Andor: The Saving Grace of Star Wars

5/5 Falcons

Amy Zhou and Bodie Morein

In September 2022, Disney+ debuted the most groundbreaking Star Wars TV show of the decade: Andor. Set five years before Rogue One and A New Hope, Andor tells the story of how the former Galactic Republic, now the Galactic Empire, closes its iron grip on the galaxy while a budding resistance grows. As the galaxy changes, so does the titular Cassian Andor.

Andor constructs an intricate Star Wars galaxy, building on lore and storylines of the past. Previously, there was a stark jump from Revenge of the Sith and the series Clone Wars to A New Hope and Rogue One. In the blink of an eye, the Republic transformed into a widespread fascist dictatorship—until Andor came along. Throughout Andor, various compatible storylines ranging from the Galactic Senate to Imperial prisons represent the growth of authoritarianism and imperialism in the galaxy. Of course, where oppression grows, so does rebellion. Andor perfectly encapsulates the immortal, golden theme of Star Wars: where tyranny exists, freedom will conquer.

Andor constructs an intricate Star Wars galaxy, building on lore and storylines of the past”

There are two vital parts that make this theme so clear and real: the hyper-realistic acting and emotive monologues. Every character in Andor is portrayed so realistically that it’s almost as if the watcher is in their fictional universe. The talented actors of Andor—such as Diego Luna, who plays Cassian Andor—embody their characters to the tee. Every reaction, every decision, and every line is believable. Most of all, the multitude of monologues performed by Andor’s cast merge to highlight Star Wars’ ultimate theme. Stellan Skarsgård, who plays Luthen, delivers a bone-chilling speech with Coruscant’s underworld as a backdrop. Another outstanding performance comes from Andy Serkis, playing Kino Loy, whose incredible talent elevates someone who may have been a side character to one of the most compelling in the show. But most of all, a gratifying assertion from Alex Lawther as Nemik and a moving call to action from Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) bring the show full circle, showing the push and pull of fascism and resistance.

Andor also sets itself apart from other recent Star Wars shows in its intricate plotting, stellar writing, and well-rounded characters. The first season is composed of 12 episodes, broken down into approximately three-episode arcs. This comes as a departure from other Star Wars shows, such as Obi-Wan Kenobi, whose plot and development were restricted by their short, six-episode limits. Andor’s longer episodes—which range from about 35 to 55 minutes—leave room for many characters to receive their well-deserved screen time, weaving complex side plots together beautifully. Tony Gilroy’s fantastic writing only adds to this, creating a show that is both dark and hopeful. Each character feels like a real person; even those in the fascist Empire are granted their humanity, which gives Andor something rare: nuance.

It’s impossible to talk about Andor without also recognizing the strides it took in representation. Not only does Andor feature a Mexican lead actor, but also includes two characters played by South Asian and Latinx actors. In addition to this, Andor introduced a prominent lesbian couple, a far cry from the pseudo-representation in the split-second lesbian kiss in Rise of Skywalker. Star Wars has a long-standing track record of being primarily white-centered, as well as straight and cisgender-oriented. While Andor is not the most diverse TV show ever, it is a start for a more inclusive Star Wars—one that reflects the people who look up to it, as well as the cultures that it took inspiration from.

And lastly, we can’t ignore the way this show navigates politics. The audience is able to view the fall of democracy and rise of fascism through both the lens of an insider, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), as well as the lens of ordinary, working-class citizens. We see what the fall of democracy might look like from the perspective of someone who’s inside, pulling the strings, as well as from people who are helpless to stop it. Still, the focus remains on Cassian, the main character, and we view the universe mostly through his eyes—a genius move that creates tension while simultaneously permitting us to go beyond just his plotlines.

Andor is the saving grace of the Star Wars franchise, giving fans a long-awaited return to the original beauty of Star Wars.

This piece also appears in our December 2022 print edition.