Few Star wars productions arrive with the same measured sophistication as Andor. More political thriller than outright action vehicle, Tony Gilroy’s magnificent TV series presents a decidedly mature take on that galaxy far, far away, based on sharp dialogue spoken in dark alleys by people who follow both sides of the law. Some found this approach boring. I thought it was riveting.
What happened Andor Does season 1 work that well? Let’s break it down.
Carefully developed characters
Andor focuses on several fascinating plots jam-packed with unique characters dealing with their problems. Cassian (Diego Luna) is a con artist/swindler who spends his days doing odd jobs to survive long enough to find his sister. Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is a senator adapting to Emperor Palpatine’s reign. She mingles with outlaws like Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), whose rebellious ambitions to bring order to the galaxy often require making difficult choices and jumping headfirst into the darkness. Peripheral characters such as Bix (Adria Arjona), Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu), Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) and Saw Gerrera (a returning Forest Whitaker), are rooted in unique subplots that heighten the tension further.
Gilroy also conjures up a unique cast of realistic villains whose actions stem from personal preservation rather than mustache-twirling malice. Imperial Security Bureau lieutenant Dedra Meero (a fantastic Denise Gough) pounces on an opportunity to strengthen her position in the Galactic Empire; Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) seeks to change his reputation; Major Partagaz (Anton Lesser) is a hands-on leader who takes his job seriously. Scenes involving ISB are sharply edited and always fascinating, even when characters are mostly shouting dry exposition.
Gilroy takes the time to develop each character and story so we’re given quite a bit when the action starts that flies in the face of less Star wars effort as the sloppy Obi-Wan Kenobi and silly Book by Boba-Fett.
Moreover, Andor doesn’t lean on nostalgia or cameos to keep our interests flowing. There is a notable scene where the bad guys stare down a group of protesters during a funeral. I kept waiting for an old character to show up and steal the spotlight Andors main crew. It never comes. Thank God. We don’t need Han Solo to come in to save the day, because Andors characters are strong enough to carry the show on their solid shoulders.
Andor gifts genuine people with genuine emotions genuine problems, and genuine growth. Hell, even the droids have depth. It is fantastic.
Action that matters
When Andor bursts into action, the sequences are short and well executed. Episode 11 finds Luthen fighting an Imperial cruiser. Instead of taking out a massive armada of tie fighters or star destroyers, he makes calculated decisions that allow him to plausibly escape – having silly laser beams attached to the plane helps.
Most of the show doesn’t rely on clunky CGI or overpowered heroes and villains. No one steps beyond their abilities – it’s as if the writers sat down and established rules for the episodes to adhere to, keeping the action grounded and gripping.
Even more impressive is the cinematography, which matches the same aesthetic seen in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. More than any other Disney+ Star Wars series, Andor looks and feels like a massive movie and not a Sci-Fi channel original series. Crazy what happens when you bring in a production team that cares about the material and has the talent to bring it to life.
A captivating plot
As mentioned above, the various story threads are woven throughout Andor are all captivating in their own right.
That said, Cassian’s plot is the weakest among the robust roster of characters. It’s mostly to do with the character, who all too often falls backwards into each chapter. Syril Karn’s story also meanders. I found my attention drifting whenever we gave him and his mother (Kathryn Hunter) a chat over breakfast.
Does not matter. The minor plots surrounding Luthen, Mon Mothma, Maarva and Dera are sharp enough to keep our eyes fixed even when the episodes push past the 45-minute mark.
The many twists and turns were also surprising, especially one involving an ISB officer with ties to Luthen and his rebellion. Here we have a show where every decision our brave characters make has consequences; every action results in a counteraction.
Too often, television shows rely on contrived plot threads and over-the-top spectacle to keep viewers invested each week. Andor goes for something more profound and ends up giving more weight to the rebellion seen in A new hope. Imagine a prequel series that adds to our appreciation of the OG trilogy. It just takes a little love and care, Disney.
I imagine it will take time Star wars community to embrace Andor fully. Going back to George Lucas’ awful prequels, the Star wars Saga has groomed audiences to accept splashy action over well-developed plots and characters. Who needs convoluted heroes and villains when we can see a CGI Yoda flipping around like a Tazmanian Devil? Who needs a nuanced story filled with emotion and intrigue when a well-timed Luke Skywalker cameo can tie up all loose ends? Who needs good writing, acting or character development when we can have Aunt Beru suddenly appear as an action hero?
Personally, Andor is Star wars I always wanted – a captivating, character-driven saga characterized by intense action and robust effects. If I were Disney, I’d consider giving Tony Gilroy the keys to the kingdom.