Andor Is Treating A Classic Star Wars Villain Like A Regular Dude, And It's Hilarious

"Andor" is taking the "Star Wars" franchise to places we've never seen before. In a way, this is the rare "Star Wars" project that doesn't feel like fantasy, but like actual sci-fi. Rather than a grand quest with a chosen one and magical powers, we get a grounded show with actual stakes and a focus on an ensemble fighting for a common cause against insurmountable odds. This approach makes it so that even though we know where the story ultimately goes thanks to "Rogue One," you feel the pain the characters feel, you endure their struggle, and you empathize with their will to rise up and fight. Like Victor Hugo with "Les Misérables," "Andor" tells its story through the eyes of everyday people.

A big reason why "Andor" is so good is that it doesn't feel forced to be a regular ol' Star War, to bring back Glup Shitto and have cameos and references each episode. While episode seven, "Announcement," makes several references to a classic villain of the franchise, it's not treated like some grand return worthy of reverence — the characters talk about him like a regular dude. And you know what? It is hilarious. 

'Fear of a name only increases fear of the thing itself'

After the success of the mission to Aldhani, the Empire is thrown into a bit of chaos. Realizing someone has finally defied their authority, they tighten their leash on the galaxy, worsening sentences, increasing taxes, and generally making things more miserable for everyone. We see the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) in an emergency meeting, and they mention a name we haven't heard in a little while — Emperor Sheev Palpatine. That's right, Papa Palpatine, Señor Senate himself, the puppet master who eventually turns into a decrepit puppet in "Rise of Skywalker."

Though we never see Darth Sidious — the bringer of memes, the man who is the Senate, the man who decides if it is treason — in-person, his shadow looms large over the whole episode. We feel his presence in the mundane evil of the imperial bureaucracy, and we feel it in Mon Mothma's fear of being discovered, and in the oppression felt by characters across the show.

And yet, even if the Emperor's presence is felt, he is not some Voldemort-like evil that makes people cower in fear. No one is unable to even mention his name. He is not referred to as Darth Sidious (in canon, the people of the galaxy never truly knew he was a Sith) or even as The Emperor. No, this episode of "Andor" reminds us that, behind that gruesome visage, The Emperor is just a frail old man, and he is referred to as such in this episode. In "Return of the Jedi," the villain is only referred to as The Emperor, and he's a figure of dread and importance. But in the world of "Andor," there is no grand Emperor who rules the galaxy — just Sheev Palpatine, a former nobody senator from Naboo, and it is very funny and quite brilliant.

Go for Papa Palpatine

The way Sheev Palpatine is referenced in this episode of "Andor" is not the way we refer to the Queen or King of England, as if they are more title than person. Instead, by calling him "Emperor Palpatine," the show is making sure we associate the Emperor with something closer to a president or prime minister, who we usually refer to by their last name rather than by title. This serves to remind the audience that Palpatine, like an actual president or prime minister, is a temporary ruler who could be removed eventually either by the will of the people or by law — or in this case, by his right hand man shoving him down a shaft to protect his son.

This is reminiscent of George Lucas' earliest ideas for The Emperor: a weak bureaucrat who is named President of the Republic and then Emperor, but is nothing more than a puppet for the Imperial bureaucracy with no agency. This fits the world of "Andor," a world centered on the oppressed common folk who care not for hokey religions and ancient weapons, who don't give a damn about fancy titles. Though Lucas eventually made Palpatine a cunning mastermind in the actual movies, this more personal way of calling The Emperor by his human name brings him down a notch. It takes him off his pedestal and mocks him, taking away some of his power. Everyone fears The Emperor, but Palpatine? The old guy creepely obsessed with that young slave boy from Tatooine? Now he is easy to rebel against.

"Andor" is streaming on Disney+.