I have never been a fan of Lucasfilm dropping multiple episodes of a series at a time. I adore the week-to-week format to mull over every single little detail. I love chatting with other fans about their theories and speculations. Waiting for the next episode is one of my favorite parts of fandom. I loathed it when the first two episodes of Obi-Wan Kenobi dropped at once. After one week, the series was almost half over. That stuff drives me bonkers.
Which is why I’m a big ol’ hypocrite when it comes to Andor.
Unlike other live-action series, Andor is taking a very different approach to its storytelling by focusing on three-episode arcs. It reminds me a lot of how Clone Wars functioned in its later seasons. While each arc has its own beginning, middle, and end, they also contribute to the bigger, overall story like stepping stones. It opens up a debate:
Should shows like Andor release their episodes in arcs or continue the week-to-week format?
The first two weeks of Andor really showcased the pros and cons of this kind of storytelling. One of the prominent discussions about the series is the slower pace. There is a ton of methodical world-building to really set the stage for each arc. It takes its time to introduce each character and why they matter to the story. The story is not just about Cassian. It’s also about his community pushing back against invading fascism as well as the groundwork leading to the bigger rebellion from the point of view of everyday people. Even the smallest side characters have moments to establish them in the bigger narrative. The show really does function more like a Star Wars novel than a traditional Star Wars show or movie. It really gives me a lot of Lost Stars, Ahsoka, Alphabet Squadron, and A New Dawn vibes for completely different reasons.
Personally, I love all of it. Rogue One is my favorite Star Wars movie, so Andor has been everything I wanted and more. I adore having a lot of time in this gritty world and getting to know each person to understand how and why they tick. Just about every single one of them could have their own show because of the time given to flesh them out.
Still, I absolutely understand the criticism of this storytelling and why it’s not for everyone. There’s been some discussion on Twitter that younger audiences aren’t really digging the show. While Star Wars is for everyone, not all Star Wars is made for everyone. Andor’s heavy focus on conversations and lack of pew-pews probably aren’t what a kid is looking for in a Star Wars.
There is also a debate to be had if the episodes can stand on their own outside of an arc. In my opinion, episodes 1, 2, and 4 are rolling along nicely and then very abruptly end. They’re not written to be episodic adventures like, say, The Mandalorian. Even with Clone Wars which took a more serial route in the later seasons, the inner episodes of an arc were still self-contained. Coming out of episode 4 of Andor, I was left wanting more, and not in a good way. It was my Zuko from Avatar: The Last Airbender moment yelling, “That can’t be it! Where’s the rest of it!?”
Last week, a friend of mine only had time to watch the first episode because of work. On its own, the entry left him completely underwhelmed. He said it wasn’t bad, per se. He loved the filmmaking elements of the episode and gushed over all of that. But when it came to the story, episode 1 fell flat with a lot of setups, an abrupt ending, and not a lot of satisfaction on its own. He described episode 1 as how it felt like going to a theatre and the play only performed the first act before sending the audience away.
It wasn’t until he later watched episodes 2 and 3 back to back that Andor really started working for him. He mused that the first three episodes would have sung really well if they were cut together in one long short movie or special.
I absolutely felt this sentiment with episode 4. When watched together, the first three episodes truly do have the feeling of a small movie. The natural build into the climax with the fight on Ferrix feels organic. Then I got to episode 4, all on its own, and it feels like just the first act. It’s doing all the same things as episode 1 for the first arc, but it doesn’t yet have the following episodes to support it. It does a lot of fantastic work and then gets cut off to wait another week.
Clone Wars’ later seasons did this a lot. With the joy of streaming, it’s not hard to watch an arc in one sitting. There’s no wait from week to week, though boy, do I remember the weekly wait when it was still on Cartoon Network. But when you approach those arcs one episode at a time, you start to see the cons of this format poking out. For my podcast, we covered each episode of Clone Wars one at a time. Part of this was to analyze an episode on its own versus its place in an arc and in the bigger story. Some episodes are pure setup and it’s almost always the first episode of the arc. These stories are usually fine. They’re doing their job in the context of the narrative. But compared to the higher stakes, character development, and climax in an arc, those first episodes tend to get overshadowed by the other entries.
It in no way makes them bad. That’s absolutely not what I’m saying here about Andor and Clone Wars. The first part of any story, even in a contained arc, lays the very important groundwork for the later entries. They are vital. But after the big first-week release of Andor, we are moving to a one-episode release a week format. I feel like Clone Wars executed far better than Andor does because Clone Wars still tried to make these serialized episodes stand on their own two feet and were almost always self-contained. There are some outliers. The second episode of the Umbaran arc “The General” just kind of ends suddenly, like they ran out of their 22-minute runtime and had to cut it there. But for the most part, I feel Clone Wars executed better overall. Though, to be fair, I’m comparing four episodes of Andor to seven seasons of Clone Wars. This isn’t the most equal of comparisons.
It makes me reconsider my feelings about releasing a show week-to-week. I would never want a Star Wars show like this to follow the Netflix method of dropping an entire season at once for binge-watching. But when a series is made of arcs like Andor is, it’s not a bad idea to consider how to release it. Season one is set in stone. It’s going to be a week-by-week release and there’s no changing that. But if season two is going to continue this arc structure, then I would love to see Andor season two be released one arc at a time. I think that would really make the show sing and work to its fullest effect.
What do you think? Should Andor continue its weekly release format or do you think it would work better releasing in arcs? Let us know in the comments below.
Check out all of our Andor coverage with Dork Side of the Force.