Fri. Dec 9th, 2022

So, despite my all-encompassing rage over the atrocity that was Obi-Wan, I tuned into Andor using … means that do not involve me giving money to the House of Mouse as they’ve made it pretty clear that I’m not the kind of fan they want. To my very great surprise, it’s actually pretty okay with flashes of absolute brilliance at least up to episode 7 which has aired as I type this up. In fact, it’s probably the best thing Disney SW has done since Mandalorian and I’ve even say that it’s better written than that show. But it has a problem.

And that problem is pacing. Put simply: Andor is too slow.

The first two episodes of the series are an exercise in poor pacing, with unnecessary scenes of people just walking in the streets of Generic Backwater Location #3. Done right, a scene like that can work if the stuff happening around the walking character(s) tells a visual story, but that’s not here. Interspersed within the current scenes in eps 1 through 3 (I think) are flashbacks to Andor’s childhood … which, frankly, added nothing to the story and should have be jettisoned entirely. They only slow the narrative down and are present to give Andor the goal of finding his sister which (as of ep7) has barely been addressed.

At the same time, there’s some positively brilliant world-building happening that I heartily approve of. For example, on Ferrix, the backwater planet that most of the first three episodes take place on, there’s a dude who beats a big slab of metal with two hammers in a very stylized way that strongly hints toward a religious or ceremonial reason and is very evocative of the Muslim call to prayer due to its location, but it isn’t explained further … and I kind of liked that. There’s a big wall of gloves for the miners/workers and it too isn’t explained. Do they not fear thieves? Etc.

At any rate, the inciting incident of the series involves Andor being shaken down by corporate security on a different world – he’s looking for his sister, remember? – and then accidentally killing one of them in the ensuing scuffle, before intentionally murdering the other one and fleeing. This sets a Lawful Good, Dudley Do-Right dude – Wookiepedia names him Syril Karn, but I’m calling him Dudley – on a quest to track him down even though the law enforcement officer’s boss identifies the dead as pieces of crap who (correct) were in a brothel that was against regs and were likely shaking someone down when they got ganked. In fact, Dudley is actively going against his boss’s explicit instructions to wrap it up and make up something about the dead guys. That said, I really like the idea of corporate security stepping up for the Empire at this stage, so that part at least is cool.

So back on Ferrix, we have several scenes that establish Andor owes money to a lot of people and somehow has a McGuffin Device that he wants to sell. IMO, they should have actually started with him obtaining the McGuffin instead of just pulling it out after the fact. Anyway, he wants to sell through Bix aka the always beautiful Adria Arjona inexplicably playing a mechanic; she wants to buy it but he wants more than she has so she has to call in someone … and there’s a frustratingly tedious scene of her walking from her shop while being pursued by her suspicious & jealous boyfriend (who evidently thinks she and Andor are together … or back together? Not clear), but randomly loses her so she can reach her destination and climb a ladder to push some buttons. None of this scene is necessary and could have been gutted. If they did want to have it, they should have instead had her utilizing actual tradecraft to identify or lose any pursuers rather than rely on chance. Later, she meets with Andor at a bar to tell him when the contact is arriving, and of course, the jealous boyfriend sees just enough of their interactions to make some presumptions, then report Andor to corporate security in a drunken snit. Again, I’d have preferred that to be done differently. Rather than have the boyfriend report him, have one of the people Andor evidently owes money to do it! There’s a completely unnecessary scene of Andor getting briefly accosted by a guy in the street who he owes money to who brought backup, but the way Cassian talks his way out of it is stupid; again, ditch or rewrite.

The before-mentioned flashbacks establish that Andor’s mom isn’t actually his mother, but rather a lady who effectively kidnapped him, albeit in an action that probably (possibly?) saved his life. Again, there is no value added here and that subplot could be cut entirely. Ultimately, episodes 1 and 2 should probably have been trimmed down to a single episode with the pacing tightened up.

When I went into episode 3, I was of the mindset that if something didn’t happen soon, I was going to tune out and drop it. I mean, I already know what happens to Andor – he dies on Scarif at the end of Rogue One when Tarkin fires the Death Star superlaser – so was any of this actually important? Thankfully, episode 3 mostly kicked the show back into high gear with the corporate security team led by Dudley arriving on Ferrix at roughly the same time as Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) who is pretty awesome in this role (although there are a pair of frankly unnecessary expo dumps to Luthen by a random … local (I think) which were really out of place and could have been ditched … unless that guy comes back as a secret ISB agent or something … which I doubt.) The locals don’t take kindly to the corpos and through a dumb writing contrivance involving Andor and his mom’s old droid, they triangulate where he (Andor) is at (meeting with Luthen to sell the McGuffin). Hijinks ensue. There are multiple casualties, including the jealous boyfriend and a lot of corpos. Corporate Security guy Dudley is shell-shocked by the aftermath while Andor & Luthen escape into episode 4.

