“When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.”
~ 1 Corinthians 13:11 KJV
ANDOR, the most recent STAR WARS series on Disney+ just finished unspooling Season 1. So now the whole show is there and you can go and check it out. In fact, I think you should. If you don’t have Disney+ then subscribe, because you need to see this show.
(Naturally, I know there are other ways to watch it, but I would never recommend those ways. No matter how good you think you look in a tricorn hat and an eye-patch, piracy is wrong.)
Why do I need to see ANDOR? (you ask).
Because it’s time to put away childish things. It’s time to grow up. You can wander around with your head in the clouds of Bespin in a galaxy far, far away, much like most of us did when we were children or teens and watched STAR WARS either in the theatre or on video or wherever. You watched in awe as Tie Fighters banked in space, their engines screaming like banshees (despite the lack of atmosphere to transmit any sound – in space, no one can hear your Tie Fighter scream.)
ANDOR still has screaming Tie Fighters and sound in space, but it has something else, something that George Lucas’ STAR WARS didn’t have.
ANDOR has an adult sensibility. Good guys and bad guys aren’t really a thing. This is a grown-up story with moral ambiguities and real-life consequences for defying what is, unambiguously, a fascistic, autocratic dominion. There are no space wizards or princesses, no magical toads, no hokey religion. There is just brute force and everyday people trying not to get ground under the boot of the Imperium.
But there is also a resistance, the nascent organization that will become the rebellion.
That was one of the things that I really liked about 2016’s ROGUE ONE. A standalone Star Wars tale directed by Gareth Edwards and written by Chris Weitz and Tony Gilroy, two Academy Award nominated screenwriters, ROGUE ONE gave us STAR WARS, but grounded in reality. The Force is talked about, but there are no Jedi to win battles with a wave of their hands. This story was told from street level, from the point of view of the people who live and try to thrive under the bootheel of the Empire.
I remember talking with my daughter about it afterwards. The film made the point that most people just want to get along, keep their heads down, try not to draw too much attention and live to get back home at the end of the day and hopefully have something that passes for a meal. This is the reality of a population living under Empire.
ROGUE ONE was a direct prequel to STAR WARS (or A New Hope, as revisionist history would have it) and ANDOR is prequel to the prequel. The series, like ROGUE ONE, comes at the STAR WARS lore from below. We see things on a street level. We see what life is like under a monolithic empire, particularly one that is overblown with bureaucracy, and starts to tighten its grip. It is soul crushing in so many tiny little ways. It’s not always a breathy man in a dark helmet and a long cape that is your enemy. Sometimes it’s not so obvious. Is it the neighbour who might turn over some information to a local filed office in the hope of a few credits? Is it the bureaucrat who feels that everything has to be done by the book? Is it the security guard who got turned away at the brothel and want to take it out on someone?
Sometimes your enemies aren’t as cut and dried as Darth Vader or the Storm Troopers. Insurrection is a game for the cunning, those who are willing to sacrifice everything. As Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) says: “I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see.”
And here’s where ANDOR rises above all other iterations of STAR WARS; The writing. The dialogue is magnificent, and it is delivered by actors at the top of their game. Skarsgård, Diego Luna, Forrest Whittaker, Fiona Shaw, Genevieve O’Reilly, and Andy Serkis, to name a few, but honestly the entire cast is amazing all the way down to the bit players. This series has a quality that is unmatched by any other iteration of STAR WARS, indeed, almost any other series, SF or otherwise. ANDOR delivers the goods.
That is, if you’re patient. If you’re grown up about it. If you’re not being the perpetual man-child whining about how it’s so booooring! “It’s all talking! Nothing happens! Where are the space ships? Where are the lightsabers?”
You know what, kid? This IS your father’s STAR WARS. This is STAR WARS for adults who can follow a plot, who can extrapolate meaning from a few lines of dialogue without having to have everything spelled out for them, who are able to discern the story’s underlying themes. This is a show for people who live in the real world and not in their rooms with their R2-D2 nightlight and their May the Force Be With You bed sheets.
“Okay, Boomer,” I hear you say (And, for the record, I’m Gen-X, punk!) “Why do we have to take things so seriously? Why can’t we just have fun and not get all bent out of shape about politics, huh, Grandpa?”
Look; there’s a place for everything. A couple of weeks back I talked about a Star Trek for everyone. Well, there’s a Star Wars for everyone as well, I guess. From the pre-school to teens to barely literate fanboys (watch your tone, Grandpa!) STAR WARS has something for all age groups.
But you can keep your Boba Fett and Baby Yoda. I’ll be at the adult table along with the other yawny oldsters, watching Cassian Andor and Mon Mothma try to defy the Empire and survive.