The series premiere of Andor has released on Disney+!
The first three episodes of the series were released together, which was a brilliant choice (especially after seeing how they go together). It’s a terrific start for the show, and it clearly establishes how this will be very different from what we’ve come to expect from the franchise.
And though I’m late on this review, it’s better late than never! Let’s dive in to the review of the first three episodes of the newest Star Wars series.
The series begins in 5BBY, with Cassian Andor on Morlana One looking for his lost sister. While there, he is picked on by two Pre-Mor Security officers. He accidentally kills one of them, then kills the other. He returns home to Ferrix, attempting to cover his tracks by enlisting help from his adoptive mother (Maarva), her trusty droid (B2), and some friends (especially Bix). He asks Bix to connect him with her contact who might be interested in buying some Imperial tech from him. Meanwhile, a Pre-More Security officer named Syril Karn is concerned with the death of two men from their corporation and decides to go against his superior’s orders by launching an investigation. They narrow in on a human male from Kenari.
As Cassian attempts to cover his tracks, Bix’s boyfriend, Timm, rats him out to the corporation. So Karn enlists the help of another officer, Linus Mosk, to head to Ferrix in search of Cassian Andor. They arrive, but not before Luthen Rael does – Bix’s secret contact who has come to meet with Cassian. Luthen approaches him in an abandoned warehouse, and reveals that he’s not there just for the stolen tech but for something more: to enlist Cassian in the fight. Before Cassian can give him an answer, the warehouse is surrounded by the Pre-Mor security (who had just arrested Bix and killed Timm). But Luthen helps Cassian escape, and they devise a plan. The citizens of Ferrix rise up in subtle sabotage, while Cassian and Luthen make their escape – by launching a decoy speeder that explodes, killing some of the officers. Cassian and Luthen escape, leaving the planet – and his family and friends – behind.
Throughout the three episodes, there are also flashbacks to Cassian’s youth (where he’s known as Kassa), living on Kenari with his family. One day a ship crash-lands on the planet, and Cassian and a team head to investigate. One of the members of his tribe is killed by a soldier, and Cassian stays behind at the ship to take out his anger. That’s when Maarva and her husband arrive, scavenging the ship before the “Republic” arrives, and they find Cassian and take him with them. The end of episode three shows us both Kassa leaving his first home with Marva, and Cassian leaving his new home with Luthen.
This series is a totally fresh and unique Star Wars story, and I’m totally here for it.
The series is focused on telling a grittier, darker, more mature story about (mostly) brand new characters with a brand new focus in this familiar galaxy. As such, these episodes are absolutely packed with worldbuilding and character development, and we get to really know Ferrix and the people who live there. There are moments where we simply get to see this quiet town going about daily business, trying to survive on a world that seems far from the Empire’s mind. These are the ordinary people of the galaxy, the people who are just trying to make ends meet and carve out a simple life alongside friends and family. And I’m so glad that this show is patient enough to build slowly and allow us to get to know the characters more. Diego Luna shines as Cassian, which of course was to be expected, but the rest of the cast does too. Adria Arjona is fantastic and instantly lovable as Bix, Fiona Shaw is perfect as Maarva, and Stellan Skarsgard as Luthen is already exemplifying the wise mentor role in the series. The cast really shines, and it’s in large part because there are extended moments of dialogue (and the writing is a clear and obvious strength of the series too, which is certainly quite welcome).
But alongside this picture of the people of Ferrix, we get the picture of the Pre-Mor Security Corporation. The officers are, mostly, portrayed as just being out for themselves and not any sort of hero worth emulating. But at the heart of it is Syril Karn, who is a real “company man” in the sense that he’s firmly committed to the corporation. He’s upset not so much that two men were killed, but that two company men were killed. And he wants to bring them to justice. Karn (played by Kyle Soller) is a very different kind of Star Wars villain, but one that is instantly compelling in the “he’s a bad guy and you want to see him lose” kind of way. He’s driven by justice more than rage, and by wanting to do he thinks is right more than malice. Yet this leads him down some dark paths, as he’s blindly loyal to a security force that isn’t deserving of it. He’s upset that two company men are killed, yet his actions actually wind up leading to the deaths of more men – and that leaves Karn in a state of shock. It’s not hard to see that this show is giving us some commentary on “law enforcement,” justice, and what that really looks like in real life with real people: Cassian’s whole life is turned upside down, ruined, because two officers unfairly decided to give him trouble.
That’s not to say that Cassian is blameless, however, and in many ways he’s actually portrayed as a sort of antihero in these episodes. Because he does kill one of the officers in cold blood, after accidentally killing the other. The first ten minutes or so of the first episode truly does set the stage for the entire series, not only because it establishes the darker and grittier themes, but also because these events literally set everything else in motion. Our hero is looking for his lost sister, but he also murders a man who confronts him to give him trouble. It’s quite similar to where we meet him at the beginning of Rogue One, where he also murders a man – this time an ally – in cold blood. Cassian Andor is not the classic hero robed in white and surrounded by light; he’s a complicated character living in the shadows.
But if there’s anything that the first three episodes show us, it’s that while Cassian’s actions contribute to his troubles (and truly do spark them in this series), he’s also affected by things outside of his control. As we see more of his backstory, we see that he was taken as a child from his home by Maarva and adopted as an Andor, taken from Kenari. As best we know currently she did so for noble motives, but it again raises some murky moral questions. And speaking of Kenari, there’s one small detail that I greatly appreciated in the episode: previously Cassian’s home was revealed as Fest, so this might seem like a ret-con of that (and if so, I don’t really care, because it’s not that big of a deal). But Maarva mentions briefly that they had told everyone he was from Fest, not Kenari, to hide that. It’s a very small thing, but I think it shows an impressive attention to detail that makes the show stronger.
These episodes were great, with great worldbuilding and character development, stunning visuals, and some music that fits well with the series. I do think that the early impressions of the series are greatly helped by the fact that Disney+ released the first three episodes at once, as I think they’re much stronger as a whole than they are individually. That has me curious as to how it will feel getting one episode a week from here on out, but it’s a strong start to this series. It’s a fresh foray into this familiar galaxy, and so far, so good.