There is a scene inof that made me reel.
It starts out weird. Cassian Andor, our titular antihero, having pulled off an impossible heist on the Galactic Empire, was doing what any reasonable criminal would do next: having fun in what can only be described as “Space Ibiza.” Get drunk at night, rest from the hangover on the beach during the day. An odd vibe for a universe that usually focuses on space mages dueling with lightsabers.
While resting, Cassian, a bystander in a completely new separate crime in which he is not involved, is stopped by a Stormtrooper and is questioned on the spot, accused of participating in a crime he merely witnessed.
Anyone who has seen that scene and been interviewed by a rogue cop almost certainly has a knot in their stomach. Courteous and communicative, Cassian frantically tries to stay out of trouble as he slowly gets caught up in a calculated series of leading questions, resulting in him being jailed for a crime he didn’t commit. It is a brutal scene and disconcerting in its veracity. What initially feels like a parody slowly turns into something horrible. The result seems depressingly inevitable: this is what happens when you allow fascism to flourish hopelessly.
It’s funny, but Andor, a spinoff show centered around a character from a spinoff movie, is literally the first Star Wars “thing.” that has shown us that the Galactic Empire is a truly fascist regime that is, at its root, very bad. In a universe where the villains are supposed to be space Nazis, that’s kind of weird.
But it’s also why Andor remains a surprisingly great TV show. If you’re not already watching it, you absolutely should be. rule.
Andor rules because it is a show obsessed with the smallest things in its universe. Star Wars has traditionally been about gigantic events, gigantic space battles with galaxy-altering consequences. But at no time in any Star Wars movie have I had any real idea what Luke Skywalker and company were fighting for; or what the rebels were rebelling against.
Darth Vader was bad because he wore black and suffocated guys. That is all. The Emperor, on the other hand, had a pale, pale face and a creepy laugh. Sure, these people blew up planets and slaughtered youngsters, but that’s the stuff of pantomime villains. In Andor, the villain is fascism’s slow and unassuming creep, and that makes the show one of the most compelling things Disney has produced since acquiring the Star Wars license in 2012.
It is a show obsessed with the smallest things, the minutiae of the routine. We can see apartment buildings, broken robots, disappointed mothers having dinner with their adult children. We see the impacts of bureaucracy in action, shitty little work meetings, office bitch sessions. We see families arguing over breakfast, agonizing over guest lists, and generally engaging in the banalities of everyday existence. Strangely, it’s fascinating.
I have often criticized Star Wars for obsessively filling in the gaps in its own timeline and making its once-great universe seem small. The construction of the Andor universe is different. It focuses on minute details in a way that makes the world of Star Wars feel truly lived-in. By weaving the stories of these less important characters into the grand narrative, we can feel the sheer scale of larger conflicts. This is not a Star Wars story, it’s just a little story that takes place somewhere in that universe. That’s great.
But beyond those main concepts, Andor is simply a show that is good at almost every aspect of its production. It looks great, it’s well written. Not a single line of dialogue feels overloaded or clunky. It’s also packed with a number of top-tier performances.
Denise Gough, who plays Dedra Meero, a member of the Imperial Security Bureau, brilliantly captures the corporate anxiety of high-stakes meetings where one wrong word could see you lose your job. Y, as this tweet saysthere isn’t a crime I wouldn’t commit if Stellan Skarsgård abruptly asked me if I wanted to “fight these bastards for real.”
Andor takes Star Wars to a place it’s never been before. It sounds more like a John le Carré novel with blasters than a space opera. And as someone who literally once“That’s enough Star Wars for me, thanks,” is a welcome change.
If you, like me, found yourself exhausted by the exploits of Luke Skywalker and company, I urge you to reconsider. Andor, regardless of the Star Wars background, is one of the best shows of 2022. I’m as surprised as anyone.
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