than glup shitto episodes where it’s nothing but lightsabers and cameos. Someone pointed out that fans’ expectations were incredulously low for Andor because the “no lightsabers and cameos” element makes the show suitable. But it is precisely because the show is veering off from the Skywalker Saga and showing a blueprint of how Star Wars can thrive post The Rise of Skywalker.
But Andor is also good because of its impeccable cinematography, thrilling score, and scene-chewing performances from Skarsgård, O’Reilly (who shows a vulnerable side to Mon Mothma that we previously did not see in other Star Wars pieces of media), and Kyle Soller, who remains the best part of the show by far. We’re four episodes in, and I already feel for him way more than I do for Cassian Andor, even if Luna gives a compelling and fierce portrayal of the rebel hero. But since everyone around him consistently tries to upstage Luna, it becomes riveting to watch.
And even if the episode contains way too much exposition for its own good, it’s much better to take your time and set things in motion so that audiences will be far more invested in the characters once they are stuck in dire situations. It looks like that’s what is going to happen for Andor. And, yes, the pacing can be sluggish at times, but I still left this week’s episode with a sense of wanting more. I want to stay in this world instead of the Volume-filled soundstages of The Mandalorian and Obi-Wan Kenobi. More of Andor, less of The Mandalorian. Sorry, not sorry. Star Wars needs to grow past the Skywalkers, and it looks like Andor will do just that.
The second episode of Andor is now available to stream on Disney+.