Episodes 4 and 5 once again slowed way down, but were still excellent in terms of world-building. Luthen basically convinces Andor to help a team steal from an Imperial garrison by offering to pay him 200,000 credits, and over the next two episodes, Andor gets to know the team he’s working with on the planet Aldhani. They’re suspicious of him – rightfully so – but he points out some holes in the plan and they eventually accept him. A lot of this was necessary, but again, it was more slow burn than I would like and I think they probably could have sped it up a bit. Naturally, since it’s Disney, they have sneak in a bit of what the Critical Drinker calls “The Message” – in this case, it’s having the two women in the team be a romantic couple, but contrary to their usual tendency in Disney+ crap where they throw the equivalent of large flashing lights to point that out, their scenes are not overbearing. The group are mostly stereotypes, but it works here.

Meanwhile, Luthen returns to Coruscant – he’s got what amounts to a secret identity as a antiques dealer and their is this excellent non-verbal scene of him in his ship on approach, getting into character, complete with him faking smiles at a mirror to ensure he looks like a fop; it’s totally something that I could envision Bruce Wayne doing – where he ends up coordinating with Mon Mothma who is sort of backing him and some anti-Imperial activities. Can’t call them Rebels yet ’cause the Alliance doesn’t exist. She’s having trouble moving money due to the Imperials watching her, but she’s also not as … aggressive as Luthen. Still, there’s some nice scenes in here.

The corporate security are fired with the Empire assuming direct overwatch of their jobs, so Dudley … okay, I suppose I can start calling him Syril then. He goes home to an overbearing stereotype of an old Jewish mom. I wasn’t sure how to feel about any of those scenes and actually would have been perfectly fine if Dudley was written out entirely at that point.

And finally, there’s some scenes with the Imperial Security Bureau and this blonde lieutenant named Deedra – this is interesting because of how the Imps are essentially backstabbing one another in order to advance their individual careers. LT Deedra is trying to find out how the McGuffin – which Andor & Luthen couldn’t retrieve during their firefight/escape – got to Ferrix. I was predisposed to dislike this character because of some stupid shit the actress said in interviews, but her boss is pretty cool so far … even if he’s given her a bit more leeway in the show than I think he should have.

This leads to episode 6 which is, hands-down, the best episode of the series and arguably the best SW that D+ has done. It’s the heist and, naturally, things don’t go smooth. Nearly all of the team die but the whole thing is well done. I appreciate that the heist plan takes advantage of a large celestial event – evidently, the planet moves through a crystal belt every three years that causes an immense (be harmless to those on the ground) meteor storm – instead of that being a convenient get out of jail card pass. Too often, modern television uses contrived convenience, but here, the event is incorporated into their plan to limit the number of Imperials present to oppose the op as well as to cover their escape. So I give this particular episode a solid 9 or 9.5 out of 10. Very awesome.

Sadly, ep 6 gets back to weird pacing. It’s fine that it’s an aftermath episode where we see the repercussions of the Aldhani heist, but there were a number of weird jumps and cuts that irritated me. And we’re back to having some flashbacks that, again, I think could have been dropped.

ISB LT Deedra is accused (accurately as it turns out) of overstepping her boundaries by a rival officer, but she defends herself fairly well so I didn’t have a big issue with her boss essentially semi-promoting her and I hope his discreet warning to her – ‘Watch your back’ – is an indication that she’s going to meet with a messy end just ’cause … well … she’s part of the Empire! Dudley … er … Syril is back, but he’s got a shit bureaucratic job in a cubicle … though I expect Deedra is eventually going to recruit him down the road.

On the Rebel side, Mon argues with Luthen, then later essentially starts recruiting an old friend of hers (now a banker) for future rebel ops. There’s another overly long “person walking to a location scene” with Luthen’s assistant where she speaks to Vel, the leader of the heist, on Coruscant and basically tells her to whack Andor as he’s a loose end – once again, we could have drastically cut down on this scene as there wasn’t enough going on around the assistant lady to justify all of the walking … which also looked too much like the real world.

Finally, with Andor, he goes back to Ferrix, learns that its on lockdown due to his actions and that most everyone seems to blame him for him. His mom refuses to bug out with him – she’s been inspired by the “rebels” on Aldhani, though Andor doesn’t admit he was involved – and he ends up going off to some beach resort planet where he’s shacking up with some new lady. This was one of those pacing cuts that bothered me. The show earlier had his mom griping about him and his “ladies” and that could have been a setup for this, but the cut was just too abrupt. While going out for groceries – no lie – he ends up getting arrested for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, and due to new laws passed following the Aldhani incident, his six months sentence is extended to six years. So next week involves him breaking out of prison, I suppose.

So yeah … overall, I love the world-building. I just don’t love the pace. I see what they’re going for and its certainly better than the shite that was Boba Fett or Obi-Wan, but I’m concerned it’s too little, too late. And the naming of the show is odd as well. This isn’t a show about Cassian Andor. It’s an ensemble show that he’s a part of. Honestly, it should been named Rebellion or something like that.

Still, maybe it’s indicative of that evil crone, Kennedy, having lost the internal civil war at Lucasfilm? None of her usual fingerprints are present. Here’s to hoping, anyway…