The Premiere of Andor Proves That Star Wars Television Can Go Truly Cinematic

We’ve been waiting on this one since 2016, y’all. Let’s jump into Andor.

Recap: “Kassa”

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) heads to a bar on Morlana One to ask about a Kerani girl who might be working there—he’s looking for his sister. He’s told that the girl no longer works at the establishment, so he leaves, but he’s already attracted the attention of two Pre-Mor Authority officers (Lee Boardman and Stephen Wight), members of a corporate security firm who behave like cops. They stop Cassian and try to shake him down; he headbutts one and disarms the other, but the first winds up dead when he falls, so Cassian kills the other. He flies back to Ferrix, a salvaging world where he lives and works; he tells his droid B2EMO (Dave Chapman) not to worry about him and his friend Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) to cover for him if anyone asks where he was last night.

Flashbacks show a younger Cassian, then called Kassa (Antonio Viña) and his sister Kerri (Belle Swarc) on the planet Kenari with a large group of children and no adults—a ship crashes in the distance. The children prepare to move out and investigate and crash, and Kassa leaves his sister behind as she’s too young to help.

A Pre-Mor Authority Deputy Inspector named Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) tells his superior, Chief Hyne (Rupert Vansittart) about the murders and his intent to pursue them to the fullest extent of the law, Hyne tells him to forget the case while he goes to report all’s well to his Imperial superiors. Karn insists that his agents begin investigating anyway, determined to get to the bottom of things, and finds out that the man who killed their officers was looking for someone from Kenari.

Cassian visits his friend Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) to ask her to fence a very valuable part for him that he’s been sitting on for ages, knowing he’s gonna need to get out of town for a while. She’s irritated that he hasn’t told her about this part before and agrees. Her coworker and kinda maybe boyfriend, Timm Karlo (James McArdle), seems annoyed at their closeness. Bix calls her contact, and Cassian is told by the guy at the space dock that he cannot borrow another ship again.

 

“That Would Be Me”

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The Pre-Mor Authority puts out an alert for a Kenari man on Ferrix, knowing that’s where the perpetrators ship departed for—Timm realizes this must be Cassian, giving Bix’s determination to ignore/hide the bulletin. Cassian goes home to see his mother, Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), and she asks him if anyone knows he’s truly from Kenari, despite how they’ve lied on all their forms. Cassian admits he’s told a few people, but he’s not entirely sure who. He goes to meet Bix, who tells him that her contact will be coming for the part he promised tomorrow. Timm follows Bix and sees them together. Drunk and jealous, he tips off Pre-Mor with a call. Unaware that Timm has sold Cassian out, Bix heads to his place later and spends the night.

In the flashbacks, the children trek to the crashed ship and check through the dead bodies. Their leader misses one, however, and gets shot by blaster fire. The children shoot darts at the man until he dies and carry off the leader’s body, but Kassa stays behind…

Cassian retrieves the part he needs to sell and asks a local spaceport manager named Xanwan (Zubin Varla) how much it’ll cost him to get off world without questions, quick. They agree to a price and he tells the guy to be ready in an hour. Karn meets with Sergeant Linus Mosk (Alex Ferns), who agrees that an example must be made of anyone who dares to attack their people. They prepare a group of a dozen men to go capture Cassian on Ferrix. As they’re in route, Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) arrives on Ferrix and takes a public shuttle into city, having a conversation with another merchant named Willi (Ron Cook).

“Reckoning”

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Cassian tells Brasso he might not be around for a while. Bix meets up with Rael and takes him to the spot where he’ll meet Cassian. The Pre-Mor soldiers land and begins sweeping for Cassian, starting at Maarva’s home, which they sack. They hear Cassian on the commlink he has open to Bee, and trace his signal to the warehouse where he’s meeting Rael. Bix finds out that Timm is the reason the Pre-Mor officers have arrived, and runs out to warn Cassian.

In the flashbacks, Kassa enters the ship and begins smashing a room full of consoles. While he’s at it, Maarva and her associate Clem (Gary Beadle) have come to scavenge parts from the ship and they find him. A Republic frigate is approaching, so Maarva decides to tranq Cassian and bring him along with them despite Clem’s protestations—he suspects the boy has people of his own on this planet, but Maarva notes that his people have killed a Republic officer and that means they’ll all be killed when the frigate arrives.

