Star Wars: Andor Could Shine A Light On The Darker Aspects of Rebellion
One of the best characters to emerge from the Disney era of Star Wars content is rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor. Andor, who is played by Diego Luna, debuted in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. In Rogue One, Andor served a key role as protagonist Jyn Erso’s jailer and later compatriot. Jyn and Cassian’s ragtag team of rebels worked to acquire intelligence related to the Death Star, which leads into the events of the original Star War film (A New Hope).
For much of Rogue One, Cassian Andor is the character who represents many of the darker aspects of the rebellion, aspects largely avoided in previous Star Wars films. In order to fight the Empire, agents from a variety of rebel cells or insurgencies are required to engage in assassination, raids, and other harsh actions. Cassian’s opening scene establishes his connection to the darker aspects of the rebellion, where Cassian is shown killing an informant who is unable to escape Imperial forces. Late in film, Cassian himself admits that “we’ve all done terrible things on behalf of the Rebellion”, an illustration of the costs of war.
While Cassian has only appeared in one Star Wars film, the character’s legacy will continue in Star Wars: Andor, a Disney+ series set around 5 years before the events of Rogue One. The Disney+ show is being described as a “spy thriller” that includes “espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy” (Star Wars.com). This show can give Lucasfilm an opportunity to explore the darker aspect of the rebellion against the Empire. Star Wars: Andor has opportunity to explore some of the costs of waging a rebellion and the show could potentially illustrate the darker tactic that the rebellion used to survive.
A Recap of Cassian Andor In Rogue One – Spoilers for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
Cassian Andor first appeared in the anthology Star Wars film Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. Released in December 2016, Rogue One was the second Star Wars film made after Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. The film focused on the retrieval of the coveted Death Star plans, an event critical to setting up the original Star Wars film. While the film is deeply connected to A New Hope (1977), the film was marketed with a different tone from other Star Wars films. Much of the interviews focused on Rogue One as a “war film”. 1 In a review for Variety, Emily VanDerWerff asserted that the central theme of Rogue One is that “people die in wars”. The anthology film has a high body count with both sides suffering causalities.
Rebel intelligence officer Cassian Andor serves as a key character in Rogue One. By engaging in morally grey actions like assassination and espionage, the rebel officer serves as representative of the darker aspect of war. Cassian’s introductory scene concludes with the agent killing a panicking informant, a dark scene that sets the tone for the rest of the story. While Cassian works with Jyn to locate Saw Gerrera and her father Galen Erso, Andor keeps Jyn in the dark about many aspects of the mission. For example, while Jyn believes that Cassian is supposed to bring in her father, a Imperial scientist working on the Death Star, his real mission is to assassinate Galen Erso. Cassian struggles with the ethics of the assignment. Perched on an outcropping of rock, Cassian puts himself in position to kill Jyn’s father, but he ultimately choses not to go through with the assassination.
The events of the mission and the death of Jyn’s father create further tension between Jyn and Cassian. In the aftermath of the mission, Jyn confronts Cassian following immoral orders, asserting that he “might as well be a stormtrooper”. In response, Cassian reminds Jyn that she is not the only one who has lost someone, but Cassian and other fighters that support rebellion have decided to “do something about it [their losses]”. While the two characters reconcile to collect the Death Star plans in the final third of the film, even defying their superiors orders, the divide between the idealism of war and the grim reality proves to be a huge dividing point for the two characters.
Star Wars: Andor Can Explore The Cost of Rebellion
One of the most exciting prospects about Star Wars: Andor is the potential to explore some mature themes like the long term effects of being part of an insurgency or rebellion. While this idea has been discussed to some degree in expanded universe novels like Alexander Freed’s Alphabet Squadron Trilogy and Paul S. Kemp’s Lords of the Sith, Star Wars film and television properties have not delved as deeply into a more grounded experience of rebels and insurgents as they fight day in and day out for survival and freedom.
Additionally, Star Wars: Andor can look at the physical and mental toll that constant guerilla warfare have on characters in the Star Wars universe. While Rogue One dabbled in this concept with its portrayal of Cassian Andor and Saw Gerrera, Andor could delve even deeper into the psyche of long term rebels. While characters like Leia have served the rebellion from a role of authority or under the guise of a loyal Imperial senator, it would be exciting to see how the lower ranks handle being part of a never-ending war. In an interview discussing several of his projects, Luna asserted that Rogue One was a story about “regular people doing incredible things” and that the upcoming show can explore this concept more fully. 2 With rumors that Forest Whittaker will return as Saw Gerrera, Star Wars: Andor can explore the middle stages of both Cassian and Saw’s battle against the Empire.
