Andor's Biggest Strength Is That It's Not In A Rush

The first three episodes of "Andor" have finally premiered, and it's clear that this isn't your typical Disney+ "Star Wars" series. With 12 episodes in the first season (and 12 in the second, leading into "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story"), it's far longer than any of the earlier live-action offerings. Set five years before the events of "Rogue One," the seires tells the story of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and chronicles his development from a cynic to a die-hard member of the Rebellion, willing to sacrifice his life for the cause. 

As much as I love anything "Star Wars," there are issues with the earlier series. "The Mandalorian," "The Book of Boba Fett," and "Obi-Wan Kenobi" all have their strengths and varying degrees of success. They gave us every "Star Wars" nod that could possibly fit in. We saw rancors, banthas, a young Luke Skywalker, and how Boba Fett got out of the Sarlacc Pit. Walls had carvings in Aurebesh that fans eagerly paused their screen to translate. (One of those fans was me.) 

The problem is, each episode was so packed with references and Easter eggs that they started to feel like someone tried to shove 10 pounds of bantha poodoo into a five-pound bag. As fun as it can be to hunt for every tiny detail, those series are anxiety-inducing. It feels like if you blink for a moment or check your phone to look up what that one creature or ship was, you'll miss an essential detail that you need to understand the story. 

Not every episode has to be full of Easter eggs

"Andor" feels different because it takes its time. There are references and Easter eggs, but it doesn't feel like every frame has to contain a reason to bring up Wookieepedia. Even the dialogue seems slower. There is something about the more relaxed pace that fits the genre this series appears to be in. 

"Andor" is a political thriller. Yes, it's set in the "Star Wars" universe, but with a few changes, it doesn't have to be. It feels like a story we could see elsewhere if a few names and references were changed. There were moments, particularly in "The Book of Boba Fett," that felt like someone forgot that story is king. The narrative has to come first. I'm reminded of advice I was given years ago while writing fiction; For the most part, you should be able to change the genders of characters or the setting of a story without much effort. Whether or not that's true is up to you, but the point is that the story itself always comes before everything else.

Through the first episodes of "Andor," there was never a moment that felt like the writers were saying, "Look at the Stormtroopers! Ooh, here's a character you know! Desert planet, you guys! You know who was born on a desert planet?" This is said with love, but it's true. "Andor" lets us breathe with the characters and feel what they're feeling without distraction. It gives us time to wonder where they're going. Three episodes in, and we're still not quite sure where everyone's allegiance lies. 

Time to breathe

The show so far is like reading a good spy novel. You get time to sit with the twists and turns. Every mystery isn't solved right away. We're not certain that Bix (Adria Arjona) is a good person, a bad person, someone who will turn, or something whose secrets will do her in. Three episodes in, and we haven't seen one of the main characters. It's refreshing. 

I'm not saying that I miss the really long seasons that used to be standard for network television. They were often full of filler, and the ubiquitous flashback episode. A lot of it felt like spinning wheels. It's just that six to eight episodes aren't enough to tell a story as complex as those based on lore that started in the 1970s and has grown exponentially over the years. 

It builds tension, watching Cassian's slow walk through a dark street, not knowing who is coming out. We have time to wonder who Maarva (Fiona Shaw) is and what motivated her to do what she does. We can look at Syril's actions and slowly figure out what brought him to his toady decisions. We'll get to see the change that happens with Cassian the way it should unfold, slowly. No one goes quickly from a rebellion-averse person to a self-sacrificing zealot. 

It's nice to have time to wonder about what's coming. It's extra nice not to feel like I can't type notes fast enough to keep up with every moment. (Occupational hazard.) "Andor" is letting us ponder. It's taking its time, and that's something that the Disney+ "Star Wars" shows really need. 

"Andor" is currently streaming episodes 1-3 on Disney+.