In the warehouse, Rael and Cassian discuss the part and the price, but Rael is far more interested in Cassian himself—it turns out that he thinks Cassian is a special and means to recruit him to the Rebel Alliance. Soon they hear the sound of a warning chain, made by the Ferrix locals to let them know something’s wrong. Cassian still thinks Rael crazy, but they’re surrounded by the Pre-Mor Authority and have to make a hasty escape. Bix is stopped by another group of officers, and Timm is killed when he tries to come to her aid. The officer responsible for his death is sent to get their ship into the air and, not noticing that it’s been rigged by Brasso, the ship crashes and explodes. Karn and Mosk try to trap Cassian and Rael, but they are outwitted at every turn, and Rael takes Cassian away on his ship to an uncertain future.

 

Commentary

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

I’m gonna start by putting my misgivings upfront like a disclaimer: I don’t like Rogue One that much. (I’m sorry!)

It’s a gorgeous movie with a flawless cast, but it falls down on storytelling in a way that really irks me something specific—and one of my biggest peeves was how the film kept insisting to us that Cassian Andor had done things, you know, terrible things for the Rebellion, and we just couldn’t comprehend as an audience how bad they were, and just how much we should be horrified by them. Problem being that I don’t much care for generalities as character background (and we got a literal dozen of them in that film for a dozen different characters), and that yes, I’m pretty sure we can imagine what he’s done, so either (preferably) tell us or knock it off. If I recall correctly, I said in my review of the film that I half expected they were eventually going to give us more movies or something to finally let us know what Cassian’s deal was, and six years later, here we are.

With something that’s finally worthy of the character Diego Luna built.

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Here’s another thing that’s a personal tweak for me: The idea that Rogue One and therefore any spin-off created from it is “Star Wars for grownups.” Because what people often mean when they say “for grownups” is “dark and grim” as though Star Wars isn’t full of incredibly dark things that we’ve casually ignored for decades. (There’s slavery everywhere; genocide happens regularly—even in the so-called “kid’s shows” that we’re only calling kid’s shows because they’re animated; the main “war” in the Star Wars is against a fascist force that regularly tortures countless people and destroys entire cultures at whim; I could go on…) But what Rogue One does do—and what Andor seems to be working toward by proxy—is show that the act of building a rebellion that can stand up to the might of an Empire is painful, relentless work that demands the sort of dedication that takes lives.

The only other piece of Star Wars media that has shown this is the animated series Rebels. So when I say that Andor is bringing Rebels vibes to live-action, I want that to be taken for the genuine compliment that it is.

There are so many excellent elements that I don’t really know where to start… I think I’d like to begin with the fact that they’re finally designing Star Wars again with this show? There’s been so much lackluster work on the visual front lately—in part due to the giant LED marvel they’re shooting everything in front of now (known as “The Volume,” which prevents them from having to shoot everything on location), and in part due to the fact that they’ve been bringing these shows to many known, familiar, or landscape-heavy locations. Star Wars is almost entirely visual as a story because that’s what mattered to George Lucas when he conceived it; if you’re not always attempting to create new places, new clothes, new species, new ships, new technology, and not only as set dressing, then you might as well quit. And this show is clearly being designed on a level that I’d argue we haven’t seen since the prequels.

I’ve also got to give a lot of credit to Nicholas Britell’s score, which is gorgeous, and has moments of drum-laden anarchy that feel like a band running practice sessions in someone’s garage. Britell is coming off films like Moonlight and If Beale Street Could Talk, and the choice to bring him in on a project like this feels like hearing Bear McCreary’s score for the first time on Battlestar Galactica nearly two decades ago. It’s giving us so much texture, and feels wonderfully new.

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Some fans have already been blustering about the lack of subtitles in the Kenari sections, which is ridiculous because it’s clearly an intentional move that bears out within the story; we don’t need the subtitles to understand what’s going on, and the choice to not give people the window in on languages they don’t speak forces them to engage with the sound of the language more fully, to try and work it out… something that English speakers don’t typically have much experience with and frequently get hostile over when they do. Point being, if you’re angry about the lack of subtitles, you might want to think a little harder about why.

