‘Asam’ Prequel Series – Amrita Bazar
Instead of being under direct Imperial control, Ferix was handed over to a nebulous corporation. It’s an interesting detail – perhaps akin to ventures profiting from Nazi collaboration during WWII – in a dense and confusing world-building where characters and ideas are introduced with little or no explanation. It’s probably a creative choice, an attempt to give the world a sense of richness and lived-in authenticity, but it mostly ends up feeling muddled and disjointed in its early episodes. It certainly doesn’t help that after Andor’s wonderfully moody and atmospheric opener, the series spends three entire episodes (about 45 minutes each) on Cassia’s escape from Ferix. It’s a three-part episode that feels like a very long, slow-paced episode.
We follow Cassia as she tries to raise money to go out of the world by selling technology from an empire. Along the way, we meet various companions and acquaintances, including Bix (Adria Arzona), an eccentric scrap metal worker trying to cut a deal with a buyer, and her mentor, played by the indomitable Fiona Shaw. These scenes involve an investigation by Corporal Cyril Kern (Kyle Soler), accompanied by a sergeant played by the great Alex Fern (Trevor of Eastenders, for the Brits), and a series of rather tedious flashbacks to Cassia. A childhood growing up within a tribe on a planet destroyed by the Empire.
At least the third episode is where things take off. It’s here that we first meet Stellan Skarsgård’s Luten, who descends on Feryx to lure Cassia into rebellion. “You really don’t want to fight those bastards?” He cries in an extraordinary scene. Skarsgård, whose voice is glassy and gritty, his majesty and undeniable gravity is the leap to start the show, and his arrival is followed by several necessary moves. However, it’s in episode four that Andor begins to deliver on its trailer and marketing promises (likely because Disney gave critics four episodes instead of the first three).
This is where we come to the meat of Andor: political intrigue, espionage and daring rebel missions. On the capital planet Coruscant, there are scenes where Senator Genevieve O’Reilly, appointed leader of the Rebel Alliance, discovers that every move of Mon Mathma is being tracked by the Empire. There’s a story that takes us into the inner workings of the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB), where cold, stern Imperial officers with English accents talk about discipline and wage internal power struggles. As for Cassian, he is part of a motley team that must pull off an impossible robbery. It’s also an episode with great shots, with shots of TIE fighters flying over the beautiful green landscape of the Scottish Highlands.
Compared to other Star Wars shows, it’s a slower, gentler beast, more interested in dinnertime conversations about space politics than clashing lightsabers. But by moving away from the hard work of Ferris, the series finally manages to break out of its orbit and give us a glimpse of the everyday reality of the galaxy described by Gilroy. This means Andor is Star Wars for adults. There are hints of maturity in tone and aesthetic, but at this point it’s too early to tell if the show has the wherewithal to explore adult themes in a universe built for children.
Likewise, judging a 12-episode series is a difficult task. It’s a series that starts out great, gets boring, gets better, and then ends with a very promising episode. He’s like a young Jedi Padawan, full of potential so great that their talent is obvious to all, their future obscured by the Force. Will they bring new hope to the Star Wars universe or leave everyone in bitter despair? At least we have faith.
Star Wars: Andor is now streaming on Disney+.
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