When the Star Wars movie Rogue One was first announced it was considered by many as a spin-off story that didn’t need telling, but it could actually end up being the very best offering in the whole franchise. That is, if Tony Gilroy and his team stick the landing for Andor season 2.
Funnily enough, many people (myself included) also thought the idea to give the Star Wars character Cassian Andor two seasons of a Star Wars series was an odd decision. How wrong we all were. Andor season 1 was actually one of the best things to ever come from Star Wars, and the sci-fi series could even be the key to altering the hierarchy of the whole Star Wars timeline.
Of course, Rogue One should be judged entirely on its own merits. Regardless, the science fiction movie is inextricably linked to its companion piece Andor, and the two add such a richness to one another that if the next instalment of Cassian’s story hits the mark, we may well be on the verge of greatness.
It’s worth noting that by and large, Rogue One received a fairly positive reception upon its release. The film incorporates all the best elements of a great spy movie or a classic war movie with splashes of Star Wars context to create a thrilling experience.
However, there has been criticism for the fact that the characters introduced in Rogue One are mere cannon fodder and are difficult to connect with, rendering their tragic fate ineffective. Among the impressive Star Wars cast for Rogue One are the likes of Felicity Jones, Mads Mikkelsen, Ben Mendelsohn, and Diego Luna.
For the latter, it could have been a problem to lead a TV series when everyone knows how your story ends, but Diego Luna didn’t worry about his character dying when making Andor. I’ll admit, I definitely thought this would be detrimental to the emotional impact the series could have, but I was completely wrong.
Anyone who has read any of my Andor reviews will know how much I loved the show, and it inspired me to rewatch Rogue One for the first time since it was released in 2016. I was curious as to whether the journey of Andor would give new life to Rogue One, or actually lessen the experience.
As it turns out, everything good about Andor was already present in the thriller movie Rogue One, and if Gilroy can build on those themes and stylistic choices with Andor season 2, he could well have crafted the most intriguing arc Star Wars has ever produced. And he could do it all without Andor ever needing to include a single lightsaber, Jedi, or Sith.
From the opening moments of Rogue One, it’s clear that the standard Star Wars formula won’t be applied with the same rigour as we have come to expect. There’s no sign of the iconic crawl text for a start, a tradition that would have been gratuitous given the audience’s familiarity with the movie’s place in the timeline.
It’s also a film which has no desire to be a family-friendly adventure movie like its better-behaved siblings. Within the first few scenes we meet Orson Krennic (Mendelsohn), a sly and sinister Star Wars villain who shows no hesitation in ordering his squad of Death troopers to kill Lyra Erso in front of her husband, Galen (Mikkelsen), and the mother of our hero, Jyn Erso.
Then, we are introduced to Cassian Andor (Luna), who is also quick to exterminate those he deems surplus to requirements. After obtaining information from a supposed ally, Cassian shoots him to prevent the intel being leaked to the Stormtroopers patrolling the streets.
At first, this may seem overly-callous, but with the added context of Andor season 1 fresh in our minds, we understand that loose ends can be incredibly dangerous for the Rebellion. It’s a notion firmly established by Luthen Rael in the show, and appears to be a modus operandi that has bled into Cassian’s own way of life now.
There is a brutality throughout Gilroy’s work, brought to life by Edwards in this instance and a range of talented directors on Andor, that imbues both Rogue One and its streaming service counterpart with a significantly more gritty tone. While Star Wars as a whole is rooted in a fantasy setting, Gilroy and his team are clearly passionate about drawing parallels between fiction and our own real-world circumstances.
Themes of terrorism, genocide, slave labour, and totalitarianism have always underpinned Star Wars, but with both Rogue One and Andor, Gilroy brings these right to the surface and doesn’t allow his work to half-ass the messages it wants to convey. In Andor, we saw the true terror of the Galactic Empire at ground level and the impact the regime has on innocent people across the galaxy.
The whole Andor cast do a wonderful job in carrying the emotional weight of both sides of the fight, be it the menacing, relentless ambition of the ISB and Dedra Meero, or the spirited refusal to bow to evil from the likes of Maarva and eventually, Cassian himself. The core concept of the show is sacrifice – what are you willing to give up to get what you want, be it for the sake of absolute power, or absolute freedom?