Cassian is an excellent subject for exploring the long term effects of war on a character because (as far as the audience knows at this moment) his entire life has been consumed by war and conflict. In Rogue One, Cassian asserts that he has been a part of the war since he was “six years old”. Like many characters living through the Clone Wars and rise of The Empire, Cassian has been shaped by the brutal effects of long term war and the show could explore effects of living such a difficult life. Discussing the idea of a prequel series, Luna asserted that “once you [the actors and/or audience] know what Cassian is capable of, then there’s room for so much exploration, and that’s something that excites me”. 3 By telling the middle of Cassian story, the audience can more fully understand what Cassian has gone through by the events of Rogue One.
Terrible Things Done On Behalf of the Rebellion
While the Rebellion has generally been a considered a heroic force, Andor can explore some of the darker, less morally righteous aspects of rebellion. In Rogue One, Cassian asserts that “every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause that I believed in”. This incredible line hints at morally complex situations that could be explored within the show. It is important to remember that individuals like Cassian are soldiers in a complex galactic conflict that often forces men and women to make difficult choices. Shows like Star Wars Rebels have already demonstrated that it took years for the Rebel Alliance to coalesce into a focused organization. For much of the formative years of the Empire, the rebellion took the form of different rebel cells operating independently on a variety of worlds.
Overall, Rogue One and Star Wars Rebels have hinted that maintaining the Rebellion requires a cost not only in human life but also to one’s moral principles. Against the overwhelming power of the Empire, rebels are often forced to result to less than ideal tactics like espionage and sabotage. For example, Cassian’s familiarity with assassination reveals that many rebels are required to get their hands dirty and engage in morally complex choices. Cassian’s murder of the informant also shows that the relationship between rebels can be complex, with trust being extremely difficult to build and easy to break. By putting a spotlight on the difficult decisions that Cassian and other rebel agents must engage in, the show could establish a more morally nuanced interpretation of an insurgent group.
Additionally the show could also fill in the gaps of Cassian’s background and why he joined the rebellion. In Rogue One, Cassian asserts that he has been part of the war since he was six years old and extended universe material that Cassian was involved in the Clone Wars as a child soldier. This means that the majority of Cassian’s life has consumed with war and violence. In Rogue One, Cassian challenges Jyn by saying that she is not “the only one who lost everything”. It would make sense for the streaming show to explore some of Cassian major life events, whether it is his life as a child soldier or his role in the early days of the rebellion. Whether it is through dialogue or direct flashbacks, fleshing out Cassian past could help the audience better understand the character’s journey.
Will Lucasfilm Commit To A Darker Tone for The Show?
One major question that lingers over Star Wars: Andor is whether Lucasfilm will commit to a mature tone for the series. While Star Wars novels like Lords of the Sith, Alphabet Squadron, and Battle Front II: Inferno Squadron have explored themes like violence, survivor’s guilt, and terrorism; films and television shows are still relatively cushioned from darker subject matter. While The Mandalorian is TV-14 but many of the episodes fit closely into the fun action adventure category that is generally expected of Star Wars.
One point in favor of the show being given room to be a more mature experience is that darker Star Wars films like Rogue One and Revenge of the Sith are present along side the rest of the Star Wars content. If Andor can create identity different from many other Star Wars project, it would make the show extremely exciting for new and returning viewers. Ultimately, only time will tell if Andor lives up to the promise many fan feel the show has.
- VanDerWerff, Emily. “Rogue One Review: This Is the First Star Wars Movie to Acknowledge the Whole Franchise Is about War.” Vox, Vox, 13 Dec. 2016, www.vox.com/culture/2016/12/13/13928900/rogue-one-review-star-wars. ↩
- Davids, Brian. “Diego Luna on ‘Wander Darkly’ and the Cinematic Feel of His ‘Star Wars’ Series ‘Andor’.” The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, 22 Dec. 2020, www.hollywoodreporter.com/movies/movie-news/diego-luna-on-wander-darkly-and-the-cinematic-feel-of-andor-4108436/. ↩
- ibid ↩
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