BE WARNED OF SPOILERS FOR ANDOR!
It’s, rare, that I deviate from my focus on tabletop wargaming. I know my lane. I’m keenly aware of my own shortcomings, and therefore know I don’t have the “chops” to do a television review.
This won’t be for everyone. Turn back now if you don’t want to hear a potentially fiery opinion.
So, why then, am I writing this? Because Star Wars and entertainment these days suffers from something, and to quote Maarva…it’s a cancer. And it most definitely grows while we sleep.
Entertainment, for all its lofty ambitions about being art, is equally a business. It doesn’t matter how good an idea is, how fantastic a work of art is, if it’s not marketable in these saturated markets.
It’s why Obi-Wan was so middling. It’s why Book of Boba Fett isn’t as good as it could be. Mediocrity too can be all too entertaining, too comfortable to fail.
For a fandom like Star Wars, that comfort seems to mean a great deal. Small touches like Easter eggs to previous works, details only fans will pick up on, that seems to drive a lot of the engagement. Why even do a shoe based on sone two-bit character who died in his debut film at all? After all, he’s a nobody.
Well, whatever Disneys reasons may be, which I imagine has a lot to do with the fact they have enough money to just throw things at a wall and see what sticks…Andor could fail, and nothing bad will come of it for the Mouse.
That…blasé dismissal is the shows greatest saving grace. No one cared who Andor was. So the show could take risks. Risks it wouldn’t dare to try with more well known characters, not after how poorly Last Jedi did.
So Cassian instead can hit us like a speeder going 100km. Or, perhaps considerably slower. But that slower pace makes the absolute dread creep in.
We know, theoretically, that the Empire is bad. They blew up a planet! They killed the Jedi!? But yet, for all of Star War’s rebellious streak, it’s awfully quick to let that stuff slide. The Empire is portrayed more often as buffoons, a laughing stock. Occasionally even, you can root for them.
If it wasn’t for Andor, that Saturday morning cartoon villain view of the Empire might have stayed forever. This benefits many people. Parents who want to share Star Wars with their kids(and admittedly, that was George Lucas’s original target audience), people whose lives are already steeped in mundanity and just need a break (like mine, to be frank), or even just those who don’t want to think, just want another few hours of mindless sci-fi fun. And I’ll be honest, wanting any of that doesn’t make you a bad guy.
But the Empire…is evil. It’s not supposed to be comfortable, or child friendly. It’s a genocidal, deeply fascistic, authoritarian juggernaut. It’s just merely bad. It’s an evil few can even imagine. It’s why the high stakes villainy it’s up to works, for the most part, as a plot device.
But like any truly authoritarian state…it is evil in all the little ways too. False imprisonment, for being in the wrong place…
It’s the evil of torturing innocents to get information you can get anyway, because they enjoy it…
It’s killing those who oppose you, even if they don’t actually oppose you, to set an example…
What does it take to fight evil like this? Truly banal, sick, fucked evil like this? Andor explores that flip side too.
It shows us a rebellion forming that is built on fear. Built on ruthless pragmatism. It is a war that these early rebels are selling their souls to fight, to lose any chance of getting to take part in any lasting victory as they are going to be too jaded, bitter, or straight up dead, to see.
This nuance is crucial. This is why the Empire was winning. Safety, even false, projected safety, is deeply alluring. Why fight when to give in, to let parts of you that want to fight break away and get buried under a toxic mix of fear and comfortable silence and non-activity. Why, it’s almost enough to lull you to sleep, to put the nightmare of your waking moments to bed so you can face the horror the next day.
Maarva Andor says it better then I ever could; evil wins while we sleep on it, it grows while we grow complacent. Her speech is so fiery, so inflammatory, that the Empire got outplayed. In an attempt to catch a criminal, it does the rebels job for them; it gets a receptive audience awake, listening to her every word. It dares you, as the viewer, to stop thinking of the Empire as a fact of life or as a threat so insurmountable that defiance isn’t worth it.
I dare say, it’s struck a nerve with certain audiences for a reason that we recognize the patterns of the Empire’s evils in our own lives. No, I’m not suddenly a revolutionary. But it’s woken up a small part of me that was willing to just sit around, watching the world’s evils go by, because I was too lazy and comfortable to do anything about it.
I will end this on a theory, my most damning theory. Many who watch Andor might blow off this speech, and are too sheltered to really feel it.
But, while I have been blessed to grow up in a country that while flawed, has promise, and is a much better place then where I came from. I never will understand what it means to go hungry, or to be oppressed. My privilege protects me.
But my parents? They did grow up in a country that was radicalizing in the wrong direction. Where women like my mother grow increasingly sidelined and thrown aside like garbage, and their rights slowly at first and more rapidly every year, get stripped from them.
Where my dad kept money in his wallet to regularly bribe traffic cops, armed with kalashnikovs, who can make your day worse in ways beyond imagining for a slight.
Where due to the sins of people we never knew, and a god I didn’t choose to worship, I was at first a second class citizen, and now an infidel.
I appreciate democracy, flawed as it is, more then many people I know. I know, deep down, it can be much worse.
