Andor is the latest live-action Star Wars series to hit Disney+, focusing on Diego Luna’s titular lead from Rogue One: A Star Wars Story – the first major theatrical spin-off from the franchise. The show takes us back 5 years before the events of the film, revealing how Cassian Andor first embarks on the path where he eventually becomes selfless enough to sacrifice his life for the Rebel cause. Likewise, Andor also follows an array of pivotal supporting characters, including the return of Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma, in their journey of building the Rebellion in its earliest days.
Going off just the first 4 episodes of Andor, it may be surprising and perhaps even preemptive to call this series the very best of Lucasfilm’s exclusive offerings on Disney+. While certain praise can be surely given to what Lucasfilm has managed to achieve on streaming with Star Wars so far as a whole, Andor specifically excels in placing itself on a pedestal above them all.
What is most beneficial to Andor in placing it above the other Disney+ originals is the show’s episode count. Whereas 12 episodes may seem like an egregious amount for other streaming titles, showrunner Tony Gilroy perfectly crafts Andor by splitting this first season into 3-episode arcs similar to what fans see in Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Where The Mandalorian would often falter at telling satisfying, self-contained stories in one week, this 3-episode arc system allows for a clear beginning, middle, and end to crucial segments in Cassian’s journey. Each of these arcs is carefully interwoven to ensure that audiences are seeing a slightly new Cassian – grown from his experiences in the previous episodes – each time a new one begins.
Tony Gilroy successfully crafts Andor as a character-driven story, showing not only how Cassian lives in this Empire-ruled society but how the supporting cast around him is affected by tyranny over the galaxy. While Andor does include various Easter eggs for hardcore fans to appreciate, the overall goal here mainly lies in telling a strong and effective political thriller. Best known for scripting the original Bourne films, Gilroy uses the backdrop of the Star Wars universe only when needed, never relying on the franchise’s huge nostalgia factor to aid in its impact or effectiveness.
This is perhaps the most human Star Wars story we have received. Tony Gilroy has previously stated that he had no interest in telling the stories of any of the franchise’s major players but rather looking at the events of the saga from a boots-on-the-ground perspective, and he succeeds in doing so. The stakes and scale will without a doubt increase as we progress all the way into Andor Season 2, which is likely to debut in 2024; however, the small-scale storytelling of these first 4 episodes showcases brilliant groundwork from Gilroy and his writing team not just in terms of Star Wars but for setting up Andor as one of the most exciting on-going thrillers on television right now.
Diego Luna perfectly slips back into his now staple role, adding a fresh layer of complexity to redefine a younger and inexperienced version of the character. Although Mon Mothma isn’t seen a lot as of yet, Genevieve O’Reilly still shines when she has previously not had the chance. O’Reilly brings a raw portrayal of Mon Mothma that has not been touched upon in Star Wars media. The soon-to-be Rebel leader is seen as defiant but vulnerable in a time when she is having to play both sides of the coin. It’s exciting to see these new aspects of Mon Mothma come to life since O’Reilly has technically been attached to the role since Revenge of the Sith though has not had the opportunity to do much with the character until now.
Stellan Skarsgård, Fiona Shaw, and Adrja Ajona all get their moments to shine, rounding out a strong supporting cast. Ajona brings a strong emotional performance as Bix, who shares an on-and-off relationship with Cassian but is given her own focal point as we see how the Empire has negatively impacted her entire life. Fiona Shaw is a delight as Cassian’s adoptive mother, providing a hard-hitting performance in her short screen-time. Shaw especially shines in one scene with Diego Luna that fully displays the strengths of Andor, and easily becomes one of the most moving Star Wars sequences in years. As for Skarsgård, seeing him deliver classic Star Wars dialogue in his various monologues is such a revelation. Skarsgård finds himself at home playing a founding rebel, using the best of his acting skills to deliver arguably the standout performance of the series, where after every one of his scenes, you are simply left wanting more.
Where recent Star Wars shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi received criticism for their visual effects, mainly due to their misuse of the Volume technology, Andor instead looks to use more of a traditional approach, mixing a strong range of vast practical sets with impressive visual effects similar to the quality Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. This series is looking to keep a visual consistency with its film predecessor, and it’s already being pulled off to great effect in this first slew of episodes. In this regard, none of the other Disney+ Star Wars originals can compare to Andor.
Andor displays the potential of what every Disney+ series from both Marvel Studios and Lucasfilm can be. Tony Gilroy brings the best out of the franchise, choosing to focus on what made the fans come back to Star Wars in its formative years; epic fantasy and strong characterization. The whole cast of Andor is superb, yet it’s Diego Luna’s titular lead that truly makes this show special. Luna immediately falls back into the role of Cassian Andor with ease, providing audiences with a new look at the rebel freedom fighter that they didn’t know they needed. Andor isn’t just a fantastic entry in the Star Wars universe, it’s a compelling fantasy-thriller that is on track to excite new and old fans alike every week.