The TV era of Lucasfilm’s Star Wars franchise continues with Andor, the third series this year set in a galaxy far, far away. Andor is quick to separate itself from shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, a necessary move for Star Wars as Lucasfilm continues to produce more stories from George Lucas’ beloved universe than ever before.
Prior to The Mandalorian, a live-action Star Wars television series was always a tantalizing prospect and one that George Lucas attempted himself before ultimately selling the company to Disney. The Mandalorian was the first story to embark on the new medium, but its episodic format might not have been what some fans were hoping for in the golden age of television. Lucasfilm still struck gold with The Mandalorian, but the franchise still needs diverse stories to survive.
The Book of Boba Fett followed a non-linear story structure for the most part, while Obi-Wan Kenobi was essentially a feature broken up into six parts. Andor is something else entirely and evokes more of what can be seen in prestige television shows like Game of Thrones than Flash Gordon.
The latest Star Wars series follows Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor five years before his sacrifice for the Rebel Alliance in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Luna is still finding his way like most protagonists are in Star Wars stories at this point in the story, but the world he’s in is also very different from what we’ve seen before.
Andor is by far the most mature Star Wars story Lucasfilm has ever presented, so much so that at points, you might even forget you are watching one. The first four episodes are dark, grounded, and layered with moral complexity.
Tony Gilroy from the Jason Bourne series brings Star Wars to the level of other dramatic television series and does so to great effect. While Andor firmly takes place in the Star Wars universe, the series is more interested in the people under the rule of the Empire and those who run it behind the scenes than the action and adventure flair. Political machinations are at play, creating a story as interesting as House of the Dragon. While George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels notably faced criticism for their political elements, Andor justifies this necessity in a story exploring different sides of a war.
Andor might take place in a mystical universe, but the tone of the series is serious and very much in line with Rogue One, which has become a fan favorite among the Star Wars community in recent years. Andor takes that tone one step further, and while the series follows a familiar character, there are plenty of new parts of the galaxy the series explores.
Despite the time period, early episodes of the series don’t feature any Stormtroopers. Instead, the series focuses on local law enforcement, which brings a welcomed sense of reality to the narrative.
The ground-breaking StageCraft technology has played an instrumental role in the live-action Star Wars shows released so far, but in addition to its refreshing narrative style, Andor also brings a different feel visually. The series filmed overseas and on location as opposed to using The Volume and you can tell. The elaborate sets and stunning locations gives the series plenty of atmosphere.
This decision adds an extra level of groundedness more in line with what we’ve seen on the feature side. While Andor‘s CGI isn’t perfect and reminds you it’s a TV series and not a film, it still makes the most of it and the blend between CGI and practical effects is often seamless.
Any good Star Wars story also needs to have an excellent score behind it. Following a confusing and lackluster Obi-Wan Kenobi score, Succession‘s Nicholas Britell gives Andor the oxygen it needs as the show’s composer. While Britell doesn’t use any familiar Star Wars themes, his classical sound expands the musical palette of the series in a similar way Ludwig Göransson did with The Mandalorian.
While Cassian Andor is the focus of the story, he’s one piece of the puzzle. After minor appearances in Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels, Genevieve O’Reilly finally gets a chance to explore Mon Mothma further. She provides insight into the dangerous obstacles one must face when building a rebellion right under the enemy’s nose as a member of the Imperial Senate. Mothma’s storyline might very well be the most interesting for audiences as the story progresses.
Andor also introduces plenty of new faces who we spend time getting to know and exploring their own lives, but Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Rael stands above the rest. Luthen serves as the bridge between Andor and Mothma’s worlds in the story, with an intriguing layer that makes him one of the show’s most complex characters. Skarsgård brings gravitas to the Luthen role and will surely become a beloved character in the Star Wars canon.
Kyler Soller’s Syril is another standout character making their debut in the series, but not for the reasons you might expect, similar to Adam Driver’s uninitiated Kylo Ren in The Force Awakens. Syril’s journey is meant to mirror Andor’s but on the Imperial side of things. His story is incredibly relatable, and his motives are easily justified. Syril’s storyline is yet another that will be captivating to follow in the episodes to come.
As Star Wars stories do, a new droid is also brought into play with B2EMO. While K-2SO won’t appear in the first season, B2EMO is a worthy substitute and stands apart from past droids in the franchise. B2EMO’s portrayal is also unexpected and similar to TARS in Interstellar, which is another refreshing addition.
At times, Andor can also be quite predictable but somehow overly complicated at the same time. Andor also requires your patience, as its story is a bit slow to start, but Lucasfilm was smart to release the first three episodes at once because it plays out like an arc you would see in The Clone Wars by the time you reach the explosive end of episode three.
Star Wars has always been geared towards kids, but this feels like the first live-action project from Lucasfilm that doesn’t. While it might be a necessary direction for Lucasfilm to make with so many Star Wars projects on the horizon, some might argue it goes against George Lucas’ original intent for the franchise. I believe Andor is still true to Lucas, but the average 12-year-old might not be able to pick up the plot and dialogue as closely, but you could say the same of the prequels.
Andor was the second live-action Star Wars series former Disney CEO Bob Iger ever announced. Admittedly, I was let down by the announcement, given the endless possibilities the galaxy could give us. The series was going to revolve around a character who we already knew in an era that has been explored in countless stories under Disney. I was ready for something new as a Star Wars fan.
Unexpectedly and to my delight, Andor delivers something completely unique and distances itself apart from the live-action Star Wars stories we’ve received so far. The story is compelling, gritty, and more in the vein of an HBO series than the popcorn flair Marvel Studios has been producing for Disney Plus. Andor is an important step forward for Star Wars to take, and I think one that will pay off very well for the franchise’s longevity.
Andor premieres September 21st on Disney Plus with three episodes. Stay tuned for all the latest news on the series, and subscribe to Heroic Hollywood’s YouTube channel for more great video content!