It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that 2022 has been an eventful year for streaming. Shows like Better Call Saul, Lord of the Rings: Rings of Power, Severance, and House of the Dragon have sparked fervent conversation and debate with each episode. Others like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi had the potential to be solid but have ultimately been unremarkable, forgettable dots along the journey. Of all of the Disney Plus Star Wars shows so far, the one I was the least excited about or interested in was Andor.
The reason was pretty straightforward. Unlike many fans who were introduced to Star Wars at a young age, I was not, so my enjoyment of the series has been sporadic. I don’t have nostalgia of the beloved original trilogy, and my limited history with the series has meant my first impressions are maybe harsher than they should be. And after watching some pretty bland Star Wars shows (more on that later), I was ready to skip Andor entirely.
I’m so glad I didn’t skip it. I’ve never had a first take been proven so wrong before. Andor is easily my favorite Star Wars show (not something I say lightly since I do enjoy The Mandalorian), but it might just be the best Star Wars media ever. I know, bold words. But to really understand how it’s wowed me, I think it’s important to go over my journey with the Star Wars series as a whole.
Spoiler warning: I will be discussing my thoughts on all of the movies and shows I have seen, including Andor, which will inevitably feature some spoilers. If you have seen everything Star Wars or don’t mind spoilers, read on!
My Journey with Star Wars
By the time I watched the Star Wars trilogies, I was in college. Fellow friend of the show Jason introduced me to the series. He has a real passion for the series, and his encyclopedic knowledge of the lore meant I could always ask questions and immerse myself in the story.
But for some strange reason that I don’t remember, I decided we should watch the trilogies not in the chronological order they were released in, but in order of the canon timeline. Which meant starting with the prequel trilogy. It turns out, that was maybe not the best decision.
The Prequel Trilogy
Okay, the prequel trilogy isn’t the worst thing ever (although I have very little positive to say about Attack of the Clones), but it certainly makes a poor first impression of Star Wars as a collective. The acting is stilted, the dialogue corny and dreadful, and the CGI is abused. The writing and characters leave a lot to be desired.
Even if the quality of most the prequel trilogy is poor at times, not all of it is bad. Ewan McGregor is excellent in his role as Obi Wan Kenobi. He perfectly captures the wisdom of a Jedi Master, but his aggression as a Padawan and struggles with how to guide Anakin are much appreciated and go a long way to making him more likable.
In addition, the duel versus Darth Maul is iconic, and Emperor Palatine’s villainy is a delight (even if some of his lines are pretty goofy and have been memed to death). Of the three films, Revenge of the Sith comes the closest to being an all around good film, but the prequel trilogy as a whole is pretty lacking.
The Original Trilogy
Next was the original trilogy. Had I started here, I would have probably enjoyed it even more, but as is, it’s good. The effects are, of course, dated, the action choreography is simplistic, not all of the jokes land, and some of the dialogue is pretty cheesy. The stormtroopers are comically incompetent, and the good guys always win against seemingly impossible odds. The amount of screentime given to the obnoxious Ewoks in Return of the Jedi is extremely distracting and takes away from what should be a pretty serious story.
But I can’t deny that the trilogy is special, and when it works, it works. The music is absolutely iconic and memorable, the story of good vs evil is effective and hopeful (smartly reinforced through light and dark imagery), and the Force is a mystical, amazing power capable of endless possibilities.
Unsurprisingly, this was another Lord of the Rings situation where I knew some of the big plot points because keeping Darth Vader as Luke’s father as a secret is impossible in this day and age. Also, because I was watching the films in timeline order, I already had this knowledge reinforced from the prequel trilogy.
So the reveal in The Empire Strikes Back was not what it could have been. But these scenes still work very nicely. Ultimately I appreciated The Empire Strikes Back the most, as it showed the consequences of the rebellion and also illustrated why it was necessary. It’s still my favorite of the three, and it’s easy to see and how the original trilogy sparked a generation of creativity and imagination.
