Reflections: 'Andor' and 'Tales of the Jedi' Seek to Expand 'Star Wars,' Creatively
Two streaming series take different approaches to the same challenge.
Have you been watching Andor lately?
Critics were given advance peeks at episodes 1-4, which I covered in my initial review of the first three episodes, which followed the introductory narrative arc of the prequel series, as well as my episode 4 review, which followed Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) as he traveled to another planet and joined a small group that was planning a major heist of the Empire’s payroll. Preparations continued in episode 5, culminating in the heist itself, dramatized in rather exciting, pulse-pounding detail in episode 6.
After the dangerous heist, which, naturally, Cassian survived — of course he did! He has to live in order to co-star in Rogue One (2016) — episode 7 showed him arriving back home to entreat his mother (Fiona Shaw), since he now had sufficient money to set them up on another planet. She declined, wanting to remain so that she could continue her rebel activities. Cassian, however, departed the planet for his planned new home, but things tipped badly there rather quickly, as he found himself charged with a minor offense, convicted, and sentenced to six years’ imprisonment on still another planet.
I was surprised when Disney offered critics, including myself, advance access to episodes 8-10. As it happens, this offer came on the heels of disappointing reports about viewership of the first seven episodes, so perhaps I should have not been surprised that Disney was trying to drum up additional coverage.
As it happens, though, episodes 8-10, which I’ve watched in their entirety, represent an excellent trilogy, all written by Beau Willimon, who served as showrunner for the first four excellent seasons of House of Cards for Netflix, and directed by Toby Haynes, a top-notch British television helmer. Episodes 8 and 9, which have already debuted, are well-worth watching together, in the event you haven’t seen them yet.
Episode 10 is outstanding television, a gripping episode that really explains why Andy Serkis was cast. He portrays Kino, a longtime prisoner who has been appointed as work manager of other prisoners and seems to be content to serve out his relatively few remaining days in that role. Cassian, however, throws all that into confusion, and Serkis is really quite powerful, no surprise in light of his excellent performance as Ceasar in the latest Planet of the Apes films directed by Matt Reeves. [Disney Plus]
A couple weeks back, Disney Plus also debuted all six episodes of Tales of the Jedi, an animated anthology series created by Dave Filoni (The Mandalorian and, even more pertinently, The Clone Wars). Each episode runs 13-17 minutes, so it’s ideal for lunchtime viewing over multiple days, which is what I did. It’s set during the Prequel Era (1999-2005) and features Ahsoka Tano, a character familiar from The Clone Wars, and Count Dooku, portrayed by Christopher Lee in the second and third prequel films.
Thanks to the brevity of their running times, each episode gets right to the narrative point, while still featuring beautiful animation and shedding a little light into a dark corner of the Star Wars universe. It’s a good treat for fans, and I enjoyed it too. [Disney Plus]