My only concern here is about the construction of the conlang itself—Star Wars has a straight-up atrocious track record with the creation of conlangs (that’s “constructed languages” for those unfamiliar with the term: basically any language being created, often for a fictional setting), pulling things willynilly from any language they pleased for the “sound” of it, and frequently interspersing it with actual gibberish in the moment. They did a better job with Tusken sign language, so I’m hoping similar care was taken here.

Ultimately, these three episodes do work as a sort of mini-movie to get us going, and we’re dealing with clear themes right off the bat: What makes an effective act of resistance? Who upholds tyranny and why? How do ordinary people stand against it?

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

The fact that Timm Karlo ultimately gets himself killed is not something that should go unremarked. He brought them straight to his home because he was worried about Bix’s feelings, and instead of asking her like an adult, he snitched on the man he was worried about. That is directly what leads to his murder, and we’re meant to notice it, even if that’s one of my least favorite tropes in fiction. (Jealous boyfriends are boring enough, but the point where he’s spying on her, and gets upset because Cassian puts a hand on her arm? Why is that always all it takes? She’s looking at Cassian like she’s extremely irritated in that moment, too, but of course buddy boyfriend misses that entirely somehow.) And should I even go into the fact that the one white guy Cassian knows pretty well is the guy who sells him out? I mean, I didn’t decide to call a dude in Star Wars “Timm.” The script did that.

It’s also pointed that these bad guys aren’t even the “real” Empire—Pre-Mor is a hired corporate security firm that the Empire uses to keep the area in check. It makes Syril Karn’s fanatical devotion to their work even more unhinged. The guy is so horny for space corporate military that he gets his shitty work uniform tailored? Imagine being employed at an Amazon warehouse and getting your branded work t-shirts “taken in at the waist.” I know that Pre-Mor is meant to invoke Blackwater (sorry, they’ve rebranded several times, they’re Constellis now) more than run-of-the-mill corporate evil, but the visual is potent.

There’s a lot we’re not being told yet, but the question that’s really nagging me: Was Maarva right that Cassian would have died if she’d left him on Kenari? Because abducting a kid from his home is obviously one helluva choice, even moreso when said kid can’t communicate with you. They’ve adopted one another as family at this point—Cassian is using her surname and people call her his mother. But there’s so much we don’t know, and it seems pretty important that someone Anglicized (or in Star Wars’ case, “Galactic Basicized”) his name. So there’s a lot more to that relationship than we’ve been shown so far.

What’s happened to Kenari is a little more clear, being that the Empire mined it so radically that it made the planet somehow uninhabitable. We don’t see any adults among Kassa and the other children, which likely means they either died trying to fight the Empire off, or due to whatever has gone wrong with the planet. It’s also possible that they were transported away as slave labor, given that the Empire has no compunction about that, but we don’t get any indication that these kids are waiting on parents, making death more likely. Hopefully we get more on that going forward too.

The people of Ferrix provide us with our first concrete example of formative resistance—and what’s most moving about it is that Cassian never has to ask for their aid. These people protect their own, and they have systems in place for communication, hiding, keeping tabs. When the Pre-Mor officers come into Maarva and Cassian’s home, we see their neighbors fighting with the ones stationed outside. There’s the rhythmic warning system, the work that Brasso does on the Pre-Mor ship to get it into crashing shape, the shops closing in in preparation for a fight. And these folks are just barely organized—imagine what they could do with a little more help.

But I expect that’s for Cassian to find out.

 

Bits and Asides:

Andor premiere

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • Sorry, the choice to put Alex Ferns, the man who plays “Britain’s Most Hated Soap Opera Villain” (Trevor Morgan on EastEnders) in these episodes was inspired.
  • It was a little obvious, the covered speeder ploy—any time you don’t see who’s inside, you know you’ve got a decoy on your hands.
  • The guy who rings the bells is the best guy. Also, I would like that job please.
  • We can all agree that B2EMO is just what happens when Marvin and Wall-E somehow manage to combine their robot genes, right? (Also that name, he’s literally got “emo” in his name, what a good droid, ugh fine, Star Wars.)

 

See you all next week!

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