The last time we saw Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, it was assumed that we wouldn’t be seeing him again. Heading into spoiler territory here, so tread carefully, but the character didn’t survive the events of 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Still the best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back in 1980, Rogue One told the story of a group of Rebels who weren’t as clean cut and heroic as those we’d seen before, doing whatever it took to secure the Death Star plans and ensure the first big victory for the Galactic Rebellion’s war against the Empire.
It was dark, gritty and pulled few punches; despite the misstep of over-using a CGI Peter Cushing who veered deep into uncanny valley territory, it told a compelling story and wasn’t afraid to end on a darker note which still left room for optimism. That, and it featured a stunning sequence with an enraged Darth Vader on a terrifying rampage – which demonstrated exactly why the Dark Lord of the Sith was so feared.
Andor himself was an interesting character who definitely operated in shades of grey, sometimes crossing the line into outright murder to protect himself and the Rebellion.
This prequel series looks to delve further into not just Andor, but the circumstances that led to him being such an effective and willingly deadly tool for the Rebellion.
It gets off to a great start with this debut episode, which sees Andor trying to locate his missing sister and again, not shying away from deadly violence if necessary to protect himself.
That the action essentially starts off in a brothel and quickly features a few fatalities, brilliantly sets the tone and expectations for where the series will be allowed to go. It’s far from the shiny chrome look of the prequels and feels even grittier than Rogue One itself.
Flashbacks throughout do fill in some of Andor’s backstory, though these are incomplete snippets by the episode’s end. Indeed, the first three episodes have been released at once on Disney Plus, which likely reduces the feeling that this first episode seems to end rather abruptly.
The visual style and general aesthetic harken back to the 70s grime, costumes and even hairstyles(!) of the first Star Wars, in the same way that Rogue One did in order to cleverly match the retro aesthetic and make the film almost seamlessly lead into the events of the first Star Wars movie.
It has a refreshingly tangible feel, with shades of Blade Runner and cyberpunk fiction in it’s dark, neo-noir opening and many more practical elements, real locations and actual sets than we’ve seen before in the Disney Plus Star Wars shows.
The performances throughout are superb too; there’s also a really interesting focus on bureaucracy and policing beyond the scope of the still-expanding Empire, with the series mainly set five years prior to the Battle of Yavin (which occurs at the climax of 1977’s Star Wars).
I wasn’t convinced that I’d be interested enough in a prequel featuring a relatively minor character whose ultimate fate is already known, but just as with Obi-Wan Kenobi’s show, we’re seeing much more that truly enriches the already compellingly-detailed Star Wars universe.
And it’s done in a way that doesn’t cheapen the characters or the universe either, which was the unfortunate result of the dire The Book of Boba Fett.
With the next two episodes of Andor ready to go, I’ll be taking a look at those shortly and reporting back with my thoughts after I’ve checked them out.
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