Andor has a big Death Star void to fill after making an impression in 2016’s Rogue One. The spin-off series on Disney+ ably cites its own rebellion against where Star Wars can go — even if stories are already told.
Director and creator Tony Gilroy gets to do more by expanding on the spy-thriller genre he revels in. The Bourne, Beirut and Rogue One writer tries to set up a stage for Rebel vs. Empire espionage. Ironically, it’s this same premise that made Rogue One stand out in a saturated franchise. There are more Wars in the franchise to tell, long after viewers have been away from the Galactic Civil War through The Madalorian, Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi.
Rogue One comes back as a welcome setting for the series. Of course, the show has all kinds of potential to backtrack and revive its cast. Set just five years before the Battle of Yavin, Andor will keep eyes glued to this era. I couldn’t get enough of its direction to show the Empire’s takeover. The 2016 film becomes especially harder to top since it stuck purely to the larger-than-life intergalactic conflict.
Andor’s first few minutes put on a strong impression for citizens watching their backs and getting their hands dirtier. The galaxy is a crappy place to be under Imperial rule, while Andor goes a step above Obi-Wan Kenobi by showcasing more of the grounded underworld. Save for a familiar sight of neon, cable-lined walls and live action droids to remind viewers they’re in Star Wars.
“Unfortunately, Andor tries too hard to set itself apart from its source material.”
Unfortunately, Andor tries too hard to set itself apart from its source material. Gilroy tries to show Star Wars through saboteur Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). This works enough to introduce new characters, planets and lore. But the show’s first portion takes too long to deliver on Rogue One’s essence.
In fact, the first four episodes serve as filler to set up Andor’s real stakes. Things start to feel too derivative without Stormtroopers, Rebels, character cameos and other nods to the 2016 film. Andor takes a slow burn across 12 episodes. But a lack of adventure, action and excitement around the aforementioned elements start to wear viewers down. It’s a step back from previous live-action Star Wars series that put familiar characters in brand-new situations.
Andor’s identity literally rests with Diego Luna, who evolves the badass Rebel saboteur in surprising ways. This isn’t quite the cold-blooded and dignified point man we see in Rogue One. Instead, the prequel series pushes Cassian forward by showing a brand-new side to him. Andor showcases a much younger, energetic and somewhat funnier person. This works, since the series promises to explain just how much he hates Imperials when meeting Jyn Erso.
Andor’s writers luckily keep this consistent through constant references to the Empire. Viewers can enjoy every second Andor shows its title character, since Luna finally gets to steal the show with a show. Without spoilers, the younger Cassian thinks twice before pulling the trigger. He struggles to solve his own money problems without testing relationships. More importantly, Cassian has something to lose during this period of civil unrest.
The show’s own supporting cast have surprisingly little to do for Andor’s plot early on. As new characters are introduced, they don’t add anything to Cassian’s mission. Three episodes in, viewers should expect lots of back and forth between Cassian and other characters that simply go flat. Nor introduce any catchy dialogue that sticks to merchandise as previous Star Wars shows have done.
But Andor still delivers a loving character that doesn’t even breathe. B2EMO rolls, states the obvious in hilarious ways and goes senile with age. There are priceless moments to come when a less than patient Cassian relies on B2EMO. But the droid must be protected at all costs for later episodes.
A lack of intergalactic stakes dampens screen time for Bix Caleen (Adria Ajorna), who helps Cassian broker a life-changing deal. Ajorna’s no-nonsense portrayal as Bix fits nicely into Star Wars canon. While her knact as a scrappy mechanic and street smart scoundrel will be interesting to see as the Rebellion heats up. Bix and Cassian don’t share much chemistry early on as Andor struggles to connect Cassian’s personal life with the Rebellion.
Andor does deliver a tolerable entry for Star Wars fans by spiking some action and dashes of mystery around the third episode. It’s easily the strongest and flashiest episode that puts Cassian a step closer to Rogue One. Tony Gilroy channels the Bourne series by adding some danger into the world. But both Star Wars and Bourne are blended together surprisingly well for future episodes and seasons to come. Syril (Kyle Soller) sells viewers into the life of a pro-Imperial cop looking to rise through the ranks. His arc starts to grow on Andor viewers, since it revolves around a Bourne-style manhunt for Cassian.
The third episode ramps up with Syril’s progress and forces Cassian into action. As blaster bolts fly, viewers start to forget about the molasses-like setup from Andor’s first two episodes. Quite literally, the fourth episode picks up by jumping into hyperspace and ditches its supporting cast.
But I won’t spoil just how Andor comes to life as the Rogue One series viewers expected after doing so. Freedom fighter Luthen Rael, played by the grizzled Stelland Skarsgård, puts on a strong introduction for Cassian. Most of Andor’s witty and flexible banter comes from Rael. Skarsgård puts the show back on track by taking Cassian out of his mundane life and on a new Star Wars adventure.
“Patience is needed for Andor to pick up from Episode 3 and beyond.”
Patience is needed for Andor to pick up from Episode 3 and beyond. The show does eventually bring in the Empire for an entirely new change in tone. No time is wasted bringing viewers up to speed with Dedra Meero, an Imperial officer who sees warning signs of a rebellion. Though it will take future episodes to see how she’ll be coming up against Cassian in an espionage-driven plot. It’s still fascinating to see the Empire through Dedra Meero, who is embroiled with her high-ranking superiors. Andor leaves much to surprise and chance with every new episode. I’ll admit to being surprised at a few subtle twists. A seemingly bland amount of flashbacks are strewn over a third of Andor. But viewers do get to see a much younger Cassian swept up by current events.
Andor throws just enough action and production value to keep viewers streaming the first few episodes. There are worrying signs as to just how slow and uneventful a single episode can be. The show has a habit of looking away from Rogue One and Star Wars canon to deliver new stories. But this sucks the magic out of the first season. Diego Luna still anchors the series as Cassian thanks to an expanded performance. While the series is still held together by revisiting a galaxy which never gets old to look at.
Given eight more episodes to go for Season One, I have high hopes for Rogue One staples including Saw Gererra (Forest Whittaker), K2SO (Alan Tudyk) and Stormtroopers to bring Andor full circle. Luckily, the late additions of Luthen and the Empire set things in motion for more exciting things to come. Hopefully, Andor manages to stick to its strengths as a Rogue One prequel. Sadly, Andor hardly satisfies as the prequel die-hard fans are looking for early on.
This content was originally published here.