2 out of 5

Created by: Tony Gilroy

Whenever a movie or book or TV show or etc. is, in my opinion, somewhat overwrought, I admittedly get some pleasure out of noting that the wikipedia summary is only a sentence or two long. “See?” methinks, when reflecting on Andor’s 12-episode first season, during which I don’t feel much actually happened, “that wasn’t so hard.”

Andor has received a lot of praise, and rightfully so: it’s filled with some really excellent acting, and a weighty storyline of survival and honor that’s given a lot of room to work itself out. …Except I never quite felt that the scripts supported the former, and, as per my comment above, the latter feels more like it needs an addendum: a weighty storyline… for a Star Wars show.

This last bit is really the overriding sense I got from the series, and it’s been kind of odd to not note that in the majority of reviews, as I don’t generally find my opinion to be an “original” one. And yet, creator Tony Gilroy’s crafting of Cassian Andor’s “origins” as a rebel (the same Cassian from Rogue One – to which this is a prequel – again played by Diego Luna), turning his restless struggles against the empire into a vaguely Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy affair – i.e. a slowburn of low-key intrigue and politics – is not a “good” show in a traditional sense, as it assumes much of its value in relation to the SW universe; fair play, I suppose, but that is how most of the reviews are framing it, that we “finally” get a “serious” Star Wars show, praising its standalone nature while sort of skipping over that the initial noteworthiness is based on comparison.

It is a serious show, in that it successfully frames the Empire / Rebel conflict (boiling over as things lead up to Rogue One and Episode IV) as a human event, and not a space war between scrappy starships; there’s real death, and wartime torture, and not that those things are required to up the tonal ante, but moreso notes to suggest that the aim here was to ground the universe in real world realities… just set on different planets. But it also feels like Gilroy and crew way overcorrected the bouncy Disney formula, and smushed all of the noxious fanservice of some preceding attempts (Boba Fett; Obi-Wan Kenobi) into the floorboards, such that the aforementioned “slowburn” is more just a muted experience, with a somber color palette, and shots of characters with simmering anger toward their lot in life, and lots of lil’ speeches that perhaps nod to current day (2022) politics, and a shooting style that is nearly all functional and not emotional – every other moment is a Checkov’s gun, on which we linger for longer than necessary, ruining any actual subtlety in the presentation.

The performances, as mentioned, can be quite good. Luna really does sell the personality of a character who rebels out of need, but is pushed into more decisive action by the show’s events; Stellan Skarsgård, essentially his handler, also has a tricky balance to maintain – a “for the greater good” mentality – and does an excellent job of it. And Faye Marsay really just needs to be in every show.

But… it’s good for a Star Wars show. It’s tone is more serious than your general Disney show. It’s not standalone, rather just not invested in the legacy of Han / Luke / Leia; but it still relies on us having feelings about the universe in order to automatically “get” Andor’s ongoing struggles. And had this not been part of the universe, after a few episodes of conversations that don’t move the needle, and sequences during which a lot theoretically happens, but end up feeling like plotting prevarication… I would have left. It is, ironically, overly tamped down as a need to counter the nothing-ever-changes vibe of the Star Wars world, forever caught up in prequels and intra-quels.