Disney+’s “Star Wars” shows are at their best when exploring places in the “SW” universe we’ve not yet visited. “The Mandalorian” gave us an exciting peek into the world of bounty hunting, which had only been hinted at previously.
“Andor,” the latest Disney+ “Star Wars” series, similarly takes us into the heart of a society oppressed by The Empire and tells a story of how rebels are born. Three episodes in, and “Andor” has been a compelling character study, as well as a tense, fun ride.
Set five years before the Battle of Yavin, this show follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who we met in “Rogue One.” Cassian runs afoul of authorities while attempting to find his long-lost sister, soon finding he has pencil-necked bureaucrat Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) hot on his tale.
Dodging the corporate fuzz isn’t the only thing on Cassian’s mind. He’s also trying to sell a very expensive component to help fund his way to somewhere he can lay low. But his potential customer, Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) sees something in Cassian that Cassian doesn’t see in himself. Can they get away from Karn and his rent-a-soldiers so Luthen can help Cassian reach his potential?
I’m not going to lie. The past two Disney+ “Star Wars” shows have failed to blow me away. “Book of Boba Fett” took one of the coolest “SW” characters ever and turned him into a boring goody-two-shoes gangster. “Obi-Wan” completely obliterated the continuity to the point where I couldn’t enjoy it as anything more than fanfiction.
“Andor” has managed to sidestep both of those issues. If anything, it made Cassian, who felt like a flat, dimensionless character in “Rogue One” and made him interesting by giving him new motivations and people he cares for.
The show also has so far avoided continuity messes by telling a story that exists alongside but outside of the main narrative. We know how Cassian’s story connects to the main narrative of the saga but can tell this story without nuking elements of the mythology that have stood since the 1970s.
On top of that, creator Tony Gilroy and his team really understand how to use pacing to create tension. They set up situations where you have an inkling of what’s going to happen but then stretch things out so that you begin to get anxious before giving you the payoff.
“Andor” also has a more wide-open feel than some of its predecessors. Too many times on past “SW” shows, it seemed like we spent scene after scene on soundstages surrounded by bluescreens. “Andor” feels like it takes place in the open air and is much more grounded and relatable as a result.
But what really sells “Andor” is the cast. Luna plays a desperate man who’s bluffing everyone around him. Cassian acts like he has it together but if you look into his eyes, you know he’s moments away from exploding. Adria Arjona is tough as nails as Cassian’s friend, Bix. Soller plays Karn like that coworker everyone’s had who is so strictly by the book that everybody wants to beat him with a hockey stick. And what can I say about the awesomeness of Skarsgard that hasn’t already been said? He doesn’t show up until the third episode, but man is he worth the wait.
“Andor” is a little bit of a slow burn but it uses that pacing to build tension better than any “Star Wars” show Disney+ has thus far given us. I am so excited to see where this is headed and I hope it can keep up its mixture of tension and compelling character building.
The first three episodes of “Andor” are currently available to stream on Disney+ with new episodes dropping every Wednesday through late November.