For those unused to the banal nature of human evil, it’s easy to not be moved by Andor, and to find its premise boring.
But the show, tellingly, isn’t called Cassian. It was probably called Andor for a reason.
And it’s because of a fiery speech given by a dead woman posthumously, that rips the band aid off.
Rebellions may be built on hope, but that spark that starts it?
It’s started by defiance. It’s started by daring people to live better.
11 thoughts on “Andor: A Spirited Defense of a very important Show.”
It makes me happy whenever I find a post praising Andor, all my friends said it was “boring” and it bums me out
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It’s a difficult premise to be fair to your friends. But it’s a really interesting and cerebral take on Star Wars I couldn’t help but be glued to the screen(within reason…concussion recovery and all that) and watch with rapt interest.
It’s definitely not for everyone, but it’s an important story to show. I’m extremely glad that it exists…even I find myself occasionally rooting for the Empire. This show kept that in check, and in spades.
A brilliant show, with writing so good it took a premise I was not expecting to enjoy and made it riveting. In part because of skillful writing but also in part because it spoke to me about real world issues as it appears to have spoken to you. Hopefully more people wake up.
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Our entertainment should occasionally challenge us! Not everything has to, but Star Wars being about Rebellion, lost that spirit for a bit.
It’s good to see it remember that.
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Normally I would have said that the best Star Wars was the mythic sci-Fantasy Pulp space opera of the first movie (I still wince whenever I have to say Star Wars IV A New Hope)… and that it has gone down hill since. I was not a fan of Lucas introducing more shades of grey politics and a “scientific explanation” for the Force. I preferred the simple black and white morality tale with a touch of Zen mysticism for Star Wars and left other IPs to go down the other paths.
However, Gilroy has shown me that the Star Wars universe can also tread other paths… with good enough writing, direction, casting, costuming and set decoration.
The show also proved that you can do retro sci-fi tech and still make it work for contemporary audiences. Something Star Trek Discovery could have done rather than try to update the technological aesthetics which to my eye defeated the purpose of delving back into the Star Trek universe.
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I agree! Star Wars can and should be pretty fun and swashbuckling…for the main stuff. I do however enjoy when side-stories get more into the gritty side of things. There is room in the universe for both types of tales!
I do however trend toward these side-stories however. I’m the odd duck, who when watching Star Wars as a kid in the 90s and early 2000s was really attracted to the tales of the common man in the galaxy, and loved the battles between armies and fleets instead of the duels between force users.
This was amplified by reading a lot of the X-Wing series books, as they featured Wedge Antilles(the pilot who helped kill the 2nd Death Star) and his crew of mostly normal pilots. It was Top Gun in space! Definitely not for everyone but I looooooved it!
So Rogue One obviously scratched that itch for me, more so then any piece of stars wars live action media had done in the past. And Andor was almost perfectly suited to that taste.
Star Wars shouldn’t always try to cater to fans like me, but I do occasionally like getting thrown the odd bone here and there.
Great post/ review.
Still not sure I’ll watch it despite my love of all things guerrilla war- fallen out of love with Star Wars….
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I understand that, a lot actually.
I had to be convinced to watch it myself, as I had grown jaded and actually quite bitter at the current state of Star Wars.
Andor rescued the whole franchise for me.
It was the sequel films – specifically Attack of the Clones that put me off. I realised that adult Pete doesn’t like it any more evening though young Pete did. I haven’t really seen much since that film. Rogue one was passable in the way it reminded me of 60s/ 70s war films. The 7th main film was really poor imo.
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I grew up with the prequel movies. And the writing in those was awful. There was good ideas at least, and a plot that wasn’t a retread of the 70’s movies.
But holy crap the sequels were awful. They brought nothing original, failed to worldbuild anything so you didn’t care about anything or anyone. I watched them out of pure spite and bile fascination but anything from 7 onward in that trilogy…I’d rather forget.
But Rogue One? It was at least a new thing, expanding on a cool idea. It was my favourite piece of Star Wars content of the modern era, and by a lot.
But Andor has one advantage that the other shows that are suffering don’t have: it features someone we know practically nothing about.
Kenobi wasn’t great, and Book of Boba Fett, the less said the better. They also just look bad too, like something made for television. But it’s biggest failing is that no matter how badly or well they tell that story, we know those characters too well.
Andor is written well, by adults for adults. It takes the setting seriously with a gravitas that few other parts of the media in Star Wars is willing to do. It also looks great, as the emphasis on practical effects and extras makes for scenes that feel like the movies…the original movies.
In fact, if I had to compare it to any modern media, it wouldn’t be Star Wars at all. It would be Chernobyl. It’s filmed in an equally involved and cared for way. And a lot of the cast and crew overlap.
If you like guerilla stories, this isn’t that. Not yet. It’s the beginning of one though, and one that despite being in a usually child friendly franchise, shows that in the horrifying realities that would entail.
Give it a shot, if you want to. I really think it stands on its own, outside of Star Wars, exceptionally well.
Great review, but like others I have “gone off” Star wars since it became a Disney franchise!