Andor Episode 1 marks the dawn of a special Star Wars show: brutal, grown-up, and it refuses to pander to fans, harking back to the gritty tone of Rogue One while building something new.
Cassian Andor, played by Diego Luna, was first introduced in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Serving as a spy and captain for the Rebel Alliance, he was instrumental in one of the bravest, most important operations ever undertaken: stealing the plans to the Death Star.
Andor, a prequel to the spin-off, charts the early days of the character’s career and how he rose to become remembered as a hero of the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
As per the official synopsis, the show “explores a new perspective from the Star Wars galaxy, focusing on Cassian Andor’s journey to discover the difference he can make. The series brings forward the tale of the burgeoning rebellion against the Empire and how people and planets became involved.”
Spoilers for Andor Episode 1 to follow. You can read our spoiler-free review of Episodes 1-4 here.
Andor Episode 1: Why leave a living witness?
After an opening title card almost certainly indebted to 2001: A Space Odyssey, with a synth-and-brass score from Succession’s Nicholas Britell, we land on Morlana One in BBY 5 (before the Battle of Yavin).
There’s a seedy Blade Runner vibe in these first scenes; the rain pours down over pale blue neon, with every door feeling like an entryway to some sort of underbelly, while Cassian remains guarded and hooded. When he walks into a club, he’s told by the bouncer: “No weapons, no cons, no credit, no nonsense.”
This club turns out to be a brothel, where two “Corpos” – officers of the corporate authority governing the planet prior to full Imperial rule, essentially divisional police officers – grate against Cassian. When he’s served a drink, they warn him with regards to the waitress: “Don’t even think about it, she’ll send you home crying.”
One of the hostesses approaches him and asks what Cassian would like. He says he’s looking for a girl from Kenari, a small mid-rim system, but the woman doesn’t know who he’s talking about. When he reveals it’s actually his sister he’s trying to find, he still doesn’t have any luck.
He leaves, but he’s tailed by the two Corpos (played by Lee Boardman and Stephen Wight), who demand a bribe to let him go. Cassian seems to agree, but he headbutts the other and punches the other to the ground.
However, he accidentally went too far: the man he headbutted dies, so Cassian has no choice but to kill the other, albeit it’s a decision not taken lightly, with indecision and pain in his eyes before he pulls the triger. Like Vincent Hanna observes in Heat, why leave a living witness?
Cassian goes into hiding as Corpos begin the hunt
Cassian returns to Ferrix, a free trade sector in the Morlana system. His trusty droid – B2EMO, voiced by Dave Chapman, which is technically a groundmech salvage assist unit – zaps some hogs and meets Cassian, who asks him to lie for him while he runs an errand.
Meanwhile, at the Morlana One Corporate Security Headquarters, Chief Hyne (Rupert Vansittart) is briefed by Deputy Inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) on the murder of the two Corpos.
Syril is engaged by their death and expects the full weight of the force, while Hyne is far more pragmatic; given they were killed near a brothel, where they’d been drinking on the job, he wants to write it off as misadventure to save face. Hyne then departs for a conference and leaves Syril in charge, who immediately fast-tracks an investigation into the deaths against the wishes of the chief and most of his colleagues, who are happy to laze about eating blue noodles.
Cassian asks Bix for help as flashbacks tease his past
While we may know Cassian as a hero of the Rebel Alliance, in these times, he’s a thief who seems to always owe people money – not unlike Han Solo in his smuggling heyday. When he walks through the town, he’s stopped by a man demanding his money back, with the help of a towering cockney beast, but he gets away.
He soon meets Bix Caleen (Morbius’ Adria Arjona), who works in a garage with Timm Karlo (James McArdie), her sort-of-boyfriend who’s constantly frustrated by Cassian’s visits, as they only ever seem to annoy Bix.
Cassian tells Bix he needs to meet her secret buyer, as he’s in possession of an untraceable NS9 star path unit with its seal still intact – basically, it’s a way of tracing friends, foes, and everyone in-between. After he leaves, Timm tries to follow Cassian, but just like every video game following mission-gone-wrong, he bumps into the wrong passer-by and loses him.
The first episode briefly cuts back to Cassian’s childhood on Kenari, where he ran with a tribe of teenagers, a bit like if Lord of the Flies actually resulted in a functioning micro-society. When a flaming spacecraft crashes to Earth, he leaves to go find it – and leaves a young girl at the camp, who we can only assume to be his sister.
It’s worth remembering that Episode 1 doesn’t even break 40 minutes, but the pace set by Toby Haynes’ direction and Tony Gilroy’s restrained, tactful writing makes for a mighty promising start.
Andor Episode 1 is available to stream now, as well as Episode 2 and 3. You can sign up to Disney+ here.