TV Review – Star Wars: Andor Season 1

Andor Season 1 (Disney+)
Written by Tony Gilroy, Dan Gilroy, Stephen Schiff, Beau Willimon
Directed by Toby Haynes, Susanna White, and Benjamin Caron

Humanity isn’t going to be saved by Star Wars. It was a global capitalist juggernaut consumed by an even larger one almost a decade ago. It’s a product that gets its label and trademark slapped on a host of garbage manufactured in squalor and then sold to grubby-handed man-children that are desperately clinging to the comfort of their youth because, and they are not wrong in this estimation, the world is broken. But the thing is, Star Wars can be used. It can be a tool. In the desire to overthrow oppressive power, we will have to use the materials made under the monolith to destroy it. That’s the beautiful irony, every day, the capitalist machine unknowingly builds the very thing that will kill it. We don’t know what it is or when that will happen, but it is inevitable. 

There are victims of the Empire scattered across the galaxy. They leave nothing but death & destruction in their wake, fashioning broken people out of ones who once stood proud & tall. The planet Kenari was a victim; a mining operation went bad and poisoned the environment. Floating in the Mid Rim, Kenari was a lush jungle world until the Empire came. Small tribes of orphans sprung up there, the children of those who died from the toxic conditions. No one thought much of Kenari, so no one knew about these children. 

One day, a Republic transport crashed there, and a young boy named Kassa went to investigate. Unfortunately, one of the dying crew killed his friend, which enraged the boy. He started wildly destroying the ship’s interior; the only thing he could do to express his rage at his friend’s murder. As fate would have it, Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) and her husband Clem, both scavengers, had shown up to gather scrap but found this angry boy. He was renamed Cassian and given Maarva’s surname, hiding his identity from the Empire. Maarva brought him to her homeworld of Ferrix, a planet of proud scavengers, metalworkers, mechanics, and people who labored with their hands and took great joy in communion with their neighbors. 

Over time, the Republic gave way to an Empire, and the grip on the galaxy tightened. Even a place as far away as Ferrix began to feel it. Cassian (Diego Luna) didn’t seem interested in fighting back; rather, he just wanted to survive. However, circumstances led him to kill two guards for the corporate security authority Perox-Morlana. Cassian was now a wanted man and returned to Ferrix, where friends kept him hidden but couldn’t ensure his safety forever. 

His ex-girlfriend Bix (Adria Arjona) is a member of a resistance movement struggling to find its feet. You see, there are instances of rebellion happening all over the galaxy, but each one is contained in its own separate sphere, unconnected from the other. Bix is part of an effort to unite them, and her primary contact is a mysterious man named Luthen (Stellan Skarsgaard). His meeting with Cassian will begin a series of events that allows the young man to understand the scope & scale of the Empire’s destruction. He won’t be able to live in a bubble anymore and will have to make a choice. He’ll either die wallowing in the mud as the Empire crushes him and everyone he loves, or he can fight and kill the bastards.

I had given up on the Star Wars shows, and was justified. I skipped over Obi-Wan because the Book of Boba Fett was utter Power Rangers-level crap. But, when I saw Tony & Dan Gilroy were attached, my interest was renewed. I love the films Michael Clayton and Nightcrawler. They do an excellent job articulating a specific point of view often lost in American cinema. Both directors don’t shy away from embracing the darkness at the core of their stories, and I was curious to see how that translated into the action-figure world of Star Wars. It translated fucking brilliantly and led to what is, in my opinion, the best piece of Star Wars media ever produced, including the Original Trilogy.

Andor works because you could strip the Star Wars out of it, and the show would still be as emotionally impactful. Having the Star Wars label ensures a more significant portion of the population will see this, which is a good thing. As stated before, this show will not save humanity, but it can be used as a tool to open eyes. Tony Gilroy is unflinching in his deconstruction and examination of the inner workings of fascism in a way I have never seen a piece of mainstream Western media behave. The Empire is made terrifying here, not the clunky Stormtrooper stooges that can’t aim to save their lives. This Empire is cold, wretched, hateful, and exacting. They lack any trace of humanity and seek only one thing, to control everything they can grab onto. Blind order and submission is the goal. But the important thing is that we see they are not invincible. They are, in fact, over-confident in their grasp, causing many people are slipping between their fingers.

