While this crew from the MCU doesn’t acknowledge the reason for the season, this sometimes crass special still has a lot of heart.
The Galactic Empire’s doing just dandy, thanks.
The Emperor is firmly in control. Darth Vader’s super comfy in his shiny black suit. The galactic bureaucracy is churning out rules in triplicate, squashing freedom and slowly instilling sleek, merciless order in every galactic quadrant. The Jedi are dead. Well, most of ‘em. And if a couple are unaccounted for—well, how much trouble could they be?
Still, the galaxy’s a big place. A few neglected systems need to be brought to heel. They need to be shown who’s boss these days. Some wayward souls are whining about freedom and justice, silly things. And it would seem that Cassian Andor, a guy running away from a murder charge, has fallen in with them.
He’s no rebel, but the Empire would like to ask him a few questions all the same. You never know what he might say.
If we could cast our eyes, say, five years into Cassian’s Star Wars future, we would know that he does become a rebel—and a major player in Star Wars: Rogue One. Andor tells us how he becomes one (over several seasons, we’re told), as well as how the rebellion really fanned itself into existence.
History tells us that most rebellions need a spark—something to set alight the fuel of oppression and resentment. The Boston Massacre (where overly enthusiastic British Soldiers fired into a group of protesters, killing five) did the trick in 1770 for the American Revolution.
And in a galaxy filled with burning balls of gas, there are plenty of sparks to be found. Already, pockets of resistance are growing—fragmented, yes, but perhaps beginning to be more than just a fly in the Empire’s soup. A mysterious man named Luthen asked Cassian to sign up, inviting him to “put a real stick in the eye of the Empire—and get paid for it.”
It sounds appealing, to be sure. To join something bigger than himself? Something worthwhile? It’d be quite the change for him. And given the arrogance and petty bureaucratic squabbles the Empire is prone to, seems that now is the right moment to move.
But this fledgling resistance has its own flaws. Will Cassian overcome them? Or contribute to them? And might he be brought down by his enemies? Or his friends?
Along the way, Andor will introduce us to a few characters familiar to Star Wars diehards (Mon Mothma, a politician sympathetic to the rebellion; Saw Gerrera, a Clone War vet, to name a couple), along with a bevy of new faces. Lt. Dedra Meera, for instance, wants to bring Andor in in the worst way—earning, she hopes, a healthy promotion. Bureaucrat Syril would love to bring Cass’ head on a platter for Meera, believing that they’re cut from the same cloth. And Luthen? Well, just what is Luthen up to, anyway?
What we won’t see here? Jedi.
“If you think about it, most of the beings in the galaxy are not aware of Jedi, and have never even seen a lightsaber,” Showrunner Tony Gilroy told Rolling Stone.
Adds series star Diego Luna, “We are stressing that change and revolution happen when regular people decide to do something. It’s just regular people trying to survive in the darkest time in this galaxy, and finding out they can’t take it anymore. It’s about a system that is choking society.”
But this grittier, grim Star Wars series may have some families choking on its content.
Andor has been called the first Star Wars entry for adults. And indeed, the show’s early feel seems to share as much with Blade Runner as it does with the colorful world that George Lucas introduced us to long, long ago.
And for adult viewers, that’s not all bad—and perhaps a relief for those who weren’t that charmed by The Book of Boba Fett’s sometimes toylike qualities. The worlds in Andor feel harsh and bleak and desperate. And the show digs deeper into more complex characters: Pencil-pushing bureaucrats wanting to move up the ladder; jealous lovers who lash out; heroes and villains with mixed motives and all-too-human reactions. Andor takes its time, with few sprawling space battles or saber duels to relieve the tension.
But clearly, all that comes with plenty of caveats.
The very first scene in Andor takes place in a brothel, where Cass looks for his sister. Two straight-up murders (well, murder and manslaughter) take place. B2EMO, Cass’s requisite adorable droid, is treated like a fire hydrant by a wandering mongrel. And that’s in the first 10 minutes of the series.
Star Wars has been dipping its toes into this sort of territory for a bit now. The Mandalorian has had its own grim forays into hard-to-justify violence.
But Star Wars has always been refreshingly demure when it came to sexual content, and that’s not the case with Andor. While nothing critical is ever seen, sex is a part of this galaxy—and far more common than marriage, it seems. Language can be harsh.
Some are calling Andor the best Star Wars show ever. It’s undeniably a strong entrant. And when one measures this against your average prestige drama, the content we find here is still relatively tame.
