Going Rogue Again – Star Wars: Andor (2022) Series Premiere

The latest Lucasfilm series to premiere on Disney+ streaming, Andor is easily the least Star Wars-y of any Star Wars project to date. It’s also the most mature and adult-oriented installment in the franchise’s history. This leaves me feeling very conflicted.

On the one hand, as a middle-aged adult who still has interest in Star Wars, I welcome a more grown-up slant to the material and have tired of some of the juvenile antics foisted into other recent entries (especially this year’s disappointing Obi-Wan Kenobi series). On the other, I’m also the parent of a couple of Star Wars-loving kids, and it breaks my heart that this is the first of anything Star Wars I may have to tell them not to watch.

Episodes:1.01 – Episode 1
1.02 – Episode 2
1.03 – Episode 3
Release Date: Sept. 21, 2022
Watched On: Disney+

Diego Luna reprises the role of Cassian Andor, first introduced in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If you’ve seen that film and remember its outcome, you can hopefully piece together for yourself that this show must be a prequel (which I guess makes it a prequel-to-a-prequel). Set before the events of Rogue One, the intent is to fill in the details of where Andor came from, and how and why he will eventually join the rebellion against the Galactic Empire. To be honest, I’m not entirely sure that very many people really had questions about those things after watching Rogue One, but show-runner Tony Gilroy apparently felt he still had a worthwhile story to tell about the character.

As those who followed any of the industry scuttlebutt at the time may remember, Gilroy was not only the credited screenwriter of Rogue One, but also wrested control of that troubled production away from original director Gareth Edwards and took over as uncredited director for its extensive reshoots. With all that drama behind the scenes, the fact that the movie turned out to be halfway decent at all was pretty much a minor miracle. In fact, many fans (especially older ones) hold it up as the best of any Disney-era Star Wars, and the praise for that is usually thrown toward the screenwriter of the Bourne Identity trilogy and the Oscar nominated Michael Clayton.

To that end, anticipation for Andor was pretty high among Rogue One fans. The trailers looked good, and early reviews have largely been positive. I’m not here to deflate any of that, necessarily, but I do have extremely mixed feelings about the three-episode premiere that launched on Disney+ this week. The grown-up part of me appreciates any new science-fiction show that hasn’t been watered down with kiddie nonsense. At the same time, Andor throws away a lot of the qualities that continue to make Star Wars so special for generations of viewers, and hardly feels like Star Wars at all.

Gilroy and the powers-that-be at Disney have made a conscious decision to aim this series squarely at an adult audience, with little to no concern for how younger viewers will react to it. While never explicit, the show contains quite a bit of mature subject matter that parents will struggle to explain to their kids. The first episode, for example, opens at a brothel, clearly and unambiguously identified as such in dialogue. A few moments later, our main character, the hero of the story, murders two men in an alley. Not “fought and killed enemy soldiers in battle.” Andor makes a calculated and cold-blooded choice to shoot a man begging for his life directly in the face in order to get himself out of trouble. No, it’s not a graphic death, but the implication is still pretty dark and uncomfortable for Star Wars. This show is going to tackle some complicated issues of morality.

Even aside from potentially objectionable content, the narrative is extremely complicated and is told in a manner that will be difficult for younger viewers to follow. Honestly, it may be difficult for adults to follow, too. Characters rarely say what they mean. They talk in circles, or talk around a subject, eluding to things that may actually be the opposite of the words that come out of their mouths. The storytelling is dense and frequently confusing. On top of that, a substantial flashback storyline is told entirely in unsubtitled alien dialogue, forcing viewers to interpret what’s happening from context clues in the action.

The story itself is heavily political. Set during the early days of the transition from the former Galactic Republic to the Empire, Andor finds himself on the run from a private military contractor goon-squad under the direction of a prissy corporate stooge named Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), whose company builds ships and equipment for the Empire. Karn believes he can advance his own career by capturing the man who killed two of the company’s employees. The fact that his own superiors warn him otherwise will not dissuade him.

Beyond that, I can’t say very much about the plotting in the first batch of episodes, because quite frankly, not a lot actually happens in them – at least, not in the first two. It takes until Episode 3 for some action and excitement to even start to ramp up. This show is a very slow burn so far. The episodes hint at mysteries that are not clearly defined. I can foresee a lot of viewers, both younger and older, getting bored and tuning out early.

None of this is to say that the show is bad, per se. I’m interested enough to keep watching. However, aside from one cutesy droid, it feels so little like anything recognizable as Star Wars that I’m just not sure why this story needed to be told within the Star Wars universe. It has no Jedi, or lightsabers, or stormtroopers (or clones), and hardly any of the famous iconography from the franchise. This could easily have been rewritten as an unrelated science-fiction property with just a little bit of tweaking.

Maybe that’s refreshing, in a way. I certainly don’t want the show to be weighed down with fan-service references and tie-ins the way The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi were. At this stage in its development, I’d like to think that Star Wars can make room for some niche programs that don’t need to target the entire franchise fan base.

Nevertheless, at its best, Star Wars has appealed equally well to both children and adults. The weakest entries (like The Phantom Menace) leaned too heavily toward the kids and left out much for the grown-ups to enjoy. Andor overcompensates by steering hard in the other direction, and I’m not confident that was the right answer, either. Surely, a writer as smart as Tony Gilroy could have found some middle ground?

For the sake of my own Star Wars fanatic sons, I wish he had.


One thought on “Going Rogue Again – Star Wars: Andor (2022) Series Premiere

  1. Haven’t seen ‘Andor’ (just caught up with ‘Obi-Wan’) and I don’t have sons that are the age of yours, but is it in any way possible to just tell them: ‘You know, this one’s a little intense. Let’s wait a few more years.’ I remember back in the day, my parents preselected what I could watch. Better still, is there any way you could pretend that the series does not exist (like you were planning to do with ‘Cars 2′)? If they’re not aware of the series’ existence, they can’t be interested.


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