Andor Review: The Latest Star Wars Series Goes To A Gritty, Grounded Place And Is Better For It

When I saw the first teaser trailer for "Rogue One" another lifetime ago in April 2016, the line that made my skin tingle came from Jyn Erso: "This is a rebellion. I rebel." The line wasn't in the final version of the film we saw in theaters that December, a change that most likely came after Tony Gilroy came in and, by many accounts, saved the film with extensive rewrites and, among other things, reportedly made it more tonally in line with the Skywalker Saga films.

When I finally saw "Rogue One" that December, I loved it. It's a movie about sacrifice as well as hope, and it remains my favorite "Stars Wars" film from the latest tranche of releases. But I missed that line. Through those six words, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) conveyed a burning anger that is the refrain of her life. Rebellion requires hope and sacrifice, yes. But it's also fueled by anger, a burning rage kindled by the yoke of oppression. That anger isn't missing in "Rogue One," but when I watched it, I wanted more.

Which brings us to "Andor."

That's what a reckoning sounds like

Tony Gilroy came back to "Star Wars" for "Andor," and if the first four episodes, set five years before the events of "Rogue One," are any indication, Gilroy has been given free rein to focus on that rage. We start out the show with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) before becoming the Rebellion spy we met in "Rogue One." Like millions in the galaxy, his life has been upended by the Empire. And like many, he keeps his head down in pursuit of his own aims.

Or at least he tries to. His anger makes him reckless, and that recklessness brings Empire-adjacent evil in the form of a corporate security force bearing down on him. Cassian isn't alone, however — he has a found family in the trading town where he lives, and their entire community also resents the Empire and their corporate partners' efforts to bend them to their will. All of them come together to work against those forces, along with an outsider who sees something in Cassian that is worth more to him than a million credits.

"That's what a reckoning sounds like," someone says in the third episode of the series. "You want it to stop, but it just keeps coming." "Andor" is about the building of that reckoning against the Empire, and we see it through the burgeoning Rebellion's recruitment of Cassian. And with two 12-episode seasons, Gilroy has the space to not only properly develop the show's characters but also the time to let the key locations we visit in the show — the trading town, Cassian's childhood home — become fully realized places with a culture and history of their own.

Gilroy is able to do this in part because he isn't burdened with telling a story about major legacy "Star Wars" characters. Yes, we've seen Cassian and Mon Mothma before, but they're not Obi-Wan or Anakin. And Gilroy, who freely admits he had no interest in "Star Wars" before he worked on "Rogue One," wasn't seduced into adding cameos that don't serve the story. He has also said in interviews, and I agree with him, that someone with no "Star Wars" knowledge or interest can watch "Andor" and understand, and, more importantly, appreciate the show on its own merits.

You want to die being careful?

That's not to say diehard "Star Wars" fans won't enjoy "Andor." The series is very much in the same galaxy as the films and shows before it. And while "Andor" might have a slower pace than fans expect, there are still action-packed moments that will have your heart rate tick up a notch or two.

"Andor" is something new in "Star Wars," and there's another point in the first three episodes where another character asks, "You want to die being careful?" This is undoubtedly me projecting, but I can't help but think Gilroy challenged Lucasfilm with the same question. "Andor" is distinctly different from what we've already seen in "Star Wars" — it's grittier and takes its time, and it is really, really good (not that other "Star Wars" stuff isn't good, of course).

I hope this series proves to the powers that be that there are rich stories to tell in the live-action "Star Wars" universe that don't involve the Jedi or anyone with the last name Skywalker. Who knows what stories Lucasfilm could tell if they became less fearful of creating shows and movies that don't feel pressure to emulate what we've seen before.

The first three episodes of "Andor" drop on Disney+ on September 21, 2022 with new episodes dropping weekly on Wednesdays.