(This content contains spoilers for episodes 1 to 3 of Andor)
On Wednesday, September 21, Disney+ released the first three episodes of Andor (2022), a sci-fi TV series and the prequel to the film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (2016). Within the scope of twelve episodes, the first season of Andor elaborates on the earlier life of the Rebellion’s spy Cassian Andor five years before his actions in Rogue One. Forming a rogue squad along with Jyn Erso (Rogue One's protagonist) and other team members, Cassian in the film eventually died fighting to send the plan maps of the Death Star to the Rebellion. The success of this mission laid the foundation for the ultimate defeat of the Galactic Empire's authoritarian regime in the Star Wars original trilogy.
After nearly a week of streaming, social media reviews Andor’s episodes one to three. Whether the reactions are positive or negative, the most usual comments express the same observation: Andor feels like the most non-Star Wars series ever produced within the Star Wars franchise. Some people say Andor portrays a world with other sci-fi genres’ vibes. For example, many reviews mentioned the classic Blade Runner series as they describe the opening scene of Andor. Collider’s review said, “By contrast, Andor, in its first episode, immediately drops the audience into a seedy, high-priced brothel, kicking off a sequence that had more in common with the Blade Runner franchise than anything ever seen in Star Wars…”
Indeed, similarly as the society in Blade Runner, the society in Andor has a cyberpunk theme. In this specific dystopian worldview, technological advances largely fail to bring ordinary people equality and wealth. Just as the first three episodes have portrayed, both Kenari (Cassian’s home planet) and Ferrix (his stepmom Maarva’s planet) were places sacrificed for the Empire’s scientific progress. Local people’s quality of life gave way to big corporations’ industrial factories. Low-level citizens struggled to find means of living; many worked in grey areas (sex work and black market businesses) for their payments. These innovative, darker, and grittier elements brought heavy real-world socio-economic implications into the conversation, which affiliates the show with Rogue One, but is far away from being a conventional Star Wars series with stormtroopers and lightsabers.
However, is Andor really that different from the other traditional Star Wars stories? Also, is Rogue One another unique instance in the Star Wars universe?
Andor is the prequel to a complicated character from Rogue One, and many reviews point out that Rogue One is already special compared to other Star Wars movies: it is the first Star Wars movie that illustrates warfare and sacrifices through the lens of common individual beings. In the original Star Wars trilogy, which aired in the late 1970s and early 1980s, protagonists like Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia were heroic individuals who had the noble status of being sensitive to the force (An energy field that connects all forms of life in Star Wars. Individuals are more powerful if they are born to be more sensitive to control the force). On the other hand, the Rebel Alliance’s soldiers and pilots were in the background most of the time. The rebels seem welcoming and positive due to their ordinary and less force-talented nature. They played the vital role of the Skywalkers’ most trustworthy comrades and allies as a group, and they would never fail the protagonists.
Nonetheless, Rogue One tells people a story that all members of the Rebel Alliance are actual beings who had their own experiences with the cruelty of war. The film depicts these rebels as people who lived in anxiety, pain, and anger under the Galactic Empire’s oppression. For instance, when Cassian confronts Jyn about whether Cassian should obey ruthless orders in the spaceship back to Yavin IV (the Rebellion’s base), he says, “Suddenly the Rebellion is real for you? Some of us live it… You’re not the only one who lost everything. Some of us just decided to do something about it.” The word “real” stands out sharply as Star Wars finally explores a rebellion soldier’s character arc: it is not only the ones with force and lightsabers that can enter the main stage. Everyone has reasons and intentions in this great uprising and is worth telling a heartfelt story.
Like Cassian and Jyn, other characters in this rogue squad provided little information about their past. Yet, in the end, everyone in this team has chosen to sacrifice themselves to retrieve the Death Star’s design maps for the rebellions. Original trilogy fans would immediately recognize the importance of this suicide mission. In Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977), Luke and the rest of the Rebel Alliance could only destroy the Death Star with the complete information of this terrifying weapon’s structure in their hands. Therefore, looking back at the film Rogue One, it is inspiring to see the core message that everyone’s decision matters.
If Galen (Jyn’s father) did not choose to plant a fatal weakness in his design of the Death Star, if Jyn was not determined to deliver her father’s plans to the rebellion, if Cassian and the Rogue One squad did not decide to trust Jyn… if any of these single bricks were missing, the bridge leading to A New Hope’s tremendous victory would not come into existence. After Rogue One, every living being’s choice is equally important because those who have made up their minds will change history’s direction with their accumulative efforts.
Earlier in this review, I posed the question of whether Andor and Rogue One are the special cases in the Star Wars franchise. My answer is that neither of them subvert the previous Star Wars stories. Fans favor Luke Skywalker’s story in the original trilogy because he stands with the bright and just path regardless of his complicated bloodline. He inherited the talent for the force from his villainous father, therefore was potentially in danger of falling into the dark side of the force. Nevertheless, he embraced his origin and experience, choosing to defeat the corruption and save his father with love. Luke’s decision and the many other commoners who fought before and after him contributed to the victory against suppression. In the end, all these Star Wars stories elaborate on the individuals’ choices in facing history, power, and destiny.
My final Star Wars takeaway, then, is that Andor is a Star Wars series because the emphasis on decision and future fate survived and thrived in its current plot. While Cassian’s decision led to the eventual collapse of the evil, Maarva and Cassian’s fellow neighbors in Andor also made critical actions that fueled the birth of the Rebel spy Cassian Andor we see in Rogue One. For example, the most thrilling part in Andor so far is when Ferrix town people rival a dozen imperial corporation security team members in episode three. Without each worker’s and citizen’s effort in intimidating those soldiers, Cassian could not escape the police forces alive. In this case, Andor’s handling of storylines respects every individual’s reason, experience, and feeling, which is a decent continuation of the Star Wars legacy.
Cover page source: Disney +
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