With a slow but sizzling three-episode premiere, Andor solidifies itself as a fresh take on the Star Wars franchise that isn’t a trope-happy space opera filled with Easter eggs.
Not that there’s anything wrong with tropes or Easter eggs. And there’s nothing wrong with fan service, no matter what Andor showrunner Tony Gilroy says. But with a show like Andor — which is set to run for two seasons and follows the rebellious journey of Rogue One hero Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) — the lack of “Star Wars-iness” feels bold. Andor takes place during the reign of the Empire; the galaxy is a brutal but beautiful place filled with trillions of sentient beings whose lives don’t revolve around the Force or the Jedi.
Andor feels like a direct page-to-screen adaptation, a captivating Star Wars book story that takes as much time fleshing out smaller characters as it does its morally gray protagonist. The first three episodes set a dark and gritty tone by opening with a trip to a brothel and a back-alley murder and ending with a thrilling blaster fight as characters escape from the Star Wars equivalent of trigger-happy police.
In Rogue One, we got a taste of the darker side of the Rebellion when Cassian is sent to assassinate Imperial scientist Galen Erso, who developed technology that was used on the Death Star. Cassian tells Galen’s daughter Jyn Erso that he’s done many great and terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion. Andor is set to show us quite a few of them.
What happens on Star Wars: Andor?
The premiere episodes are set in 5 BBY, five years before the Battle of Yavin in the original Star Wars movie. Cassian is roguish and rakish. He ekes out an existence on Ferrix, where workers strip old ships for parts in the requisite scrap metal yard. He lives with Maarva (Fiona Shaw) and WALL-E-esque droid B2-EMO. His friend Bix (Adria Arjona) runs her own under-the-table scrapping operation.
Bix connects Cassian with her buyer Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), who may be interested in buying a sweet Imperial Starpath unit Cassian “acquired.” Cassian desperately needs the credits to get off-planet after killing two men on Morlana One, where he was searching for his lost sister at a brothel.
The climax of the first three episodes — which feel like a three-part movie — comes when Cassian and Luthen reluctantly work together to escape a corporate security force led by Syril Karn (Kyle Soller. Syril is very much the Bad Cop personified; he’s all misplaced arrogance masking cowardice, paired with some hilariously cringey and campy desperation.
This private security force, clearly backed by the Empire, is silly and disorganized enough that Cassian and Luthen can thwart them. But their numbers make them formidable. The danger here isn’t Star Destroyers coming to blow up communities. It’s over-policing and political corruption.
Cassian Andor’s past has a past
The third episode ends on a cliffhanger with Cassian and Luthen escaping in Luthen’s ship. Based on trailers, we know Luthen is friendly with Mon Mothma, who at this time is an Imperial senator but will go on to help create the Rebel Alliance. It’s likely Luthen is looking to recruit Cassian for a larger fight against the Empire.
Sprinkled in between the present-day scenes are flashbacks to Cassian’s childhood on Kenari. He’s about 6 years old here and lives with a group of likely orphaned youths in a Lost Boys-meets-Lord of the Flies community. They all wear tattered clothing and defend themselves with staffs filled with darts.
During a scavenger hunt for a downed mining ship, Cassian (original name Kassa) sees his home planet has been ravaged by a Separatist mining operation. It’s eventually revealed that Maarva and her partner find young Cassian inside the crashed ship hacking away at the technology that hurt his planet and his people. Maarva and a much-cleaner B2-EMO take Cassian away before Republic forces can arrive and harm him.
The final scenes show young Cassian and adult Cassian leaving home for new lives. Young Kassa is about to become Cassian, and adult Cassian is on the run.
We may know how Cassian’s story ends, but the story of the Rebellion’s explosive origins deserves to be told, especially through the eyes of one of its greatest heroes. The first three episodes of Andor are streaming now on Disney+. Episode 4 arrives on September 28.