I’ve recently caught up with and finished watching Andor, the latest show in the Star Wars universe on Disney+. Coming in a few weeks late to this show, I had heard good things about it, even if it wasn’t getting a ton of buzz. I came into this show with an open mind. The Mandalorian has been great. Boba Fett and Obi-Wan were decent, but flawed in their own ways. I felt like Andor had potential as a show that didn’t have to try to build around characters we already knew from the original trilogy, and I was excited by the show’s premise of focusing on the rebellion leading up to A New Hope.
With season one in the books, and a few days for me to think about it: Andor is the best that Star Wars has been to this point, from the storytelling, the writing, the world-building, and the meaning. I’ve watched it once through and am already watching it again with a friend who has yet to see it. I can barely contain my excitement to watch this show a second time, mere days after I’ve finished my first watch-through.
Spoilers ahead for Andor and for the movie it leads to, Rogue One.
Tony Gilroy, the writer/director behind the first three Bourne films and a ton of other action-thrillers, is the creative director and head writer for Andor. The 12-episode season is structured into four three-episode arcs, which presents an interesting ebb and flow of tension as the season progresses.
Let’s pause for one moment to appreciate that this show is a full 12 episodes, making it a legitimate season of television — not a 6-8-episode “limited series event” that feels like three C-average movies stuffed in a trench coat
I don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of summarizing the entire season. Just go watch it and be amazed. Instead, let’s talk about some key themes.
Cassian Andor, as the titular character played by Diego Luna, is ostensibly the protagonist, but when we meet him at the start of the season — five years before the events of Rogue One — he is a scavenger and thief who seems to have burned a lot of bridges and eroded the trust of those whom he cares about most. He argues with his adoptive mother, Maarva, and his ex-girlfriend and partner-in-smuggling, Bix, does not seem to trust him. How did this guy become an intelligence officer within the Rebel Alliance and a hero who sacrificed himself for the rebel cause?
The beauty of Andor, and its writing in particular, is that we see this arc develop for Cassian over the course of the season. He becomes a critical role-player in a heist on an imperial vault that he had only learned about days prior; he helps 5,000 fellow prisoners escape an inescapable prison; and he returns to his home planet, Ferrix, to help the people he had left behind. He’s not an expert rebel spy yet, but his character shows us a lot of grit and heart over 12 episodes.
Stellen Skarsgard is also stellar in his role as Luthen, a rare artifacts dealer in Coruscant-turned rebel ring-leader. It’s not quite clear how Luthen became involved in his own rebellious network against the Empire, but his connection to Saw Gerrera, played by Forrest Whitaker reprising his unique role from Rogue One, and knowledge of the various factions fighting the Empire indicate that Luthen has been in this war for a long time. That history is what has been missing from Star Wars, at least from the live-action movies and shows.
What Andor really demonstrates is the cost of a nascent rebellion. The Rebel Alliance doesn’t even exist yet. There are just a bunch of tiny factions fighting the Empire in their own ways, with no common goal yet identified. So why are they fighting? Luthen, along with Cassian, and another character, Kino Loy, played by the incomparable Andy Serkis, each take their turn delivering the thesis statement for this show, and for the rebellion at large — no one can fight fascism without sacrifice, without pulling together for the people next to you, and that sacrifice is worth it, even if the players themselves never get to see the dawn of a galaxy without the Empire in power.
The Best of Star Wars
I will not be able to do this show justice in a single post, and I may need to follow-up with a ranking of my favorite Star Wars stories.
All I know is that I’ve never heard dialogue in Star Wars like I have in Andor. I’ve never seen a Star Wars property as well-written and deliberate as this show. I’ve never felt like a story in this universe was this important, or this of-the-moment in our current culture.
A lot of Star Wars properties have reminded us of what we loved about the original trilogy, or tried to upend our expectations entirely. Andor manages to do both. It is an affirmation that these stories, in this universe, can say something meaningful about sacrifice, hope, suffering, love, light, and darkness. And it’s a challenge to every new series or film in this universe to be great, not just for a Star Wars story, but for a story of any genre. This show demonstrates the universality of Star Wars in a way I’ve never seen before.
I can’t stop thinking about it, and I can’t wait for season two.