Thursday, September 22, 2022

REVIEW: 'Andor' - Cassian's Quest for Answers About the Past Leads to a Manhunt for His Arrest in 'Episodes 1, 2 and 3'

Disney+'s Andor - Episodes 1.01 "Kassa," 1.02 "That Would Be Me" and 1.03 "Reckoning"

Cassian Andor's reckless search for answers about his past makes him a wanted man.

"Kassa" was written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Toby Haynes
"That Would Be Me" was written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Toby Haynes
"Reckoning" was written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Toby Haynes

The first three episodes of the latest Disney+ drama set in the Star Wars universe are meant to be watched as one collective piece. The executives at the streamer likely recognized that. That's why all three were released on the same day, with the rest of the season being released weekly. It's not until the conclusion of the third episode that it feels like a natural cutoff point for the creative medium. The first two episodes basically just end without any rhyme or reason. Patience is ultimately rewarded for viewers who make their way to the third episode. That's when the action really gets moving. And yes, that episode works as well as it does because of the intricate and deliberate time spent with the characters in the preceding two. That doesn't quite justify just how tedious those outings are on their own. They should have the ability to stand alone as their own pieces of entertainment. Instead, they are the preamble to the story. They are still important. It simply proves this creative team is in no rush to get to the point of the narrative. All of this is meant to reveal the origin story of Cassian Andor, one of the heroes of Rogue One who died during a successful mission to retrieve the plans for the Death Star. The viewer already knows that story. He was already seen as a hero in the Rebel Alliance who became reinvigorated upon being reminded of the importance of hope in this fight. That's a unifying idea within these episodes as well. The entire community on Ferrix rallies together once they are invaded by Pre-Mor agents looking for Cassian. That allows him and Luthen to make their elaborate escape. The story ultimately starts much earlier than that though. That's the concluding beat for this opening act. It takes awhile to get there. It's worth the wait. The first episode actually starts with Cassian on Morlana One looking for his long-lost sister. That's the only mention of her in these episodes. She matters to the point that he is willing to risk so much in order to find her. However, the narrative has much bigger ideas on its mind. Luthen wants a meeting with Cassian because he believes he has found an intelligent and capable spy for the Rebel Alliance. He doesn't exactly come out and say that. It's implied in a meaningful way as informed by the viewer's understanding of Cassian's future. In these episodes though, Cassian is carefully trying to protect himself after killing two Pre-Mor officers. Cassian is more than willing to kill for the cause. In this instance, it's all about him being forced to take lethal action simply to go about his business. He receives no meaningful leads. Instead, all he gets are a whole lot of problems. He can't escape from them even though he quickly returns to Ferrix. Even then, it's not all that entertaining to watch him coax his friends to lie for him. That doesn't ultimately matter as it's not long before Karlo ultimately outs him as the man responsible for this heinous crime.

Along the way, subtitle-free flashbacks are provided for a pivotal moment in Cassian's youth. On Kenari, Cassian and the other children of the tribe venture off to investigate a ship that has crashed. Once there, they are attacked by a rogue survivor. Cassian is essentially left behind as he opts to explore. Maarva and Clem stumble upon him and choose to safe him from pending retaliation. It's all incredibly contrived without justifying the amount of time spent on it. It will be even more insufferable should it be a recurring element of the season. Everything is certainly conveyed appropriately in the scenes without needing to understand the dialogue. It all simply could have been tightened to more effectively get the point across. It builds to the moment where two crucial points in Cassian's life play out in parallel to one another. They are framed around his ability to abandon his loved ones without knowing what will happen to them. To a certain extent, the people of this world know that any moment could destroy what little dignity and respect they have cobbled together. They fight for more while the arrogance of the soldiers in charge knows no bounds. When Syril Karn and Sergeant Mosk plan their mission, they know they will be met with resistance. They even laugh at how anyone with a problem can file a complaint in a monthly meeting of the systems. No one takes that seriously. Syril already has obtained his power. He refuses to let anyone make a mockery of it. That includes his superior officer who doesn't believe the murders require much attention. Syril disagrees and decides to pursue the manhunt. He makes a ton of progress quickly. He doesn't serve as a fair representative of justice though. He's a symbol of the oppressive forces in this world. He's far from the most powerful. He wields the most against the people who comprise this story. The people who choose to fight back have to always be aware of their surroundings and create opportunities for when the inevitable disruption finds them. A reckoning is very much on the forefront of their minds. Setting a course for a brighter future offers no guarantees though. That's the painful realization across all the Star Wars stories. No matter how often good prevails over evil, it still isn't enough to provide for meaningful change across the galaxy. That's a dispiriting thought that weighs down any expansion of this storytelling universe if one thinks about it for too long. Here, the action takes awhile to get going. Cassian isn't immediately the famed spy he is destined to become. Luthen has many lessons to teach him in the heat of battle. This is all just an excuse to bring them together. That's absolutely pivotal even though it's not where Cassian's journey started. His sister means something. Now, the narrative has to wait to provide that mystery with some satisfaction. That's a significant divergence from what makes the climactic moments so great in the third episode - though one that will seemingly be important at some point.

"Kassa": B-
"That Would Be Me": C+
"Reckoning": A-