Star Wars has been bringing a broad range of content to Disney+ from the anime anthology of Visions to the blockbuster event of The Mandalorian. Now, the galaxy far, far away has something new to offer with Andor, a spy thriller starring Diego Luna's Rogue One rebel.
As most will be aware, Cassian Andor, unfortunately, met his demise by the end of Rogue One with the Empire's destruction of Scariff in his efforts to retrieve the plans for the Death Star. But Andor will jump back five years before his death to explore his early days as a rebel spy.
Ahead of the premiere of the 12-episode first season on Wednesday, September 21, Andor has already been picked up for Season 2 which will lead directly up to Rogue One, ultimately telling the whole story of Cassian's rebel journey.
Clearly, Lucasfilm is going all-in on Andor and creator Tony Gilroy's vision for a spy thriller in the Star Wars galaxy. But are the early episodes even worth watching? The Direct got the opportunity to preview the first four episodes of Andor, and here's why it's worth the watch.
Andor's New Perspective on Star Wars
After blockbuster tales like Obi-Wan Kenobi, The Mandalorian, and The Book of Boba Fett, Andor feels like a breath of fresh air in the Star Wars galaxy. This series isn't trying to rely on fan service or connections to other characters, it's instead focused on exploring its setting and characters in great depth.
Part of what allows that to feel so fulfilling comes from the unexplored nature of Andor's themes, setting, and genre. Not only does this stand apart from other stories as a spy thriller, but it centers its story in the underworld of this universe, diving into the lives of ordinary people suffering under the Empire's tyranny.
Cassian Andor serves as the perfect vehicle for that to explore new planets and lifestyles and face him with different types of antagonists - ones who come across as less villainous and more driven by duty. Unfortunately, not enough is done to develop him as an interesting character that viewers can grow invested in.
Granted, there are the clear makings of his path to becoming a rebel hero and mentor, something which will certainly make for an intriguing character piece. The flashbacks to Andor's upbringing only enhance this goal as it demonstrates the seeds of rebellion have been within him all along.
What Makes Andor Interesting
In the run-up to Andor, many have been questioning why Lucasfilm decided to build a multi-season series around a dead one-off character that has never seen any insane popularity. But upon tuning into the Disney+ series, it becomes quickly apparent why this is a story worth telling.
Cassian Andor may be at the core of his Disney+ series and the main protagonist, but he largely serves as the vehicle to tell a bigger story. Andor is ultimately about life under the Empire at the peak of its reign, taking a deep dive into both sides, along with the rise of the Rebellion in its early days.
Andor may not be the fast-paced interconnected tale of The Mandalorian, but it takes a different approach that leans into its characters and world-building as opposed to relying on shocks and blockbuster moments. So even though Andor may be the richer tale, it may not land with some fans.
Star Wars' latest Disney+ outing may be the darkest and most mature entry in the franchise yet. One shouldn't go into Andor expecting many laughs and the usual action-packed perspective on this galaxy, at least early on. One should instead expect a character piece that takes a deep dive into those who inhabit this galaxy.
It's also important to expect Andor to be a slow burn, but the pace does increase as episodes pass, as does the amount of action. The first three episodes almost serve as one extra-long premiere to set up the concept, characters, and what's to come, making it clear why Disney opted to premiere multiple on the same day.
Andor's Elite Star Wars Cast
Diego Luna delivers another stellar performance as Cassian Andor as he gets the chance to step into the forefront, although it may take a few episodes to properly connect with this character. But what makes Andor really shine is those who surround the titular star, all of which bring something different to the table.
Among the standouts are Kyle Soller's Syril and Denise Gough's Dedra, two low-level Empire officers who are trying to climb the ranks. The moral ambiguity that comes with these characters, who are neither good nor evil just yet, offers a new perspective on the Empire that paints them less as outright villains.
These characters allow Andor to take the deepest dive yet into the operation of the Empire, coming through the lens of three-dimensional antagonists who command the screen and give off a powerful impression. There's no telling where their stories will go throughout the series, but they will be the ones that intrigue many.
Stellan Skarsgård may be the MVP of the cast, and he enters the fold as an instant icon and mentor to Andor as he begins his rebel journey. The legendary actor commands the screen whenever he appears, steals all his scenes, and is just a true badass who encapsulates the sense of rebellion.
Andor makes a point of regularly switching perspectives between the hero, villains, side characters, and flashbacks to Cassian's past. These varied perspectives of different lifestyles allow Andor to explore its setting from varied angles, something which ought to keep the series fresh throughout its extended run.
Andor Brings Cinema Home
In the modern age of streaming, series budgets are continuing to increase to bring television ever closer to movie-level quality. The Marvel and Star Wars Disney+ projects have famously tried to replicate the big-screen but always fallen just short; Andor comes as the first true success in bringing the cinema home.
Gilroy's aversion to technology such as The Volume in favor of a practical approach pays off to create impressive set pieces that enhance the story. These jaw-dropping visuals always serve a purpose as they help to convey the scale of the Empire or lifestyles and the atmosphere of new worlds.
Beyond just looking stunning, Andor always sounds amazing too with a powerful and impactful score from Nicholas Britell - a composer with an impressive track record in Hollywood. Every track always matches the moment it falls in to set the atmosphere and create tension; it's always a memorable joy to listen to.
Why You Need to Watch Andor
Andor will not be for everyone, that much is for sure. The slow-burn character piece that comes across as a more mature story may not deliver the thrills of The Mandalorian just yet, but what it brings to the table is arguably better - breaking free from the usual formula, tone, and style of Star Wars.
The beauty, grandness, and cinematic visuals are just the icing on the cake of that package as Disney+ delivers its best-looking release yet. Andor creates a world that feels real, inhabited, and terrifying, which only helps to enhance its storytelling and overall message.
Andor will premiere its first three episodes on Wednesday, September 21, and it's an absolute must-watch for any Star Wars fan. But it's important to make it through those three premiere entries to fully get a picture of what this series is.