It’s hard to overstate how little anticipation I had for Andor. The spin-off Star Wars movie Rogue One, in my eyes, was bland and uninspired and I had no interest in Cassian Andor as a Star Wars character. Then, ever since being impressed by the quality of The Mandalorian season 1, I have found all the subsequent Disney Plus TV series to be either middling (as with Obi-Wan Kenobi) or downright awful (as with The Book of Boba Fett).
So, watching this new Star Wars series has felt like being suddenly submerged into ice-cold water. It’s been reinvigorating, exciting, and tense. The new sci-fi series, which has just reached its end, is overflowing with attention to detail, care, storytelling pedigree, and a genuine sense of life.
Not only is Andor a visual tour de force, with staggering production quality, but it’s also a masterclass in how to create believable characters. This is what truly elevates the series, and while I might not like many of the characters, I have fallen in love with most of them. At least since The Empire Strikes Back, Star Wars has never been so good. But, Andor isn’t perfect, and that is neatly demonstrated by one major flaw.
In foregoing the usual Star Wars template, Andor has a serious lack of aliens. There isn’t a single major character in Andor who is an alien. Every alien in the series is a one-off, inconsequential side character, who we meet once and never again. For the most part, and in most scenes, if you told me this was set in some dystopian future on Earth rather than the depths of space, I’d believe you. That’s a huge shame, and it’s a far cry from previous Star Wars instalments, such as A New Hope, which relished the chance to create new species with striking designs and unique cultures.
This might seem like a trivial, unimportant complaint, and part of me agrees. In the face of such a routinely excellent piece of television, why am I choosing to criticise something that, when it comes down to it, is simply the difference between an actor having prosthetics on their face or not? But the aliens that populate the galaxy have always given Star Wars a depth that can’t be replicated without them. So, while the team has done such an excellent job of making the Star Wars universe they’ve built feel alive, it also feels shallow.
As well as being shallow, it’s also strange. Given that Gilroy and co. have been so dedicated to shining a light on the brutality of the Galactic Empire, and its consequences on cultures across the galaxy, it seems remarkable – and even somewhat shortsighted – that this impact has been restricted to human cultures. With B2EMO, who has automatically become one of the best Star Wars droids, the show has already proven to itself that the greatest sources of emotion can come from non-human characters.
What makes the lack of aliens in Andor all the more noticeable is that on the very rare occasion when they do show up, they totally steal the show. Vetch, the huge Urodel alien who tagged along with Nurchi was instantly so much fun, and the two Narkinians who captured Cassian and Melshi were pure joy, too. There is no downside to their inclusion, and substantial upsides.
There is a sense that Tony Gilroy, the creator of the series, doesn’t actually want to be making a Star Wars series. In moments, it feels as if the sci-fi setting is treated like an obstacle to overcome rather than a blessing to embrace. It seems obvious that Gilroy wants to make a prestige spy-thriller series, and the fact that this is part of the Star Wars timeline is purely incidental. For a franchise that has too often failed to take bold risks, that is no bad thing. But, it’s a tradeoff that apparently demands some small sacrifices.
It goes without saying that it’s a huge relief not to be overwhelmed by Glup Shittos, or endless, desperate connections to the story of the Jedi and their lightsabers. But this also comes at the expense of something important, and something that has been ingrained in Star Wars for a long, long time. So, for Andor season 2, I have a single request: make space for more of the delightful aliens which have given Star Wars so much of its personality, for so long.
For more on Andor, check out our review of the finale Andor episode 12 and take a look at our guides to the Andor cast and their characters Dedra Meero, Luthen Rael, Syril Karn, Mon Mothma, and Maarva. Or, dive into the deeper lore of the galaxy with our explainers on the Rebellion, the ISB, and the Sith.