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Star Wars: Andor Episode 1-3 Review

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The present-tense day is primarily confined to two planets: Ferrix and Morlana One, both part of a “corporate sector” of the galaxy guarded by a private security force called Preox-Morlana. Andor goes for casual sci-fi realism with these locations in that hopping between these two planets is presented as just a short commute. The series opens with Cassian on Morlana One, in what the show directly (and surprisingly) describes as a brothel. He’s looking for his sister, who we later learn — through a series of flashbacks on the planet Kenari — was separated from him when they were very young. Because Cassian isn’t yet a Rebel spy, he doesn’t have stormtroopers hot on his trail. Instead, after leaving the brothel, he gets into a back alley scuffle with two low-level Pre-Mor employees. One of them is accidentally killed in the fight, and in order to cover his tracks, Cassian executes the other guy. 

This opening moment is reminiscent of the scene early in Rogue One, in which Cassian killed one of his informants in order to protect the secrecy of his mission, but with one crucial difference. In Rogue One, Cassian was blasting someone for tactical reasons, in service of a higher cause. In Andor, he’s broke and desperate. From the opening minutes, Andor establishes its more realistic and literary approach. Cassian owes everyone money, is spinning several lies, and, after this inciting incident, has painted himself into a corner.

A cynical viewer would say that it takes three episodes for Cassian to join the Rebellion, but the way the show is written, his reasons for eventually leaving Ferrix with Rebellion-recruiter Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) are simply the consequences of his own mistakes. In most Star Wars narratives, the fish-out-of-water audience surrogates (Rey, Luke Skywalker) are transported from their dead-end day-to-day and instantly into the thick of the action. Although Andor is still subtly borrowing from this hero’s journey format — and in episode 3 Cassian resists the “call to adventure” as much as he can — there’s a grounded approach to this story. Joining the Rebellion wouldn’t happen overnight in real life, and if there was an organized revolt against a massive galactic dictatorship, what that would look like granularly would be much different than the big space battles and daring missions of the Star Wars films. Cassian isn’t thrust into a bigger story because the story forces him to, instead, his character is the story. 

In many Star Wars stories, character development tends to be a lot like the way planets are depicted in this fictional galaxy. Tatooine is a desert planet, and Anakin Skywalker is a quick-tempered hotshot. Hoth is a snow planet and Finn is a big-hearted idealist. You get it. Although we all love Star Wars because of the characters, the films have a tendency to flatten them, which, arguably, was what George Lucas was going for when he created all of this. The vast majority of characters in Star Wars are archetypes, which in a sense, makes them the opposite of what literary characters are in novels.

Andor’s greatest achievement is that it moves away from one-note archetypes and closer toward the multifaceted characters of literature. In the first three episodes of Andor, Luna plays the titular character with a variety of shades. Cassian is thoughtful, arrogant, duplicitous, heroic, manipulative, and again, desperate. Describing him quickly and glibly (Han Solo is a space pirate with a heart of gold!) doesn’t work here. For other types of pop fiction, this sort of thing is kind of expected. But for Star Wars, it’s a revelation.

Throughout these first three episodes, we learn all about Andor’s complicated relationships with the workers and denizens of Ferrix. His broken-down droid B2EMO constantly needs a charge and stutters in a decidedly Max Headroom-style. He nurtures a tense relationship with Bix (Adria Arjona), who helps Cassian get in contact with a “buyer” for a specific piece of stolen Imperial merchandise. It’s heavily implied that Cassian and Bix have a dating history, a fact made complicated by her new boyfriend Timm (James McArdle), who, eventually, is the catalyst that leads to the Pre-Mor authorities figuring out that it was Cassian who killed those two dudes on Morlana One. Because Timm hates that Bix still does Cassian favors, he tips off the Pre-Mor cops, who come gunning for Cassian in the third episode.

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