The Cassian Andor we meet in the earliest parts of Rogue One was already hardly the most prim-and-proper sort of person, even for Star Wars’ ragtag Rebel Alliance. But the one we meet at the beginning of his self-titled Disney+ TV show is somehow even less put-together to a shocking degree—and that’s pretty damn great.
It’s a surprising move to see how Andor, the first three episodes of which began streaming today, opens by taking a practically universally beloved character from Rogue One and spending the best part of those two opening hours textually having what feels like the entire universe hate its titular hero, and kind of for good reason. The Cassian we meet in Andor is a remarkable kind of fuckup: our introduction to him sees him botch a reconnaissance mission so badly he resorts to killing two corporate security guards (one accidentally, the other in cold blood in a mirror to his murder of a Rebel source in his first Rogue One scene).
It would be enough to show us that this is a man who barely has a grasp of what he’s doing or what he wants if this act, the catalyst for everything that goes to hell across Andor’s first three episodes, was all we got. But these three episodes go even further and introduce us to a layered world of networks and relationships Cassian has made for himself on the planet Ferrix, pretty much all of which he abuses for favors and are made with people repeatedly calling him out for it. The man is an absolute disaster, no one likes him, but he kind of gets by on it anyway because they know if they just keep doing him a favor here, letting him sort through a bit of scrap there, or borrow a few credits, whatever latest hot mess he’s involved in will hopefully largely pass them by (until it doesn’t, as Bix and Timm arguably learn the most in these episodes). Not because of his charm, not because of his skill in anything in particular—Cassian does not exactly show much skill beyond scrounging anyway—but because they just want to be as far away from his bullshit as possible before it blows up in his face.
It’s a remarkably bold way to re-introduce us to Cassian. His cold-blooded execution of a contact in Rogue One or his willingness to go along with his commander’s orders to assassinate Jyn Erso’s father should they find him were both intended to show us a ruthless man, but also kind of a cool one. Cassian wasn’t one of those goody-two-shoes heroes they put on Rebel recruitment holos, we’re meant to think, but a badass that got shit done. The Cassian of Andor however is the direct opposite of that: all he does is mess up, scramble from one hole he’s dug for himself to the next, and hurt people along the way. He’s not cool, he’s a nightmare. He’d be distinctly unlikeable, if not for the fact that it’s surprisingly endearing to have a Star Wars show open with “here’s our hero, this guy you know and like. He’s really fucking bad at what he does, but he does it anyway.”
Because really, the ideal fantasy of Star Wars, unlike Star Trek, is not to watch beautiful people engage in competence porn. It’s to watch very normal people do their best in the face of overwhelming structures of evil, because they’re mad at the world they’re in and want to do right by it. That might be funny to say in a setting that also has a destined bloodline like the Skywalkers, or magical warrior monks who can move the earth with their minds and perform superhuman feats, or everyone is really just six degrees of Kevin Bacon from someone famous. But really, it is. Jedi and Sith and fated heroes may be at the heart of so many Star Wars stories, but Star Wars is at its most endearing when it’s about the people who aren’t those powerful beings of destiny and have to be heroic anyway. It’s why we gravitate to characters like the heroes of Rogue One, why Din Djarin and Boba Fett’s recent turn as the nicest, worst Crime Lord this side of Mos Espa are so interesting, or why Luke’s inability to grapple with the myth of his heroic legacy in The Last Jedi is so heartbreaking. Watching characters who are not exactly great at being heroes struggle because they want to do the right thing, instead of just perfectly doing it, is arguably more important to the galaxy far, far away more than anything else.
Over the course of its two seasons, Cassian Andor is going to get better at his whole thing. He’ll prove himself to the people around him, he’ll fight back against the Empire and become a credible threat beyond a petty thief. But he’s still ultimately going to become that man we meet at the start of Rogue One, messy, rough around the edges, and still just rolling with the many punches that come living under the grip of the Empire. Watching him go from almost hilariously disastrous, but with an angry heart in the right place, to that still not-entirely heroic point is so much more satisfying than if he was just a hero already.
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