Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, who last appeared in the Star Wars spin-off Rogue One, steps inside a brothel – more Blade Runner in aesthetic than A New Hope – and orders a drink at the bar. A woman asks which of her colleagues might be of interest while two shady security guards chide him, annoyed that he’s getting preferential treatment. Cassian’s not there for pleasure; he has intel that a woman from Kenari, his sister, may be working there.
Turns out, she’s long gone. He leaves the brothel, but the men from the bar follow him. Blasters come out – and Cassian accidentally kills one of them. The other security guard promises there will be no more trouble and begs for his life. If Cassian were an Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker-type, he might spare the man or use a Jedi mind trick. Chances are they never would have stepped foot inside a brothel in the first place. But Cassian’s no Jedi. He shoots the survivor, leaving no witnesses, and runs.
That’s the opening scene of Andor, a series unlike any other Star Wars show to date. Showrunner Tony Gilroy, who helmed the reshoots on Rogue One following some creative differences with original director Gareth Edwards, delivers on the spin-off movie’s tone, the series having rough edges, adult themes, and blood. Where The Book of Boba Fett refused to acknowledge Boba’s villainous ways and The Mandalorian embraced its family-friendly Star Wars status, Andor goes darker and tries something more experimental.
Most immediately different is the cinematography. Gilroy’s team made huge physical sets and decided against filming on The Volume, the huge soundstage that The Mandalorian uses. And while there are no complaints about the brilliant look of Mando, The Book of Boba Fett showed the limitations of The Volume. Andor, meanwhile, showcases how important physical locations can be. Cassian’s homeworld of Ferrix feels large in scope and properly lived-in. We meet a variety of characters who have seemingly average lives – they work on scrapyards and behind desks and in speeder garages. It’s the first time we really see normal people doing normal things in that galaxy far, far away.
As you would expect, Cassian acts as the throughline between all these characters. He’s looking to get off world following his run-in with the security guards, but he cannot risk telling anyone the truth. He turns to Bix (Adria Arjona) for help, though their relationship is complicated – we’re not completely sure why, but we can speculate on the subtleties of their interactions. Then there’s Cassian’s adopted mother, Maarva, played by Fiona Shaw across the main timeline and in flashbacks (present in the first three episodes). She offers some history on our leading man. Meanwhile, on another planet, Kyle Soller’s Syril Karn, an Imperial officer, is seeking out the person who killed his colleagues despite his superior wanting to leave the case entirely.
They’re a fierce selection of characters who make up a fantastically capable ensemble, each one feeling fresh within the Star Wars universe. As for Luna himself, he’s a magnetic presence, more diminutive and less assured than in Rogue One – the prospect of watching him become the man who sacrifices himself to recover the Death Star plans is an extremely enticing one.
What’s slightly odd about Andor is that the first three episodes, released at once, really feel like a collective movie. If Disney Plus had released just one episode to start, I would have felt short-changed as it’s a slow-build start, carefully constructing a solid base for the story that follows. As it stands, we’re given just enough to set this story into action, the episodes offering a rounded picture of who Cassian is and where he’s going next. Whether the next few episodes should have been released in batches or not remains to be seen, but these three are a perfect taster of a Star Wars show that’s unafraid to be different.
It’s also worth noting that Andor comes at a particularly interesting time for prequel TV shows. House of the Dragon and The Rings of Power, both currently airing weekly, tell stories set in the Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings universes, respectively. They share a cinematic language with their forebears, doing little to revolutionize those series, yet still telling great, worthwhile stories of epic grandeur. Andor is a different beast to what came before – and is the Star Wars show we’ve been waiting for since Disney started expanding the galaxy at an astronomical speed. Despite the fact we know exactly how this story ends, Andor, like its main character, feels capable of doing things previously unthinkable in the Star Wars universe.
New episodes of Andor stream on Disney Plus every Wednesday. For more, check out our guide to all the upcoming Star Wars movies heading your way soon.