Review | Star Wars: Andor (The Premiere Episodes)
Star Wars: Andor is dark, gritty, and intense, but lacks the exuberance of Rogue One. And after four serviceable but forgettable episodes, I’m still waiting for the story to justify its existence.
After the success of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the galaxy far, far away found a new rebel hero in Captain Cassian Andor. His rugged good looks and kill-first ask-questions-later attitude made Diego Luna’s lovable rogue an instant hit with Star Wars fans young and old. But with his past shrouded in mystery, Lucasfilm was quick to greenlight a new Disney Plus series developed to explore these unknown years. And now, Star Wars: Andor has arrived to reveal all. But can the spirit of Rogue One propel this rebellion hero to even greater heights? Or was Gareth Edwards’ masterwork too big a legacy to live up to?
Sadly, I’m still on the fence. If you were hoping for a review packed full of blind loyalty to the franchise we know and love look away now. The truth is, although Star Wars: Andor is dark, gritty, and intense, the story sorely lacks the exuberance of Rogue One. And after four serviceable but forgettable episodes, I’m still waiting for the story to fully develop and justify its existence.
BIRTH OF A REBEL
Now, to be clear, I will not be delving into spoiler territory here. But needless to say, the series tilts into a darker time in Star Wars history. The rebellion was nothing more than a pipe dream, and the countless star systems struggled to survive under Imperial rule. And it is here where we find our story. From the outset, the series harnesses the same aesthetics of both Rogue One and Solo: A Star Wars Story and presents us with a darker corner of George Lucas’ used galaxy. It’s a familiar landscape and its closeness puts us at ease right from the off.
The budget for each episode has been well spent here because this series is easily the most sumptuous Star Wars-themed Disney Plus project to date. Whether we are marveling at the countless practical effects on display, or the masterwork of the set design, Andor is a true visual spectacle and boasts all the hallmarks of the galaxy far, far away. We have new worlds to explore, scores of new characters to meet, and a galaxy of adventures to enjoy which is worth the price of admission alone.
After a gripping and intense opening salvo, Tony Gilroy gets to work introducing us to the characters that will take the story forwards. As expected, Diego Luna leads the line with another energetic and intense performance. It’s an absolute joy to see him back in the galaxy far, far away. And from the opening moments, the actor is clearly relishing his return to the Star Wars galaxy as much as we are. Only this time out, Cassian is a far more tormented soul. One coming to terms with an unimaginable loss that serves to drive him forwards.
Sadly, the reasoning behind this torment falls a little short of the mark. And after four episodes the motivation for his bitterness towards the Empire is still very much unexplained. Whereas most fans would be forgiven for thinking that the show would dive right in with an action-packed debut episode; the series takes a detour and explores Cassian’s character like never before. Instead of a seasoned warrior, we are introduced to a scavenger and an engineer doing what he has to survive. But it is these meager beginnings that serve to propel Cassian on his greatest adventure and bring gravity to his sacrifice in Rogue One.
After establishing the tone of the series, we are quickly introduced to Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), an old friend of Cassian’s who has connections to a major player in the fledgling resistance. How deep their complicated relationship goes remains to be seen. But her rapport with Cassian goes way beyond friendship. And I am eager to explore the depths of their relationship as the weeks unfold.
The same can be said of Kyle Soller’s rigid Deputy Inspector Syril Karn. After uncovering Cassian’s involvement in an incident on his colony, Karn’s sense of duty and obligation to the uniform sends him on a quest to bring the perpetrator to justice. For the most part, Kyle Soller plays the role with unswerving vigor. His performance is strong, passionate, and intense. And I am relishing the chance to discover where his sense of duty stems from. Will he eventually join the Empire and pursue Cassian across the galaxy? That remains to be seen, but the series will only be enrichened by their growing rivalry.
