Andor Season 1 Restored My Faith in Star Wars
Andor Season 1 Restored My Faith in Star Wars

Few Star Wars productions arrive with the same measured sophistication as Andor. More political thriller than an all-out action vehicle, Tony Gilroy’s magnificent TV series presents a decidedly mature take on that galaxy far, far away, one based on sharp dialogue spoken in dark alleyways by people toeing both sides of the law. Some found this approach boring. I thought it was riveting.

So what made Andor Season 1 work so 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 drifter/con artist who spends his days pulling 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 return order to the galaxy often require making difficult choices and leaping headfirst into darkness. Peripheral characters like 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 entrenched in unique subplots that further ratchet up the tension.

Gilroy also conjures a unique assortment of realistic villains whose actions stem from personal preservation rather than mustache-twirling evil. Imperial Security Bureau lieutenant Dedra Meero (a terrific Denise Gough) pounces on an opportunity to enhance her position within the Galactic Empire; Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) seeks to amend his reputation; Major Partagaz (Anton Lesser) is a practical leader who takes his job seriously. Scenes involving the ISB are crisply edited and always fascinating, even when characters mostly shout dry exposition.

Gilroy takes the time to develop every character and storyline so that we give a damn when the action kicks in, which flies in the face of lesser Star Wars efforts like the sloppy Obi-Wan Kenobi and goofy Book of Boba-Fett.

Moreover, Andor doesn’t lean on nostalgia or cameos to keep our interests afloat. There’s a remarkable scene where the bad guys stare down at a group of protestors during a funeral. I kept waiting for an old character to appear and steal the limelight from Andor’s main cast. It never arrives. Thank God. We don’t need Han Solo swooping in to save the day because Andor’s characters are strong enough to carry the show on their sturdy shoulders.

Andor presents real people with real emotions, real problems, and real growth. Hell, even the droids have depth. It’s awesome.

Action That Matters

When Andor erupts into action, the sequences are brief and well-executed. Episode 11 finds Luthen squaring off against an Imperial cruiser. Rather than take out a massive armada of tie fighters or star destroyers, he makes calculated decisions that allow him to escape plausibly — it helps to have friggin’ laser beams attached to the aircraft.

Most of the spectacle doesn’t rely on clunky CGI or overpowered heroes and villains. No one steps beyond their capabilities — it’s as though the writers sat down and established rules for the episodes to abide by, which keeps 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 film 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 woven throughout Andor are all captivating in their own right.

That said, Cassian’s plot is the weakest among the robust list of characters. That’s mostly to do with the character, who too often falls ass-backward into each chapter. Syril Karn’s storyline also meanders. I found my attention waning each time we cut to him and his mother (Kathryn Hunter) chatting over breakfast. 

No matter. The smaller plots surrounding Luthen, Mon Mothma, Maarva, and Dera are sharp enough to hold our gaze, even when the episodes push past the 45-minute mark.

The numerous twists and turns were also surprising, particularly one involving an ISB officer with ties to Luthen and his rebellion. Here we have a show in which every decision our plucky characters make carries consequences; every action results in a counteraction.

Far too often, TV shows lean on contrived plot threads and over-the-top spectacle to keep viewers invested every week. Andor goes for something more profound and ends up providing more weight to the rebellion seen in A New Hope. Imagine a prequel series that increases our appreciation for the OG trilogy. All it takes is a little love and care, Disney.

Final Thoughts

I imagine it will take time for the Star Wars community to embrace Andor fully. Dating back to George Lucas’ terrible prequels, the Star Wars saga has groomed audiences into accepting splashy action over well-developed plots and characters. Who needs intricate heroes and villains when we can see a CGI Yoda flip around like a Tazmanian Devil? Who needs a nuanced storyline filled with emotion and intrigue when a well-timed Luke Skywalker cameo can tie up all loose threads? Who needs good writing, acting, or character development when we can have Aunt Beru suddenly emerge as an action hero?

Personally, Andor is the Star Wars I’ve always wanted — a captivating, character-driven saga punctuated by intense action and robust effects. If I were Disney, I’d consider giving Tony Gilroy the keys to the kingdom. 

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