The Clone Wars and Rebels
Then Jason tried to take me through the animated shows helmed by Dave Filoni. It was around this time that I started to experience Star Wars burnout. Not Jason’s fault, of course! But both of these shows can be extremely episodic in nature, and at the time I was far more invested in the story and lore of the Jedi than anything else.
Pretty much any story arc involving Ahsoka, Obi Wan, the Jedi, Mandalore, etc. was all great. But I had a hard time staying engaged with episodes dedicated to the clones and Western-style shootouts. I also recognize they’re targeted at younger audiences, which led to pretty simplistic dialogue and often limited how serious they could be (at least until later seasons).
We ended up going through them based on lists highlighting essential episodes (similar to Jason’s essential Ahsoka episodes list), so my journey with these shows isn’t the smoothest or most complete.
The Sequel Trilogy
This is where the journey is going to start getting a little out of order since the sequel trilogy films were coming out between other spin-offs and shows, but it does illustrate the beginnings of my burnout even with Jedi-focused stories and Force-sensitive characters, at least in movie-form.
The Force Awakens left the door open for some potential even if it was basically a carbon copy of A New Hope. The scenes with Kylo Ren are well-done, and I remember being excited for Finn’s character and where his story would go. But other scenes, like twenty planets being blown up at once, is extremely difficult to reconcile. How on earth are the stakes supposed to even matter anymore when they’re THIS insane and out of control?!
I’m actually one of the people who doesn’t completely hate everything about The Last Jedi. The third involving Luke, Rey, and Kylo Ren is very well done. It challenges what we know about the lore while encouraging us to think bigger. It’s great stuff. But the other two thirds comprised of Poe arguing with General Holdo constantly while Finn and Rose embark on a pointless fetch quest on the awful casino planet were gimmicky and dreadful.
And then there’s The Rise of Skywalker, which I didn’t see because I thought the trailers looked boring. Turns out I didn’t miss much since it’s an absolute disaster of a film. From what I understand, it suffers from not only being rushed and packed with half-baked ideas, it also retcons the majority of what The Last Jedi established, meaning that the sequel trilogy really suffers from a lack of cohesion and a solid vision. The fact that I didn’t even bother to watch the last one (and still haven’t) is not a good sign.
Rogue One was released between The Force Awakens and The Last Jedi (before my burnout with the Force and Jedi sunk in) so I started skipping movies that weren’t part of the sequel trilogy, and as a result I didn’t watch Rogue One when it came out.
Back then, I just wasn’t interested. Later on, I did find out the big spoiler(s) at the end and was pretty surprised…but I guess not enough to watch it. But don’t worry, I’ll talk about it more later.
I didn’t see Solo. I liked Han Solo’s character, but I wasn’t sure I needed to see a movie of his misadventures before joining the rebellion. Based on everything I’ve heard (and the fact that I forgot to include this film on the list as I was initially writing about my Star Wars journey), it seems like this movie didn’t leave much of an impression on anyone.
The Mandalorian (Seasons 1-2)
I remember watching episode 1 of The Mandalorian while some friends were visiting. I was playing my Switch, so I wasn’t watching attentively, but I do remember thinking it seemed interesting. I decided to pick it up a couple of weeks later since I was hearing positive things about it, and at the time, The Mandalorian became the first Star Wars property I genuinely loved and was completely invested in (and not just because of The Child/Grogu, mind you).
What grabbed me about The Mandalorian was how far removed it was from the Force or the Jedi. There were of course hints, but by focusing on a lone bounty hunter and his creed as he traverses the galaxy, it grounded the story outside of just Jedi versus Sith. It’s a neat premise that hooks you in right away, which was important for me as I was desperately looking for something fresh and new. Despite how little we see of Mando’s face, his voice emotes so much. A badass fighter with a cool design, but also flawed and interesting, he’s everything Boba Fett fans want him to be but isn’t.
While I thoroughly enjoyed the show for being so different from anything before it, I will say I don’t love every episode. Both seasons have filler episodes that feel pretty pointless and add very little, and I find myself wanting to skip them on subsequent watches. Season 2 places more emphasis on Grogu being a cute sellable mascot instead of being a mysterious, powerful individual despite his small size, and it’s hard to ignore the shift in focus.
