With Andor we are now on to Star Wars series number four. As recently as 2019 that number was at zero.
During that time, we’ve seen a whole lotta Stormtroopers and a handful of lightsabers. For some it was starting to all feel the same.
Same doesn’t have to mean bad but in a world as big as Star Wars it probably isn’t a good thing. Andor has provided some relief in that capacity by dispensing with a large amount of the bells and whistles that makes a show look like Star Wars and instead creates a narrative that feels more like Star Wars than any previous live action series.
With a measured pace of drama, muted tones and an emphasis on dialogue, Andor has shown us that a different kind of story in this universe is not only possible, but that it works. One that isn’t reliant on some multi-season meta-narrative but instead rolls out its tale as straightforward as possible. There is a word circulating that is used to describe the series by myself and many others: refreshing. It is always heartening and exciting to see something that renews a franchise that is approaching half a century in age.
Another such series that has provided this kind of creative relief for their franchise is a fellow Disney+ series, Moon Knight based on the Marvel comics character. Moon Knight is a mystical superhero empowered by an Egyptian God called Khonshu. This, at first, sounds like typical Marvel fare but the show’s execution provides an alternative to the already impressive line-up on MCU television series.
For starters, there is a mature psychological element to the series. The man behind the mask, Steven Grant, suffers from dissociative identity disorder, giving the term ‘secret identity’ a whole new meaning for the character. Furthermore, there is a lack of tiresome references to ‘The Blip’ or any other nods to the greater MCU canon that at this point truly feels like nothing more than executives ticking a box to ensure continuity and fan satisfaction. Keen eyed viewers will of course spot multiple visual references to the franchise but it does not intrude on the story of the show. This is a strength shared by both Andor and Moon Knight.
These shows are surrounded by giants in their own universe which gives them the freedom to grow and act of their own accord. Next to Iron Man and Spider-Man, Moon Knight casts a small shadow and has a relatively niche appeal. But this lack of consumer awareness gives creatives the freedom to execute a story that feels less shiny and commercial. The same is true for Cassian Andor.
Although a popular character. When compared to Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, Andor cannot hold a candle to beloved characters that have existed decades longer than he has.
This manifests as both a blessing and a curse. Both shows certainly have stronger identities than their counterparts but are also doomed to a lesser viewership. For limited series this is less of an issue but if there is a notable lack of an audience it may discourage studios from making similar productions to these. By similar I don’t just mean darker and more human, but any narrative that takes a break from the never-ending mega-story that makes these huge franchises possible.
Fortunately, we are only at the halfway mark for this season of Andor which thankfully is getting a second and final season as part of its limited run. We can only hope that the critical success of series like this will open the door for more on screen stories that dare to have a life of their own.
What are you looking forward to most for season one of Andor? Let us know in the comment section below! For all things Star Wars, check out Dork Side of the Force!