Andor Confronts The Politics Of The Star Wars Universe — And It Feels All Too Real

This post contains spoilers for "Andor" episode seven.

Like it or not, all art is inherently political. (Yes, even "My Little Pony." In fact, especially "My Little Pony.") It's why any and all variations on the "Keep your politics out of my pop culture" argument always wind up being silly, not least of all when applied to "Star Wars."

Obviously, this is far from a radical notion. The original trilogy of "Star Wars" films is full of iconography and concepts that are not at all subtly modeled after real-life images of Nazi Germany, WWII, and the Vietnam War. If anything, creator George Lucas' prequel trilogy wears its politics even further out on its sleeves, drawing clear parallels between the Galactic Empire's rise to power and the actions of George W. Bush's administration in the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. As Vox's Emily St. James noted in 2019, the trilogy's messages about democratic stagnancy fueling the resurgence of fascism have only proven more prescient with time.

This hasn't changed under Disney's watch either, though it does feel like certain recent live-action "Star Wars" projects have almost gone out of their way to avoid directly confronting the politics in a galaxy far, far away (I won't name names; you know who you are). Heading into the show's premiere, however, creator Tony Gilroy made it clear that wouldn't be the case with "Andor," and so far, the series has made good on this promise. If anything, this week's episode, "Announcement," feels all too real in the way it brings those issues to the forefront.

What do all powerful empires want? More power

"Announcement" could just as easily have been titled "Well, Well, Well, If It Isn't the Consequences of My Own Actions." Whereas Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) is rewarded for her initiative in sussing out the early signs of a growing organized rebellion against the Empire, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) ends the episode as one in a sea of office drones, left to stew over his failures on Ferrix and plot his revenge against Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Dedra and Syril are, in many ways, equally ambitious but ambition by itself is not enough. The only thing that matters in Palpatine's regime is results.

This cutthroat attitude is emblematic of life under fascism anywhere, be it the "Star Wars" universe or our own. For all their talk of duty and loyalty, those who serve the Empire are always the first to throw their peers under the bus (Star Destroyer?) when trouble comes a-knockin'. Anyone who tries to get ahead can only stay ahead so long as they hold some power over those around them. It's why the Empire is swift to take action over the heist on Aldhani, a robbery that poses little threat to the organization from a practical standpoint. When you rule through fear, all it takes is one act of defiance to send you sliding down a slippery slope to your doom.

More than that, "Announcement" highlights how the Empire has steadily gained more control through one-off acts of what it frames as justifiable violence (see: the murder of Cassian's adopted father Clem) and by putting on a polite facade to ward off its detractors in the court of public opinion. Just like in the real world, it's respectability politics that hold the key to the bad guys' power on "Andor."

There's no such thing as being apolitical

With the Rebel Alliance steadily coming together and the Empire firmly putting its foot down, you would think the citizens of the "Star Wars" universe would know better than to think they can merely look the other way and be fine. But much like the people in the real world who still cling to the idea of political neutrality, those who fancy themselves apolitical on "Andor" are in for a rude awakening.

Maarva (Fiona Shaw), being older and wiser than her adopted son, knows this, which is why she refuses to flee Ferrix with Cassian, realizing the time for simply getting by under the Empire is gone (and, if we're being honest, was the reason the Imperials were even able to come into power to begin with). Sadly, though, Cassian has to learn that lesson the hard way. Try as he might to avoid being a Rebel, that doesn't save him when he finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time on Niamos and is sentenced to six years in prison for nothing more than looking over his shoulder.

Elsewhere, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) chats with her old pal Tay Kolma (Ben Miles) at a dinner party on Coruscant. The latter vies to avoid discussing his anti-Imperial views, but Mon's not having it and discreetly pulls him into her own side life as a Rebel. Anyone who's ever attended a family event with their conservative relatives or tested the waters with a longtime acquaintance whose political views are in question can sympathize with Tay. Yet, as this scene and the rest of "Announcement" show us, it's no good trying to dodge that confrontation. One way or another, it will find you out.

New episodes of "Andor" premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.