There have been a couple of missteps, but nothing major that ruins it for me. For years, this was the first and only Star Wars media I genuinely loved. That may have changed recently, but it gets props for sucking me back into the universe.
The Book of Boba Fett
I remember when several of the Star Wars shows were first announced, I was worried the team would be spreading themselves too thin and saturating the platform with constant Star Wars content. This show certainly didn’t do anything to alleviate that fear.
The Book of Boba Fett is a trainwreck. The storytelling is dull and lacks any vision or cohesion, and the characters are as rough and undefined as the sand that blows across Tatooine. Who is Boba Fett supposed to be? Is he a badass bounty hunter turned crimelord, or benevolent ruler of Tatooine? It’s like the writers have no idea what they want Boba Fett to be, so he’s just…nothing.
The only “redeeming” qualities are the Mando-based episodes that SHOULD have been in The Mandalorian Season 3. It literally feels like the show got so bored with its namesake character that it jumped ship to explore the far more compelling story. These Mando-centric episodes are very good, but they do not belong in a show called “The Book of Boba Fett.” So many decisions in this show baffle me. Imagine being a fan of Boba Fett, and then seeing what they do with him in his show. So bad.
Of the initial shows announced, I was really looking forward to Obi-Wan Kenobi. I loved Ewan McGregor as the character and felt a show revolving around him could be really compelling. Sadly, it wasn’t.
Obi-Wan Kenobi is dreadful. The quality of the direction and CG effects is inconsistent. The storytelling and character motivations don’t make sense. The show doesn’t follow important storytelling beats or principles, so when characters die, no impact is left whatsoever. You really expect me to care about a character I just met ten minutes ago? Seriously?
Sure, the big battle in the last episode was good and left a positive impression. But everything with Reva was illogical and didn’t make any sense. What was her goal in the last episode anyway? It sounds like the show went through a lot of rewrites, and sadly, it shows. I wanted to love Obi-Wan Kenobi, but didn’t at all.
End of the journey, or just the beginning?
Then Andor was the next Star Wars show being released in the fall. After getting burned by a couple of shows back to back, I wasn’t sure that Star Wars streaming outside of The Mandalorian was going to be worth watching.
Because of that, I decided I was going to skip watching it. I hadn’t seen Rogue One and wasn’t familiar with the character, and after the lackluster, dull outings of The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi, I didn’t want to spend time watching it and be disappointed.
But after hearing friends talk about Andor positively and recommend it, I decided to give it a chance and it’s incredible.
Why does Andor work?
Andor is a prequel show of the movie, Rogue One, that is also a prequel to A New Hope. I’m sure that sentence is a bunch of gobbledegook for the uninitiated, and that’s fine. The important thing is that Andor quickly stands out compared to everything else that has come before it through its mature, sophisticated, and nuanced writing.
Where many prequel stories (Star Wars included) suffer while trying to write towards an established endgame, Andor doesn’t struggle at all. Taking place five years before Rogue One, the story of Andor follows Cassian before he becomes a member of the Rebel Alliance and his journey to ultimately become a catalyst of good. Rogue One serves as the end point in Cassian’s journey, but the showrunners are able to write backwards to explore his backstory and how he becomes the person we see in the movie.
As a result, they aren’t afraid to paint Cassian as a morally ambiguous character, and the benefit is we get to see a fully realized, meaningful character arc. The transformation he undergoes is extremely well done. More importantly, the writers don’t have to dumb it down. There is never a moment when Cassian has to explain how or why he changed his mind. We see it on his face and through his actions. Not only that, but we get to see how he influences the people around him and vice versa.
Characters like Bix, Brasso, Maarva, Luthen, and Mon Mothma are given complex motivations and by showing the viewers meaningful glimpses into their every day lives, we see the toll of oppression and the cost of rebellion on everyone. Even Empire supporters like Syril and Dedra are written as interesting characters.
The world building in Andor is another major highlight for me and helps establish itself as a different show immediately. Ferrix is a tight-knit, community-driven planet, and by focusing on the “every man”, we can see the full impacts of the Empire on civilians.
