On paper, Star Wars: Andor isn’t necessarily the most exciting new project to emerge in Disney’s Star Wars franchise. It’s a series that acts as a prequel to a prequel. It features no epic battles between Jedi and Sith, nor many familiar faces from the movies beyond the titular hero himself. It’s a very different show from the likes of Obi-Wan Kenobi and The Book of Boba Fett. And that’s exactly why it’s such a breath of fresh air for the franchise.
With the first three episodes finally on Disney+, let’s take a look at what sets Star Wars: Andor apart from its siblings and why this moody origin story is exactly what Star Wars has been needing.
Note: this article doesn’t have any major spoilers for Andor. You can also check out IGN’s full, spoiler-free review of the first four episodes of the series.
D23 Star Wars: Andor Trailer Screenshots
The Smaller Scope of Star Wars: Andor
One of the biggest selling points of Rogue One (along with what may well be the most thrilling space combat in the franchise’s history) was the chance to see the unsung heroes of the galaxy rising up to battle the Empire. So much of the Star Wars mythos is framed around “Chosen One” heroes like Luke, Anakin and Rey. They have grand destinies and the power to reshape the course of the galaxy. But what about the countless people who want to make a stand against evil but don’t have supernatural abilities and laser swords to defend themselves with?
That’s a quality Andor immediately taps into in its three-episode premiere. The scope of the series is actually pretty small by Star Wars standards. There are no legions of Stormtroopers or flamboyant Sith Inquisitors hunting down fugitive Jedi. There’s just Cassian Andor, a scrappy grifter struggling to stay one step ahead of his problems. His nemesis, Syril Karn, isn’t a high-ranking Imperial officer, but simply a low-level security officer bent on making a name for himself.
Again, maybe that doesn’t sound terribly exciting in concept. But in practice, there’s something special about seeing such an intimate glimpse into the struggles faced by the ordinary citizens of a galaxy far, far away. Even though we know where Cassian’s story ends, the series immediately makes us care about his money problems and his brush with the law. The same goes for the flashbacks, where we see a young Cassian as a scavenger eking out a meager living. The Cassian Diego Luna is playing right now is so far removed from the single-minded soldier of Rogue One that he may as well be a different character.
Even more than Rogue One or Star Wars Rebels, Andor shows us what it’s like to try and live in the era of the Galactic Empire, and the many sacrifices that had to be made before the rebellion could truly come to be.
Leaving the Volume Behind
The Mandalorian broke major ground in 2019 as the first live-action Star Wars series. As we learned with the abandoned Star Wars: Underworld series, that’s a feat even George Lucas couldn’t pull off. The Mandalorian and its fellow Disney+ shows have managed to recreate that Star Wars aesthetic on the small screen largely through the help of the Volume, a digital set which projects detailed backgrounds and lighting against a video wall. But, particularly in The Book of Boba Fett, the limitations of The Volume have become apparent. Sometimes there’s just no substitute for having actors occupying real, physical spaces with fully built sets.
Watching Andor, one can’t help but be struck by just how different – and frankly, how much more expensive – the series looks compared to its predecessors. More than any other Star Wars series to date, Andor actually looks like a Star Wars movie. The crew even built a set the size of several city blocks, all to create that grimy, lived-in quality we associate with Star Wars. The Volume simply wasn’t up to that task.
“There’s no way to do both,” showrunner Tony Gilroy told reporters at the TCAs. “Either you’re a Volume show or not a Volume show. It just didn’t lend itself to that kind of production and you can’t choose between them.”
That lived-in quality is essential when you’re telling the story of Cassian Andor and other freedom fighters living on the fringes of the Empire. The Volume is fine for barren, desolate worlds like Tatooine, but not for the crumbling buildings and neon-drenched alleyways of this series.
But even as Andor captures the grimy side of Star Wars, it also succeeds in blazing its own stylistic trail. The first three episodes are basically Star Wars by way of Blade Runner – a neo-noir take on the universe with a vibe all its own.
Even the music is a far cry from the traditional marches and fanfares of John Williams. Succession’s Nicholas Britell may not be the first name to come to mind for a Star Wars series, but Britell’s music truly captures the unsettling yet stylish tone the series is going for. Not since the opera scene in Revenge of the Sith has diegetic music been so essential to the mood of Star Wars.
Moving Away From the Skywalker Saga
Star Wars: Andor works because it makes such a point of distancing itself from the Skywalker Saga movies and all the tropes and expectations that go along with them. It’s a clean break for a franchise that’s usually so preoccupied with the same handful of characters. Andor is like The Mandalorian: Season 1 in that it’s a Star Wars spinoff that requires no familiarity with the larger franchise.
Make no mistake, this is definitely all intentional. Gilroy recently told IGN the goal is specifically to avoid “fan service” or overloading the story with pointless Star Wars cameos.
“We will be introducing people along the way,” Gilroy said at D23. “I don’t think it’s any secret that Forest Whitaker is in the show… Saw Gerrera is in the show. There will be some other people. But when we bring them, we bring them because we need them and because there’s really some protein there, there’s something for them to really do.”
Even The Mandalorian became sidetracked in Season 2 with the last-minute appearance of Luke Skywalker. Luke then went on to play a fairly substantial role in The Book of Boba Fett, drawing both shows closer to the Skywalker family orbit. Meanwhile, a young Princess Leia turned out to be a crucial character in Star Wars: Obi-Wan Kenobi, a series steeped in the Skywalker/Kenobi dynamic and loose ends from the prequels. Andor is one of the few Star Wars projects out there blazing its own trail and telling a story with no Skywalker family connections.
Frankly, Star Wars is overdue for just such a series. Yes, there’s still unexplored ground left to cover in between the Original Trilogy and the sequels, and we have no doubt Disney has various movies, shows and books in the works that will do just that. But sooner or later, Star Wars has to move beyond the Skywalker family and explore truly new conflicts. We need more of what The Mandalorian was doing before Luke crashed the party. Disney has to prove that the Star Wars formula works even if there aren’t any familiar characters to latch onto.
It seemed Disney was going to do just that with Rian Johnson’s planned movie trilogy, a series Johnson once teased would “introduce new characters from a corner of the galaxy that Star Wars lore has never before explored.” But thanks to the divisive reaction to Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the jury is still out as to whether Johnson’s trilogy will ever happen. Though at least Johnson still seems optimistic.
“I’ve stayed close to [Lucasfilm’s] Kathleen [Kennedy] and we get together often and talk about it,” Johnson told Empire. “It’s just at this point a matter of schedule and when it can happen. It would break my heart if I were finished, if I couldn’t get back in that sandbox at some point.”
But for now, at least we have Star Wars: Andor. This series only has a tenuous link to the main trilogies, yet it’s quickly shaping up to be the best live-action Star Wars series to date. It’s certainly the most daring. We can only hope this prequel is a taste of what’s to come as Disney finally moves forward from the Skywalker Saga.
Every Upcoming Star Wars Movie and TV Show
What do you think? Is Star Wars: Andor just what the space doctor ordered, or is the franchise better off when a Skywalker is at the helm? Sound off in the comments below. And cast your vote in our poll to let us know which upcoming Star Wars series has you most excited:
Jesse is a mild-mannered staff writer for IGN. Allow him to lend a machete to your intellectual thicket by following @jschedeen on Twitter.