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.