We now know that the journey of Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) perfectly mirrors that of Cassian’s. Early in Rogue One, she insists “It’s not a problem if you don’t look up,” in reference to the threat of the Empire. It’s a very similar mentality Cassian possessed when we first meet him in Andor, but that soon changes when he realises how costly his ignorance can be.
“You don’t get to choose when and where to care… I’ve been living this since I was six years old… we’ve all lost, some of us just decided to do something about it,” he tells Jyn, and now that we know exactly how much he has lost, this rousing speech becomes all the more poignant. There’s sure to be even more loss to come in Andor season 2, which will further inform Cassian’s worldview at the time of Rogue One.
So, what else do we want and expect to see more of in the sophomore season of the epic Star Wars series? Well, based on this rewatch of Rogue One, one thing is abundantly clear – Tony Gilroy loves writing a goosebump-inducing monologue. We had plenty of those in Andor season 1, like Kino Loy rallying the prisoners on Narkina 5 in Andor episode 10 and Maarva’s message from beyond the grave in Andor episode 12.
In Rogue One, it’s Galen who delivers a powerful, Oppenheimer-inspired address admitting his remorse at becoming a pawn for the Empire and helping to build the Death Star. It’s fitting then, that this monologue plays at the very moment his weapon is put to use for the first time, inflicting the kind of damage that wouldn’t look out of place in a classic disaster movie.
The visual elements of Rogue One are fantastic, and that’s something that was carried into Andor, too. The level of production design on the show was one of the most impressive facets of the whole series, and as long as Luke Hull is back on board for season 2, we can expect more of the same.
With Gilroy confirming that Andor season 2 will take us right up to the starting point of Rogue One, and Cassian establishing himself as a key player in the Rebellion, we can probably expect to see plenty more action set-pieces as the scale ramps up. The sight of the AT-AT storming the beach on Scarif in Rogue One is like something out of a monster movie, and I hope we get more of this kind of visual dread in Andor next time around.
The galaxy is a very big place, and the general lack of Star Wars cameos in Andor was a breath of fresh air. You get the impression that Gilroy has no real interest in connecting the dots for the wider universe of Star Wars stories, and that’s a good thing. That said, there is one thing that Andor is lacking, and that is more representation of alien cultures. It’s curious then, that Rogue One actually has plenty of weird and wonderful species, so hopefully we can get a more diverse range of characters for Andor season 2.
We are very unlikely to see the likes of Rogue One characters like Jyn, Galen, Chirrut (Donnie Yen), Bodhi (Riz Ahmed) in Andor at any point. The same applies for bigger names like Darth Vader, whose brief appearance in Rogue One delivers one of the best Star Wars scenes of all time. There are plenty of familiar faces who should get some screen-time, though.
It’s already been confirmed that the Star Wars droid K-2SO will be introduced and his relationship with Cassian established, which is brilliant news as he is a real highlight of Rogue One. From his sardonic humour to his beautiful sacrifice, the world is a better place with K-2SO in it. We’re sure there will be one or two Glup Shitto moments to come, too, like when Saw Gerrera’s henchman Tubes pops up in Andor, but we can’t imagine Gilroy going overboard with any of that.
It genuinely feels like every action and every line of dialogue crafted by Gilroy throughout Rogue One and Andor season 1 are so deliberate and carefully considered. Whether it be various parties converging in one place to take down a common target, a hero sacrificing their life for a sunrise they’ll never see, or the simple, poetic significance of the word “climb,” the storytelling on display in Rogue One and Andor is a joy to behold.
The impact of war and tyranny bears a heavy cost, and that price is often paid by the innocent and the helpless. Ultimately, Andor season 1 helps to show us what Rogue One always wanted to say – that it doesn’t matter who you are, all that matters is standing up for what is right.
By the time Andor season 2 concludes, I firmly believe we will have the most profound and complete arc in Star Wars history. While Rogue One can never match the nostalgic and cultural value of The Empire Strikes Back, on a technical and emotional level it has potential to be the greatest achievement in the Star Wars catalogue.