Review by Dan Skip Allen
Star Wars films and television shows were usually contained to the Skywalker Saga before Disney bought Lucasfilm and vowed to do stand-alone movies set in different eras a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away. One of those films was Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, set directly before A New Hope, starring Diego Luna as Cassian Andor. The film was such a big hit with fans and critics alike. So Disney/Lucasfilm decided to spin Andor off into his own series. Andor has finally arrived, and it's worth the wait.
When we pick up Andor five years before the tragic events in Rogue One, he is trying to sell a piece of Empire Tech. He enlists the help of a woman he knows, Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), to help him facilitate the deal with a contact of hers who deals in black market goods, Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard). He has a different agenda for Cassian — one that has him making a decision he may regret for the rest of his life. He can decide to be a common run-of-the-mill thief or a member of something bigger than he can probably perceive.
Andor might be the best show that Lucasfilm has released on Disney+ yet. I know that might be blasphemy to some die-hard Star Wars enthusiasts, especially since they've released two seasons of The Mandalorian with a third on the way and Obi-Wan Kenobi. But Andor is such a gritty, dirty, grounded look at this world. It's about time that Lucasfilm has finally delved deeper into the seedier side of the Star Wars Universe. We have seen glimpses of this in the original trilogy and the Boba Fett show, also on Disney+, but nothing to this extent. This is the Star Wars I've been waiting for since I saw The Empire Strikes Back as a kid.
Tony Gilroy, who took over for Gareth Edwards midway through production on Rogue One, has returned to showrun this new production of Andor. He has grounded this series in a way that makes it authentic and raw as no other Star Wars project has been before. The main planet the series starts on has a workman life feel to it. All the supporting characters are like normal people going through their lives in the central city. They get up in the morning and work in factories, scrap yards, or whatever it may be. Andor travels through this world unbeknownst that even though he has friends, he also has enemies, and they are closing in on him.
This show has some of the best production design of any show I've seen all year, let alone the Star Wars projects. Setting this series in a normal world makes sense, especially when the show goes to other more familiar settings like Scarif and Coruscant, the Capital City World of the Galaxy. The show transitions from one grounded working world to two other planets where things are different: one where everything is big and industrialized, and the other is rural and more normalized. Both play an essential part in the series going forward. The show has a lot of characters to go along with all the different sets and locations. That makes it one of the more vast series there have been thus far from Lucasfilm and Disney. It's a sprawling adventure with intrigue around every corner.
Diego Luna is fantastic as this character in Rogue One, but in this series, he is still learning the ropes and who he can trust. Leaving friends behind isn't easy for him, but finding new ones like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) will help determine where he goes from the beginning of the show. Like all the Star Wars films and shows, the Empire plays a huge part in determining the outcome. Andor has some nasty characters that make up the antagonists: a Corps Policeman called Syril (Kyle Soller), and Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) are a couple of pieces of work that are a nasty thorn in Cassian Andor's side. There is also a droid that is pretty cool called B2EMO, voiced by David Chapman. It's hard to keep up with all the moving parts of the show, but it's fun to follow along with nonetheless.
When I first started watching Andor, I was instantly drawn back into the world of Star Wars. There is no other series of films or shows that looks exactly like Star Wars does. The characters are dressed like people you would see in these worlds as well. Andor was going to draw me in right away. It was just a matter of how much I would love this show. And I am here to say this is the best Star Wars I've seen in years. I loved the Cassian Andor character in Rogue One, but now I absolutely adore this character and the performance by Luna. Only seen four episodes so far, but the sky's the limit for this series.
Andor streams on Disney+ beginning September 21, with new episodes airing subsequent Wednesdays. Four out of twelve episodes reviewed.