I have been fortunate enough to watch all the main Star Wars content over the years. The three trilogies, the Clone Wars, and Rebels animated series, Rogue One, and Solo, and the Disney+ projects. As in all things, they have varying levels of quality, and everyone has an opinion on what’s good and what’s bad. I loved Rogue One when it came out. It told a compelling prequel story that added more weight to A New Hope. The character of Cassian Andor was compelling because he was a “darker Rebel” who had been in the trenches so long it was hard to believe in something good coming from the fight sometimes, but he had to do it anyway. I was curious to see his origin story and what made him that way. But as this Andor Season 1 Review will show you, I’m one of the few not enamored with the season for many reasons.
I’ll start with the setup. The concept of the show is two-fold. It shows the Empire at the peak of its power post-Order 66 and how the rebellion is slowly building while the Empire continues to think it wins without issue. We see multiple layers of the dictatorship at work, as well as the levels of the Rebellion as it starts to form. Then, there’s Andor, who acts as a catalyst for many things while also seeing various things through his eyes. On the surface, that sounds like a compelling thing and not unlike another show that I watched recently that I’ll discuss in the review later. But the problem is that, unlike the other show, this one took too long to get things done, and by the end, I was literally saying, “That’s it? That’s where we ended up?”
In the opening scenes of the season, Andor gets himself into hot water after killing two security company fools who try to stick him up. Now desperate to get away, he asks his former flame to contact one of the heads of the Rebels to get him the credits to escape. That person is Luthen Rael, one of the secret heads of the Rebellion, who is playing both the long game and the short game to bring the Empire down. Whenever he’s on the screen, you’re excited because you know you’ll get great acting and potential progression, but it comes and goes, and it takes a LONG time for things to get moving on every plot point. Case in point, it takes three episodes for Andor and Luthen to meet. They could’ve easily cut one episode and not lost anything or used that episode to move things more meaningfully.
After Andor gets recruited and saved by Luthen, he gets put onto a mini-Rebel squad to raid a garrison to fund the Rebellion. A fun thing…that takes too long to get moving. Then by the time we get to “The Eye,” when the heist happens, I was so over the characters that when almost all of them died…I didn’t care. I know that sounds callous, but that’s the truth. Many of the other live-action TV shows did a good job fleshing out the supporting casts, yet with Andor, I felt they didn’t do enough in some cases. Then, with the characters I didn’t want to see again, they kept showing up and doing basically nothing!
For example, Cyril Karn is one of the most idiotic characters I’ve ever seen on screen, and I’ve seen a lot! Including Jar Jar Binks and Gary Green from Legends of Tomorrow! He served almost no purpose outside of that first episode, and yet they treated him like he was the key to everything. He wasn’t, and it was cringe every time he was on screen. I hated the scenes with him and his mother, or him and Dedra, and in the final episode where they had a “moment,” I wanted to break the television because I finally found a romance that’s worse than Twilight.
To be fair, there were characters I thought were compelling and brought weight to the series. Luthen was one, and Mon Mothma was the other. Remember, she’s been the consistent face of the Rebellion since the beginning, so seeing more of her origins was a nice touch as it connected the past and future together. Genevieve O’Reilly, I felt, did extraordinary in portraying the Senator, who had her own “Game of Thrones” thing going on on multiple levels. I loved that she was making noise in small ways to be an “irritation” so that they would keep an eye on her in some ways but not realize she was helping make the Rebellion. Her also dealing with misgivings about how far they can go and what she was willing to do to secure the future of the galaxy was also great.
I did have some issues with her, including the stereotypical way her family was portrayed at times, like with her daughter. But the way she manipulated it to get the Empire to suspect her for something else and then use her daughter to ensure the finances of the Rebellion was stone cold.
Going back to Luthen briefly, easily one of the best moments of the series was when he talked to a spy he had and admitted that he sacrificed everything he had to ensure this Rebellion could happen. The monologue was compelling and beautiful, yet dark, and what this series was meant to be about in many ways. But in contrast, those moments don’t make up for all the dragging that went on. Case in point, with Luthen, he went on two separate trips to see Saw Guerrera, a key figure in recent Star Wars lore. But all that happened was a lot of talking and nothing really meaningful. Yes, he could do more in Season 2, but based on his appearances this season…I wouldn’t bet on that.
One character I liked from almost start to finish was Dedra, the ISB agent who saw the Rebellion for what it was versus what the Empire felt they were. I appreciated her dedication to getting things done and doing what she felt was best. She even accurately predicted multiple things that the Empire would’ve been blindly missing. While Andor was right that the Empire was getting complacent in its power, it was important to show that not all of them were fools, and Dedra was that. But man, does she deserve better than Cyril. Just…no.
I know many of you are probably angry with my Andor Season 1 Review right now but are possibly holding out hope for the prison arc. Because all throughout my feed, as the episodes were dropping (I binged the season in two days this past weekend), I heard about how great those episodes were. Well…they were…and they weren’t. Yes, Andy Serkis is a treasure, and his role as the head of the level’s line was great. He had some of the best beats in the show by far, including one of the few meaningful endings to the episodes (more on that later.) But…it came at a cost.
