Star Wars has had a rough go on Disney+. Not as rough as Paramount's disastrous Halo show, which made me want to forget ever having played the classic video game.
Please, never again…
No, not as rough as that, but pretty close. After the release of Obi-Wan Kenobi, the franchise was struggling just to keep its head above the water. Fans all over the internet sounded off on how awful the Star Wars name had become. Check out this reviewer on Metacritic expounding not only upon Obi-Wan, but the entire Star Wars writing team:
Then enters Andor. I believe this show will save the franchise and hopefully usher in a new era of storytelling at Lucasfilms. At least, I hope so, because I really can’t take any more Bacta tanks.
Diapers not included
Let’s take a quick jaunt back to 2019 before we see why Andor is so good and what that means for the franchise. It’s early November, and the world is still humming along with only rumors of a strange flu going around China. Disney has just released its flagship subscription service, Disney+, which is a name that sounds more like it belongs on a Rite-Aid supplement shelf. Star Wars fans rejoiced because the first Star Wars story released was the stunning Mandalorian. It was everything a fan could want in their favorite universe: epic worlds, actual set pieces and makeup, and superb storytelling. Things were looking pretty bright over at Disney. Then came The Book of Boba Fett.
We’re now entering the shadow days of Disney+ live-action shows. Boba Fett felt more like the rough draft of a fan fiction and had all the heart and enthusiasm of Eeyore. Or maybe Eeyore’s depressed cousin. Whatever happened with that show only improved slightly with Obi-Wan Kenobi. While there was certainly more plot and character development, the shenanigans and outright inconsistencies with the cannon were very hard to overlook. Upon the conclusion of Obi-Wan, it really looked grim for Disney, and the Star Wars franchise looked more like it was grabbing at money than trying to produce quality stories.
Andor changed everything for Disney+, but why? I don’t think the reasons are all that subtle and there is certainly no secret ingredient.
Too much chemical X in Fett and Obi-Wan
Having the Andor world built in real time as opposed to the set, cookie-cutter universe of the film series is a tremendous boon. Other than having the veneer of Star Wars, Andor can take any liberties it wants. We’ve already seen that built out with the more bureaucratic nature of the Empire, the nomadic, paganistic lifestyle of Aldhani, and even Cassian’s own backstory. The worlds they’re constructing feel fuller than past shows because they are taking the time to make their planets real and not just mono-ecological set pieces.
Wacky Flailing Tube Man Planet
While on the subject of liberties, let’s take a moment to talk about the characters in this show. This is where Andor really shines and why it scored so well among critics and fans alike (currently it is sitting at an 82 audience score on Rotten Tomatoes, which is the only one that really matters to me). Of course, it set Cassian up to become the character we know him as in Rogue One, but this show has an impressive array of deep characters. It seems like everyone we meet–from Syril Karn to Mon Mothma–has a developed backstory that matters. And this is where great writing separates from average writing. When we, as the audience, can see why a character acts the way they do, it makes them more than just a trope and they evolve into an actual person. Karn’s relationship with his mother is why he is so resolute as a director in the Empire. Mothma’s family dynamic between a moody teenage daughter and an unsupportive husband drives her further to help the rebels. These character development pieces are something every writer learns in school, books, lectures, and conferences, but seemed to have been absent in Fett and Obi-Wan. The franchise needs more of this.
Finally, Lucasfilms seems to have hit the right genre and mood with the right type of show. We saw this with The Mandalorian as it blended the old spaghetti westerns with the sci-fi genre. Now we have what is essentially a Cold War spy-thriller dressed up in Star Wars costumes. And it works. I’ve long believed the Star Wars genre is ripe for this type of film since much of George Lucas’ influence for the struggle between the Rebels and the Empire came from Nazi Germany and the fallout of its demise. And since Andor does not need to rely on source material from the Skywalker saga, it is free to create plots and characters that make it truly interesting. You can almost feel the freedom the writers have with this story since the only thing they need to be consistent with is Rogue One, which is loosely connected to the original film series.
How we all feel
The future looks bright for Star Wars if they decide to maintain this course. Moving away from mainline characters and looking to expound upon new or underdeveloped characters should be Lucasfilm’s focus. Hopefully, shows like Ashoka, Skeleton Crew, and Acolyte coming out in the coming year will have Star Wars ante up and bring us a new era of storytelling. For the sake of their franchise, they better.