Cassian Andor’s introduction to the world came a month after America elected Donald Trump when Rogue One: A Star Wars Story hit theaters. At the time, the horror of this historical turn of events was still intact, and most people refused to name the obvious reason for Trump’s victory, namely bigotry and white resentment. Most but not all.
“Rogue One” co-writer Chris Weitz unleashed a barrage of anti-Trump tweets, including one he had to delete: “Please note that the Empire is a white supremacist (human) organization.” then-Disney CEO Bob Iger downplayed the connection Weitz tacitly made between “Rogue One” and anti-MAGA sentiment.
“Honestly, this is a film the world should enjoy,” he told The Hollywood Reporter, insisting that a film about a ragged, multicultural band of anonymous freedom fighters sacrificing themselves to overthrow imperial fascism ” in no way political” is a film. There are no political statements at all.”
Six years later, Disney+’s Andor, the backstory of Diego Luna’s rebel spy, calls for no such evasion. Set five years before the events of A New Hope, Andor takes place before a Rebel Alliance existed, and Cassian Andor is simply a thief trying to avoid the Empire’s radar. Cassian’s friends on the industrial planet of Fennix, as they are, tolerate him more than they like him. He doesn’t mean them any harm, although it’s obvious that he’s trying their patience.
Nurchi (Raymond Anum), Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Vetch (Ian Whyte) in Lucasfilm’s ANDOR (Lucasfilm/Disney)
Cassian Andor’s origin story as a mercenary, agent, and killer isn’t particularly unique. Movies and television are full of selfish criminals who have been turned into self-sacrificing heroes by circumstance. If aspects of his journey sound familiar to you, it could be because Gilroy wrote the screenplay for the Jason Bourne trilogy.
First, “Andor” is presented as a character study. It does not take long to examine how capitalism supports oppressive systems and makes life difficult for anyone who tries to make a living independently of these structures.
That’s what Star Wars has always been about — if you look past the flowery rhetoric about finding your own feelings. Of course, the Skywalker saga never drew attention to this part, preferring to mesmerize children and the young at heart with philosophical thoughts about not giving in to hatred and lifting boulders with concentrated thinking.
Cassian and his countrymen. . . don’t have the time or luxury to contemplate power and its mysteries.
Cassian and his compatriots on Ferrix, who might be any working community left to pluck the bones left behind by a greedy conglomerate, have neither the time nor the luxury to ponder the power and its mysteries.
Similarly, flashbacks to Cassian’s childhood show him as a victim of environmental exploitation. The Force didn’t save Cassian’s home planet, Kenari, from being degraded to the brink of extinction when he was a boy (played by Antonio Viña) hiding in the forest with other children, including his sister. It didn’t save him when Imperials showed up to bury the pit disaster that had turned the place to poison. Other people did that. Andor is a show the world should enjoy, to use Iger’s words, especially as series creator Tony Gilroy uses the title character to depict how a world degraded by malevolence can be saved by people fighting it find common ground.
Gilroy writes Cassian as a man who understands what it means to live in a constant state of fear and navigate political uncertainty, a sentiment many of us can relate to. Its arc is one of the ways in which “Rogue One” establishes that behind all the noble speeches about liberty delivered by senators and kings in war rooms on secret bases, ordinary people are urged to make the sacrifices known as considered necessary for the good fight to be possible. Sometimes that means committing unthinkable acts.
In Rogue One, his introduction comes through a sequence that ends with him murdering an ally. This does not enhance Cassian; on the contrary, immediately after he pulls the trigger, his facial expression becomes expressionless. For a moment he looks horrified at himself. Then he presses on with cold determination.
Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) and Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in a scene from Lucasfilm’s ANDOR (Lucasfilm/Disney)Before that though, Cassian is simply a guy looking in a place he shouldn’t be, drawing the attention of the wrong people. A couple of Pre-Mor Authority jackboots target him for a shakedown, which is the last mistake they ever make – and one that makes Cassian a wanted man.
But the real eye opener is what happens next. The boss of the dead urges his subordinate, Deputy Inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), to cover up the murders. His reason is simple: they weren’t particularly popular, and since few will miss them, turning their deaths into a murder investigation isn’t worth the risk of being bothered by the Empire.
As cheap as their unknown abuser’s life may be, the lives of two employees who break the rules and cause trouble are even cheaper. At least Karn’s boss can put a monetary value on them; In the end, the company is better off without them. Workers are expendable.
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Careers are made by stepping on the necks of the unworthy, so Karn must find his co-workers’ killer in order to rise through the corporate ranks. His zeal is not motivated by a need to do the right thing – he wants to be successful and therefore rise. So he diverts the Pre-Mor Authority’s resources to hunting down Cassian and recruits a sergeant eager to put his restless unit’s militarized training into practice, bashing in the skulls of a few bystanders to do the job take care of. Their unauthorized field mission crumbles into an explosive example of police overuse resulting in the death of an unarmed civilian.
Gilroy and the show’s writers aren’t particularly lopsided when they draw these parallels between the dispute that tore apart those places in this galaxy long ago and far away. But its resemblance to the existential and moral crisis facing our democracy in 2022 only makes Andor more relevant than almost every other title in the Star Wars TV series, except perhaps The Mandalorian.
“Andor”, like “Rogue One” before it, assures the viewer that there are no magical ways to overcome evil.
Neither Din Djarin’s journey nor Cassian’s are rooted in the Force or ominous mumbo-jumbo about the dark side, although due to Baby Yoda’s central role in the show, The Mandalorian is bound to remind us of the presence of the Jedi, which doesn’t bother anyone.
Meanwhile, “Andor”, like “Rogue One” before it, assures the viewer that there are no magical ways to overcome evil. It takes effort, sweat, and a willingness to take incredible risks to either hold the line or gain inches of ground. If a wide audience is behind Cassian Andor, it’s because he’s the man this burgeoning rebellion needs. But he’s also the kind of character that we now know any of us could become.
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