"Andor" continues to prove why it's among the best "Star Wars" stories to date.
Naturally, after last week's daring raid on the Aldhani Imperial base, there was going to be some fallout, and that's exactly what this bold and beautiful episode, entitled "Announcement" focuses on.
We must remind ourselves that at this point in the "Star Wars" chronological history, Palpatine is Emperor, but he has not yet dissolved the senate, Anakin Skywalker has long-since turned to the Dark Side and the Death Star is still being constructed, but is not yet operational. In other words, the Galactic Empire is very close to being at full strength and what we're used to seeing and it will not — and does not — take kindly to being robbed of upwards of 8 million credits.
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As such, we more or less dive straight in with what's going on in the career-climbing life of and Lt. Supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) of the Imperial Security Bureau. (More commonly referred to as the ISB, this originates from the expanded "Star Wars" universe, now referred to as "Star Wars Legacy" and it's nice to see it being woven into live action too.) Gough has well and truly nailed this role and the battle of wits between her, Lt. Supervisor Blevin (Ben Bailey Smith) and Col. Wullf Yularen, played beautifully by Malcolm Sinclair. Lest we forget he gave us the best pre-credit sequence of any Bond movie ever in "Casino Royale."
Incidentally, the character of Yularen has some history in the "Star Wars" universe. He was first seen in "Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope" and he's most notably visible in the scene onboard the Death Star, in a very stark and Stalinist-looking meeting room where Darth Vader (David Prowse) force chokes General Motti (Richard LeParmentier) for having a disturbing lack of faith regarding the recovery of the stolen plans for the moon-sized space station.
Sadly, Yularen (played back then by an uncredited Robert Clarke) didn't have any lines and of course his character was killed when the Death Star was destroyed, but he was given a considerable backstory in "The Clone Wars," the animated series set between the events of "Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones" and "Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith."
The fact that this episode relies so heavily on scenes that are long, complex and require perfectly polished dialogue is testament to the overall quality of this show. The pace has been once again methodically slowed to that resembling an intense Cold War thriller and it's handled beautifully. Moreover, the score by Nicholas Britell is particularly prominent and adds so much to each scene in such a subtle manner. And in fact, volume one of the soundtrack, that incorporates music from episodes 1 to 4, is now available on music streaming services.
Once again, the world building continues and we're introduced to the beach resort world of Niamos. We'd already seen pictures of scenes for "Andor" being filmed in April of last year around London's Docklands and most notably the Docklands Light Railway stations around Canary Wharf. (You might not know that the actual platform also appeared in a brief scene from "Rogue One" as the station was redressed to become the interior of the Imperial Center of Military Research on Scarif.)
Plus the Barbican Center in London's financial district has been used to represent Coruscant, but the new and extremely interesting looking holiday world of Niamos is the sea front at Cleveleys, a town on the Fylde Coast of Lancashire, transformed with the aid of some gloriously designed CGI replacing the distant background. When Lucasfilm commits itself to creating new worlds in live-action, rather than just relying on Tatooine all the time, they genuinely do a really good job. Lest we forget the gorgeous estuary moon of Trask in "The Mandalorian" chapter 11, "The Heiress" and the exceptionally cool ringworld called Glavis that we were introduced to in "The Book of Boba Fett" chapter 4 "Return of The Mandalorian." As such, full credit goes to showrunner Tony Gilroy and the entire "Andor" location team led by Jason Allen.
As we alluded to earlier, it was only a matter of time before the repercussions were felt from an raid on the scale that we saw last week and the theater of war has shifted from the grassy hills of Aldhani to a more political battleground, behind the scenes on Coruscant in addition of course, to the Imperial response. Genevieve O'Reilly (Mon Mothma) once again excels and we're introduced to Tay Kolma (played by the brilliant Ben Miles) a confidant to the senator and also from the planet Chandrila.
Very little in "Andor" is given to the viewer on a plate or a silver spoon and that weird sensation you're feeling isn't a headache or an itchy scalp – it's your brain working. And while one or two teeny-tiny gaps can be noticed if you look hard enough (like last week for example) for the most part it's exciting to be presented with new characters and not instantly be told through the power of exposition who they are or where they fit into the fabric of the story. Kleya Marki (Elizabeth Dulau) is one such example and while it's highly unlikely that she's actually Leia Organa in disguise as some have touted on social media, most agree that she could be more important than we realize at this point.
The additional backstory we're given for Cassian Andor is fascinating and opens the door for multiple interpretation — until such time when more information is provided — as the motivation and reasoning behind his actions. From his flashback to watching his stepfather's murder all the way to the phenomenal scene between Andor (Diego Luna) and his mother, Maarva (Fiona Shaw) that is elegantly nuanced and offers so many new layers of understanding, not only to the family dynamic, but just about everything, as she drops a mind-blowing hint that she might already be involved in the rebellion against the Empire.
There were a couple of other interesting things to note this week: There were some fun droid cameos, including B2EMO from earlier in this show, a MSE-6-series repair droid first seen in "A New Hope" and a model KX-series security droid introduced in "Rogue One." It's also clear now how crucial Stellan Skarsgård's (Luthen Rael) role is in establishing the Rebel Alliance, along with Mon Mothma — they are the co-founders! The planet Ord Mantell also gets a mention, you might recall that was mentioned by Han Solo in the hanger bay on Hoth in "Star Wars: Episode V The Empire Strikes Back" and seemingly the bounty hunter the Rebels ran into there changed his mind about running away from his debt to Jabba the Hutt.
According to Star Wars Explained, a report from Parrot Analytics shows that "Andor" is not getting nearly the same amount of views as the other "Star Wars" series. Though it (almost) goes without saying that this is unlike any other "Star Wars" show because it's being written for an adult audience, certainly a more cerebral audience, much more so than any other movie or TV show, live action or otherwise. Only "The Mandalorian" rates higher on IMDb (the original trilogy does too, but the sample size is significantly larger.)
"Andor" continues to excel and this is the best episode so far. The visuals are incredible and don't stretch the imagination to breaking point, there's virtually nothing in the way of deliberate, subliminal toy placement, the plot is intriguing, the pacing is worthy of investing in a defibrillator, the story is clever and the dialogue is exceptional. Treat yourself and dive headfirst into this show, if you haven't already.