If you were to suck out my brain, render it into a slurry, analyze its contents, and then use that information to put together a TV show most likely to hit every single one of my pleasure centers, it would look a lot like Andor. I love Star Wars, depictions of soulless bureaucracy, and stories about people sacrificing everything they are and love for a cause that may or may not be fruitless. And yet, like the precision of stormtroopers, the actual reality falls short of the promise.
I enjoyed Andor but I did not love it. It was an engaging intellectual experience showing how the Empire functions behind the scenes and giving us an expanded look at the fractious, questionable nature of the Rebellion but it was missing something of the joy and wonder which is at the heart of Star Wars. That’s not necessarily a bad thing! We have lots of stories of plucky rebels and conflicted Jedi having all sorts of fun adventures and there’s space for a more serious look at how this Galaxy far far away functions.
Despite its tight storytelling and fantastic production values, something is fundamentally missing and it can be summed up by Michael in the Good Place:
Andor has family and it has community and it has comrades in arms but there are few to no depictions of friendship. We don’t see vulnerability and affection and comfort, just mutual ground down exhaustion, ideological solidarity, or respectful paranoia. That absence colours the whole show and gives it a very unique tone but it’s not one that often draws me to Star Wars.
A through line in most of the movies and shows is that the galaxy-spanning conflict and stakes are all grounded in the immediate connections of our characters. Luke wants to rescue Han and redeem Vader, Mando wants to find a safe home for Grogu, Hera wants to keep her crew together while finding “quality time” with Kanan. The consistent message of Andor is that the personal is subservient to The Cause and while that message does get pushed back against and tested at times, it’s still more present than The Reason Is Friends.
I think a fair comparison is Deep Space Nine. DS9 took the utopian qualities of Star Trek and questioned and problematized them. We saw black markets operating in the shadows, the Federation’s spy network undermining their nobility and ideals, our heroes lying and murdering to do what Must Be Done. Even then though, DS9 was always grounded in the messy relationships of the ensemble which gave us emotional safety net amidst the cynicism. That net is absent in Andor.
I am curious about where Andor goes and what sort of stories it will tell but even as its most target of audiences, I can happily wait.