But for families who come to the Star Wars galaxy for problem-free thrills, you might not want to check your ticket to Andor.
It’s time for Maarva’s funeral. Cass’s mother, being a Daughter of Ferrix, warrants a big sendoff, and everyone in town turns out—and a few other visitors, too. Lt. Meero is there, hoping to catch Cassian Andor. Syril—the guy whose pursuit of Cass was the first domino in this story—is on hand, too. Vel, Cinta and even Luthen himself represent the fledgling rebellion, hoping to catch and kill Cass before the Empire can get to him.
Oh, and Cassian himself is there as well, with plans of his own.
A full-scale riot breaks out. People are shot by blasters (including small cannon-like weapons), blowing their bodies back. Others are clubbed or shocked into submission. A bomb is thrown, setting off a bevy of grenades. People are pushed and punched and head-butted and hit with bricks and stones. One man is stabbed in the gut. Another is knocked off a tower, falling apparently to his doom. Someone is nearly dragged away by an angry mob.
Vel and Cinta have a tender moment. When Vel asks Cinta to turn away from the window (where she spies on the activities outside), the two women lock eyes, but the scene goes no farther than that. Later, Vel worries about the blood on Cinta’s arm. “It’s not mine,” Cinta says. We hear about an unsuccessful rebel operation—hamstrung from the inside. (We know from the previous episode that 31 people lost their lives, but here we only hear that the Empire is still “counting the bodies.”
Meanwhile, Mon Mothma introduces her 13-year-old daughter to a 14-year-old suitor (as is her planet’s ancient custom, though the senator hates it). She also accuses her husband of gambling as her chauffer eavesdrops on their conversation.
We hear the word “b–tard.” Someone drinks from a flask. No god is acknowledged at Maarva’s funeral, but the attendees chant, “Stone and sky.”
Cass has escaped from prison and is ready to take his next move. But a family tragedy may change things. Maarva Andor, Cassian’s mother, has died. Now the Empire’s eyes turn to her home planet of Ferrix to see if Cass returns. Meanwhile, Luthen continues to move his own chess pieces, wondering whether sacrificing an important one is worth it.
A brief aerial battle between an Imperial ship and an unassuming craft leads to the loss of several TIE fighters (and the pilots therein) and damage to one of the craft. We see a corpse being ceremonially removed from a Ferrix home. (We learn that the dead of Ferrix are cremated and made into bricks.) Two people are nabbed by nets and their lives are threatened, but they survive the encounter. Escaped prisoners sport bloody knuckles and feet.
Mon Mothma talks to her cousin, Vel, about apparently the only way she can hide some past donations to the Rebellion. The key piece? Betrothing her young teen daughter to the son of a galactic “thug.” Mon sips what may be an alcoholic drink. Someone’s threatened with a blaster. Lies are told.
Cass and his prison-room supervisor, Kino, know that unless they do something radical, their prison will become their—and every other prisoner’s—tomb. It’s time to rise up and fight back. Meanwhile, Mon Mothma explores an unsavory way to hide her funding of the Rebellion, and Luthen meets with a well-placed spy.
The prison riot involves plenty of casualties, both prisoners and guards. Most of the fatalities are shot and fall bloodlessly (but lifelessly) to the ground. A few are shocked to death by the prison’s charged floors. Some, off-camera, may drown. Men are pelted with tools and bits of machinery.
Mon Mothma’s meets with Davo Sculdun, whom Mon herself calls a “thug.” While he offers more liquidity for Mon’s (ahem) charitable work than Imperial accounts, he asks a hefty favor in return: The possible betrothal of Mon’s 13-year-old daughter to Davo’s 14-year-old son. (It’s traditional in Mon’s Chandrilan culture for marriages to be cemented in the early-to-mid teens.)
Luthen recounts the many sacrifices he’s had to make in order to drive the Rebellion forward—including ethical ones. “I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them,” he says. “I burn my decency for someone else’s future.” We hear how he’s sacrificed people in the past, and he’s prepared to sacrifice dozens more in the near future to keep his secrets, and spies, safe.
We hear one use of the word “d–n.”
Cass continues to serve out his sentence on Narkina 5 as he considers how best to escape. But when a rumor circulates that dozens of prisoners were killed on another level, the prison seems ripe for not just a quiet jailbreak, but a full-on rebellion. Meanwhile, Bix, Cass’s confederate on Ferrix, has fallen into the Empire’s clutches and is questioned by Lt. Meero, the IBS’s chilly and ruthless wunderkind. And Senator Mon Mothma continues to work quietly behind the scenes to fund the nascent Rebel Alliance in ways that might be attracting too much attention.
