Welcome back to another season of Star Wars greatness, folks! We're currently watching the prequel series Andor, which tells the origin tale of the Rogue One hero Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). First, a few housekeeping items: this review will cover all three episodes since Disney+ released all three as part of the Andor premiere; second, Diego Luna does not look 21 and it does not matter at all. The important element is that he is Cassian Andor.
Said On the corporate planet Morlana One, run by the Preox-Morlana Corporation (hence Pre-Mor), Cassian Andor has his first significant misadventure while searching a brothel for a young woman who turns out to be his long-lost little sister. Little Cassian (then Kassa), who was living on the deserted Imperial mining world of Kenari, goes on a quest to investigate a destroyed Imperial spacecraft, and when Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) saves little Kassa from approaching Imperials, he is split up from his sister. In the course of his investigation, Cassian offends two Pre-Mor security personnel, with whom he subsequently fights and dies. As soon as possible, Cassian runs back to his own planet Ferrix and makes an effort to collect enough money to disappear from the Pre-Mor radar.
Unfortunately for Cassian, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a tightly wound Space Javert who is out for JUSTICE and TRUTH and IS AGAINST RULE-BREAKING, is left in charge while the head of Pre-Mor security is more than happy to write off the murders as an accident. He's a little corporate bootlicker with a rule addiction, and Soller portrays him well with constricted facial expressions and the stance of a man who has never allowed himself to experience joy without putting another person down. Even though Maarva has long since changed Cassian's official birthplace to Fest in his documents, he is astute enough to deduce that Cassian's pursuit for a Kenari woman suggests he is probably Kenari himself. He rapidly uses Pre-Mor resources to identify Cassian's ship and eventually Cassian himself.
Back on Ferrix, Cassian approaches his friend Bix Caleen, a mechanic who works ostensibly at the neighbourhood salvage yard and secretly sells stolen things to an enigmatic figure (Adria Arjona, a bright, gorgeous light who had better be in every episode). In order to sell a very special Imperial MacGuffin as soon as possible, Cassian would like her to make a call to the individual in question. Timm (James McArdle), Bix's employee and love interest, overhears these whispered chats and resolves to act out of jealousy by turning Cassian in to Pre-Mor. The arrest order for Cassian has not pleased his adoptive mother Maarva, especially the part about him being from Kenari because they have tried to keep that a secret. Except for everyone they told, of course.
While Syril is approaching Ferrix (now accompanied by many guards and his own best fan Linus) and Cassian is attempting to leave the planet, Bix's buyer Luthen (Stellan Skarsgrd, who brings a nice bit of weary grumpiness to his character) arrives at Ferrix. Syril and the guards intimidate the residents of Ferrix and Maarva, which sparks a small uprising among them. When Luthen and Cassian first meet for the purpose of the sale, it quickly becomes apparent that Luthen is more interested in recruiting Cassian than he is in the item (an NS-9 Starpath Unit, by the way). He makes note of Cassian's ability to steal the item in the first place and speaks angrily of the Empire. When Syril and his boys raid the factory where they are hiding, he and Cassian work together to escape, leaving behind several wounded (Timm was slain by Pre-Mor, among others), as well as a shell-shocked Syril. Cassian and Luthen leave Ferrix.
The first three episodes of Tony Gilroy's television series Andor flow like a movie, telling a condensed story that skillfully introduces new characters, settings, and conflicts while also laying the groundwork for bigger things to come. Andor is a gradual show; there aren't any major explosions or combat scenes right away, but when they do, they are more than well-deserved. Andor is a spy film with a Star Wars vibe, a Star Wars thriller where the bad guys have blasters, and a depiction of a mediocrely moral man who is fighting for a greater cause. Since we know how his story ends, every minute spent with Cassian is bittersweet, but so far, every one has been worthwhile.
Even though it is cliche to refer to a piece of media as "such and such for grown-ups," Andor definitely fits that description. The brothel! within Star Wars! Not a casino or a cantina, but a brothel that goes by the name of brothel. No Force users, sexual implications (which were also there in Rogue One till the very end), etc. People are undoubtedly holding their pearls as we speak. The interactions between characters, the world-building, and the escalating insurrection of the common people are where Andor excels as a work of Star Wars literature. We can only hope that Cassian's departure from Ferrix won't prevent us from seeing more of Bix, the other residents of the town we've met, or the setting created for them. Ferrix felt more like a real, inhabited place than other Star Wars locations in recent memory, not just a collection of extras. In addition to seeing more of Kenari, it would be beneficial to learn more about the environment and individuals that influenced Cassian. It still feels like very early days for Andor because the first three episodes fit together so beautifully as a unified unit, and it's fascinating to see where we'll finish up.
Star Wars slang for this week: Yes, they do refer to coffee as caf. I'm in space!
I've heard rumours that one advantage of Andor was the absence of cute aliens in the style of Grogu, but what do you call Vetch, I ask?
The planet Andor is situated in the year 5 BBY, or five years before the Battle of Yavin, which resulted in the obliteration of the first Death Star. Presently taking place as well? In Star Wars: Rebels, Ezra Bridger (remember that name for Ahsoka?) has recently joined the Spectres.
Cassian Andor gets called "you son of a bitch" for 99% of the first episode, and he deserves it.