Prequels are not always the best type of storytelling available, unless it is set far enough back that it doesn’t involve characters we already know. Because we know the ultimate fate of the character Cassian Andor (thanks to the excellent Rogue One film), we as the audience know that he’s ultimately going to survive the events of the new Disney Plus series Andor. With that being said, when I heard they were doing a prequel series and bringing a star-studded cast to it, I was anticipating what story this series would tell.
The first three episodes were dropped all at once and they present a slow-paced, methodical story that springboards the adventure forward into how Cassian Andor becomes the conflicted intelligence agent we see in Rogue One.
Spoilers ahead, so don’t read if you have watched the first three episodes of Andor, the latest Star Wars series on Disney Plus.
Right off the bat, I want to highlight just how much this series feels like it’s a prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy. Throughout each of the episodes (titled “Kassa”, “That Would Be Me”, and “Reckoning”, respectively), the retro-future feel of Star Wars that George Lucas established in A New Hope comes through here. From the cantina that Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor finds himself in during the opening minutes of the series to the retro computer monitors and displays, to the grimy, mud-soaked fields of Ferrix where Andor and his compatriots live and work, everything feels lived in. It’s a credit to the set department and costuming that this series doesn’t feel out of place despite being made more than 4 decades after the original Star Wars film came out.
From the start, we see that this is a different Cassian Andor than the one we were introduced to in Rogue One. The Andor of that film was a quick thinker, even if he could be a bit more ruthless than necessary. Here, we see a character that is still deeply unsure of himself and makes bull-headed mistakes due to his inexperience and haste. The killing of two security force personnel from the Perox-Morlana Corporation (a new invention for the series that joins the grand tradition of Czerka as being a thoroughly corrupt entity) is sloppy and totally unplanned, which kicks off the first mini-arc of the show. This also brings into the fold the character of Syril Karn (portrayed by Kyle Soller), a by-the-book Deputy Inspector of Pre-Mor Security who brings an overzealous and fastidious devotion to his work (much to the annoyance of his superior).
Karn feels like a take on the Inspector Javert archetype from Les Miserables, the dogged detective who allows for no joy in his life, only duty to the institution of the law. This doesn’t make Karn a villain at this point, as far as I see it. Syril Karn is symptomatic of the oppressive nature of the Galactic Empire at this time (since this series is set five years before Rogue One). The events of the first three episodes see Karn doggedly pursue Andor with a methodical approach to finding him. The end result, however, leaves Karn broken in more ways than one. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the descent into darkness for this character, the breaking point where Karn finds himself in the clutches of the Empire and does make the full transition into becoming a villain.
Much of the episodes deals with Andor on Ferrix as he tries to both escape the planet (now that he’s killed two people and knows it’s only a matter of time before someone comes looking for him) and tries to find his sister. We see through a series of flashbacks that Andor originally lived on the planet Kenari, a former mining colony that was abandoned (and later quarantined by the Empire). We see Andor living among a group of teenagers and children, including his younger sister. When a Separatist ship crashes on the planet, Andor is among the group of kids who go to investigate, which leads to the death of a teenage girl that was the leader of the group of kids (and someone who Andor was sweet on). The third episode, “Reckoning”, shows how Andor came to Ferrix, thanks to the intervention of Maarva (portrayed by Fiona Shaw) who took Andor away (some would say kidnapped him).
The characters on Ferrix, such as Maarva, Bix (played by Adria Arjona), Timm, and others makes this humdrum world feel vitally alive, if overly downtrodden. Ferrix is not a world where people live so much as exist. A good majority of the population works in the shipyards, scrapping old ships for parts and materials (ostensibly for Perox-Morlana). But, there is a sense of community among the residents, even Andor (who comes across as the perpetually cash-strapped charmer who’s always in debt to at least one person). Bix and Andor’s relationship is an interesting one, since there is clearly some affection there despite Bix being in a relationship with Timm. The ambiguity of their feelings for each other serves as a catalyst for Timm to rat out Andor once Per-Mor sends out a declaration looking for the man who murdered their security guards, which in turn sets off a chain of events that lead to a great amount of tragedy.
Everything culminates in the episode “Reckoning”, which also introduces us to Stellan Skarsgard as Luthen Rael. The set up for his arrival is that he’s a buyer for Bix, who runs an illegal operation selling starship parts off-world. Stellan is one of the biggest names to be attached to Andor and he carries himself with a weight and authority that shows Luthen is someone imminently capable. There’s also a weariness to Luthen, a melancholy that is centered around his eyes. Luthen arrives on Ferrix more for Cassian than the part Andor is trying to sell. Their escape from the Pre-Mor enforcement group is partly due to the quick-thinking of Luthen and the piss-poor planning of Karn, leading to a devastating moment where a good portion of Karn’s group of agents are taken out in an explosion set by Luthen and Andor. The fact that Andor leaves Karn alive and the look of devastation on Karn’s face after the explosion leads me to believe these two are going to face each other again at some point. The death of Timm at the hands of the Pre-Mor agents also looks to set Bix on a different path, potentially a darker one.
Overall, the first three episodes of Andor managed to squeeze a tightly-packed story that established the characters we’ll be focusing on and the story we’re going to be seeing in an excellent way. The grit and grim of the Rebellion against the Galactic Empire is a rich environment to tell a story that doesn’t focus on Force-wielders or doomsday devices. Instead, the focus of Andor feels like it’s going to be a spy game, with chess pieces moving here and there, always looking for the next angle to take out the opponent. I’m looking forward to what the rest of this season has to offer.