Meero brings in the deceptively mild-seeming Dr. Gorst to implement a new interrogation technique: the recorded screams of an alien race being exterminated. “We found a section of what we believe are primarily children, which has its own particular effect,” Gorst tells Bix. When Bix is subjected to the audio, the contortions of her face (and her own subsequent screams) indicate that the sounds are indeed excruciating. We also hear that while Meero wants to keep Bix alive, Ferrix’s Imperial supervisor plans to hang one of her similarly captured and interrogated friends.
One of Cass’s fellow prisoners grows quite sick—to the point where he’s unable to stand. A medic finds that the old man has suffered a massive stroke and euthanizes him. (We see the man gasp and struggle for a moment before he’s gone.) We hear that 100 men were “fried” on another level—an attempt by the prison to keep a secret secret. (We learn that prisoners are rarely, if ever, freed.) A man is shocked by a zap stick.
Syril, the disgraced security officer whose zealous pursuit of Cass started this whole ball rolling, is now apparently stalking Lt. Meero as a kindred spirit. When he purposefully runs into her as she heads into work, Cyril tells her that “just being in [her] presence” reassures him that there is “justice and beauty in the galaxy.” (Meero tells Cyril that if he pulls a stunt like that again, she’ll “have you in a cage on the outer rim.”)
Mon Mothma visits with her reported cousin, Vel (who also led the raid on Aldhani several episodes ago). When Mon expresses concern and affection for Vel, the latter pushes her away—repeating, essentially, what her own same-sex lover told her. “The struggle comes first. We take what’s left.”
Irony, thy name is Andor.
Under an assumed name, Cass has been arrested and convicted on baseless charges of expressing anti-Imperial sentiments—charges that are being leveled more and more in the wake of the rebel operation on the planet Aldhani. The Empire doesn’t know that Cass (while innocent of the actual crimes he’s been accused of) was an integral part of that operation—and is thus far more anti-Imperial than they could imagine. As it is, they instead shuttle him to the labor outpost on Narkina 5, where he and his fellow prisoners must build equipment and avoid the prison’s unorthodox punishments.
Meanwhile, the disgraced Syril Karn continues to hunt for Cass, the man he blames for his misfortune—drawing the interest of Lt. Dedra Meero of the Imperial Security Bureau. And Cass’ mother grows ill, forcing friend Bix to send an emergency—and perhaps disastrous—message to the rebellion.
The labor prison on Narkina prides itself on its relatively restrained environs. But any prisoner who breaks the rules or falls behind on his labor quota will face an electric shock—often delivered through the metal floor.
We see Cass and several others thrust into a place of utter misery by that floor. (We’re told it’s the mildest of three settings.) At night, the floor literally amps up its game: Stepping onto the hallway kills, and one prisoner seems to deliberately commit suicide in this way. (Fellow prisoners grouse that they’ll have to smell his remains and that his worktable will be short an all-important laborer.) A prisoner/prison foreman pushes a fellow prisoner into a wall. Guards and stormtroopers push folks around. Meero apparently tortures a man in custody: We don’t see the torture, but rather the exhausted, listless man afterward.
Vel and Cinta briefly reunite, holding hands. But Cinta rejects the suggestion that they’ve given enough to the rebellion and should therefore seek out a little “us” time. “I told you up front,” Cinta tells Vel. “The struggle will always come first. We take what’s left.” We see several men shirtless in an apparent mist shower (and the camera almost reveals the top of one man’s rear).
On the Imperial capital planet of Coruscant, Senator Mon Mothma hosts another party, this one featuring alcoholic beverages that get their buzz from worms. (When Mothma declines her worm, her husband asks for it—making his drink a “double,” I suppose.) Most everyone drinks these beverages, but no one seems to be particularly tipsy. We learn that Mon Mothma was married at age 15, as was her planet’s custom.
It worked. Now what?
Cass and his rebel friends successfully stole tens of millions of Imperial credits. A few even escaped to safety. But with every success comes new problems, and both Cass and the fledgling Rebellion have plenty.
The Empire is committed to making the whole galaxy pay for this embarrassing theft—cracking down hard on any hint of disobedience. Cass, meanwhile, now has plenty of money but few friends. And despite his bold service, even at least some in the Rebellion want him dead. Cass knows, after all, what the Rebellion’s puppet master looks like.
