Andor is a sobering reflection on the human costs of Star Wars’ never-ending conflicts

A man kneeling to tinker with an object in a dimly lit room as a rectangular droid looks on curiously from behind him.
Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. | Lucasfilm/Disney Plus

Disney Plus’ Andor will get all the way down to brass tacks about what it takes to win a conflict

It’s uncommon for Star Wars tasks to finish up feeling like stronger, extra attention-grabbing tales for hewing near the tentpole films that got here earlier than them. But that’s very a lot the case with Andor, Disney Plus’ new prequel collection that keenly understands and expands upon the whole lot that made Rogue One such a standout half of the franchise.

Rogue One, director Gareth Edwards’ harrowing, shell-shocked, however finally optimistic story about the small group of freedom fighters who gained the Rebel Alliance’s first victory in opposition to the Galactic Empire, was not like every other Star Wars story when it debuted in 2016. As half of a franchise that — at the time — felt more and more incapable of escaping the gravitational pull of its nostalgia-logged core mythology and its gamers, Rogue One was a subtle and hard-edged reminder that there’s at all times been a lot extra to Star Wars than the Skywalker saga. Andor, from Rogue One writer-turned-showrunner Tony Gilroy, doesn’t in any respect stray too far from the tone, scale, or frankness about the human costs of warring with fascists that outlined the film it’s constructing as much as.

Set largely simply a few years earlier than the occasions of Rogue One, Andor tells the origin story of its namesake, Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a charming, world-weary thief who turns into a important member of the Rebel Alliance proper as the resistance is first starting to come back into existence. Though the Galactic Empire’s bigger ambitions and its connections to the darkish aspect of the Force aren’t broadly often known as Andor opens, Cassian, like numerous different strange folks residing throughout the period, is aware of from private expertise simply how profoundly damaging and merciless their overlords will be. That information is why Cassian and so many of the different salvager-cum-mechanics eking out meager lives on the desert planet Ferrix are prepared to maintain their heads down in hopes of seeming too insignificant and defeated to attract the Empire’s consideration.

A man walking through a scrapyard where another man is busy working to collect metal from a wrecked ship.
Image: Lucasfilm / Disney Plus
Cassian trudging by a village on Ferrix.

But Cassian’s traumatic historical past with the Empire from an ancient times, which Andor explores in flashbacks all through its first season, is additionally why he has no concern with murdering a couple of the Empire’s low-level goons once they step to him incorrectly one night at a seedy brothel — a split-second determination with unimaginably far-reaching penalties.

While the Cassian of Rogue One was a seasoned sufficient spy and revolutionary who understood how capturing first and asking questions later may come again to chew him in the ass ten-fold, Andor’s Cassian is a man nonetheless studying the significance of at all times considering a few steps forward. It’s a lesson Cassian’s family members like his adoptive mom Maarva (Fiona Shaw) and their emotionally codependent droid B2EMO (Dave Chapman) have tried to impress upon him extra instances than both of them can recall. But it isn’t till Maarva, B2EMO, and Cassian’s longtime flame Bix (Adria Arjona) all put themselves straight in hurt’s technique to defend him that their phrases begin to echo again to him in methods Andor makes use of as an instance some of the harsher realities of their universe.

Andor doesn’t precisely spell out what’s going on because it introduces comparatively low-level Empire bureaucrats Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) and Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and begins detailing how their dedication to their jobs makes them harmful folks. But we, as an viewers, are supposed to know about the Empire’s top-secret, resource-intensive undertaking to construct one of the largest weapons in its arsenal as a result of realizing what a Death Star is makes seeing the particulars of its organizational genesis that rather more horrific.

In stark distinction to Disney’s different Star Wars reveals which have tended to really feel like miniaturized bursts of storytelling supposed to evoke the movies’ grand space-operatic qualities, Andor’s a ground-level story about how its protagonists react and persevere as they be taught extra about what’s occurring round them. Rather than merely constructing to larger, flashier moments in Star Wars historical past, Andor’s much more curious about exploring the context during which these occasions occurred and unpacking how they affected the folks residing by them.

A woman flanked by two armed guards as they stand in front of a spaceship they’ve just disembarked from.
Image: Lucasfilm / Disney Plus
Dedra Meero and her armed guards.

It’s as a result of Andor’s first season spends a massive chunk of time in the previous with a youthful Cassian, exhibiting you simply how a lot of his life the Empire destroyed, that the grownup Cassian makes for such a compelling and sympathetic protagonist. Again, Andor’s Cassian isn’t but a man shifting by the world with years of expertise going toe-to-toe with the numerous, typically anonymous faces whose sheer numbers and dedication to the Empire’s trigger are what make the total enterprise so formidable. But there’s a rawness and calculated ferocity to Luna’s efficiency right here that works exceptionally effectively with Andor’s framing of Cassian as a man in the midst of a crucible that helped him change into a legend.

The similar is additionally true of Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Rael and Genevieve O’Reilly’s Mon Mothma, two dynamic members of the Resistance who put on a quantity of guises, each literal and metaphorical, as they navigate an more and more treacherous political panorama. People are typically fast to jot down off Star Wars’ forays into political trivialities. But Andor’s discussions about the long-term implications of sure commerce offers and the way votes are shifting by the Senate work to remind you of how a lot of the capital “E” evil on this franchise was designed to be imperceptible to elites and people born into relative financial stability.

While Andor’s first season begins off robust on its personal advantage, what’s most promising about the collection as a entire is how Gilroy and the relaxation of the present’s inventive staff appear to have a strong idea of how they wish to evolve and remodel Cassian in the buildup to season 2, which leads proper into the occasions of Rogue One. There’s one thing deeply comforting in realizing that Andor’s already deliberately shifting towards a particular finish zone and that its journey alongside the means is meant to make that final vacation spot all the extra satisfying. It’s a considerably new method for Star Wars, particularly in the period of its live-action TV spinoff collection, nevertheless it’s nearly sure to work in Andor’s favor as the collection unfolds.

Andor additionally stars Forest Whitaker, Anton Lesser, Kathryn Hunter, Robert Emms, and Ebon Moss-Bachrach. The present hits Disney Plus on September twenty first.

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