Season 1 of Andor has proven Disney's Star Wars issues on Disney+, and here's how.
In the decade following Disney's acquisition of Lucasfilm, audiences have never seen a Star Wars project like Andor.
Both a spin-off and a prequel to Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Diego Luna reprises his role as Cassian Andor in this rebellion origin story. But even though Luna's Andor is key to the series, he's far from its only star.
In reality, Andor is an ensemble piece featuring Stellan Skarsgård, Denise Gough, Kyle Soller, Genevieve O'Reilly, Andy Serkis, and more.
But in addition to its stellar cast, Andor has blown audiences away with its powerful themes, mature tones, and masterful, interwoven storytelling.
However, while Lucasfilm's latest series has definitely been a breath of fresh air, it's also managed to prove the biggest problem with Disney-owned Star Wars.
The Disney Star Wars Period Thus Far
Ever since Lucasfilm was acquired in 2012, Star Wars under the Disney banner has existed in two eras: the theatrical era and the streaming era.
From 2015 through 2019, Lucasfilm churned out five Star Wars films, including the sequel trilogy and final (?) chapter of the Skywalker Saga, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and Solo: A Star Wars Story.
But then, weeks before Lucasfilm's last Star Wars film - The Rise of Skywalker - debuted, Disney+ launched in conjunction with the first-ever live-action Star Wars series, The Mandalorian.
The success of Mando and Grogu launched Disney's Star Wars streaming era.
In addition to the final season of Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated series, Lucasfilm premiered Season 2 of The Mandalorian, Star Wars: The Bad Batch, The Book of Boba Fett, Star Wars Visions, Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor, and more.
Meanwhile, the Star Wars theatrical slate remained blank, but that's not to say that the studio didn't try.
As Lucasfilm had done before the Star Wars streaming era began, the franchise continued its trend of announcing directors to helm the franchise's next big screen film. None of which, to date, have come to fruition.
Perhaps Master Yoda's words of "Do. Or do not. There is no try" have never been more applicable.
But as for the streaming side of that galaxy far, far away, fans were noticing trends there too.
It seemed that instead of trilogies or event projects, Star Wars was leaning into personal, character-driven tales stretched into a serial and peppered with Easter eggs and cameos.
But this new focus didn't just apply to Dave Filoni and Jon Favreau's interconnected Mando-Verse, but also projects featuring Star Wars headliners, like Obi-Wan Kenobi.
In fact, The Direct reported that Obi-Wan Kenobi was intended to be its own trilogy before it was retooled into a show for Disney+.
Now, with Season 3 of The Mandalorian and Ahsoka waiting in the wings, audiences fully expected this Disney+ trend to continue.
That is, until Andor.
How Andor is Different
Leading up to Andor's three-episode premiere on September 21, the Star Wars faithful were only beginning to understand that this Rogue One prequel wasn't following the formula.
For one, Season 1 spanned twelve episodes - the longest live-action Disney+ Star Wars show to date - and it was helmed by Tony Gilroy who, despite having doctored up the Rogue One, was a self-confessed casual fan at best.
Andor was also shot on location and with practical sets instead of Lucasfilm's pride and joy, The Volume. There were also teases of high body counts and an adult-oriented edge.
While all of these points are key differences, the biggest departure was - with the exception of Cassian and Mon Mothma - the series' lack of key ingredients of a typical Star Wars story, namely familiar characters, lightsabers, and the Jedi and Sith mythology.
While this surprised viewers and critics at first, Andor's release was well-received. And as the season marched on, its strengths only grew stronger, as did its converts.
So what is it about Andor? Why was such a different Star Wars story without the hallmarks of a Star Wars story so great?
Perhaps the answer is that Andor got right what Disney's Star Wars has been getting wrong.
Andor Illustrates the Importance of Creative Freedom
Andor is arguably the best example of an ideal standalone Star Wars project and how the brand can bump out the borders.
Why? It's showrunner Tony Gilroy's vision.
That's kind of remarkable given that Lucasfilm historically has serious trust issues with a penchant for interfering.
For example, Phil Lord and Chris Miller were fired from Solo well into production and replaced with Ron Howard, the Gilroys were brought in to fix Gareth Edwards' Rogue One, and there's even speculation that The Book of Boba Fett was the product of a studio mandate.
But since Andor was spared this interference, the series is actually more like the original Star Wars trilogy than its recent counterparts.
Back in the '70s and when George Lucas was working on Star Wars, he was also fighting for freedom from studio interference to tell the stories he wanted and to make his own rules.
It's not only ironic but Shakespearan that his efforts to achieve creative freedom actually led to Lucasfilm, a studio known for its meddling.
But when comparing Lucas' own trilogy and Andor's intricate storytelling against The Book of Boba Fett or even Obi-Wan Kenobi, it's hard to deny that freedom of vision makes for a better product.
The question now is why did Lucasfilm reverse course and allow Gilroy to carry out his vision?
Andor Illustrates the Importance of Story
The explanation is simple: its story.
In terms of Lucasfilm's tendency to meddle, it's typically related to projects featuring its iconic characters, such as Solo, Obi-Wan, and Boba Fett.
The studio's protectiveness is understandable, especially in the wake of the backlash for how the sequel trilogy handled the original trilogy cast.
However, the problem is modern-day Star Wars has become only about character-based stories for recognition, nostalgia, and, of course, numbers.
In fact, every single live-action Star Wars Disney+ project to date has been named after a character, including Andor.
But again, where Andor differs is that - apart from Cassian and Mon Mothma - the show is an ensemble of unknowns caught up in something bigger than themselves.
In short, Andor is story-driven, not data-driven, once again making it more like the original Star Wars trilogy than today's other Star Wars stories.
In the end, this Diego Luna-led series proves that quality, creative storytelling doesn't just create inspiring and popular characters, it also builds fans.
If Disney's Star Wars was more story-first instead of building a plot around recognizable characters, creators would be free to execute their vision without the restraints of canon and the studio.
Not only would this allow for more shows and possibly films like Andor, but it would be the most Star Wars thing Lucasfilm could do.