Andor: A Grittier, Human Star Wars Show

ENTERTAINMENT | When the original Star Wars debuted in 1977, it thrilled audiences everywhere and proved a landmark in fantasy filmmaking. One of the ways it did this was to blend some interesting technologies with cultures that could only exist in the Star Wars universe without drawing too much attention to them. 

Remember how Luke was a moisture farmer and how his uncle’s homestead was built into the ground in the middle of the desert? Yet, this incredible set was often shown as an out-of-focus background as the characters had conversations about their everyday problems. The world in Star Wars was new to us but mundane to the characters who resided in it. This world-building technique was used to great effect throughout the movie, as Mos Eisley seemed like a real place. Even once the heroes found themselves on the Death Star, it was business as usual for the Empire. Even the shiny new astromech droid moving in the background was out of focus. 

The new show, Andor, which dropped its first three episodes on Disney Plus last week, uses the same technique. Much of the story is told visually, with the help of sharp, well-written dialogue. We see the everyday life of the planet Ferrix, a working town featuring common laborers scrounging for materials in giant junkyards. Workers clock into work by taking their own gloves and boots from a great wall of hundreds of such pairs. It feels like a real place.

Set five years before Cassian Andor helped steal the Death Star plans in the film Rogue One, he tries to learn of his sister’s whereabouts when two security officers unjustly confront him. One is killed accidentally, and, to get away clean, Andor executes the other. The head of security is willing to brush this incident under the rug to avoid any undue attention from the Empire, but his first Lieutenant, Syrill Karn, tries to stand up for what is right and hunts for the killer while his boss meets with the Empire. It’s an interesting case of the “hero” actually being the “antagonist” of the story. We learn that he is in over his head when dealing with Cassian Andor. Soon the authorities close in on Andor as he attempts to buy his way off the planet.

This story is intercut with a fascinating flashback tale of Cassian (known as Kassa), who, as a child, left his sister behind at the camp as he and the other children in his tribe investigate a crashed ship when he is eventually found by his adoptive mother. 

The first three episodes of the series play like its own story as the people of the working class distract the security forces as they close in on Andor. So far, the story is a fascinating slow-burn, particularly for Star Wars, and uses a “show, don’t tell” to handle the exposition. Such a welcome change after the clunky “Boba Fett” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi” shows that preceded this one. 

This looks like a winner, if for no other reason than that it trusts the audience to pay attention to the details.