The Star Wars universe on Disney+ has already explored Mandalorians and Jedi through various series. However, it has yet to focus on the spark of the Rebellion against the growing Empire that kicked off the franchise in A New Hope--and was explored in Rogue One. Andor is just that, a prequel to Rogue One that is unlike the majority of content we've seen from the Star Wars movies and TV shows in the past, and that's a bit of fresh air.
Andor is the story of Cassian Andor, the eventual member of the Rebel Alliance who played an integral role in the planning of the Battle of Yavin, which was seen in the movie Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. The series is set before the events of that film and takes a deep dive into who Cassian was and who he will eventually become.
The titular character finds himself in a situation where he's on the run from corporation sentries on Morlona One and their investigation after two of their own end up dead. These sentries aren't the Empire, but they answer to them. While avoiding capture, he finds himself surrounded by the early Rebellion, joining it in the process.
The first episode of the series is a little bit of a tough watch. It simply doesn't connect with the audience in a way that it should. It's a reintroduction to the character, yet it's having the audience dive into a lot of content that's brand-new for the Star Wars Universe. It's exceptionally familiar and entirely unfamiliar at the same time. That can be jarring, and at times, the first episode should have been a little more clear and concise about explaining certain aspects of the world.
Within the first four episodes sent to us for review, there's a huge amount of potential for this show to be amazing, but the episodes provided are a bit of a slow burn--there's a lot going on but very little happens.
The Star Wars series does change a bit of Andor's past. However, it's more of a "unreliable narrator" situation rather than a retcon. Cassian was originally said to be from Fest; however, this show explores the character as a child, and it's revealed he's from Kenari, in what seems to be a much more stable Lord of the Flies situation. Typically, the way Star Wars has covered "iconic characters as kids" has been subpar at best, but Andor's past serves as a backbone to the overall story, giving us a better understanding of how the Galactic Republic has directly affected his life, and why he'd be more apt to joining the Rebellion.
This series--at least the first four episodes of it--is the least "Star Wars" feeling entry in the Star Wars franchise. It feels unnerving and, at times, unsettling. It's a stark contrast from the Western-style of Mandalorian or the more traditional story involving someone connected to the Force--which is 95% of everything else in Star Wars. It feels more grounded than anything else--yes, a grounded sci-fi series. There are references to things related to the Jedi, but this is really about a person searching for someone and getting caught up in something larger than himself, so don't expect there to be a lot of lightsabers.
Where Andor shines exceptionally well is the sets and look of the show. Every location is beautifully dressed, and Andor has some of the best looking city locations within any of the Star Wars Disney+ series to date. And thankfully, you don't see a single grain of Tatooine sand in the first four episodes.
The series sees Diego Luna return as Cassian Andor, and this is a very different version of the character than we see in Rogue One. Luna gives a unique performance of a man who would eventually become the revolutionary we know from the film, but he's not there yet. Genevieve O'Reilly is also back as Mon Mothma, and much like Luna, O'Reilly delivers a fantastic performance of a character she's played numerous times, in a unique way, as she's transitioning to the character we'd eventually see as a figurehead of the Rebellion.
New additions to the Star Wars universe include Adria Arjona as Bix Caleen and Kyle Soller as Syril Karn. Caleen is a friend of Andor's, and there's a lot of complications between the two characters, which we won't get into. Arjona's portrayal of the character is a welcome addition to the cast. Soller's Karn is one of the show's biggest breakouts performances. The troubled character who wants to do what's best for the people around him also lands him the role of antagonist. He's a complex character that is easily one of the best additions to the Star Wars universe. Soller plays this character in such a way that you despise him, yet you can't look away or truly hate him because every choice he makes is understandable. He's stoic and incorruptible, even though he's working under the Empire, and it's admirable and despisable at the same time.
The first third of Season 1 of Andor is fine. There's a lot of potential for the season as a whole, but it's a bit tough to figure out how this specific story is going to play out, even if we ultimately know how it'll end. The opening episodes don't grab the attention of the audience exceptionally well, but there is a lot to enjoy here. The cast is solid and the sets are great. It's a Star Wars show that fits into its own little pocket of the universe and doesn't rely on the rest of what's happening in the galaxy to be enjoyable. Hopefully, the rest of the season picks up the pace a bit. Because if Andor manages to stick the landing, it could be the most exciting Star Wars show on Disney+ yet.