Amidst the online cheers (and tears) in the wake of episode six of Andor, show-runner Tony Gilroy made a surprise guest appearance on “This Week in Star Wars” to provide some insight into approaching Star Wars from a spy-thriller angle.
Star Wars author and show host Kristin Baver asked Gilroy: “How do you take elements of intrigue, espionage, and a noir sensibility and translate that into the Star Wars galaxy?” His answer reveals just how dialed-in the series is:
"“This is a chance to do a show about the ordinary people of this galaxy, and the pressure that they’re put under by these … tectonic revolutionary pressures from all sides. There are people who have been ignoring it … trying to ignore it. You’ve got people who’ve been fighting it from the beginning. You have people who are being dragged in against their will. You’ve got people that are coming into it for theoretical reasons, coming in for revenge. That’s what’s fascinating.”"
Gilroy has certainly demonstrated his ability to execute this diversity of character over the first six episodes of Andor season one. When we meet Cassian, he seems to fall into the “trying to ignore it” category. Fans have noticed the parallels between this version of Cassian, and the Jyn Erso that we meet at the beginning of Rogue One—their attitude towards daily life under the Empire can be summed up by this line from Jyn: “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up.”
Juxtaposing these characters against what we’re more used to seeing in Star Wars—resolute and headstrong heroes that would give it all for the cause with a one-liner and a smile—adds a layer of nuance that, while often injected retrospectively by fans, was sorely missing from the material itself.
"“Thrillers are people under pressure … All of the outer problems and outer pressures that weigh down on people expose … and heighten all the problems they have in their lives. In a thriller, that’s the buy-in from the beginning.”"
Andor‘s three episode pressure cooker formula is 2-for-2. In the first arc, the lid is sealed from the very start with Cassian’s incident on Morlana-One. As Pre-Mor security closes in, our characters on Ferrix start to feel the heat, and their imperfections rise to the top. Cassian’s self-preservation instincts take the pilot seat, and he pulls Bix into the situation so he can get off planet. Timm’s mistrust spurs his malicious decision to report Cassian. Syril largely overestimates his ability to handle the situation, and the consequences are dire.
In the second arc, the stakes are suddenly much higher. Cassian enters the Aldhani operation as a mercenary with no skin in the rebellion, surrounded by hardened rebels that have devoted months of their lives to this cause. Differences in personal ideology (as detailed by Gilroy’s earlier comments) only add more internal pressure—but it’s only through this internal conflict that Cassian discovers his own belief in a better galaxy.
"“I can’t imagine writing black and white. I’ve believed in every villain I’ve ever written. You gotta believe in them. You gotta love them and … know why they’re doing it … feel for it. There has to be reason for it. You gotta get behind everybody.”-Tony Gilroy"
Star Wars storytelling is at its best when grounded in humanity. Heck, that’s the whole reason George Lucas created an entire prequel trilogy of films—to tell the very human story of Anakin’s descent into villainy, influenced by the hand of fascism. Gilroy clearly understands this, and his knack for nuanced villains has made for some… interesting discourse. In my opinion, it’s an indicator that Andor is just as bold as it was promised to be.
Check out Dork Side of the Force for more Andor and other Star Wars. May the Force be with you!