If you’re looking for a Star Wars show that gets you excited about the pew-pew swashbuckling action of the 1977 movie or the Western gunslinging action of The Mandalorian, then don’t watch Star Wars: Andor. This is a serious show that doesn’t feel the need to give Star Wars fans a little cookie every five minutes with a callback to pre-existing installments. That’s right: there’s no cutesy baby Yoda, and there’s not a huge desire for this show to sell a bunch of nifty Star Wars toys. It’s also a wonderfully written series and you should watch it, not because it’s a good Star Wars show, but simply because it’s a good show. No spoilers ahead.
For longtime Star Wars fans, Andor will feel jarringly different, and in its three-episode premiere — which drops on Disney+ on Wednesday, September 21 — the show has very little of what would be called nostalgia or fan service.
To put it another way, this is a great show to watch with your partner, especially if they don’t care about Star Wars. If you enjoyed The Mandalorian, The Book of Boba Fett, and Obi-Wan Kenobi as a Star Wars fan, there’s a chance you’ll like Andor too, simply because the visual aesthetics are similar. But tonally, this series isn’t anything like those shows, simply because it’s much more focused on people on the ground and much less focused on space battles and lightsabers.
Andor dares to do what Star Wars movies and shows have been threatening to do for years: Treat this complex world and its characters as real people. Unlike Obi-Wan, the series doesn’t assume you know or care about who Darth Vader is, and in fact, the machinations of Darth Vader are so far removed from this series that it’s hard to believe something so theatrical as lightsabers even exist in this world.
The series is also smart enough to limit the space-travel abilities of pretty much everyone. Commuting in space would be a pain in the ass, and Andor is here to make that famous gritty, lived-in Star Wars universe actually tangible. While the “dirty” aesthetic of Star Wars has been praised for its sci-fi realism — that served as a counterpunch to other shiny sci-fi back in 1977 — that feeling isn’t the same as actual realism.
The biggest problem with most Star Wars characters isn’t that they’re uncool, it’s just that they tend to only be unrelatable. Nobody actually feels rage at Anakin Skywalker levels. Nobody would ever really behave like Han Solo. The sequel films (mostly The Last Jedi) tried to unpack what these cookie-cutter characters might be like when they were a bit older, but because that was just one movie, the result was mixed.
Because Andor has way more time to explore its titular character, the series has more potential to actually connect with a contemporary audience than most of the other shows.
As played by Diego Luna, Cassian Andor isn’t a mythological hero or a pulp fiction trope repackaged for a slick TV show. He’s a down-on-his-luck, complicated, messy, and very real person. Through a combination of mature writing and nuanced acting, Andor gives us the kind of layered character study that you’d expect in prestige shows like Breaking Bad or Succession.
Smartly, Andor doesn’t rely on more violence and more death to prove that it’s a grown-up show, and pound-for-pound, The Mandalorian is probably way more violent. Andor is still less kid-friendly than the other new Star Wars shows for a few reasons: The first scene takes place in a brothel, Cassian is coping with very troubling childhood trauma, and overall, the show is more suggestive than other Star Wars shows or movies.
Though Mando acts like an adult show, it’s really not. That series gave Star Wars fans a positive parental fantasy, but is still essentially a popcorn show, full of cheap thrills and false danger. Nobody actually thinks Baby Yoda is ever in danger in Mando. The show ultimately plays out like various levels of a video game. Obi-Wan also went for more serious vibes than other Star Wars projects, but like Mando, defaulted to a Baby Yoda-esque plot device in the form of the 10-year-old version of Princess Leia. Although the stakes of that show were more emotional than physical, there’s still a stilted quality to Obi-Wan, the nagging fear that this story can only go so far.
Andor has none of that baggage. Although we know what happens to Cassian in Rogue One, this series isn’t about connecting nerdy dots. It’s a story about a normal guy, and he doesn’t really give a flying f*ck if the Force is with him or not.
Andor drops new episodes on Wednesdays on Disney+.