Even though most of the series we’ve seen in the Star Wars franchise have characters with a little bit more moral ambiguity than in the films, they’re still playing for one side or another. But in Andor, we se a version of Cassian Andor that isn’t a Rebel hero yet, just a guy who wants to know where he came from. And that makes for some intriguing possibilities.
ANDOR: STREAM IT OR SKIP IT?
Opening Shot: The lights on a bridge go by as rain falls. A man in a hooded jacket walks down the bridge. “MORLANA ONE, PREOX – MORLANA CORPORATE ZONE. BBY 5,” says an on-screen graphic.
The Gist: Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is in this Empire stronghold looking for someone. He enters a high-priced brothel and asks the madam if someone from the planet Kenari worked there. He’s essentially looking for his sister, though he doesn’t know her name.
Two century guards who work for the Pre-Mor Authority, who have contracted with the Empire to provide security, harass him in the brothel’s bar, then follow him outside as he tries to leave the corporate zone. He fights them off, but in the process accidentally kills one of them; he shoots the other in the head to protect himself.
He gets back to Ferrix and knows he needs to leave immediately. First, he finds his friend and co-worker Brasso (Joplin Sibtain), who came by his place looking for him the night before and helps him cook up an alibi. He then visits his friend Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), looking to sell a very valuable item, an untraceable NS-9 Starpath unit, to fund his escape. Bix is skeptical, and wonders how he has such a dangerous item, and wants in. But Cassian doesn’t need a partner; he just needs credits and lots of them.
Meanwhile, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a deputy inspector for the Pre-Mor Authority, wants to investigate the murders of the sentries. His supervisor, Chief Hyne (Rupert Vansittart), wants to sweep it under the rug and call it an accident. But, while Hyne is away at an Empire conference, Karn continues to push the investigation.
We also see what we assume is a young Kassa (Antonio Viña) in his village on Kenari, protecting his little sister (Belle Swarc), but then leaving her behind when he joins the older kids in a hunt that looks like it’s getting them ready for battle.
What Shows Will It Remind You Of? Andor is a prequel to Rogue One, showing how Cassian Andor became the Rebel hero he was in the film.
Our Take: As most of the reviews for Andor have stated, it’s a Star Wars series that’s probably the least like the rest of the franchise. It’s dark and noirish, with Cassian Andor as an extremely mysterious figure at its outset. Even the elements of the Empire we see are more down to earth, with the people at the Pre-Mor Authority acting like the clock-punching contractors they are — they eat blue noodles out of containers and carry around drink tumblers, like your office-mates might.
We don’t learn a lot about Andor in the first episode, besides the fact that he’s from this mysterious planet of Kenari, he’s looking for his sister, and he’s now on the run after killing those sentry guards. But Diego Luna gives him the mysterious air that he needs. Now, as he tries to outrun Syril Karn and stays in hiding on Ferrix, we’ll likely learn more about him. But after the first 35 minutes, all we know is that he’s not the hero he was in Rogue One.
And we’re fine with that. We need a dark, morally ambiguous entry in the Star Wars franchise. Even the TV shows have always been about good vs. bad, the rebels vs. the Empire, in some way shape or form. Even when we see reluctant participants, like in The Book Of Boba Fett, those participants are still on one side or another. With Cassian Andor, we see a man who will do anything and go anywhere to find out about a past that he doesn’t know much about; he’s a man who will do bad things to what he thinks is a good end.
Creator Tony Gilroy is content with taking his time telling Cassian’s story, especially the part that (we assume) is on Kenari, with a (we assume) a young Kassa speaking to his sister in a mysterious language without subtitles. We’re supposed to figure out what happens via their actions, but we’re also not 100 percent sure how this fits in with Andor’s story. But that feels like it’s by design. It’s a show that’s content to reveal itself slowly, and we’re on board, given how compelling a character we know Andor is.
Sex and Skin: None.
Parting Shot: Kassi leaves his sister behind as a group of older boys goes to battle, or at least hunting.
Sleeper Star: Dave Chapman plays Andor’s stuttering droid B2EMO, who’s beat up and needs all of his energy to maintain a lie, but seems to be pretty loyal to Andor.
Most Pilot-y Line: When Hyne tells Karn to conjure a story about the sentries’ deaths, he tells him to make “something sad but inspiring in a mundane sort of way.” Uh, sure, boss, whatever you say…
Our Call: STREAM IT. Andor is a dark, morally cloudy slow burn of a series. If it wasn’t part of the Star Wars canon, it would make a good noir adventure on its own. But it certainly is a welcome departure from the usual fare in the franchise.
Joel Keller (@joelkeller) writes about food, entertainment, parenting and tech, but he doesn’t kid himself: he’s a TV junkie. His writing has appeared in the New York Times, Slate, Salon, RollingStone.com, VanityFair.com, Fast Company and elsewhere.