‘Andor’ is the best Star Wars show

(L-R): Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther) in Lucasfilm's ANDOR, exclusively on Disney+. ©2022 Lucasfilm Ltd. & TM. All Rights Reserved. /

Andor is the best Star Wars show.

There is way too much TV out there. I think most of it is garbage and can be ignored at face value. Even getting to the good stuff can be a real pain. Then, there is the eternal guilt of having a neverending list of shows recommended to us by friends and colleagues that we’ll definitely get around to watching one day. (No, you won’t.)

If you haven’t seen it already, Andor should be right at the top of this list. The 12-episode espionage thriller from Tony Gilroy (Michael Clayton, The Borne Legacy) is not just some good Star Wars on television. It is just straight-up fantastic television. Outwardly, it seems to be a strange choice. Cassian Andor, the secondary lead from the 2016 anthology film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, got his own series? And with a longer season length than any other live-action show? The most compelling stories will rarely be found in the obvious places, and Andor is proof. It’s hard to narrow down what makes this story stand out from its counterparts.

Andor presents a far more human story than any we’ve ever seen since the dawn of live-action Star Wars television. Cassian isn’t a bounty hunter with unparalleled fighting skills. He isn’t a stoic Jedi on the run. He is a dude with a blaster, scraping through existence one day at a time. He makes mistakes, he gives up, he feels pain, he suffers, and he changes. Watching it all unfold in a cold galaxy ruled by a fascist intergalactic Empire is some truly eye-catching stuff.

When we first meet Cassian, he isn’t a freedom fighter sticking it to the ‘Imps; he’s either looking for his long-lost sister. He isn’t remotely interested in fighting the Empire. Not because he’s a big fan but because he sees it as a lost cause. One person against the galaxy is doomed to fail. Throughout the series, Cassian is exposed to more horror and abuse than he thought possible. He also witnesses the colossal effort to destabilize and eventually overthrow the intensely complex bureaucracy and inhumanity of the government that exploits its people at every conceivable opportunity.

No one person can fight the world, much less a whole galaxy. Throughout the show, Cassian meets a wide array of people dedicated to the fight, all in their own unique way. He meets Karis Nemik, who has the anti-establishment passion of a first-year college student and the manifesto to go with it. He dies fighting for what he believes in. Another is his close friend and past relationship, Bix Caleen, whom the Empire tortures for information. During his unjustified imprisonment, he encounters Kino Loy, with whom he orchestrates a breakout.

And, of course, the man who alters the course of his life (and the fate of the galaxy) forever, Luthen Rael, played by the impeccable Stellan Skarsgård. Rael is my favorite character in the show. He is an old soldier who knows exactly how to fight and, more importantly, how not to fight. He knows what’s at stake should he fail and he also knows that he personally is more than likely doomed.

All of these fights against the Empire, in their own turn, become Cassian’s fight. Not just because he becomes invested in these people’s struggles but because it is all the same struggle. It was the same Empire that robbed him of his family as a child, even if he blames his adoptive mother. In fact, it’s Maarva’s inspirational speech near the end of the series ties all this together.

There are also two lines from Nemik’s manifesto, in particular, strike at the very heart of the struggle:

"“The Imperial need for control is so desperate because it is so unnatural. Tyranny requires constant effort.”"

This overarching theme is the main point of the whole series, but the reason the show is so compelling can’t be restricted to this alone. The dialogue is pitch-perfect. Star Wars is a universe that is made to feel lived in. Things have rust. Clothes are grimy, and they can still somehow travel faster than light. The way the characters speak to one another complements this in a way that is just not seen in the other shows. They aren’t just characters made to fit a script. They live here. This is where they’re from.

Season one of The Mandalorian achieved this to an extent, but the shows that followed fell into a trap of ‘sameness’ that Andor broke free of. It feels like a world apart, yet it is more authentically Star Wars than anything made in what seems like forever.

There is not a single lightsaber or Jedi seen in the whole show, and barely any mention of them. This choice does not make the show less because it can breathe because of it. The absence of the galaxy’s protectors shows just how vulnerable the world is and how thorough the Empire’s genocide of them was. It is now up to the everyday civilian to show up to the front line and crush the helms of stormtroopers wherever they can be seen.

Soon, we will have the second and final season of Andor. On the one hand, it is a shame to see such a spectacular series come and go so swiftly, but perhaps quality over quantity is a lesson that other shows, Star Wars or not, can take to heart and become something truly special.