For the first time, I’ve been given a real reason to hate the Empire. Other shows and movies like to tell you the Empire is evil with the broadest of paint strokes, but Andor drills deep in its depiction of the Empire’s inner workings.
Andor does not shy away from showing violence and cruelty, and its depiction of the Empire is truly horrifying in a way that no other Star Wars story has come close to capturing before. From labour camps and colonization, to torture and execution; viewed through the lens of every day civilians, the Empire is truly evil.
Unlike its contemporaries, Andor utilizes more practical effects and sets where possible, giving it a sense of liveliness and realness that Obi-Wan Kenobi lacked. And when the show needs the CG, wow, is it beautiful. This show has some of the most gorgeous shots and compositions I’ve ever seen.
Much like The Mandalorian, I appreciate the unique soundtrack for Andor. It goes for a very different sound, and while orchestrations are still present, it’s not the usual brassy compositions we’re used to hearing. Some tracks even have a catchy techno beat! The music in this show is a perfect accompaniment to the story it’s telling.
But the thing I find myself coming back to is the writing and the pacing. It’s slow yet thoughtful. The dialogue is gut wrenching and powerful (most shows are lucky if they have one amazing monologue, Andor easily has, at minimum, five) and it doesn’t over explain, beat viewers over the head with certain plot points, or pause to make sure they understand. The show knows when the dialogue needs to be brisk or thought-provoking.
And for once, a huge highlight for me is that there is not a single god damn lightsaber or mention of the Force or Jedi anywhere. It is so far removed from the usual Star Wars trappings and it’s so much better for it. It is truly made for adults.
Andor is a good story first, and a Star Wars property second. I think that makes a big difference. The focus should always be to tell a meaningful story, because when there isn’t a clear meaning or purpose, we get products like the sequel trilogy or The Book of Boba Fett. Those stories don’t have anything interesting to say, they were made to cash in on the Star Wars IP.
Andor was made to tell a story and say something about oppression and freedom, and the commitment and quality is readily apparent on the screen. Every scene is essential. Every episode is important; no filler here.
For all of these reasons, it completely caught me off guard and captured my attention even more so than The Mandalorian. If I thought I loved The Mandalorian, I completely adore Andor.
Nothing is the same
But here’s a challenge I’m running into now. Andor is so, so amazingly good and well-written that everything else feels like child’s play in comparison.
I watched Rogue One following the season 1 finale of Andor, and I noticed a dip in quality during parts of it. The first half is messy, but I like K2-SO and the effects are gorgeous. I enjoyed the second half – particularly the last third – a lot. And of course, thanks to Andor, I was fully invested in Cassian and his arc.
Yes, I may know how his journey ends now, but it doesn’t diminish his story before that point. Had I seen the movie when it came out, I doubt I would have cared about any of the characters. But because the show, I get a lot more out of it. As a result, the ending admittedly bummed me out. It did its job even better thanks to the show.
Then I watched the Tales of the Jedi Ahsoka-centric episodes, and I noticed the dip in writing again. I know it’s for kids, but it was very simplistic and some of the dialogue was absolutely cringe worthy. But the animation was very beautiful and the style has come a long way, so that was nice to see. Maybe if I watch the Count Dooku episodes I’ll find a little more nuance and intrigue.
Going forward from here
I am looking forward to the Ahsoka live action show, The Mandalorian Season 3, and of course the second season of Andor, but I’ll be the first to admit my standards are impossibly high now.
I suppose it’s a good problem to have: Andor has set the standard for excellent writing and political commentary in Star Wars to the point that I want other stories going forward to follow its example.
This show is truly special, and ignited my enjoyment for the series in a way I haven’t experienced before. You could make the argument that my praise for this show is unfounded because I’m not as much of a Star Wars fan, but I’d argue it’s just as meaningful. This show brought me back to a franchise I was effectively done with, that’s no easy feat.
Ultimately, if you haven’t seen Andor, please do yourself a favor and watch it.
Sincerely, an occasional, all-over-the-place Star Wars fan