'Andor' Review: Seeds of a Rebellion
A finely-wrought prequel series to 'Rogue One' brews a strong cup of intrigue and action.
An even longer time ago in a galaxy far, far away …
The very thought of an origin series for a prequel movie to a successful film franchise may not sound terribly appealing, yet creator Tony Gilroy clearly has greater ambitions on his mind, sufficient to justify 24 episodes in total.
Tony Gilroy has built an impressive career as a screenwriter in Hollywood over the past 30 years, including The Bourne Identity franchise. He also directed Michael Clayton (2007), Duplicity (2009), and The Bourne Legacy (2016). Rogue One (2016) is his most relevant credit here, though; on that film, Gilroy reportedly became involved some six months before the film was released, writing additional scenes for reshoots and acting as second-unit director, then overseeing post-production and other work.
Rogue One begins shortly before the events depicted in Star Wars (1977), with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) established as a Rebel Alliance intelligence officer. Andor, the series, begins several years before, finding Cassian as a desperate man searching for someone close to him. Under duress from the low-level law-enforcement types, he commits murders and becomes a wanted fugitive, fleeing home to his own planet, where he hopes to find refuge.
The first three episodes, written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Toby Haynes, a British TV veteran, nimbly sets up the series to come. Gilroy may only have limited experience in structuring narrative series, yet he has a superb sense of story and character development. Cassian Andor is the primary character, and we know where he is heading by the end of the show, but Gilroy creates credible motivation for his actions and a robust cast of characters, both those who support Cassian to one degree or another, and those who oppose him.
Traditionally, broadcast television shows introduce all their main characters in the first (pilot) episode, along with a premise that will allow for a (hopefully) long-running show to run for infinity (or at least sufficient episodes to make bank in syndication). Freed from that requirement, Gilroy structures Andor by putting the story first, and then introducing characters that are needed to tell that story.
In the story of Andor, of course, Cassian Andor's origin -- everything he does to eventually end up as a Rebel Alliance intelligence officer -- takes priority. What shaped him to become the person that he is in Rogue One? Not just his rank or serial number, but what, exactly, is his backstory, his motivating force?
Diego Luna unpeels layers to a character with a fierce determination to … do stuff. (To avoid any spoilers, the stuff won't be specified here.) He is surrounded by excellent actors, including Adria Arjona, Fiona Shaw, and the great Stellan Skarsgård, portraying characters who bring a lovely complement of personalities and attitudes, which are also essential to any series worth its salt. It's more than enough to compel viewership, and to make me eager to see what comes next. [Disney Plus]