TL;DR – Some of the best Star Wars I have seen since the original trilogy.
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ service that viewed this series.
Post-Credit Scene – There is a Post-Credit scene at the end of Rix Road.
Andor Review –
When I heard that they would do a prequel to Rogue One, which was already a prequel to the Original Trilogy, I was concerned. Add to that, it was going to be based on Andor, a character I wouldn’t say I liked all that much in Rogue One, and concern moved to real hesitancy. However, when I sat down to watch the first episode, Kassa, I knew instantly how wrong I was and what a ride it was.
So to set the scene, on a dark and rainy night, we see Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) make his way across a boardwalk to the glittering city Morlana One, part of the Preox-Morlana Corporate Zone in the Morlani system. He is going to the ‘leisure district’ to find out any information about his missing sister when two local security forces or Corpos accost him. Taking his leave, Andor returns to his ship when the two Corpos accost him again, not willing to leave him alone. But this time, there are lethal consequences. Now from here, we will be looking at the season as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
Structurally, Andor works a little differently than many shows at the moment in that it has an overarching story, but it is presented in four mini-arcs. There is the ‘The Recruitment’, ‘The Raid’, ‘The Prison’, and ‘The Riot’. Each of these sections has a straightforward narrative that works just for that arc while also pushing the world forward as a whole. Because we are looking at the entire first season in our review, we will break it down to look at each section separately.
If there is one section that is weaker than the others, it would have to be the introductory recruitment that stretches from Kassa to That Would Be Me and then Reckoning. While I say this is the weakest, that is not me saying that it is bad but more that when you look at the season as a whole, the groundwork they lay here sometimes loses some focus. For example, the search for the sister gets dropped quickly, even though it is the catalyst for everything. I know many people that bounced off in those first two episodes, and I wish they had stuck through it to Reckoning. What this section of the narrative does, is ground us in this Star Wars world that we know, but one with not a lightsabre or smuggler or Mandalorian in sight. This is where we get hints of opposing oppression, how things can escalate from unrelated events, the banality of evil, and the forces that could spark a rebellion. I know people didn’t gel with this section, there was only one major action scene, and it was a lot of set-up. But can I tell you, this is where I knew something special was here.
Once Andor is recruited by Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), he gets sent to the planet Aldhani to work with Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu) and their team to raid the local garrison. This heist last over the episodes Aldhani to The Axe Forgets to The Eye and could have been a perfect bunch of Star Wars in its own right. The first thing this section shows is how the filmmakers knew when best to use digital extensions, as we have seen in other Star Wars shows, and when to use locations. Each method has its strengths and weaknesses, and it is clear that Andor used both to their best. I liked that the heist was well structured, with interesting characters, a plan that made sense, and some real stakes that you felt. While what happened on Morlana One was the catalyst for escalation with Andor, what occurred on Aldhani could be a catalyst for the whole galaxy. Real life has shown what happens when warmongering tyrants are shown not to be as invulnerable as they appear to be.
It is also here where Andor starts to show the many ways evil gets perpetuated. You have Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a fascist fanboy, cosplaying as someone with more importance than they are. Conversely, you have Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), who hides their evil through the guise of being good at their job. Major Partagaz (Anton Lesser) is a true believer, getting joy from perpetuating the fascist system. While there were the individuals perpetrating their evil, Andor does not shy away from the systemic factors at play. There is a clinical depiction of how The Empire is destroying a local religious and cultural icon while de-humanising [or de-sentienceing] the local population. They are not at all subtle with their analogies.
After the successful heist, Andor escapes the rebels after one of them tries to betray the group, and Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther) tragically dies, leaving his manifesto unfinished. But this escape is cut short when Andor is rounded up and sent to jail for no crime other than being a foreigner in the wrong place at the wrong time. The prison arc of Announcement, Narkina 5, Nobody’s Listening!, and One Way Out is another tonal shift that the show nails with some of the best character work in the franchise. During this section, we see a lot of how Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is trying to do some good in a system designed to cause pain. There is also an exploration of what should the Rebel’s guiding ethics be? How do you stay ethical when The Empire literally uses the extermination of children as a torture technique?
