There are approximately 100 billion stars in our galaxy. Seeing that there are enough sentient life forms in Star Wars to fill several million space cruisers, it’s probably safe to assume that similar numbers exist in Luke Skywalker’s corner of the universe.
So, if we’re playing the numbers game, it’s more and more unlikely that every Star Wars story told on screen so far has been limited to one 70-year period – and even more absurd is that one family (Skywalkers) influenced so many key moments in history.
Andor is different, however, and based on what we have seen so far, this show makes this distant galaxy seem so much larger.
On paper, the new Rogue One Disney Plus spin-off did not look particularly bold. After all, Lucasfilm’s ongoing mission to fill as many gaps as possible in the Star Wars chronology means the prequels are as ubiquitous as the Stormtroopers. Like Obi-Wan Kenobi and Solo, Andor (read our in-depth review) focuses on the exploits of a famous character in this increasingly crowded part of the timeline between Revenge of the Sith and A New Hope. Nonetheless, the first four episodes of Andorra extend beyond these shackles to become the most radical entry in the Star Wars screen canon – a big deal for the 45-year-old franchise.
For all its great features, Star Wars has been traditionally (little-c) conservative. The Force Awakens was a success largely because it followed the narrative bits of the original film. Since then, we’ve seen many times that deviating from the established formula could be far from popular, whether fans of the original series are disappointed in the prequel trilogy or an extremely loud minority telling the world how much they despise Rian Johnson’s wonderfully inventive The Last. Jedi. (As a result, The Rise Of Skywalker course “revision” is possibly the worst thing to happen to Star Wars in the Disney era.)
While the perfect The Mandalorian felt like a breath of fresh air, his lonely gunslinger themes were a reference to the western vibe of A New Hope – and, almost surreptitiously, it became another chapter in the story of Luke Skywalker and the Jedi Order. Even Star Wars: Visions – the anime series that gave filmmakers carte blanche to tell their own independent stories – was strangely reluctant to go beyond the idea of Jedi and lightsabers. The concept of what Star Wars is is it became extremely narrow, and many storytellers were afraid to put pressure on its edges.
However, the fact that – aside blasters and spaceships – Andor no? to feel like Star Wars at all, is one of the best things about it. Showrunner Tony Gilroy (who joined Rogue One for reruns and is widely credited with turning it into a classic) has apparently not received any notes of sticking to any plan, and the results are utterly invigorating.
Cassian Andor himself is an intriguing lead choice as we know so little about him, except that he will die on picturesque Scarif Beach at the end of Rogue One. In this video, we saw him execute a colleague and sacrifice his own life for the Rebellion cause, but a two-hour film he could only do so much with a member of a large team.
So far, however, Andor is promising to go much further under the character’s skin than revealing how he got his name. Unlike Han Solo, this is an edge origin story, a journey into the world of a loner living on the edge of the right on nowhere else otherworldly planet Ferrix. Just minutes after the show begins, Cassian Andor runs away after killing several bodyguards, one of whom he shot in the head at close range. This is Star Wars made with an adult audience in mind, a fact that was clarified later when – in what we’re pretty sure is the first in the series – the scene suggests that Bix and Timm are going to have sex.
Even the storytelling style is more like HBO drama than Star Wars. Camera angles and montages are shaky in Jason Bourne style (probably not a coincidence given Gilroy wrote these films) while the narrative does not provide easy answers. Indeed, one of the few complaints about the early episodes of Andorra is that so many new characters have been introduced, their motivations aren’t entirely clear that keeping up with what’s going on is hard work.
However, in the third installment, the approach seems totally worthwhile as you completely immerse yourself in a rarely visited sector of the galaxy. Even the fact that Kenari’s Andorra Childhood Flashbacks show up without subtitles proves to be a wise artistic choice. Nobody tells you why there are no adults nearby or the cause of the mining disaster that nearly destroyed Cassian’s homeland – the yellowed skin of the poisoned Republic soldiers on the wrecked ship is truly chilling – but the fact that you are invited to draw your own conclusions seems an important step in a franchise that has long been in the habit of explaining every little canon.
Most importantly, it never makes sense for Andor to commit the principal sin of violating the canon. Instead, it rummages in the unseen corners of Star Wars, shedding light on people and places that won’t be influencing the galaxy’s broader narrative, but still have fascinating stories to tell. It shows that being part of an established universe does not mean that each release must be tonally coherent or even aimed at the same audience.
It seems Marvel realized they needed to stretch the MCU envelope moving on to Phase 5 and beyond, although even the darker, more brutal Moon Knight had a habit of returning to familiar trails in a way that Andor, so far, has not. Indeed, Andorra’s harsh looks are arguably as radical as talking to She-Hulk for the camera.
And if this venerable old series is to continue working, it can’t tell the same stories the same way, especially now that a new “product” lands on our TVs with unprecedented regularity – Star Wars fans are passionate, but even those have limits. Former Disney CEO Bob Iger is famous for admitting it after Solo’s disappointing box office appearance as the New York Times told (via Peasant (opens in a new tab)) that “I just think we brought a little too much to the market too quickly.” The best way to counter franchise fatigue is to give them something else.
Although no one knew it at the time, George Lucas opened the door to a whole universe of storytelling when he created A New Hope – and Disney has only scratched the surface so far. The upcoming Star Wars TV show Acolyte will cover a new territory simply by being set into the High Republic era (roughly two centuries before the Skywalker Saga), and trying new things should be a beacon of Star Wars as their 50th anniversary approaches.
Andorra’s pugnacious approach to the world built by George Lucas proves it is large enough to support all kinds of genres, whether it’s romantic comedies, crime dramas or horror films. It’s also proof that you can do all of these things without losing sight of what makes Star Wars Star Wars.
It’s still a long time ago, but Andor showed us a glimpse of the future in this distant galaxy.
New Andor episodes will debut on Disney Plus on Wednesdays.