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Andor

TELEVISION | New Disney series takes Star Wars into gritty territory


Disney+

<em>Andor</em>
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Rated TV-14
➤ Disney+

After buying the Star Wars franchise in 2012, Disney released five films in four years. Though profitable, those feature-length films were of uneven quality and alienated many fans, causing the franchise to sputter. It’s been three years since a Star Wars movie graced the silver screen, and the studio doesn’t have anything in the pipeline. But fans don’t mind the theatrical hiatus. They’ve embraced Star Wars’ mostly successful pivot to series on Disney+.

Andor is the latest television series in the Star Wars franchise, and so far it’s one of the better offerings. It’s a prequel to 2016’s Rogue One, which itself was a prequel to the original movie from 1977. Despite staying in Skywalker-adjacent territory, don’t expect Andor to give audiences more of the same.

The first episode begins with the title character Cassian Andor walking through futuristic city streets in the rain. The light has a neon-blue cast, and the buildings have a gritty techno feel. This opening scene is an homage to the sci-fi classic Blade Runner, and it signals that Andor will take the Star Wars universe into darker, more adult territory.

The story takes place five years before the events of Rogue One and Star Wars: A New Hope. Actor Diego Luna returns to the role of Cassian Andor—one of the heroes in Rogue One who stole the Death Star plans. This series will show where he comes from and how the Rebellion recruits him into the ­battle against the Empire.

Tony Gilroy, Andor’s showrunner, wrote the script for Rogue One, and he also helped create the Jason Bourne movies. With this series, Gilroy introduces the espionage-­thriller genre to the franchise’s TV lineup, letting viewers spend time in the shadowy world of smugglers, cantinas, and black markets. It’s a relief to move away from ­stories of self-important Jedi with their ­magical manipulation of the Force. I’m hoping we don’t see a single lightsaber in this 12-episode series.

As is typical in the genre, the hero is complicated, at best. Cassian Andor’s a murderer and a thief who lives among thieving friends, some of whom care about each other—some of whom will sell each other to the Empire. It’s nice to see a new corner of the galaxy where everyone’s trying to scrape by in a bad ­situation. Gilroy even depicts the bad guys with nuance. Some believe in what they’re doing. Some just want to get through the day.

The series’ main weakness is that no one was clamoring to see Cassian Andor’s background. The show is retracing some of the character’s development arc that fans already witnessed in Rogue One, but Luna strikes a good balance with his portrayal of this morally compromised protagonist. Stellan Skarsgård is also a welcome addition to the franchise as the agent who recruits Cassian for the Rebellion.

With this series, Tony Gilroy introduces the espionage-thriller genre to the Star Wars franchise’s TV lineup.

Many of Gilroy’s choices have made Andor an excellent series. It has great aesthetics and some compelling characters and subplots. It’s far and away better than the Obi-Wan series we got earlier this year. But parents need to be aware that this series isn’t as kid friendly as the rest of the Star Wars franchise. It’s rated TV-14 for sci-fi action and some other things we haven’t seen before in the Star Wars galaxy. In one episode an unmarried couple head to the bedroom after some rather sensual kissing—that’s new. And in the third episode we hear a four-letter word uttered for the first time in a Star Wars installment.

Besides showing an enslaved Leia in a metal bikini, up to this point Star Wars remained squeaky clean compared with other mega franchises. But Andor is a serious, gritty series set in a corner of the galaxy that’s forgotten that hope and redemption exist, a place where the line between heroes and villains gets fuzzy. It’s an interesting story, but I think I would have preferred it as an original series rather than a Star Wars spinoff. Star Wars loses some of its wonder and magic when earthling expletives enter that ­galaxy far, far away.


Collin Garbarino

Collin is WORLD's Arts and Culture Editor. He is a World Journalism Institute, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and Louisiana State University graduate, and he teaches at Houston Baptist University. Collin resides with his wife and four children in Sugar Land, Texas.

@collingarbarino

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