The first three episodes of Andor, are, predictably enough, set up. Not into a world we already know – but into a character, we barely got to truly delve into the motivations off. Rogue One is, after all, mostly Jynn Erso’s story, featuring Cassian Andor. Andor takes us back years and tries to show us how we got there, how Cassian Andor became that man who was willing to give up everything – how the spark that lit the flame of the Rebellion came to be. And, if we’re being honest, it all really, really works.
Mostly, because of Luna, who exudes an easy kind of charm in this role. It’s both easy to see him as the self-assured Cassian of Rogue One and to process him as the kind of lost soul trying to find his own place in the world of Andor. Because Cassian Andor is, in many ways, the most human Star Wars character we’ve met so far. He isn’t exactly a hero – not by normal definitions, and yet he is inherently likable because deep down, we all understand not just how he feels, but how hard the decisions he will come to make are.
So, let us examine the setup for this story, the way that setup changes the franchise we know and love, and of course, the Empire of it all as we discuss Andor 1×01 – 1×03:
A LOST (STOLEN) BOY
The Cassian Andor we meet isn’t just a lost boy (man), he’s a stolen one. He was “saved” as a kid, and as a result of the choices made in his stead, he’s been left without his identity, his home, and his family. Yes, Maarva’s decision might have saved his life, but she didn’t really take him into account as she was making that decision. And that choice – made against his will – has shaped the Cassian Andor we meet, one who has a family, because family is something you can create, but doesn’t really have a home.
Doesn’t really have a place.
Andor is many things, but perhaps the most important one is the refugee story. And Cassian Andor’s backstory informs the man he will become, and the choices he will indeed get to make for himself. What pushes a man to sacrifice everything for a cause? Perhaps the answer is not just in the cause but in understanding loss. And maybe, for Cassian Andor, the Rebellion will, at some point, be more than the cause, and instead will be the home he never truly had.
What would you give up for your family? For your home? And to make sure no one else has to lose that, the way you did? The answer might just be everything.
THE GREY AREAS
Andor deals in the grey areas in a way Star Wars has struggled a bit with in live-action. Sure, The Mandalorian presumably also traverses the same spaces, but since we first met Mando all he’s done is basically be an adorable dad, so it’s hard to argue he’s anywhere near the level of Cassian I’ll just causally murder these two Empire guards Andor. Not that we’re exactly weeping for the Empire.
That’s exactly the point, though. So far we’ve been treated to a dichotomy of good vs bad, Jedi vs Sith, and that has worked well for Star Wars so far, but in real life, things are hardly ever that clear cut. People are shades of grey, and situations often are, too. Cassian Andor exists in those shades of grey, because he is painted as a hero, yes, and he is indeed fighting for the right side, but he’s not doing so completely selflessly, at least not at first, and he also is willing to go as far as he needs to go to get the job done.
Does that make him a villain? No. Is he as clear-cut a hero as Luke Skywalker? Of course not. But he is more relatable than any Jedi will ever be, not just because of his backstory, but because we can never aspire to the levels of goodness and emotional detachment the Jedi wanted. In fact, not even the Jedi could, that was part of the problem. But we can aspire to be better than we were the day before, and to fight for good things, to fight for others. Just like Cassian Andor.
THE CASUAL CRUELTY OF THE EMPIRE
Just as we’ve seen the Rebellion as more or less an idealized good thing, we’ve seen the Empire as cartoonishly bad, which is an oversimplification. This doesn’t mean they’re good, it just means that even within the evil, there are differences. There are the true fanatics, and there are the people who understand that what they’re doing is wrong and just …do not care enough to do anything about it, because the status quo favors them.
Layers of good, layers of evil. For the Empire to survive as long as it did, it had to be filled with many kinds of people, and not all of them can be Sith. In many ways, the term “space nazis” has always felt fitting, not even because of the Sith in front of the Empire, but because of the organization behind it – one with the same problems as any other organization, including bureaucracy, indolence and the other side of the coin, fanaticism.
Fun to see? No. But interesting, yes. Star Wars has already given us many big stories, with varying results. What we’ve rarely seen is the stories of what happened in between, how things were built, how they broke down, and how they rebuilt. Now we get to experience that, on both sides. For Star Wars, that’s kind of groundbreaking.
Agree? Disagree? What did you think of the first three episodes of Andor? Share with us in the comments below!
The first three episodes of Andor are available to stream now on Disney+. New episodes will be available on Wednesdays starting next week.