Andor (Season 1) 2022

“I’d rather die trying to take them down than die giving them what they want.”

As Jyn Erso formally played by Felicity Jones once said in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, “Rebellions are built on hope”. Rebellions aren’t clean nor do they play by the rules nor are they cheap. They require sacrifice and commitment and a person’s undivided attention. A rebellion isn’t like 9-5 job 40 hours a week. It’s all-consuming, requiring every ounce of strength – physical, spiritual, and mental 7 days a week, 24 hours a day. What we knew going into Andor about the rebellion that was introduced in Star Wars in 1977 is much different than what we know now. That version of the rebellion against the Empire was cohesive and collaborative. Andor represents the full picture of what a rebellion is.

Unlike what came before it, Andor, aside from featuring the return of the titular character Cassian (Diego Luna), is not connected to the larger universe of Star Wars. Yes, the Empire is omnipresent throughout giving the familial struggle between the galactic superpower and the band of rebels that are fighting back to end the tyranny, but the characters are brand new while the theme stays constant.

Creator Tony Gilroy, who penned the Rogue One script returns in grand fashion to the universe focusing his lens of the rebellion on the ground level, in the dirt and grime of its theoretical beginnings. Opening on Cassian and taking place 5BBY (5 years before the battle of Yavin), Andor depicts a different version of Cassian than we met previously. He’s a thief but not the major player in the rebellion when we first met him. Reprising his role is Diego Luna who comes back to the role 6 years later but as if no time passed whatsoever. Cassian is younger and Luna doesn’t skip a beat, finding a comfortable balance between wanting to do the right thing and wanting to stay invisible to the Empire.

Luna Portrays the conflicted arrogance effortlessly – given the choice to be bigger than a petty thief who steals Empire technological components for profit.

Told in arcs of 3 episodes, Andor is the introduction to the rebellion while highlighting the Empire’s efforts to extinguish any rebellious activity. Gilroy creates a suffocating atmosphere from the side of the rebels in the early episodes of this 12-episode season. The first three were released all at once, which worked to the series benefit, despite getting off to a slower than expected start.  

Episodes 1-3 introduce the planet of Ferrix, a working planet that serves as ground zero for the ensuing conflict. Cassian’s friend Bix (Adria Arjona) introduces Cassian to Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) who hires Cassian for a job to steal imperial credits. These first three episodes are crucial to the establishment of the increasing tensions, playing a larger role in Cassian’s growth as person. The show picks up speed in episode 4 during the next mini arc where Cassian is paired up with Vel (Faye Marsay), Cinta (Varada Sethu), Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), Lieutenant Gorn (Sule Rimi), Taramyn (Gershwyn Eustache), and Nemik (Alex Lawther) to carry out a heist to fund the rebellion.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Andor reintroduces us to the capital planet of Coruscant and senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) also reprising her role from Rogue One. As crucial a role Luthen plays to the rebellion, Mon Mothma holds equal importance – playing a double agent on dangerous grounds. As the future face of the resistance, Genevieve O’Reilly gives a powerhouse performance soaked in subtly as Mon hides her rebellious nature in plain sight. She’s able to mask her true intentions to the Empire while attempting to keep her crumbling home life afloat. If anyone compromises more, its Mon and Genevieve’s facial expressions are more powerful than any line of dialogue spoken. She can say an entire speech with a look to her allies and her enemies piercing through the tough exteriors.

Now that all 12 episodes of the first of 2 planned seasons have released to Disney Plus, Andor is the single most important addition to the expanded universe since A New Hope. Week after week, the quality of Andor increases exponentially as Tony Gilroy captures the oppression of the Empire through outstanding bulletproof writing, character development and overall atmosphere. Supporting characters are given more exposition density than the previous series The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan.

Week after week, the Empire’s hold on the universe tightens its grip, creating a sense of claustrophobia from its most loyal employees. Characters like Dedra (Denise Gough) are pure evil, vile and loathsome but, it’s the craftmanship of each script that Dedra can be sympathized with – early on after her introduction. Credit has to also be given to Denise Gough who perfectly embodies the ferocity of Dedra on her mission to extinguish the rebellion before it bursts into flames.

Premiereing in the middle of two other fantasy series, Andor showed up and held its own, proving its worth to the sci-fi genre. Without the Star Wars attachment, Andor would have succeeded regardless because of its centralized themes in dealing with oppression, politics, and human nature. A very different feel from The Mandalorian or other series that exclusively feature the high flashy pop of lightsabers, Jedi and Sith. It takes Andor 4 episodes until it introduces something familiar in the galaxy far far away and even then, it’s minimalized to 2 locations.

Speaking of locations, series cinematographers Adriano Goldman, Frank Lamm, Damián García, and Jonathan Freeman bring the universe to life with on location shooting rather than relying heavily on the stagecraft technology. Stagecraft is used; however, the dazzling visual effects blur the lines between environments. It’s in the on-location shots that the sound design succeeds the most. Tie-fighters pierce the silence of the mountainous terrain of Aldhani – coming within feet of the unsuspecting rebels.

Andor boasts a more mature tone in Star Wars that hasn’t been tapped into before. Darker and full of grit, Tony Gilroy gives a new meaning to the term rebellion that is just as relevant today as it is to the fictious galaxy. All episodes do a brilliant job building on the previous until the season finale when the tension crescendos into an unrelenting sense of despair For Cassian and those closest to him, there is no going back. Each minute of the finale is full of anxiety and adrenaline that boils over into the next. What these people are fighting for matters well beyond their lifetimes. At the forefront is Cassian Andor, the spark that lit the rebellion.

Created By: Tony Gilroy

Episodes Directed By: Toby Hanes, Susanna White & Benjamin Caron

Music By: Nicholas Britell

Cinematography: Adriano Goldman, Frank Lamm, Damián García, Jonathan Freeman

Starring: Diego Luna, Kyle Soller, Adria Arjona, Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, Denise Gough, Genevieve O’Reilly, Faye Marsay, Varada Sethu, Elizabeth Dulau

Where to Watch: Disney Plus

Release Date: September 21, 2022

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 93%

Based On: Star Wars by George Lucas

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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