Personally, I felt there were some jumps in logic that we needed time for. Like how in the first episode of the prison arc, when Cassian arrived, he seemed to have no issues with just living out his sentence. Then the next episode, he’s already made allies and is trying to escape. How did he make those connections? Were they already planning the escape before he came? There were other things that didn’t add up, either.
My biggest issue by far was the arrest of Andor. I know it was likely meant to be portrayed as the “Empire arresting people for no reason” because of the attack on Aldahni, but the way it was handled was stupid for numerous reasons. Not the least is that in the previous episode, Andor told his mother that they could run to a place where the Empire didn’t reside…yet the first chance he gets…he goes to a planet where the Empire is everywhere! He spent half the season trying not to get caught for any reason, and then he puts himself in a position to get caught! I was literally raging when this happened because it didn’t make any sense.
And while “One Way Out” was by far the best episode of the series, it too had moments that held it back. Such as the “I can’t swim” moment, which I really felt betrayed the moment of the escape. Or how despite all the prisoners getting out to see…we only see Andor and his “buddy” escape to land. How is that possible? Even though they address it with the “are we the only ones who got out?” line, that further brings down the storyline because it’s not feasible that these two were the only ones to reach that same spot of land.
As for the final two episodes, nothing really meaningful happened to make me feel it “saved the season.” The funeral scene was impactful enough, but it was weighed down by the very long and drawn-out funeral march. Add to that, all those people were there to see Cassian at the funeral, and basically, none of them saw him at said event. If anything, that funeral march was representative of the season. Lots of buildups…very little payoff, if any. Cassian arriving on Luthen’s ship just to say, “kill me or let me join,” really fleshed out another long-form story beat problem with the show.
After the Aldhani job got mostly botched, which I also had problems with, Luthen said he needed to kill Andor. Yet he was the one who said he didn’t like to “waste talent.” Andor was the reason they got the job done. That was proven. So why did he rush to kill him when instead he could have recruited him for another job? If he refused, then he could’ve killed him because he would’ve been a liability then. Luthen was willing to keep many other risky players alive to serve his needs, so why not Andor?
Also, you might have noticed that I haven’t really talked about Andor himself outside the situations he’s in. That’s because we really didn’t learn much about the man, and that was frustrating. This is his show, and I feel like I didn’t learn anything about him that was relevant. For example, the first two episodes revealed his “origins” on another planet before his “mother found him.” But the circumstances around all of that were poorly paced and explained.
The “children” all spoke in a language that we couldn’t understand, with no subtitles. Then young Andor starts breaking a ship after one of his comrades’ faults because…reasons. After that, Maarva Andor randomly shows up with Clem to do some scavenging and then decides to adopt the boy on the spot…ok… And the result of all of that was…what, exactly? Yes, he has new parents, but it’s never established how they gained his trust. Plus, he spent years searching for his sister, but Maarva seemed convinced that they were all wiped out. Why? Because of what she heard? Her death was another that I felt nothing for because…she didn’t really do anything until her hologram came around and rallied the people. Her biggest line, “that’s when a reckoning starts,” literally meant nothing because it went silent…and nothing happened with the people.
That was another issue with Andor that I had. They tried to make characters seem important or their struggles massive, and yet they didn’t impart the reasons why. Vel and Cinta were perfect examples of that. Vel is Mon Mothma’s cousin and a key Rebel. She was the leader of the Aldahni job, and I liked her for the most part. But her relationship with Cinta was non-existent, and yet it was forced upon us that “they were together, but not really together.” Oh, and Cinta said that Vel only liked her because of her “species ability,” yet that wasn’t conveyed in any way, shape or form. Oh, and we were meant to feel something for Andor’s “father” in Clem, but we saw all of two scenes with him, one of which was his death scene. So that didn’t add anything at all.
There were many things that were said but not explained, and we’re basically expected to go with it…but that’s not how it should work.
I mentioned a certain other show that I enjoyed recently that I felt Andor was trying to emulate. That show was House of the dragon. That one also had arcs with lots of political drama, wheels within wheels, and only occasional and meaningful action. The difference is that I was compelled by what House of the Dragon showed. I loved how they handled the characters, and every episode seemed important. I didn’t have that feeling here outside of a few episodes. It also didn’t help that Andor had some of the most random and dull ending scenes ever. Episodes 1 and 7 stick out in my mind, but there were others.
But with Andor? It spent far too much time spinning its wheels across 12 episodes when it could’ve cut the fat, focused on the meaningful characters (not Syril!), and delivered something like House of the Dragon. But it didn’t, and for me…it’s the worst of the live-action TV series that Disney+ has made for Star Wars. Season 2 could be better…but it wouldn’t be a hard bar to clear.
Andor Season 1 Review
Andor Season 1 tried to tell a meaningful tale about the future Rebel and why his place in the galaxy mattered while also building up the Rebellion. But the dragging plot, the focus on the wrong characters, and constant building of tension for little payoff at times betrayed the message they were going for.