SERIES REVIEW – After Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, Andor: the stoic, cynical yet ultimately heroic character in a Star Wars story returns this time with a series that bears his name. Diego Luna has not only given a great performance in the Star Wars film The Dirty Dozen with the same character, but has also proven himself as the lead in the Netflix gangster series Narcos: Mexico. So it was with high expectations that I sat down in front of the screener of the first four episodes of Andor, provided by Disney+, and the series did not disappoint, despite the fact that it is perhaps the furthest from the Star Wars universe in style and atmosphere.
At the end of Batman: The Dark Knight, the iconic line from Gary Oldman, playing Inspector Gordon, is uttered that Batman was then the hero “Gotham deserved, but not the one it needs now.”
We could turn this around in the case of Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, because in general, this is not the kind of hero the Star Wars universe “deserves”, but rather a Jedi imbued with the Force, with great power, who, for the most part, set an example by their self-sacrifice and pure character. Sure, there’s Darth Vader, but he’s the archetype of the hero who went from Good to Evil completely and then to Villain – so the term “anti-hero” doesn’t apply to him in any movie. On the other hand, Cassian Andor is a true black ops rebel, for whom the usual black and white philosophy does not fit, but rather the fifty shades of grey.
While his missions are, of course, for the noble cause of the Rebels (such as the kidnapping of the Death Star plans in Greedy One), Andor never hesitates to use dirty methods: killing a fellow rebel in an alley in cold blood, or lying unabashedly to his own comrades in the cause. Andor is not a Force user, but he is an intelligent, cold-blooded assassin and charismatic leader who almost never lets his emotions get the better of him. He’s got a little James Bond, a little Jack Bauer, a little Agent 47 from the Hitman video game franchise and, of course, he’s somewhat comparable to the Mandalorian. Coming back to the Batman debate, after all the clichés and repetition, and all the well-trodden and familiar heroes and villains, it is refreshing to have a more complex character, played once again brilliantly by Diego Luna. Coming back to the Batman debate, I really think he is the hero Star Wars needs right now.
There’s more of a “Mass Effect” vibe here, but there’s no “plot-rush” either
However, it must be acknowledged that just as Andor is a completely different character from the usual Star Wars heroes, the series that bears his name is probably the closest thing to a classic Star Wars, including the spin-off films and other Disney+ series. Without spoiling any of the plot, right at the beginning of the series, we see a bar scene that, in its visual execution, spits out Mass Effect and BioWare’s great role-playing franchise-another similarity in many ways to Andorra. How much of this is a positive or negative is for each person to decide for themselves, but as a Mass Effect fan, I was happy with it.
Another feature of the series is that, although there is action in the first four episodes, it is far less than in either the films or the previous series – including the recent Obi-Wan Kenobi series. Andor is a typical “slow-burner”, in which the title character’s cynical and completely different life situation is gradually brought to the rebels. Andor’s present and his childhood are explored in parallel scenes. The first four episodes of the series, which is currently scheduled to run for two seasons and twelve episodes, do not reveal much else, so don’t expect the somewhat disjointed plot that characterised Obi-Wan Kenobi in its six episodes. There’s plenty of time to get to know the characters, their motivations, their character development. Yes, beyond Andore, the other characters.
Varied, interesting characters
Perhaps, for this reason, the character portrayal of Andor has the great advantage of being more nuanced, not only in the main character, but also in the character sketches of the other characters. Kyle Soller, for example, who bears a striking resemblance to Kyle McLahan in Dune 84, plays an initially idealistic and at once pushy and introverted young Imperial officer who even ignores the orders of his fellows when his sense of justice is offended. But he is also green and not always on top of things when he is in action. Soller’s performance is first-rate – light years better than, for example, the rather gruff Moses Ingram, who played a somewhat similar character in the Kenobi series.
And the third ace in the series is none other than Stellan Skarsgård, the father of the Skarsgård acting family, who was recently seen as Baron Harkonnen in another sci-fi franchise, The Dune. From the first four episodes, it’s not yet clear exactly who Skarsgård’s enigmatic character is (we don’t want to give away as much as we know, so as not to spoil anything). Still, he will inevitably have an important role throughout the series. We will also meet many completely new characters, but among the familiar ones we will welcome the young Mon Mon, played once again by Genevieve O’Reilly, as in Giraffe One and other animated series and spin-offs. So there’s no need to complain about the characters, there are already a lot of well-developed characters in the first four episodes, but in return, we have to make do with a slow-burner plot compared to the usual Star Wars pace – if that bothers you at all.
As for the visual world of the series, I was pleased with that too, especially with the fact that we finally got rid of the already dull desert planet Tatuin (at least for the first four episodes, but I hope it stays that way…)
So far, the Star Wars story about the thief has stuck with me
I’ve been generally pleased with the first four episodes of Andor so far. From thug to “Thug One” agent, Cassian Andor is an interesting, complex character, played once again superbly by Diego Luna, and the work of the other actors is generally similarly good. Although the storytelling is rather “slow-burner” (not at all typical of Star Wars) and the series’ style in general is far from classic Star Wars, this is probably the best we have seen. Looking forward to the rest of the episodes!