HomeScienceOuter Space'Andor' soared - it was about the power, not The Force, of...

‘Andor’ soared – it was about the power, not The Force, of the Star Wars universe

This article contains spoilers for the season finale of Andor.

In a corner of the Star Wars galaxy, you’ve got the eeeeevil Sith Lord, Emperor Sheev Palpatine, crackling with Force-lighting as he fries Jedi Master Mace Windu to a crisp, screaming “POWAH! UNLIMITED POWAAAAAAH!”

And in another angle – the much dirtier and more inconspicuous one depicted in season one of Disney+’s Andor – you’ve got the boot-licking, low, fascist mushroom Syril Karn, who stands at attention as he nervously answers his supervisor’s question whether he’s changed his uniform.

“Maybe a little,” he says. “Pockets, piping. Some light tailoring.”

There are several years between these two events, and they exist in different orders of magnitude. The emperor and all his chattering and crackling belong to the mythical, the macro Star Warss – the Joseph-Campbell hero’s quest for George Lucas’s original vision, which combined sprawling space opera with the high adventure of Saturday movie serials – narrow escapes, thrilling stunts and sizzling villains.

But further Andor, you have villains like Syril Karn. They’re not exactly sizzling, these pathetic, worthless warriors. Their constant quest for recognition and advancement, not to mention their obsession with the aesthetics of fascism (Piping! Light tailoring!), makes them more eyeroll-worthy.

That’s exactly why Andor works as fresh, unique and powerful as it does.

Force with a lowercase “f”

Karn and his colleagues are committed to the cause of fascist oppression (which they cautiously refer to as just “order”) with a zeal that is not remotely macro. It’s not mythical, religious, or even passionate. Instead, they are driven by institutional imperatives that free their souls of empathy, compassion, and understanding, rewarding them for ruthlessness, cruelty, and above all, efficiency.

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Who’s the showrunner here, Hannah Arendt? Because while we watched season one of Andor playing in a series of mini-arcs over its 12 episodes, we saw the inner workings of the Empire. To be The Banality of Evil: The Series.

The Star Warss movies showed us an empire evil as it destroyed planets and haunted our brave heroes. Of course, there were always space Nazis in gray uniforms walking about in the background, and the few who got speaking parts—Peter Cushing’s Grand Moff Tarkin, for instance—were obsessed with the cold cunning of a Saturday serial villain, to contrast with the inexorable the Vader’s threat and the emperor’s exaggerated purr. They were all one piece, larger than life.

But the fascist officials of Andor – Syril Karn, Dedra Mero, Major Partagaz, Lieutenant Supervisor Blevins and others – are cogs. Willing, dedicated cogs who enjoy the machine they’re a part of, even when they all think they could be of more use elsewhere.

There’s The Force and there’s violence – blunt, brutal and inhumane. In Andortime and again we have seen the latter variety exercise its sober influence, not on whole planets, but on individual lives. The public display of Andor’s father’s corpse. Andor’s arrest, and six years-no-but-really-forever in prison for loitering. The exploitative, endless labor of Narkina 5. The hideous, sober torture of Bix. The cumulative result was heartbreaking and personal and inevitably, eerily relevant.

Just like the season’s portrait of defiance.

Andor walked so Luke could Skywalk

The Star Wars movies claim that a galaxy can be saved from tyranny by a handful of heroes — and yes, a succession of easily exploitable space station design flaws.

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Andor showed the growing disaffection and anger that gives rise to heroes. In many different ways, for their own individual reasons, the characters of Andor decides to revolt and fight, because totalitarianism is an unnatural state; it breeds resistance.

“The more you tighten your grip,” Princess Leia told Tarkin Star Wars: A New Hope, “the more galaxies slip through your fingers.”

on Andor, we watch as that grip tightens around places like Ferrix and Aldhani and Narkina 5 and Coruscant. We see people we care about being crushed. But we see others slip through as well. Yes, lives are lost and compromises made – that’s what Luthen’s monologue in Episode 10 is about, the poignant loneliness of the freedom fighter.

But Andor shows us that the downfall of the Empire is inevitable and always was, Skywalker or no Skywalker. It is ingrained, the inescapable result of the system’s utter disregard for the humanity of the people it seeks to exploit and control.

Anakin was right about sand

But let’s be real.

There is another reason, besides the satisfying clarity of the focus on the individual, that from Andor first season set themselves apart. In 1977, at his aunt and uncle’s Tatooine moisture farm, we all watched Luke Skywalker inform C-3PO, “If there’s a bright center of the universe, you’re on the planet it’s furthest from.”

This turned out to be a lie. For a variety of reasons – most notably the unhealthy infatuation with nostalgia/fanservice that continues to haunt the franchise – the Star Wars powers keep booking us a passage back to that same goddamn featureless sand planet. Even the otherwise excellent The Mandalorianwhich mostly performs the same interplanetary action at ground level Andor could not resist the siren song of Tatooine’s Krayt dragons and Tusken Raiders. (And despite a first season that managed to step out of the shadows of what came before, the lure of Jedi temples and lightsabers also proved too strong for The Mandalorian escape.)

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Looking forward to the second and final season of Andor, we know a few things. Mon Mothma is exposed and goes on the run (find her daughter to betray her). Cassian needs to meet K-2SO. Karn and Mero are wildly dysfunctional, jackbooted foil-a-deux maybe she will see one-deuxing each other. (Personally, Karn’s crush on Mero seems to have more to do with his insane obsession with authority than anything purely sexual; see above, in re: “Pockets. Piping. Some light tailoring.”)

And at least some of our favorite Imperial apparatchiks in gray or white suits will land on the Death Star as it meets its fateful end.

That much we know. So much we can only hope:

That it will all take place so far away from %##*&! Tatoo possible.

Copyright 2022 NPR. For more information, visit https://www.npr.org.

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