While the show is titled Andor, and his journey is the spine of the narrative, it is not just a show about him. Luthen becomes a central character, as does Bix, Maarva, and the various Rebels we meet along the way. Not everyone makes it, a reminder that fascism grinds people up like dog food. They do not die in vain, though. Each person we see perish adds another piece to build the Rebellion. We grieve for the loss of our fallen, but we do not mourn them because they have lifted us up in their deaths. In turn, we are responsible for lifting one another. The message is that we never forget those left behind; they propel us ever forward. One person may find a way to communicate the movement’s ideas so coherently it shoots to the center of your mind like a brilliant bolt of light. Others may take their natural leadership abilities and break their chains and others with them. Some simply become old and pass on, never seeing the end of the story but trusting that we will provide that happy ending through the fight.

Though there is a cost, I love that Gilroy doesn’t sugarcoat it. To defeat something as terrible as the Empire, you must do things that break pieces of your humanity. Luthen delivers a searing speech when questioned by one of his moles in the Imperial Security Bureau about what the rebel has sacrificed. Watch for yourself; I can’t do Skarsgaard’s performance justice by just writing about it.

It is not pleasant to shake off your chains, but what are you supposed to do? Remain enslaved? Let them grind you down into the dirt? Maybe you think that’s fine for yourself; perhaps you believe you don’t deserve better. But do the rest of us? Do the beautiful fallen queer & trans angels in Colorado Springs deserve what happened to them? Are the empty chairs at Thanksgiving tables in Uvalde, Texas, this morning inevitable. Are the growing number of incarcerated people in America expected to be locked away & forgotten? Are the migrants whose homes have been left toxic waste dumps & endless war zones deserving of slaughter when they seek refuge on a foreign shore? Are the disabled supposed to be as easily disposed of as we treat them? I don’t think the answer to any of this is ‘yes.’

There is a speech in the season finale that made me finally understand why a tear comes to the eye of some people when they hear a rousing speech in a movie. Maarva, Cassian’s wonderful mother, delivers this. Spoilers if you care about those things, but I would still encourage you to watch it.

I have been asleep, and so have you. As we sleep and turn away, this rot at the center of our culture has festered and grown. Watch the fascist bastards in their media right now. They are reveling in the slaughter they fomented. One particular bearded piece of excrement delivered a monologue on his insipid show, basically threatening drag performers & trans people that if they keep existing, they can’t be surprised when violence follows. You have to realize that the United States of America is an evil thing, there are good people there, but the cultural roots, the institutions & systems, the white supremacy, it is all intent on one single goal: The annihilation of anyone who does not conform. They have military bases across the planet for this singular purpose, to ensure control. 

The aesthetics of the Empire may be based superficially on Nazi leather fetishism, but the ideology is right in tandem with American Supremacy. George Lucas is on record multiple times stating that the first Star Wars movie was meant to be an allegory about the Viet Cong defeating the United States. It’s a sort of how human will, united as a collective, is more potent than these cruel monsters. Adolf Hitler acknowledged his rhetoric and methods were lifted from intense study of the American extermination of the Native people and chattel slavery. The stories you have been told about the U.S. are lies. The history we have been taught is false. There was no nobility in the founding of this country. It was just another pustule of Western cruelty on this planet. 

America has been in a state of civil war for a long time. The media would never acknowledge this because at the heart of their operations is the intent to make us mindless consumers. Telling us there is a constant state of stochastic terrorism would slow our purchasing. Lying to us that everything is okay as we get shot to pieces and blown to bits shopping, going to school, and having fun with our friends. This is why there was such fervor about getting things “back to normal” as Covid killed and continues to kill & disable millions. It can feel safe to sleep, but it leads to your life meaning nothing and evil growing stronger.

Not everyone will need to pick up a weapon, but some certainly will. Some will need to kill the enemy if that comes down to it. If that enemy will not relent in doing harm. Many will survive, but many others will die. You will not be able to hold onto your way of life in the way you have it now, but that is something to sacrifice for something far greater. There is a need for teachers, preachers, and fighters. Nurses, cooks, leaders, and caregivers are all essential. I’m not an organizer; I’ve never been great at leading groups. My autism makes me desire to go inward. I think I can write worth a damn; I know many others who do it better. I was a good teacher once upon a time, and that is still within me. 

No matter my inadequacy in the shadow of such looming evil, I have to believe we can all do something. We have to move past the propaganda of “violence doesn’t solve anything,” which is more often than not shouted by people who are protected by privilege and who simultaneously adore the military and police. If violence solved nothing, why aren’t those people constantly talking to young people about refraining from joining those groups? Because violence is an effective tool, you must learn how to use it for the most impact and always focus on those in power. Obliterate institutions and lift up people.

Andor isn’t going to save the world. But my god, what a fantastic thing to be able to point people to light that spark, delivering coherent talking points and hopefully steering them towards a rich education in the goals of Leftism on this planet. That’s where it becomes the responsibility of those who have been awake for a long whole or just a bit. Star Wars finally offered something grown up and fantastic with this one.

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