There is an inherent issue that many prequels face when the audience is well aware of what the end results are. If we already know a character’s fate, are they worth investing in anymore? The Star Wars franchise has struggled with this for a long time; many viewers felt that the prequel trilogy wasn’t as exciting as it could have been because the fate of Anakin Skywalker and Obi-Wan Kenobi was predetermined. However, the strongest Star Wars prequels, like Andor, weaponize their eventual destinies by forcing us to think about the franchise in a different way.
We know that Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is going to die at the fiery destruction on Scarif’s surface. We know that since a majority of the supporting characters introduced aren’t featured or references in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story or the original trilogy, they’re likely doomed to similar fates. However, this doesn’t mean that we know everything about Cassian, and it doesn’t mean the other stories should be negated. By seeing his struggle firsthand, our understanding of how Cassian chose to be a hero is more emotional. When Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgard) tells Cassian that he must be willing to sacrifice everything for the Rebel Alliance, we know that he follows through on his pledge.
There’s a sense of inevitability that haunts Andor; it’s the first Star Wars project exclusively for adults, and it’s not because of violence, sexual content, or language (although these elements are amplified more than they are in the other Disney+ programming). Andor explores a side of the universe where the force is nothing but an “ancient religion,” and the notion of a “force ghost” is unheard of. When characters like Maarva (Fiona Shaw) die, the only thing left of them is a holographic message. By morphing the Star Wars universe into one that resembles our world, Andor feels like the first Star Wars project in a long time with actual consequences.
A More Dynamic Hero
The strength of Rogue One was that it explored how those who have been erased from the Star Wars history textbooks played a larger role in the Galactic Civil War than we had ever imagined. Cassian, Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), and their allies may not ever be mentioned in the same breath as Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia, but that’s because history is written by the victors. We know that the beauty of their sacrifice is that they know that they’re just the first step in a larger journey. Luke didn’t single-handedly destroy the Death Star; he had the opportunity to take a shot because of the countless other heroes that had come before him.
Andor takes this one step further by showing that Cassian was not always going down a heroic path; in Rogue One, he admits that he’s done “terrible things” for the rebellion, and Andor backs up that claim. It’s a pretty bold departure from previous Star Wars shows to open your new series with the titular character gunning down two people outside of a seedy brothel. We learn that Cassian is a victim of the environment that he was raised in; he never had the comfort of growing up with his kin on his home planet, and he’s had to make it through his adulthood by lying about his heritage. Above all else, Cassian feels like the most relatable character in the franchise thus far because of his flaws.
The Unseen Sacrifices
Equally powerful are the stories of the new character whose sacrifices directly affect Cassian’s journey. Perhaps Karis Nemik’s (Alex Lawther) manifesto didn’t become the founding document of the rebellion, but it forced Cassian to consider what he was actually fighting for. Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) had an indelible effect on the prisoners that he helped free, even if Casian never mentions him to Luthen or the other rebels. Even Maarva’s incendiary call to arms has little impact beyond Ferrix, but those who hear it feel the spirit of resistance. Andor feels like it’s opening up the universe by showing that the timeline is more fruitful than just a few key events.
Perhaps the most interesting new character Andor has introduced is Luthen, whose fate has yet to be revealed; given his absence from later events and his proximity to some of the most powerful players in the upcoming conflict, it doesn’t seem likely that he’ll live to see the Death Star destroyed. The stakes for Luthen are more ethical; are we willing to invest in him if he’s willing to accept a “total war” approach? There’s the constant threat that Luthen could inspire characters we previously thought to be flawless, like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), to make some decisions that cast their future actions in a different light.
The Decisions That Haunt Us
Mothma is a particularly interesting character because we know that she’s one of the few that survives. There’s a very clear bookend to her story, as we’ve seen in Rebels that it takes her a few years to deliver her address that goes out to the entire galaxy. We get to see how she struggles to live under the Empire’s iron fist and lives a double life which builds up to the point that she decides to completely commit to war. There’s a bleakness to her desperation for a peaceful solution, as we know they are in vain. Instead of asking ourselves whether she will survive, we’re forced to question if the face of the Rebel Alliance was willing to trade her daughter’s integrity for the sake of a political gamble.
Andor isn’t revising anything we know about the canon, but it shows that the battle between good and evil that Star Wars generally conforms to isn’t as clear-cut as we realized. It could have been incredibly depressing if the show only focused on the tragedy that will unfold, but surprisingly, it becomes more inspirational. The eventual victories weren’t easy ones, but knowing the small-scale events that led up to them gives them an even greater impact. “I yearn to lift you,” Maarva says. “Not because I want to shine or even be remembered; it’s because I want you to go on.”