Gritty, Not Pretty
I initially checked out on Andor due to the overwhelming amount of content that was coming out and impossible to keep up with. However, I had continued to hear that this show was allegedly the best Star Wars content released since 2015. After binging through the full 12 episode first season, I could not agree more. Andor is Star Wars at its most mature, most ambitious, and most engaging that provides impeccable writing, thrilling action sequences, and wonderful performances ranking it well above the pack.
This series follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) before the events of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story as he goes from someone who just wants to stay out of trouble to a full-fledged member of the Rebel Alliance.
What’s immediately noticeable about this show apart from others is the more gritty and mature tone. From the opening episodes, you can tell that this world is just beginning to feel the grip of the Empire and the brutality that comes with their rule. The Empire is still figuring out how to rule with authority and intimidation, leading to some intriguing conversations amongst the ranks and characters reacting to those decisions in bold yet honest interpretations. Additionally, on the Rebel side it shows that the intricacies of war are not so black and white with tough calls needing to be made at every corner. It’s an bleak outlook on both sides of the conflict, but one that trusts its audience to handle the maturity and go along for the ride.
The titular Cassian Andor is certainly a highlight of the show as we see his growth sneaky gambler to a catalyst to take down the Empire, but fortunately he’s not the only standout character from the show. Andor boasts a welcome assortment of characters from the Rebels, Empire, and everywhere in between that are all intimidating, warm, convictional, and endearing in their own right. The impressive cast from Stellan Skarsgard’s Luthen whose character possesses some deep emotions and tough decision making to Denise Gough’s Dedra Meero who commands the screen with any one who goes toe to toe with, there is something rich and deep to mine with each one. The writing takes all of its characters all fantastic journey’s and make them memorable in their own right. It’s interesting to see how sometimes needless and sidelined characters in early episodes, actually end up being quite intriguing and compelling, especially since Star Wars has never explored the “background characters” before. It’s a fantastic move that keeps the plot moving forward with excellent momentum.
The twelve episode first season (with an anticipated second season in 2024), is expertly paced and moves along at a brisk pace. The episodes takes us through powerful political scheming, exhilarating heists, uneasy alliances, rousing speeches, ingenious thinking, and emotional set pieces without skipping a beat. The fact that the show has compelling A, B, C, and even D plots is a testament to how engaging the narrative is. Sure the season has some filler, but its filler to a purpose where its positioning its characters with great writing to the next set piece. No episode feels misplaced and usually with a twelve episode season I can feel it drag, but not with Andor.
The action sequences are also highly impressive, with certain episodes providing some of the best Star Wars sequences across its entire 50 year span. The character work helps invest us in the conflict and the fact there are high stakes makes you feel a great sense of dread that no character is safe. Sure we have the one or two we know will make it to the next film, but for the most part these are new characters that can easily be offed at a moment’s notice. Episode 6 and 10 in particular offered beautifully directed sequences that had awe and spectacle but also powerful emotion bolstered by an excellent score. These are scenes that I will watch again and again for years to come.
It’s refreshing to see Star Wars exist in this direction, and where the films have failed to deliver recently, the TV shows have provided the perfect medium. Andor is an excellent foray in the Star Wars saga that provides excellent emotion, stakes, and action for fans to enjoy. I cannot recommend this show more highly, even if you have been sick of all the content out there this is surely a show you don’t want to miss!
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