• Nate Adams

'Andor' review: Diego Luna-led series brings new life to 'Star Wars' franchise


Courtesy of Disney+/Lucasfilm

 

Five years removed from “Rogue One: A Star Wars Story,” a spin-off which explored how the Rebel Alliance were able to successfully steal the plans of the Death Star and help deal a serious blow to the Empire, comes “Andor,” the latest Star Wars series nobody knew they needed. Indeed, the introduction of Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor in “Rogue One” was memorable, but I doubt anyone assumed we would see this character again, let alone witness his entire story fleshed out in the television medium. Sure, “Star Wars” fans have embraced “The Mandalorian” (myself included) though “The Book of Boba Fett” and, to a lesser extent, “Obi-Wan Kenobi” left fans wondering where this brand could possibly go. The answer, turns out, is flipping the script on what defines a “Star Wars” series as “Andor,” works for many of the same reasons “Rogue One” did: it doesn’t feel beholden to fan expectations.


Set five years before the events of “Rogue One,” Andor is trying to survive as a thief for hire on the outskirts of the galaxy and avoiding unwanted attention from the Galactic Empire. That doesn’t go according to plan after a brief, violent-turned-deadly encounter with imperial soldiers raises major red flags across the realm and a bounty is placed on his head. During the four episodes provided in advance to reviewers, we get a keen sense of how Andor became a headstrong fighter, thanks to flashbacks from his childhood on a now desolated planet and other snippets around his upbringing.


Show creator Doug Liman was wise to set this series in the same gritty universe as “Rogue One,” giving the “Star Wars” canon some juice that separates it from the larger, mostly family friendly, universe at play. In “Andor,” there’s obvious political jabs, harsher violence, and slummy characters who you wouldn’t see chatting it up with Han Solo or Luke Skywalker. Not to say “Andor” isn’t age appropriate, but there’s no Baby Yoda or other cute Star Wars characters walking around in this iteration. From what I’ve seen so far, there’s also no Mandalorian either. Perhaps that’s why Disney broke precedent and gave reviewers a taste of the series, knowing they might need to convince traditional Star Wars fans (those who only watched the movies) to give “Andor” a chance.


But it probably has more to do with the quality of “Andor,” which, unlike previous incarnations, looks stunning. Shot on various locations instead of a blue screen, the aesthetic of “Andor” pays dividends and renders it the sharpest looking series yet and does a dutiful job at expanding the scope of what it means to be in a galaxy far, far away. Of course, Luna is terrific and clearly embodies all the traits and qualities of the scrappy, street-smart Rebel. The show wouldn’t work without his drive and devotion. 


You’d never think a prequel series about a niche character within a sprawling, billion-dollar sized franchise could thrive, but the cast and creative team have made a strong case in “Andor.” 


The force is strong with this one. 


Grade: B+


The first three episodes of ANDOR debut on Disney+ Wednesday, September 21st with subsequent episodes dropping weekly.