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Rebel with a Cause: Andor

Andor is an origin story where each side will do whatever it takes.

Josh Halpern
Josh Halpern
January 13, 2023

 

The opening title graphic for Andor is a slow steady light appearing on the horizon. It starts as a tiny beam, becoming brighter and brighter until finally emerging as a crescent moon.  It is an apt metaphor for Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the Rebellion: a small glimmer of hope that grows into a powerful force of its own.

Andor is the newest Star Wars series on Disney Plus (stylized Disney+). The show follows Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), a thief and smuggler, in his time leading up to joining the Rebel Alliance.  The character may not be familiar to all Star Wars fans.  He was introduced in the 2016 box office smash Rogue One: A Star Wars Story which was an immediate prequel to the original Star Wars trilogy.

Behind this project is Tony Gilroy, a writer, director, and producer with previous credits in the Bourne series and Michael Clayton.  Gilroy directly contributes to the series, doubling as creator and showrunner.  His brother, Dan, is also credited as one of the show’s writers.  

Cas

Diego Luna as Cassian Andor

Andor picks up with the titular character at a shady brothel looking for his sister on the planet Morlana One.  Cassian (Diego Luna) crosses paths with a few officers of Preox-Morlana Authority, a sort of second tier security agency lowly ranked in the Empire.  During a physical confrontation with two officers, Cassian kills one of the officers.  To cover his tracks, he decides to kill the other officer.  Not the wisest of decisions, as this puts a big red X on his back.  In an attempt to mask his identity, he ends up becoming a fugitive. 

Andor returns home to the planet Ferrix, a place similar to Moss Eisley: sandy, a bit sketchy, with lots of alleys for secretive deals.  Seeking to sell off a stolen Starpath Unit, an imperial piece of technology, Andor meets with his friend Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona), a fellow black market wheeler and dealer, who sets Andor up with a mysterious trader named Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard). 

Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard)

Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard)

Cassian meets with Rael only to learn that the man is actually there to recruit Andor to join a small band of mercenaries with the aim of robbing an Imperial base on the planet Aldhani.  The stronghold has the payroll for an entire Imperial sector.  Cassian would be joined by Vel Sartha (Faye Marsaye), Cinta Kaz(Varada Sethu) and a few others in a ragtag group eager to stick it to the Empire.  

Cassian agrees despite being on the run for the killing of the two Pre-Mor officers.  On his trail is a deputy inspector, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), who was fired for trying to seek justice for the two slain Morlana employees.  Cassian’s also being hunted down by a strategic supervisor of the Empire, Deedra Mero (Denise Gough), who’s out to stake her claim and climb the Imperial ranks by squashing any subversive elements that aim to foil the Empire’s plans.  In participating in the heist, for a price, Cassian Andor becomes just that kind of subversive element.  

It’s important to keep in mind that Andor is not just a smuggler/thief/agent-for-hire.  One of the first things the audience sees is Andor killing officers in cold blood.  The character comes from somewhat violent beginnings at the hands of colonialism analogs.  Specifically, he was born in a tribe of indigenous peoples on the planet Kenari.  The Kenari lack modern technology and the entire population, including his younger sister, were presumed killed in the establishment of a mining colony.  Knowing his entire tribe would be destroyed, a scavenger named Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) takes the young Cassian under her wing and he grows up to become a sort of small-time criminal.

Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), Syril Karn (Kyle Soller),

Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), Syril Karn (Kyle Soller),

So who are the good guys?  Well, unlike the evil Empire, the Rebel Alliance lacked cohesion, strong leadership, and a common cause.  While Luthen Rael seems clear in intention and senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) moves quietly behind the scenes to gain funds for a potential uprising, many of these early actions are gambles and done with utmost secrecy.  Gilroy does a great job of showing these early stages of rebellion at different levels: whether up high on the beautiful city terraces of Coruscant, in the dirty back alleys of Ferrex, or down in the sub-aquatic levels of a prison colony on Narkina 5. 

Early on we’re not shown the big bad Empire.  And there are no dark Sith Lords or Death Stars under construction.  It’s up to the Star Wars fan to assume that the Empire is cruel and oppressive without seeing most of their bad deeds in action.  

Andor is an origin story.  Not just for the central character.  But for others that choose to take sides for their own reasons.  The good versus evil tag is not that easy to discern.  Syril Karn is acting on his own set of principles that are relatable.  While Luthen Rael has his own live or die, kill or be killed ethos.  All in the name of a cause.  Each side will do whatever it takes.  It is excellent commentary on the seizing of power and the escalating stages of conflict.  It’s called ‘Star Wars’ after all.  

The diversity feels natural, enhancing the story and depicting a more realistic world. Diego Luna is Mexican.  Adria Arjona is Puerto Rican.  And it’s made somewhat clear that female supporting characters Vel Sartha and Cinta Kaz are attracted to one another.  Dedra Meero is ruthless as she rises through the ranks showing exceptional qualities in an evil order made up mostly of men.  She might be my favorite character.

Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu)

Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay), Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu)

 

So is this good versus evil?  Is there a clear delineation, a line in the sand?  I would argue that Andor does an excellent job of humanizing characters of all kinds.  And Cassian Andor is not a proud figure of the Rebellion.  His motives are far less righteous than that.  He is a mercenary for hire, a killer on the run.  What makes him great is his invaluable set of skills and not necessarily his sense of morality or fairness.  

But does he change?  Andor succeeds in showing an irrelevant human once relegated to the sidelines-one that lacks unique armor, a command of the Force, or any royal lineage, turn into a central figure in a battle that is just starting to rev its engine.  

B2EMO (voiced by Dave Chapman)

B2EMO (voiced by Dave Chapman)

In closing I just want to acknowledge some of the finer points to appreciate in Andor.  Like the four-legged creatures (dogs presumably) given horns and other prosthetics and then sent running about in the streets.  Or the droid B2EMO, one that exhibits grief and self-denial in one of the show's more tragic scenes.  I like a world where robots emote. This is impressive diversity and representation beyond the even the usual considerations.

Andor is an impressive, emotional series with heart and grit.  I was sad to see it end and look forward to the next installment.  

Rebel with a Cause: Andor