In a saloon at the end of the universe, the door opens. Two surly-looking guards glance up from their drinks to observe the new arrival. Roughly 20 minutes later, they’re both dead – shot by blaster fire as the suspect escapes into the night.
So begins Andor, the latest offering in Disney+’s roster of Star Wars TV shows. Hot on the heels of the barnstorming success that was Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor aims to tell an entirely new story. That is, the birth of the legendary Rebellion. The result is a slow-moving series that makes you feel like you’ve been trapped in carbonite.
The show marks the reappearance of Diego Luna as Cassian Andor, who met a sticky end transmitting the blueprints for the Death Star to the Rebellion at the end of film Rogue One, but he’s not the Andor we recognise.
Star Wars: Andor
Effectively a prequel, Andor (the series) is all about Andor (the person)’s journey from feckless layabout to dedicated revolutionary agent. Oh, and he’s on the hunt to find his missing sister, too – though this subplot appears to function as little more than a way for Andor to keep running into trouble with Empire officials.
With its latest roster of Star Wars TV offerings, the name of the game appears to be substance over speed, and so it proves with Andor.
It moves at a glacial pace. Andor’s backstory is drip-fed to us through a series of confusing flashbacks to his childhood on a planet where everybody speaks a made-up Star Wars language. Meanwhile, the series’ much vaunted focus on the “little man”, while fascinating in theory, means you end up watching secondary characters have one-night stands, or Andor make a trip to the mechanics to replace a spare part.
Sadly four episodes into this series there has been no exciting appearances of, say, Obi Wan or Darth Vader to set pulses racing. In terms of the cast, Stellan Skarsgård steps into the role of mentor figure Luthen Rael in a perfectly fine (if unexciting) role, and Fiona Shaw steals the show, the small amount she’s in it, as Maarva, Cassian Andor’s mother figure. And as for the lead, Luna does his best with a role that requires him to mainly sulk, glower and complain his way around the galaxy.
That’s not to say there aren’t things to enjoy. Star Wars’ resident baddies, the Empire, also get the Andor treatment of going into the minutiae of their lives – though this proves a rather more interesting watch.
Watching Kyle Soller’s uptight official disastrously bottle a raid on Andor’s home planet of Ferrix and sent to live with his mother is a particular highlight; similarly, Denise Gough chews the scenery as a frustrated bureaucrat wanting to climb the ranks of evil officaldom. Watching baddies do paperwork and engage in water-cooler gossip has rarely been this entertaining.
The set design is also as intricate as anything previously on show in the Star Wars universe. It offers an Aladdin’s cave of tiny details that makes you want to dive through the screen and explore, from Mon Motha’s immaculate appartment to the antiques dealership owned by Skarsgård’s character.
Ultimately, so far, Andor is fine, but is that enough for the multi-billion dollar franchise? Die-hard fans will surely find a treasure trove of Easter eggs to pore over. The rest of us? We may have to wait until something a little more exciting comes along to set our pulses racing.
Andor will stream on Disney+ from September 21