Series creator Tony Gilroy clearly knows how to jump into the Star Wars sandbox without the need for fan service, and really that’s the key in Andor. Premiering this week, the Disney+ and Lucasfilm series tackles the events five years prior to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, where we initially met rebel spy Cassian Andor. Because of that, we already know he ultimately sacrifices his life along with his squad of rebels to ensure the Death Star plans are delivered — setting off the chain of events in the original Star Wars trilogy.
In this series we reunite with Diego Luna, reprising his role as Cassian Andor, to tell a personal story of a migrant who is thrust into the service of something bigger than him, and the complicated grey area in which he’s recruited to join a cause against the Empire. The Empire is the reason that a young Cassian lost his home after it was mined and exploited. Growing up on the fringes, raised by other figures that had begun to track the wrongdoings of those in power, we see a boy who is taken to a new home but is aware he doesn’t belong.
It’s a timely and important point of view to follow. I was initially apprehensive about how the journey would be handled, and in the opening episodes it’s really dealt with in a way that does not thankfully glorify those who take Cassian from his home to save him. Instead, it plays off as a circumstantial chain of events that lead him as a young boy to really carving out his own path. Cassian does things just to survive — and moves through spaces he shouldn’t — to stick it to the Empire, because he knows what they owe him. His friends, like Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), get it; she’s another rebellious spirit who operates in scrap junk and totally not stolen goods to chip at the grip the Empire has on their planet of Ferrix. And his chaotic nature is easy to root for. Even his delightful family droid, B2EMO, knows Cassian is gonna Cassian — but he means well, at least to those he’s loyal to. When he sets out on a mission to find his sister, it’s awesome to see Luna flexing his character’s super dope spy skills, while playing up Cassian’s ability to have an imperceptible presence with a chameleon-like sensibility that transforms into a warrior when challenged. It looks like you can mess with him but it’s better if you don’t — just ask the two guards in episode one who try to get in his way.
It’s been a while since Star Wars has felt less like a blockbuster; even shows like The Mandalorian really cater to that aspect of the universe, but here Gilroy really explores these stories in a way that looks at everything intimately as a way to tell the real story beneath the surface the Empire surveils. The everyday lives of those disenfranchised by the Empire are gritty and full of obstacles, in contrast to the shiny, slick, and increasingly boring lives of those who hold the power. Andor aims to examine the structure that these people live within, even in different social circles, that still reveal the prison of the Empire. Security inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) tests his position by trying to impress his superiors — which leads him to chase Cassian. Stellan Skarsgard plays a mysterious buyer who comes from money, but like Cassian, he has a knack for finding the weaknesses in the machine. He’s also seeking Cassian, who only wants to find his family, something that becomes increasingly complicated with Karn on his trail.
Ultimately, the people are done with fascism and are ready to start breaking it apart. That is, after all, a big part of Star Wars — it’s not just the power of the Force and the sudden appearance of an alliance with Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) at the helm. Andor shows the alternate paths that open up for those who aren’t willing to conform anymore. Every character has substance to their motivations, and Gilroy gives us the most relevant and revolutionary Star Wars story to date by exploring a tale of ordinary people beginning to take their power back — and centering that spirit of rebellion around Cassian Andor himself.
Andor drops its first three episodes September 21, then continues Wednesdays on Disney+.
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