‘Andor’ review: Star Wars tries something new, with mixed results

The revolt against the Galactic Empire begins in earnest in the new Star Wars series Andorobut thank goodness, it takes its time to get there.

Andoro offers stunning visuals, dedicated performances and some of the most interesting themes of all Star Wars show not yet, but the first few episodes (reviewers received four for screening purposes) border on slogs. The latest Star Wars series to believe that storytelling at a snail’s pace is the same as storytelling based on characters, Andoro‘s slower-than-slow-burn trajectory puts a big damper on what could have been a promising start.

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How works? Andoro fit into the Star Wars universe?

Meet the bad guys.
Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Essentially a prequel to 2016 Rogue One, Andoro is the origin story of Rebel Captain Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Before joining the Rebellion and helping to steal the plans for the Death Star, Cassian still finds low-key ways to interfere with the Empire. However, he is about to become the center of a much larger plan, courtesy of the enigmatic Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård).

Supposedly, this plan is the start of Cassian’s great rebel journey, but it won’t be easy. Not only does he face impossible odds, he’s also hunted by Empire operatives such as Security Inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) and Imperial Security Bureau supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough). As their persistent hunt for Cassian unfolds in the first four episodes, it’s clear that these two are determined to win Imperial Worker Bee of the Month at any cost.

The inclusion of Dedra and Syril is just one of many ways in which: Andoro diverts attention from the more famous Star Wars lore to explore more invisible parts of the galaxy. With Dedra and Syril, we see how low-ranking members of the Imperial hierarchy buy the project from the Empire. Cassian’s storyline showcases the stark reality of Star Wars life, showing how characters pass by (and find little ways to fight back) in an increasingly cruel realm.

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In particular, and to his credit, Andoro doesn’t seem interested in begging for nostalgic points in the same way that Obi-Wan Kenobi or Boba Fett’s book did. In the first four episodes, you’ll find no Jedi, no lightsabers, and no big cameos with Easter eggs. The closest we can get is the return of Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), but based on the trailers for Andorothis show seems as much an origin story to her as it does an origin story to Cassian.

Still, even though there are (so far) no Jedi or Sith battles, Andoro is undeniably a Star Wars story. It places special emphasis on the politics of the galaxy and the importance of rebellion in the face of growing evil. And yes, Andoro has quite a few new planets, blaster shootouts and starships to scratch that particular Star Wars itches.

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Andoro is incredibly slow

An elderly man and woman talk in a stone apartment full of golden flower vases.

You have nice characters there. Would be a shame if we introduced them super late.
Credit: Lucasfilm Ltd.

Andoro works with lots of interesting themes and characters, but it doesn’t matter if your TV show doesn’t feel like a TV show. These early episodes share nothing of the characters’ sense of urgency. They wander and introduce plot points and secondary players jamming Andoro‘s narrative cogs until the show grinds to a halt. The series is full of stuff: Luthen spends an entire episode traveling to the planet Ferrix to find Cassian. This could have been an email! Or at least not a few minutes from Skarsgård traveling through space.

Making the slow pace and lack of actual episodic arcs Andorothe best moments even more frustrating. A thrilling escape scene in Episode 3, accompanied by a heartbreaking flashback, is one of the most compelling things a Star Wars TV show ever did. We just have to wade through so much overcrowded nothing to get there. The same goes for the visuals: this is the best looking Star Wars series so far, but the show’s story can’t be beat.

AndoroThe biggest problem is that the first three episodes should really only be an hour-long episode. That way, by the time we get to the events of AndoroIn the fourth installment – introducing several major players – we look forward to the story to come, rather than being exhausted by it already. But this is the streaming age, where stories are too often stretched and inflated. Andoro is no exception, and no amount of gorgeous cinematography or Star Wars-style confrontation can hide that.

The first three episodes of Andoro hit Disney+ September 21, with new episodes every week.