Though this article is supposed to be about Andor and why it’s my personal choice for TV series of the year, I thought it was really important to give some context around my varying levels of interest in Star Wars over the years. It’s very personal and, of course, is my own opinion – but hopefully it goes a long way to demonstrating just why I believe Andor is so effective, so important – and so good.

My love for Star Wars began early; not just in my life but in the history of Star Wars in general. One of my earliest memories is of being taken to see The Empire Strikes Back at the cinema; I was three years old and immediately hooked on the exciting story of the Rebellion fighting valiantly against the oppression of the Empire in a galaxy far, far away.

My passion for the franchise endured during the cinematic dry spells in the 90s, kept alive by books – the Timothy Zahn, post-Return of the Jedi novels were phenomenal continuations of the saga – comics (including Dark Empire and much, much more), video games and even tabletop games (the West End Games RPG, as well as strategy games such as two player title Assault on Hoth, solitaire Battle for Endor and the brilliant Star Warriors).

Even the Special Editions, arriving on the 20th Anniversary of the original Star Wars, were warmly received by me, despite the often wonky and ill-judged additions to each film (though The Empire Strikes Back received the most subtle and well integrated changes of them all, being – in my opinion – the only film in the trilogy that’s improved by the meddling).

Then the prequels came along. Initially caught up in the unprecedented hype, I saw The Phantom Menace several times on the big screen and forgave its numerous, glaring shortcomings, simply happy to be given a new story, new details and at least one epic lightsaber battle.

Yet, when I got The Phantom Menace on DVD, its issues were much more obvious. Shorn of the excitement and atmosphere of seeing the film on the big screen alongside hundreds of other long term fans, it was clearly a crushingly dull, poorly written and largely pointless endeavour that did little but make the Star Wars universe feel smaller and more stupid. Jar Jar, midichlorians, Threepio being made by Anakin – so much of it was just heavy handed fan service or unfunny slapstick.

Attack of the Clones didn’t help matters; a nonsensical plot, terrible performances and a creepy, leering Anakin (as well as awful dialogue) rendering the disastrous ‘romance’ scenes unintentionally hilarious. So many scenes felt far too artificial this time, with an overuse of digital effects as opposed to real sets and creatures. It was hugely disappointing, though much supplemental material in the years since it was released have redeemed it somewhat.

Revenge of the Sith suffers a few of the same problems as Attack of the Clones, with too many long action sequences that rely far too heavily on CGI, then a rushed final act that accelerates the rate at which everything happens to get us close to status quo in 1977’s A New Hope. Even the final lightsaber battle, as well choreographed as it is, suffers from trying too hard to be a spectacle and an overabundance of digital effects.

So it’s fair to say that I lost interest in Star Wars thanks to the prequels, but with the sequel trilogy – which, admittedly, have their own issues – my interest was rekindled. Likewise with much of the animated material, the one-off movie of Rogue One and now the live action TV shows we’ve had since that trilogy ended, with The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian being particular highlights.

Yet nothing could have prepared me for the impact that Andor had. Though I enjoyed Rogue One immensely – and believe it to be amongst the best of the Star Wars movies overall, perhaps second only to The Empire Strikes Back – a prequel series, starring a character whose fate is already known, felt pointless. In much the same way as the ill-timed Solo movie felt far too late to arrive – the character’s ultimate fate was known and there seemed little interest in delving into his youth (though I did end up enjoying Solo, though can’t say it was life-changing).

Perhaps that’s one reason why Andor ended up feeling so special. Shorn of much expectation, the fact that we got a seriously dramatic, overtly political, stunningly performed show with a measured pace that – every three episodes or so – absolutely put your emotions through the wringer was a complete shock.

From top to bottom, Andor was produced with such care and attention, with a much more tangible feel to its universe than most of what we’ve seen since the original trilogy. The three episode mini arcs and countless dramas between its impressive cast of characters was never less than riveting – and when it came to delivering big action sequences, its character led approach meant that every single victory or loss felt like it mattered hugely.

It delivered in terms of monologues too, with Andy Serkis, Stellan Skarsgard and Fiona Shaw all getting their time to shine in unforgettable scenes.

Diego Luna was of course great too, but perhaps the biggest twist of the show is that it wasn’t just Andor in the spotlight; nor was he a conventional hero in any sense.

The bureaucracy that keeps the wheels of the Empire turning, complete with office politics and the deeply shocking, smaller acts of cruelty and vicious punishment gave us a great peek behind the curtain; an area almost entirely overlooked in Star Wars fiction to date. The clever escalation from local security forces right up to stormtroopers and beyond was notably clever too.

It’s sure to go down as one of the very best uses of the Star Wars universe and its often simplistically depicted struggle between good and evil. Star Wars ordinarily even struggles with characters who should be much greyer in tone; The Mandalorian and now even Boba Fett developing as much more standard heroes than the characters they started out as – but Andor doesn’t take the easy road at any point.

It’s a phenomenal achievement and easily the very best new TV show that I watched in 2022.

You can read my reviews of each episode of Andor here.

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