‘Andor’ doesn't offer much to anyone not already a fan of ‘Rogue One’
The First Four Episodes of the new Disney+ series is all set up for a conflict we already know the ending to but offers backstory for some fan favorite 'Star Wars' characters.
The new series is set five years before the events of ‘Rogue One,’ and features Diego Luna reprising his role as Cassian Andor. The series will explore Andor’s backstory and his role in the birth of the Rebellion.
In addition to Luna, the series also features Genevieve O’Reilly and Forest Whitaker reprising their ‘Star Wars’ roles as Mon Mothma and Saw Gerrera, respectively, as well as new cast members Stellan Skarsgard, Adria Arjona, Kyle Soller, Denise Gough, and Fiona Shaw.
The result is a dark and bleak ‘Star Wars’ series that has some wonderful character driven moments but may unfold too slow for audience members not familiar with ‘Rogue One.’
The ‘Star Wars’ franchise has always been polarizing. I remember as a kid in the 80s thinking that ‘Return of the Jedi’ was the “bad one.” Then of course came the prequels of the late 90s and early 2000’s when ‘Phantom Menace’ became everyone’s favorite ‘Star Wars’ movie to hate.
Since Disney took over Lucasfilm, movies like ‘The Last Jedi’ and ‘Solo: A Star Wars Story’ have practically torn the fanbase apart. But most ‘Star Wars’ fans can agree on one thing, they all love ‘Rogue One,’ which is probably why they decided to make it into a Disney+ series.
To be honest, I’m an unusual ‘Star Wars’ fan because I loved ‘Last Jedi,’ and I even didn’t mind ‘Solo,’ but I just don’t love ‘Rogue One.’ Maybe it’s because I always knew that film would be a one-off based on its placement within the ‘Star Wars’ timeline, and I never allowed myself to really get invested in those characters.
Unfortunately, ‘Andor’ is much the same for me, the backstory of a character I’m not that interested in. The first two episodes unfold rather slowly and present a lot of backstory for Diego Luna’s character.
In fact, there are actually two different timelines in this series. The present day, which is five years before ‘Rogue One,’ and an ongoing flashback to Cassian’s childhood. I found the two different timelines to be confusing at times, and again, learning the intricate backstory of a character I’m not that interested in to begin with became tedious at times.
However, something happens between episode 2 and episode 3 that begins to shift the series from a Cassian Andor show to a series about the early days of the Rebellion. The show works best when it is exploring the bureaucracy of the Empire, the politics of the galaxy, and Andor’s relationship to new (to us) characters like Adria Arjona’s Bix Caleen, Fiona Shaw’s Maarva, and eventually, Stellan Skarsgard’s Luthen Rael.
The series was created and written by ‘Rogue One’ screenwriter Tony Gilroy, and it has a very similar tone as the movie, which sets it apart from the Jon Favreau/Dave Filoni led Disney+ ‘Star Wars’ series. In fact, the series was shot entirely on location, rather than the digital volume room used for ‘The Mandalorian’ or the ‘Obi-Wan Kenobi’ series, immediately giving it a different tone and scope.
Diego Luna is an excellent actor, and clearly has affection for this role. What is nice about the 12-episode series is it does give us time to really get to know Cassian Andor as a character, something ‘Rogue One’ couldn’t do because of his limited screen time. While I’m not sure I need to know as much about his childhood, one can only guess this will pay off fully by the series’ end.
Luna certainly has command of the role, showing us a completely different character than we saw in ‘Rogue One.’ This Cassian Andor is a rogue and a bit of a scoundrel, which we discover through his interactions with other characters. This is not the heroic Andor who sacrificed himself to save the galaxy at the end of ‘Rogue One.’ What is intriguing about the series will be watching Luna’s performance as Andor eventually becomes an important part of the Rebellion.
But for me, at least in the opening episodes, Cassian’s story is not as interesting as some of the other characters that inhabit his world. Adria Arjona is a breath of fresh air as Bix Caleen, a strong woman who clearly has a romantic past with Andor and is doing her best to help him and also keep him out of her life.
Kyle Soller is delightful and at times hilarious as Syril, an Imperial officer obsessed with rising in the Imperial ranks. Soller’s performance is fun, and you really feel the character’s insecurities and how he over compensates for them. Syril’s incompetence is very believable, but also adds to the ‘Star Wars’ mythos that the Empire is really run by a bunch of idiots.
A lot of ‘Star Wars’ fans were excited by the announcement that Genevieve O’Reilly would be reprising her role as Mon Montha, now only a senator trying to navigate the politics of the Empire. While she is not in a lot of the first few episodes, I think her character’s arc might be one of the most interesting by the series’ end. Watching this character who we’ve only seen in the past as a leader of the Rebellion, now as a member of the Empire trying to break away and do the right thing, is very intriguing.
Speaking of intriguing, that is a good way to describe Luthen Rael, the character played Stellan Skarsgard. While he only appears in the tail-end of the first four episodes, it’s very clear that his character will have a large role in bringing Cassian into the Rebellion. As Rael, Skarsgard is both mysterious and commanding, and also has some surprisingly fun scenes with O’Reilly.
In the end, ‘Andor’ shows some promise towards the end of its opening four episodes and may turn out to be a great series. But it has a slow start, and those not invested in the characters from ‘Rogue One’ or the idea of the birth of the Rebellion in general, may lose interest after watching the slow and dark premiere episode.
The first four episodes of ‘Andor’ receives 3 out of 5 stars.
To watch Made in Hollywood's interviews with the cast of 'Andor,' please click on the video player below.