There’s a scene episode 7 of Andorra that made me nervous.
It starts out weird. Cassian Andor, our titular anti-hero, who pulled off an impossible heist on the Galactic Empire, did what any sane criminal would do in the aftermath: staged it in what can only be described as “Space Ibiza.” Getting drunk at night, lazing off a hangover on the beach during the day. A strange atmosphere usually excited the space as space wizards chased it away with laser swords.
Cassian—a bystander in a brand new, separate crime he has no part in—pulls over a Stormtrooper while lounging around and is interrogated on the spot, accused of complicity in a crime he merely witnessed.
Anyone who watched that scene and was questioned by the rogue cop almost certainly had a knot in their stomach. Polite and accommodating, Cassian frantically tries to stay out of trouble as he is slowly caught up in a premeditated series of leading questions that lead to him being imprisoned for a crime he didn’t commit. It’s a scene both brutal and confusing in its truth. What initially seems like a parody slowly dissolves into something terrifying. The result seems depressingly inevitable: This is what happens when you allow fascism to flourish without a replacement.
It’s funny, but Andor—a spinoff show centered around a character from a spinoff movie—is literally the first Star Wars “thing” it showed us that the Galactic Empire is indeed a fascist regime at its core very bad. In a universe where the villains are supposed to be space nazis, that’s a little odd.
But it’s also why Andor continues to be a surprisingly excellent TV show. If you’re not watching it yet, you definitely should. It rules.
Andor rules because it’s a show obsessed with the smaller things in its universe. Star Wars is traditionally about huge events, gigantic space battles with galaxy-changing consequences. But at no point in any Star Wars movie did I get a real sense of what Luke Skywalker and co. they actually fought; or what the rebels rebelled against.
Darth Vader was bad because he dressed in black and strangled guys. And it is done. The emperor on the other hand had a pale pasty face and a terrifying laugh. Sure, these people blew up planets and killed babies, but that’s a pantomime villain. In Andor, the villain is a slow, stealthy creep of fascism, and that makes the show one of the most impressive things Disney has created since acquiring the Star Wars license in 2012.
It’s a show obsessed with the smaller things, the minutiae of the grind. We see apartment buildings, broken robots, disappointed mothers having dinner with their grown children. We watch the effects of bureaucracy in action, the shitty little work meetings, the office crap. We watch families bicker over breakfast, fuss over guest lists, and just generally participate in the banalities of everyday existence. It’s strangely fascinating.
I’ve often criticized Star Wars for obsessively filling in gaps in its own timeline and making its once-large universe small. Andor’s universe building is different. He dials in the minute details in a way that makes the world of Star Wars feel authentically lived. By weaving the stories of these minor characters into the grand narrative, we feel the enormity of the larger conflicts. This isn’t a Star Wars story, it’s just a story set somewhere in this universe. That’s amazing.
But aside from these cutting-edge concepts, Andor is simply a show that’s good in almost every aspect of its production. It looks great, it’s well written. Not a single line of dialogue feels overwrought or clunky. It is also packed with a number of cutting-edge features.
Denise Gough – who plays Dedra Meero, a member of the Imperial Security Bureau – brilliantly captures the corporate anxiety of high-stakes negotiations where one wrong word could cost you your job. AND, as this tweet statesnot a crime I wouldn’t commit if Stellan Skarsgård gruffly asked me if I wanted to “really fight those bastards.”
Andor takes Star Wars to a place it’s never been before. It feels more like a John le Carré novel with blasters than a space opera. And as someone who literally once they ended the Star Wars rant/article with words“that’s enough for me Star Wars thanks” is a welcome change.
If, like me, you are exhausted by the exploits of Luke Skywalker et al, I urge you to reconsider. Andor, Star Wars baggage aside, is one of the best shows of 2022. I’m as surprised as anyone.
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