The question of whether or not the next episode of "Andor" would maintain the high standard the show set for itself has been answered, and that answer is a resounding "yes."
The first three episodes, all released at once last week established an impressively high benchmark for this latest "Star Wars" live-action spin-off and … actually, episode 4, entitled "Aldhani" is the best of the bunch so far. In all honesty, thoughts of how far this show and the story could go are enough to send tingles down the spine.
We pick up more or less straightaway from where we left the story in episode three and the always-amazing Stellan Skarsgård (Luthen Rael) has Diego Luna (Cassian Andor) aboard his unusual-yet-strangely-familiar starship. It's called a Fondor Haulcraft and appears to be Corellian in design. It also looks like it was based on concept artwork by James Clyne, design supervisor for "Solo: A Star Wars Story" for the early Millennium Falcon. It's great isn't it, when the cool character of a sci-fi movie or TV show has a cool ship to match?
Skarsgård has such a prominent presence on screen and his character in "Andor" is no different; he practically steals every scene he's in. And throughout this live-action spin-off, the dialogue has been of a consistently high standard between every character, important or otherwise. Jaw dropping lines like "It took the combined ingredients of idiocy, ineptitude, and total disengagement for this farce to have reached the full apex of incredulous disaster" make me want to rub my hands together with menacing glee.
Moreover, not only is the character development moving along nicely at exactly the right pace to keep us enthralled but not overloaded, so is the storyline and the worldbuilding. And given the period within which this particular story sits in the chronological order of "Star Wars" movies and TV shows, we were inevitably going to see the planet Coruscant and it doesn't disappoint.
Where "Andor" sits in the "Star Wars" timeline...
• Episode 1 "The Phantom Menace" — BBY 32
• Episode 2 "Attack of the Clones" — BBY 22
• "The Clone Wars" — BBY 22
• Episode 3 "Revenge of the Sith" — BBY 19
• "Solo: A Star Wars Story" — BBY 10
• "Obi-Wan Kenobi" — BBY 9
• "Star Wars Rebels" — BBY 5
➜ "Andor" — begins at BBY 5 and will take us up to the events of "Rogue One"
• "Rogue One: A Star Wars Story" — the year of the Battle of Yavin
• Episode 4 "A New Hope" — the year of the Battle of Yavin
• Episode 5 "The Empire Strikes Back" — ABY 3
• Episode 6 "Return of the Jedi" — ABY 4…and so on
(BBY – Before Battle of Yavin, ABY – After Battle of Yavin)
We also get to see the Empire at a slightly younger age than we were first introduced to, all those years ago, in "A New Hope." And while Kyle Soller was positively delicious as the over-ambitious, authoritarian Deputy Inspector Syril Karn, serving as the primary antagonist up until now, we are introduced to the equally-as-intriguing Denise Gough as Lieutenant Dedra Meero of the Imperial Security Bureau who, despite taking the tertiary plot thread, makes an indelible impression and we welcome the chance to see more of her, which we almost certainly will.
Hopefully we haven't seen the last of Karn and we suspect not. Quite what turn his character will take remains to be seen. To paraphrase Senator Palpatine, "we will watch his career with great interest."
The stark, sterile production design of the Imperial Security Bureau is a beautiful contrast to the lush green setting of the primary plot thread, Cassian Andor's first introduction to rebel forces on the planet Aldhani with Faye Marsay (Vel Sartha). Much of "Andor" was filmed in the UK, with locations as far afield as Pitlochry, Scotland and the East London Docklands, which was also used for interior shots of Scarif in "Rogue One." It's always fun to see British actors play Imperial officers and that's been consistent throughout "Star Wars" (lest we forget Peter Cushing). Unusually, a decision was made here to use the British pronunciation of "lieutenant," which isn't a bad thing at all — it unquestionably adds a certain … je ne sais quoi. It's just unusual for a show of this scale that's aimed at a very broad international audience. Perhaps this is further evidence that showrunner Tony Gilroy has indeed been left alone by the studio to produce exactly the show he wanted. And we are ever so thankful.
At no point is this show predicable, not yet at least, and equally unusual for a show of this scale, we're drawn in and quickly become heavily invested in each character. And it's only episode four. Even more delicious layers are added as the plot thickens like a rich, robust ragù. Not least of which is the first look at the complicated personal life of politician and key future Rebel Alliance leader, Mon Mothma, played majestically once again by Genevieve O'Reilly, who portrayed the same character in "Rogue One."
Her discrete interaction with Luthen Rael at his high-end antique store on Coruscant was without a doubt a highlight of this week. Fans have been spotting subtle Easter eggs since the episode aired, but far more importantly, it gave us a beautiful insight into Skarsgård's character and he looks every bit as interesting as Erik Selvig turned out to be. What makes the pacing on this show so effective is that while Andor's journey this week was relatively straightforward, it gave each of the other characters a chance to establish some fascinating foundations.
It's also worth mentioning the musical score by Nicholas Britell, as this week it's more noticeable than in the previous episodes. It's strength, much like everything else in this epic sci-fi show, is it's subtlety. Like a slow-building crescendo, which perfectly mirrors the story, its presence grows more powerful as the show moves forward.
If "Andor" continues with this refreshing high quality, it will, without a doubt, earn a place up there among the giants. It feels more of a well written, beautifully crafted drama, which happens to be set in space, than a sci-fi, per se. And that's rather refreshing. There's no doubt that after "Andor," Team Gilroy will be able to write their own ticket and wouldn't it be great if they lent their talents to another science fiction franchise, say … a "Stargate" reboot? Come on, make it happen.
In other, rather sad, "Star Wars" news, according to The Hollywood Reporter, "Rogue Squadron" — the project due to be directed by Patty Jenkins, has been "taken off the studio's production schedule," which basically equates to being indefinitely postponed. Apparently, it still has a release date of Dec. 22, 2023, but it's hard to see that happening with pre-production having been halted. Perhaps head of Lucasfilm, Kathleen Kennedy, will readdress this after the critical success of "Andor," but we'll have to wait and see.