'Andor' review: Breaks free from the weight of the franchise to offer something new

With powerful dialogues, focused writing, and sincere performances, 'Andor' strikes at the heart of Star Wars to resuscitate the pop culture giant

Published: 07th December 2022 10:04 AM  |   Last Updated: 07th December 2022 10:51 AM   |  A+A-

Andor

A still from the trailer of the movie 'Andor' (Photo | YouTube)

Express News Service

Back when the series was announced, Andor had everything going against it, Disney had halted making plans to further the Star Wars franchise, nothing other than The Mandalorian seemed to work, and the future of the franchise remained murky.

And then came Andor, a Disney+ series based on a character from a spinoff prequel film (Rogue One) that received mixed to meh reviews, so a prequel series sounded like an obstinate attempt to milk the franchise.

But...
Nobody expected Andor to become the spark that would restart George Lucas’ behemothian pop culture engine again. Like the double helix structure of DNA, the core of Star Wars is made up of two foundational strands, one is to do with the mysterious power called Force and the philosophical beliefs that govern those that use the force to fight against the other side.

The other is the commentary on authoritarianism and the rebellion that rises to fight against it. Andor majorly focuses on the latter, we don’t see much of Jedis, lightsabers, and the Force and the series somehow seems to draw its strength from a myopic focus on just one part of Star Wars.

Andor follows Cassian Andor before he fully immerses himself into the rebel cause to overthrow the Galactic Empire. We follow Cassian’s evolution from a thief to a mercenary-for-hire to someone utterly gripped by the romance of revolution.

Andor’s core strength lies in how it adds to the Star Wars mythos and delivers new blood to the franchise instead of drawing from the recycled memories of old films to feed us, nay choke us, with nostalgia.

So what was so new about Andor?

It showed us the unsettling greyness, the shadow cast by the heroes of the story: The rebels. The dark and ugly side of the rebellion was presented in a manner that was palatable and just right for a franchise whose core audience (against all evidence to the contrary is still) was the younger crowd.

The series begins with our protagonist killing unarmed men, and the moral reasoning for his untoward actions is precisely enough to still have the audience’s empathy.

Even if the old-fashioned pacing and the storyline did not work for you, it takes effort to not be impressed by the dialogue. Luthen, played brilliantly by Stellan Skarsgård, is given some of the best lines in the series to an almost unfair degree. Luthen is one of the masterminds behind the rebel alliance and is one of the best examples of what makes Andor unique.

Towards the end, when questioned by an ally about his cold-hearted approach to further his cause, he delivers one of the best lines in the series, if not the franchise: “What is my sacrifice? I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them. I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude. So what do I sacrifice? Everything!”

Much like its heroes, Andor is flawed, but perfection is hardly the thing we seek in that which we love. I’m not saying I love Andor (we’ll get to why that is in a bit) but it certainly wins you over by making you deliberately decide to look past the issues.

And the issues are...
I’ve heard many people complain about Andor’s pacing and the complaints are not invalid. The series tests your patience at times by chopping your attention between different timelines and various storylines, some of which grate you solely because the other thread is more interesting to follow.

Andor suffers from a problem faced by almost every big-budget franchise in recent times, which is the obsessive need to over-bloat the franchise by peppering-in plot points to feed a sequel. And the story arc from Andor that suffers from this inane obligation is Cassian Andor’s past. From the flashback’s to his childhood to his mission to find his missing sister to anything that has to do with Cassian’s past stuck out like a sore thumb that only seemed to drag down the pace. The series could have used more of the prison arc…

The Prison Arc: “I’d rather die trying to take them down than die giving them what they want.”
Right when you think the Aldhani arc, with its mesmerising visuals and the nerve-wracking storytelling, was the peak of Andor, the series pulls you in further with the prison arc.

During Episodes 8, 9, and 10, we see our protagonist being locked up on a remote planet in a prison where the inmates are forced to work as assembly line workers, manufacturing machine parts for the galactic empire: The literal tools of oppression. To add to the tension, we are told that the prison floor is lethally electrified whenever the inmates misbehave. We are introduced to Andy Serkis’ Kino Loy, a prisoner and a floor manager. Serkis easily delivers one of the most underrated performances put to screen this year.

The three-episode arc, written by Beau Willimon, is sublime for the way it portrayed authoritarianism, the underlying meekness of fascism, the primal instinct of any living thing to strive for freedom, and the latent aggression that is present in every beating heart to fight tooth and nail against oppression.

Andor is the answer to, “Will the ever-expanding Star Wars universe ever escape the Skywalker family?” and fans of the franchise could breathe a sigh of relief for Andor has proven Star Wars to be indeed capable of escaping the gravity of the self-referential, over-bloated, nostalgia-baiting, ouroboros of a franchise that we all thought it has become in recent times.  

Andor tells us how the spirit of revolution lives on as a sedentary, smouldering fire in all of us, for why then would we get riled up and cheer when an imaginary group of people rise in revolt against an imaginary oppressive empire? Perhaps, it is not all about aliens, a fictional empire, and people in a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…

Perhaps it is about something inside all of us that resonates with a primal call to fight against tyranny, against oppression, and for freedom.


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Andor

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