Andor — premiering Wednesday on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar — revisits Diego Luna’s main character Cassian Andor, first introduced on Rogue One nearly six years ago. (It’s set five years before that Star Wars movie, though, where the Rebel Alliance is in its infancy, and Andor wants nothing to do with a big resistance.) Rightly so for a movie that was darker than anything. in its universe and expanded the definition of what Star Wars could be, its TV prequel spin-off is more developed than anything we’ve seen before from the galaxy far, far away. Andor visits a brothel in the first 10 minutes, and he kills two men later in this episode. He’s not a hero character, just like he wasn’t on Rogue One, where he killed an injured informant because he was a handicap.
It’s only appropriate when AndorRogue One’s boldness comes from Rogue One co-writer and uncredited reshoots director Tony Gilroy, who takes on the role of creator, showrunner, and head writer for the new Star Wars series. (However, he wasn’t the first choice, just like on Rogue One.) Along with Nightcrawler writer-director brother Dan Gilroy and House of Cards creator and showrunner Beau Willimon, Tony Gilroy and Co .create a Star Wars series worthy of their talents. At one end is office and imperial politics. On the other, we have hardened rebels still scared, munching on the fringes and fighting for survival. But they also have something in common. The Rebels eye each other warily, as do their counterparts in their sleek white offices who rule the Empire.
There is a degree of darkness in every corner of Andor – and that makes sense. After all, there are no Jedi here pursuing purity of mind or heart, no benefactors who believe in the Force, and no heroes with quick wits ready to risk anything. the end of the line, past the non-lightsabers who must fend for themselves with ingenuity, negotiation, and toughness. These are those who outline an existence on the margins of the Empire. Which does Andor more relatable and down-to-earth – its characters don’t have superpowers or specialized armor – although that also means it’s something different from what Star Wars has trained us to expect, even on the small screen. I expect that might disappoint some, but that’s exactly what you expect from the guy behind Rogue One.
Everything you need to know about Andorthe new Star Wars series
Five years before Rogue One, Andor begins with Cassian Andor (Luna) based on the desert world of Ferrix, where he lives with his adoptive mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw, from the Harry Potter films) and the droid B2EMO, simply known as Bee to Andor. While B2EMO willingly does what he wants, he feels left out because Andor doesn’t involve him in his adventures. But their time together is coming to an end. After an incident on the company-run planet Morlana One, Andor is forced to flee. He is aided by black market dealer and rebel rookie Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård, of Chernobyl), which involves him in the first stratagems of the incipient resistance. We may know where he’s headed, but for now, Andor is basically a paid mercenary.
It takes up four episodes that are between 30 and 40 minutes long – all reviewers, including me, got access to a third of the Andor‘s first season – but that’s only because the Star Wars series makes room for a variety of other faces.
One of them involves a young Andor, or rather “Kassa”, on his home planet of Kenari. These days, we have Morlana Assistant Inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller, from Poldark) who makes it his personal mission to hunt Andor. The Star Wars series also makes room for Imperial officer Dedra Meero (Denise Gough, of Too Close), who also has Andor on her radar. There’s Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona, from Morbius), a friend of Andor on Ferrix who repairs machinery and is drawn into a mission of revenge. And finally, there’s Imperial Senator Mon Mothma (Geneviève O’Reilly, returning from Rogue One as with Luna) on the galaxy’s capital, Coruscant, who tries to do good within the confines of the Empire while trying secretly to found the Rebel Alliance.
Each of these characters, and their resulting situations, add to Andor. Through Mothma, the new Star Wars series strikes at the risks of operating from the heart of the Empire. This has been suggested but never explored in Obi Wan Kenobi. In Dedra’s case, she’s pushing for change – or rather, to further her own rise – within Imperial bureaucratic structures, but it’s not in the name of the greater good as with Mothma. Dedra not only fights a monolithic system, but also a system filled with men who have failed to the top.
AndorBabli Bouncer and more on Disney+ Hotstar in September
With Bix and Syril, it’s more primary desires. Both have experienced loss, and to fill that void in their lives, they are looking for something that could give meaning to their lives. And with Kenari’s flashback, Andor digs into what Star Wars has always been, in a way. In its stated desire to bring order to the galaxy, the Empire is in great need of organization, as evidenced by its minimalist design principles. It flattens the cultures, peoples, and worlds that stand in its way, which lose their livelihoods and are displaced – or worse killed – for the Empire’s grand schemes. While Rogue One showed what an armed occupation could look like, Andor presents a more mundane but equally disastrous scenario.
Given the tone of the new Star Wars series, Luna is playing a darker version of Cassian Andor who is only in it for himself at the moment. Although she’s billed second, there’s not enough O’Reilly in the first four episodes. But in her brief presence, she brings shades of vulnerability and frustration to a Mon Mothma who is years away from commanding the Rebel Alliance. The third Skarsgård has to play a double role – I can’t say more – and his Luthen Rael is gruff. He is clearly someone who has seen the world a lot.
Arjona and Gough, who are fourth and fifth billed respectively, have very little to do in Andorthe first four episodes. Arjona’s Bix Caleen gets more screen time. The sixth Soller, meanwhile, has a big presence in the first three episodes as Syril Karn. He has a maverick sense of authority that backfires – much like the mirror version of what happened to Oscar Isaac’s pilot Poe Dameron in Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
It’s a good idea to have a range of secondary characters, especially when Andor has the longest running Star Wars television series to date. Directed by Ewan McGregor Obi Wan Kenobi was technically the shortest at six episodes, although The Book of Boba Fett only devoted five episodes to its main character since the other two were more like The Mandalorian season 2.5. Speaking of which, the Baby Yoda show had been the longest running so far with eight episodes each for its two seasons. But while The Mandalorian is much more episodic, Andor is much more serialized.
Andor at Jamtara Season 2, September’s Biggest TV Shows
After seeing four of the 12 episodes – you could call this the first of three acts, given that Luna described the making Andor like a “really long movie” – I’m intrigued to see how they handle the rest. This also means that this is by no means a final verdict. But what’s refreshing to see is that Star Wars can stand for something other than the mediocre Jedi and bounty hunter stories we’ve been served up for the past two years. For too long, this franchise has been happy to retread the ground, tap into nostalgia, revisit the past, and call it a day. And although Andor is a prequel to a prequel, it still feels like it’s breaking new ground.
Andor premieres Wednesday, September 21 on Disney+ and Disney+ Hotstar. A new episode will air every Wednesday around 12:30 p.m. IST / 12 p.m. PT until November 23. In India, Andor is available in English and Hindi.