At a vacation resort on the planet Niamos, Cass (under the alias Keef) shares a room with an unnamed woman. She’s shown in bed, apparently naked (we see her bare back) as a shirtless Cass runs water in the bathroom. She tells Cass that he needs to pick up some items that sound suspiciously like intoxicating (but apparently legal) beverages or drugs. She asks for Cass to bring back “the greenie revnog,” for instance, reminding Cass that he liked it.
In flashback, citizens throw rocks at stormtroopers, hitting a couple of them. The payback is apparently harsh. Some people are hung, including Cass’s adoptive father (even though he was trying to get the citizens to stop their attacks on the troopers, not joining in).
In Cass’s present, stormtroopers chase other people. Huge Imperial droids throw a couple of people around. They also drag two unconscious men before letting them drop to the ground. When a trooper tells a droid to “hang around” what the trooper deems to be a suspect, the droid takes the “hang” part of the phrase literally: It grabs the civilian by the throat, holds him against the wall and chokes him until the camera cuts away.
Cass pays off his longstanding debts. People lie and act duplicitously, albeit for what they’d consider good causes.
After a couple of episodes of planning, Cass and the band of rebel misfits he’s fallen in with are ready to pull of the biggest job in the history of the galactic rebellion: Stealing the Empire’s payroll for an entire quadrant. But despite their meticulous preparations, not everything goes as planned.
The plan centers on the Eye, essentially a spectacular natural light display that takes place every three years on the planet of Aldhani. The Dhani people believe the Eye is a holy occurrence, and a handful of them gather in a sacred valley to commemorate the event. “May the Eye stay open long enough to find some good within you,” the Dhani leader tells an Imperial officer. Other blessings are offered in the name of the Eye.
The Dhanis aren’t the only ones who express a sense of faith. Karis, one of the rebels, admits to unease as the operation draws near. “I’m struggling to understand why my faith doesn’t calm me,” he admits to Cass. “I believe in something. Why am I so unsettled? I mean, you have nothing. You sleep like a stone.”
Rebel leader Vel makes her feelings for fellow female Cinta more clearly, touching her hand tenderly in farewell and exacting a promise that she’ll be all right.
Several people are killed—most shot during a blaster fight. One man seems to die from natural causes. Another is partly crushed: He dies of his injuries despite a doctor’s best efforts to save him. A turncoat is shot and killed. Three spacecraft are destroyed. Someone’s injected in the chest with a “med spike.” We hear about how stormtroopers slaughtered someone’s family. Rebels threaten the lives of several folks, including a mother and her son.
Soldiers gamble. Drinks are offered to an Imperial official. Imperials make several demeaning remarks about the Dhani, ranging from how they think to how they smell. Characters say both “b–tard” and “d–n” once.
Cass—temporarily calling himself Clem—is getting to know the rebellious team he’s now a part of on Aldhani. But trust on either side is hard to come by. Meanwhile, Syril, the corporate policeman who failed to catch Cass and lost his job because of it, is moping while his critical mother tries to get him a new gig; Mon Mothma, the rebellion-sympathizing senator, deals with personal and professional issues; and Luthen worries that if Cass and his fellow rebels fail in their work, the fledgling rebellion could crumble and crush him and many others in its wreckage.
A rebel, Arvel, believes that Cass may have his eye on Cinto, a young female rebel in the camp. “She’s already sharing a blanket, if that’s what you’re wondering,” Arvel says. The show seems to suggest that she may be sharing the blanket of Vel, the group’s female leader. (Nothing is seen or said to make this explicit, however.) We’re also told that a turncoat Imperial lieutenant changed sides in part because he fell in love with an Aldhani woman. A man goes shirtless, and Cass recognizes many of the man’s tattoos.
When an Imperial is offered a supervisory position on the planet Ferrix, he asks if he can now call himself “prefect.” His superior tells him, “You can wear a ball gown if you like.”
Someone holds a knife to Cass’s throat. An Imperial officer makes a derogatory comment about how Aldhari natives smell. A flask is passed around the small rebel camp (presumably filled with some sort of intoxicating beverage). We hear about people whom the has Empire killed. There’s one use of “a–.”
Cassian and Luthen successfully escape Ferrix, and Luthen encourages the fugitive to join the fledgling rebellion against the Empire. He’s already got a mission lined up for Cassian, if he’s interested: joining a team on the planet Aldhani to steal the quarterly payroll for a full Imperial sector. The catch: The rest of the team doesn’t know he’s coming, and the operation itself will take place in just a few days. Meanwhile on the Imperial capital planet of Coruscant, the Imperial’s version of the CIA dissects the disaster on Ferrix; one ambitious officer wonders if it might be a bigger problem than it appears.
