Described as the first Star Wars show for adults, Andor begins in a driving, neon-lit rain. A man, Cassian Andor, (Diego Luna) walks into a bar (of course) which has a house of ill-repute (slightly-off centre for Disney) asking after a woman. Creator and writer Tony Gilroy has rightly described the show beginning as, “a very simple, almost film noir situation,” which later on opens up to encompass our beloved galaxy far, far away.
Cassian is a petty thief living by his wits, and with his friends, blackmarketeer Bix (Adria Arjona), co-worker Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) and his adoptive parents Maarva (Fiona Shaw) and Clem (Gary Beadle) in Ferrix. He comes to the industrial planet of Morlana One in search of his sister. Things go downhill pretty quickly as Cassian falls foul of two security officers, accidentally killing one and executing the other.
Despite his boss, Chief Hyne (Rupert Vansittart) wanting to sweep the deaths under the carpet to have a clean slate, Deputy Inspector Karn (Kyle Soller) wants to solve the murders. He is helped in his endeavour by the equally-driven Sergeant Mosk (Alex Ferns). Deciding Ferrix is too hot for him, Cassian gets in touch with Bix to get a buyer for a rare, sealed Starpath Unit. The buyer, Luthen, (Stellan Skarsgård) turns out to be a rebel alliance recruiter.
Apart from featuring a brothel, Andor wears its adult Star Wars badge in showing a friends-with-benefits scenario between Bix and Timm (James McArdle). That Timm has feelings for Bix, results in him making a dreadful decision and paying the ultimate price when he tries to set it right.
Set five years before the events of Rogue One (2016), which in turn was an immediate prequel to Star Wars: A New Hope (1977), Andor tells the story of how Cassian changed from “revolution-averse” (Gilroy’s words, not mine), to full on intergalactic martyr. Season 1, comprising 12 episodes, follows Cassian’s life for the first year while the 12 episodes of Season 2 will cover the remaining four years to reach Rogue One.
Releasing three episodes at one go is an effective strategy, as it works like a mini-movie setting up for the following episodes. The first three episodes focus on Cassian with flashbacks to his childhood on the planet Kenari, where a young Cassian (Antonio Viña) and his friends stumble upon a massive mining operation run by the Republic.
When Karn is searching for the stranger who had an altercation with the two security officers on Morlana, we learn that the Kenari was destroyed in a mining accident. Gilroy, who co-wrote the screenplay for Rogue One apart from the screenplays for the Bourne trilogy, has ensured Andor has spy-thriller vibes; the gritty palate contributes to the aimed-for look.
The action is also more hands-on; down and dirty, but no less thrilling. There are some weird animals including space hounds and the big, lumbering Vetch, who is just supposed to stand around looking intimidating. The droid B2EMO (Dave Chapman, voice) is a sweet, sad, stuttering companion to Cassian.
Gilroy, who has professed no great reverence for the Star Wars universe, has delivered on his promise of a show that could be an “entry point into the franchise.” With no storm-troopers or Skywalkers, Tatooine or Jedi, Jabba or Boba, there is a refreshing lack of Star Wars lore, guaranteed to welcome the newbie rather than make them feel left out. From here, one can go on to Rogue One, A New Hope…
The first three episodes of Andor are the perfect springboard into our favourite galaxy, while the worker ants clock in and out to the sound of perfect clunk of a hammer. Incidentally, why are there no subtitles to the language of the Kenari? Is that what reckoning sounds like, as Maarva comments?
Andor is presently streaming on Disney+ Hotstar