Back when George Lucas was making the Star Wars sequel Return of the Jedi, he was adamant that the series was primarily for children. That was the justification for the presence of the cute teddy bear creatures, the Ewoks. Sixteen years later, it was the justification for Jar-Jar Binks, the cartoonish buffoon who exemplified everything wrong with The Phantom Menace.
The newest Disney+ series, Andor, isn’t exactly for children. It’s a quiet, somber show that takes an uncompromising look at the state of the galaxy during the height of the Empire’s reign. It’s not afraid to show viewers just how brutal a totalitarian government can be, and it respects audiences’ attention spans and memories by telling a good story first and a Star Wars story second.
In the original trilogy, Star Wars didn’t need to do much to make you hate the Empire. They were cartoonishly evil villains who literally blew up an inhabited planet with a super-laser in the opening hour of the first movie. Clad in Nazi-inspired uniforms and eager to commit wanton slaughter, the Empire was the perfect enemy faction for a fun space-faring fantasy movie.
Andor helps the Empire earn its loathsome reputation through another avenue. In this series, the mustache-twirling evil of the films is swapped out for the cold, nearly mundane kind of evil that is all too recognizable for those of us who live in the real world. Abuses of power and imperial overreach aren’t as spectacular as exploding planets, but they strike a nerve with viewers due to how believable they are.
Andor also one-ups many of its live-action Star Wars contemporaries by bringing prestige-caliber performances to the small screen. That’s not meant as a dig against Book of Boba Fett or Obi-Wan, but those shows weren’t about to win any awards for their actors’ performances. Andor, meanwhile, digs deep into the cast of other prestige shows like HBO’s Chernobyl to provide the Star Wars universe with a genuine political thriller that can engross audiences without a single lightsaber or Force-powered Jedi.
If you’re a longtime Star Wars fan who is eager to see a more serious approach to the source material, then Andor is a dream come true. People who saw the movies as kids have grown up, and, finally, the series is acting like it’s grown up with them. Andor is streaming now on Disney+.