Now we come to the character destined to be hidden beneath every fan’s Christmas tree this year. Cassian’s adorable ground mech salvage droid affectionately named B2EMO. The weary old droid will easily become an instant hit with fans of all ages and serves as Cassian’s conscience as he jets off on more daring adventures. Designed as the precursor to K-2SO, Bee-Two readily offers a cheeky quip or two that would make even R2-D2 envious. And the droid’s relationship with Cassian is one of the highlights of the series so far.
The supporting cast is rounded out by Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma whose return will only add layers to her complicated character; and Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Rael. The latter will play a pivotal part in the series as a whole. And during the first four episodes, is presented as a covert super-spy looking to add Cassian to his list of actionable assets. But as the story begins to evolve, the character is rewarded with multiple layers that will keep us all guessing.
Sadly, Genevieve O’Reilly is largely missing for the majority of the premiere episodes. But her timely arrival lifts the story when it needs it and restores our connection to the wider saga. Albeit a soft-pedaled one.
The music of the galaxy far, far away plays a pivotal role in how we connect with the story. Ludwig Göransson perfected the sound of The Mandalorian, and with Joseph Shirley, delivered a solid score for The Book Of Boba Fett. But here, the score has been composed by franchise newcomer Nicholas Britell. And sadly, his score for Andor falls short of the mark. Aside from an appropriately powerful accompaniment to the opening logo, the score is rather forgettable. Which is a major detraction for me. The sound of Star Wars is almost as important as the story itself. It is part of the very fabric of the saga. And Andor has yet to deliver. Not that the score won’t hit the high notes later in the series. But I’m just not feeling it so far.
Sadly, the issues aren’t just restricted to the score. Being similar in style to The Book Of Boba Fett, Andor spends a great deal of its time in flashback mode. After a while, I can see this becoming a test of endurance. Especially if the backstory doesn’t move along at pace. But for the most part, these flashbacks are crucial to understanding the spiritual crossroad Cassian finds himself at. And as the series develops, these detours into the past will help to define the rebel hero we know and love. But despite their validity, the series often slows to a snail’s pace. And it plods along endlessly waiting for something to happen. When it does, the payoff is worth it. But the wait between them is often arduous and will grow tiresome after a while.
What’s more, Tony Gilroy and his team of visionaries have transformed this series into a more adult-themed adventure by allowing “real-world” swearing to creep into the opening episodes. It’s a worrying trait. One that is most unwelcome, especially when the universe Disney inherited boasts its own set of derogatory terminology. But when characters are parading around the GFFA using “bastard” and “shit” it drags the franchise into a pit of despair it may not return from. The galaxy far, far away was created as a sandpit for kids of all ages to play in. But now there is a danger of the real world infecting this pure landscape and changing its formula forever. This is not George Lucas’ vision, so let’s hope it is eradicated from the galaxy very soon.
Although the series has to develop and justify its existence, Star Wars: Andor is a fascinating look at a beloved character. Diego Luna is back to his best and delivers a wonderfully energetic performance. And the lavish, vibrant set design, coupled with a compelling and gritty setting taps into the best parts of George Lucas’ used galaxy. The series is a major departure from its predecessors which makes for a bold and grounded adventure. But sadly, with its slow-burning plot; subdued score and unwelcome swearing the series falls way short of the bar set by its predecessors.
At times, the series is deep and personal, in others, it is bleak and inspiring. But overall, the opening episodes leave us wanting more, as all good tv series’ should. It will challenge the way we perceive Star Wars forever, and not all in a positive way. But let’s face it, a mature and ambitious series exploring the birth of the Rebellion can only be a good thing. Just be prepared to wait a while to get there!
Star Wars: Andor launches with a special three-episode season premiere on September 21, only on Disney Plus
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Phil Roberts is the Owner, Daily Content Manager, and Editor-In-Chief of The Future of the Force. He is passionate about Star Wars, Batman, DC, Marvel, Star Trek, Indiana Jones, Ghostbusters, King Kong, and the Ray Harryhausen movies. Follow him on Twitter where he uses the force and babbles frequently!