Then there is the prison on Narkina 5, which is a stinging critique of the for-profit jail industry. A system that targets at-risk and marginal communities and has a literal financial motivation to keep them incarcerated. At all moments, the prisoners are forced to compete against each other, shifting their focus away from their all-watching oppressors. There are hints of the Panopticon in the jail’s design, forcing a self-regulating system to emerge among the prisoners. It is here where we meet the floor manager Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), who has only three episodes to go from an antagonist, to an obstacle, to a critical ally. In any other show, that would have, at best, given tonal whiplash, but at worst, it would have felt unearned. But every step felt real. That is the work of the writing, and both Andy Serkis and Diego Luna nailing every moment. It is so perfect that you almost miss the tragedy at the end or that Ruescott Melshi (Duncan Pow) reappears in Rogue One.
This all brings us to the final section of the season, The Riot, which is spread across Daughter of Ferrix and Rix Road. Some of my friends who watched the show liked it but became frustrated whenever it returned to Ferrix. However, without all that groundwork, this ending would have felt hollow, even with the charm of B2EMO (Dave Chapman) and Brasso (Joplin Sibtain). You need to understand the people, feel how the world is shifting underneath them, how their culture is being eroded, and also how they are being used to cause harm.
The catalyst for this is that Andor’s mother, Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), has died, and since nearly everyone wants Andor dead, they all go to Ferrix to take him out. But between all the plotting of Empires, Rebels, and spies is an old lady with a message who uses her death to mean something. Throughout this section, we see world-building details that make this planet stand out. They keep the time using a great anvil that gets struck by the “Time Grappler” (Neil Bell), but then that becomes part of how they all communicate and warn people. The band in the funeral procession, made up of the Daughters of Ferrix, brings a coal mining town of the 1960s England vibe to the proceedings. All of this, and probably the whole season, led to that riot where the people aimed their police oppressors did not hold back.
In the end, do we recommend Andor Season 1? Absolutely. It might get a bit slow in places. Not every episode is perfect, and it is about as subtle as a sledgehammer to the head. However, without a doubt, this feels like some of, if not the best, Star Wars since the Original Series. It does not rest on the coattails of what came before but takes the time to present a fresh perspective on this universe and does a rare thing. It is a prequel that justifies its existence.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
Have you seen Andor yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review House of the Dragon on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Andor
Directed by – Susanna White, Toby Haynes & Benjamin Caron
Written by – Dan Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Stephen Schiff & Beau Willimon
Created by – Tony Gilroy
Based On – Star Wars by George Lucas
Production/Distribution Companies – LucasFilm & Disney+
Starring – Diego Luna, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, Stellan Skarsgård, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Faye Marsay, Varada Sethu & Elizabeth Dulau with Joplin Sibtain, James McArdle, Rupert Vansittart, Alex Ferns, Gary Beadle, Kathryn Hunter, Alastair Mackenzie, Anton Lesser, Alex Lawther, Sule Rimi, Ebon Moss-Bachrach, Gershwyn Eustache Jnr, Stanley Townsend, Ben Miles, Andy Serkis, Duncan Pow, Richard Dillane, Forest Whitaker & Richard Dillane and Zubin Varla, Abhin Galeya, Muhannad Bhaier, Kieran O’Brien, Raymond Anum, Victor Perez, Neil Bell, Pamela Nomvete, Bronte Carmichael, Ben Bailey Smith, Robert Emms, Michael Jenn, Lucy Russell, Lee Ross, Jacob James Beswick, Wilf Scolding, Nick Moss, Noof Ousellam, Christopher Fairbank, Clemens Schick, Brian Bovell, Tom Reed, Josef Davies, Rasaq Kukoyi, Mensah Bediako, Belle Swarc, Lee Boardman, Stephen Wight, Nick Blood, David Hayman, Adrian Rawlins, Malcolm Sinclair & Antonio Viña
Episodes Covered – Kassa, That Would Be Me, Reckoning, Aldhani, The Axe Forgets, The Eye, Announcement, Narkina 5, Nobody’s Listening!, One Way Out, Daughter of Ferrix & Rix Road