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Andor Is a Great Star Wars Story That Isn’t a Great TV Show: Review

I Have a Bad Feeling About This: One of the worst things about covering television during the era of Peak TV is how many damn times one has heard the phrase “it’s not really a TV show, it’s an [BLANK]-hour movie.” When a creator or actor says such a thing, it’s typically laced with a trace of defiant shame, a belief that normally, TV is a lesser art form than film, except of course for their show. It has at this point become a depressing cliche, one that attempts to undercut the medium every time it’s uttered. (Right now, the only thing I’m more tired of than hearing “it’s an [BLANK]-hour movie” is having to write about people saying “it’s an [BLANK]-hour movie.”)

Andor is the most “it’s not really a TV show…” TV show to come out in some time, and might in fact be the platonic ideal of such a declaration — and why it can be creatively crippling to a show with as much potential as this one has.

It is genuinely frustrating to report how badly structured the first four episodes of Andor are, as each individual scene is theoretically compelling, well-made television. But when the scenes are combined together to form an episode, there’s the distinct sense of creator Tony Gilroy (Rogue One, Michael Clayton) being too focused on that “12-hour movie” idea and totally forgetting that its initial viewers will be watching week to week, as both Star Wars and Marvel fans have been trained to do by Disney+’s commitment to serialized storytelling. (No one wants to be spoiled, after all.)

As a result, each of the first four episodes of Andor end with a “see you next week, I guess” shrug, with barely any consideration for the idea that as individual episodes, they should have their own storytelling momentum. Of the four screened, maybe Episode 3 has the closest to a strong conclusion, but that’s only because it wraps up a series of flashbacks — flashbacks that almost feel randomly scattered across the first three episodes. It thus feels like no coincidence that Disney+ is releasing the first three episodes all at once this week; Episode 4, which premieres September 28th, can stand on its own a little better than the others.

Great television didn’t just arbitrarily make up the idea of telling one large story across several episodes, with each episode having its own conclusive beginning, middle, and end. The golden age of television came after literal decades of evolution as an art form; great showrunners in recent years have been refining and experimenting with how best to tell stories in this medium, creating remarkable and engrossing narrative feats. Maybe Gilroy (whose previous TV experience is limited to serving as a consulting producer on House of Cards) should look into watching some of them sometime.

The Verdict: Andor‘s structure issues aren’t necessarily fatal for this show, and the first season is 12 episodes long — there’s real possibility for course correction down the line. But it is worth mentioning one other issue, which is that this is yet another Star Wars prequel where the protagonist’s ultimate fate has already been established by canon — meaning that savvy fans (a group which comprises, conservatively, about 90% of the show’s target audience) know where this all ends.

That said, Andor is less encumbered by what’s come before than Kenobi was, and features a large ensemble of interesting characters whose destinies have not been pre-written. Plus, there’s a lot to explore not just in terms of character stories but themes, especially about what it actually means to live under fascist rule, and how different people react to that struggle. This series is bristling with that potential, from moment to moment. Hopefully, it’ll eventually remember that, like it or not, it’s also a TV show.

About yashwa Malik

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