Someone says of Cass (who calls himself Clem on Aldhani), “He can pilot, he can shoot, he can lie.” Speaking of which, we see several characters deceive others, all in the service of various missions. Someone bemoans how many people will starve to death because of an Imperial action. Bureaucratic infighting is thick. But we don’t see any real fighting—just a blaster wound on Cassian’s arm (suffered in the previous episode).
We hear “b–tard” and “a–” once each, and there’s talk of both temples and sacred rivers. Cass drinks some “med nog” to deal with his injury.
Cass meets with Luthen Rael, hoping to sell a piece of valuable tech to so he can leave Ferrix and lay low. But Syril and his security team is on Cass’s trail as well. They aim to bring the killer in—either warm or cold.
In a flashback, we see Cass as a young boy, kidnapped/rescued from the planet by a woman named Marva. (Marva, gathering scrap from a crash site, tranquilizes the struggling teen—taking him to her ship against his will. But she does so for his own good: Marva knows that the planet’s few inhabitants will likely be massacred by the Republic soldiers about to land.)
Episode 3 marks Andor’s first real firefight, and several people die. We see them shot by blasters, thrown into walls by heaving chains or caught in fiery explosions. Cass smashes machinery as a boy and struggles against his rescuers. A woman bleeds from an injury to her head and is roughed up by guards. Dead bodies lie scattered about a ship, their skin tinted yellowish-green. (Whether the coloring is natural or the result of the ship’s crash, we can’t say for sure.) Another ship smashes into a massive tower of mining machinery, presumably killing its pilot. People are threatened. Luthen talks about being executed by hanging—reminding Cass (much to his surprise) that Cass’s own father died like that.
Cass tells Luthen how he came to be in possession of that valuable tech: the Empire’s own arrogance. They’d never imagine that “someone like me would ever get inside their house, walk their floors, spit in their food, take their gear.” A man drinks at a bar. We hear the s-word once and some other profanities as well (“b–tard,” “h—” and a misuse of God’s name).
While Cass tries to finagle his way off Ferrix to lay low for a while—hoping to sell a bit of much-sought equipment to do so—Syril discovers that he’s the murderer he’s been looking for. And he organizes a crew to hunt him down and bring him in.
In flashback, we see Cass as a boy scavenge with other children on, it would seem, the largely deserted planet of Kenari. The kids’ leader prods a couple of seemingly dead bodies. One revives, though, and shoots her before he in turn is peppered with darts fired by the children.
Bix, a female friend of Cass’s, spends the night with her boyfriend, Timm. (She kisses him, and she begins to take off her clothes as she prepares to climb into bed, though nothing critical is shown.) She lies to him repeatedly, though—trying to protect Cass’s movements. Someone utters the word “b–tard.”
While searching for his sister on the planet Morlana One, Cassian Andor runs afoul of a couple of rank-and-file security guards. They try to shake him down, but he shakes them up—accidentally killing one in the process (with a blow to the man’s throat). He shoots the other to cover up the crime. On his home planet of Ferrix, quickly tries to weave a web of concocted alibis. But back on Morlana One, Syril Karn means to avenge the murders—and perhaps earn a promotion in the process.
Syril’s superior isn’t as keen on pursuing the culprit (still unknown to them at this juncture) as zealously. “They were killed in a fight,” he tells Syril, correctly. “They were in a brothel, which we’re not supposed to have, the expensive one, which they shouldn’t be able to afford, drinking Revnog, which we’re not supposed to allow. Both of them supposedly on the job, which is a dismissible offense.” He orders Syril to simply make up a story for how they died. “Something sad but inspiring in a mundane sort of way.”
Cassian and the guards do indeed cross paths in a brothel, where Cassian is hunting for his sister. We see him pass apparently other houses of ill-repute, with various aliens showing their physical wares in bubble windows (much like the prostitution windows popular in Amsterdam). Inside, a holographic dancer (clothed) writhes nearby. Cassian talks with a prostitute—asking after she’s seen his sis. “Nobody here gives their real names,” the woman says.
She bares quite a bit of cleavage, by the way. We hear insinuations that Cass is a ladies’ man, and he’s been known to cavort with married women. The security guards are drinking at the bar when Cass enters. When Cass asks a friend to lie for him, he asks him to say that he had “half a bottle of nog stashed at home, so we went there and we drank ourselves to sleep.”
Cass asks others to lie for him, too. An animal urinates on a droid. A spaceship crashes over a planet.
Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.
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