Yes, you read that headline correctly. The latest Stars Wars show, ANDOR, is a major step-up from what Disney — or George Lucas before it — has ever managed with the franchise. I say this as a lifelong fan, and as someone who has enjoyed most of what Disney has put forth in that galaxy far, far away (with a few exceptions, which I’ll touch on).
This essay contains spoilers for ANDOR: Season One, and assumes the reader is familiar with the Stars Wars saga across its various mediums.
ANDOR shows us the daily lives of people struggling under the yoke of tyranny. There are no lightsabers, no Skywalkers, and no cuddly alien creatures that will fuel the Star Wars marketing machine. There are no cameos for the sake of nostalgia. I adore The Mandalorian, but it’s obviously checking those boxes. Not with ANDOR. Instead, we are given a cast of characters who dwell in the grey moral area of those using the tools of their oppressors against them. Though the action is smaller scale that previous entries, it’s more visceral because it’s not mere spectacle, but advances the plot. ANDOR’s tension is comparable to such dramas as Breaking Bad, and doesn’t welch on its narrative gambles. Even the music is different: Nicholas Britell’s moody, electronic-tinged score is a better fit for this material than John William’s orchestral bombast (and I regard Williams as the greatest film composers of the 20th century).
The show’s ethical complexity, emotional depth, and politically-driven impetus go beyond the franchise’s typically lighter trappings, and thus illustrate a far more compelling narrative. It’s not because a grimmer story is necessarily better; it’s because we are more invested in these characters. Their actions have weight. Their inner turmoil tugs at our hearts. And their triumphs, though few, fills us with a real sense of achievement. There are no flippant plots (Palpatine returning in Rise of Skywalker, anyone?), poorly developed protagonists (I still weep for what Book of Boba Fett could have been), or soulless comic relief that will not age well (I’m not only referring to Jar Jar here). This is Star Wars, finally taking itself seriously.
There’s a brothel at the very beginning of the show. In another scene, a couple prepares to engage in sex. The dialogue isn’t dumbed down with cliché declarations…