I know it's not been doing well in the ratings but I decided I was hearting enough good things about Andor to take a look and I'm glad I did. There's a proven principle in box office analysis that a sequel movie's opening weekend is heavily impacted by the quality of the prior entry. A good movie can have a bad opening if the previous film was bad, and a bad movie can open well if the prior entry was strong. Word of mouth will have some mitigating effect over future weeks - particularly on a bad entry, which is why you see some movies open strong and then fall off of a cliff thereafter.
I say this because I think this is what is happening to Andor: it's a good show but it follows two series with a mixed reception at best - Book of Boba Fett and Kenobi. Plus it faces the basic question of "who asked for this?" which is something I was asking myself when they first announced this one. Who was out there saying "wow I wish I knew more about this Cassian Andor guy" after watching Rogue One? I love Rogue One but even I never thought we needed a follow prequel series for anything in that movie. I also think that Star Wars fatigue is a real thing and having a near-constant flow of Star Wars shows runs a real risk of making them less special, especially when some of them are just not that good.
So why is Andor an exception to this? Or, why should it be? Why was I pleasantly surprised?
First up, it is a story about the formation of the Rebellion. Now maybe not everyone cares about that but it's a pretty significant event in the overall story of Star Wars and 40+ years in it feels like that's something we could spend some time exploring - surely there are some good stories to be told there and some interesting characters to meet along the way. Andor himself gets involved at the lowest level but we also see one of the main agents (who recruits him) and high level subterfuge as Mon Mothma tries to get support from various entities. We also see the lack of cohesion among the various sub-factions such as Saw Gerrera's band and some others that are mentioned. So it's a more complex situation than just "hey we're the rebels" and that could keep things interesting down the road.
Second it's a good look at the Empire taking power. The gradual imposition of restrictions on imperial society. The growing fear and unease among normal citizens. The unfairness of it all shows up in trials and sentencing and the revision of those sentences after the fact. This might be our first good on-screen look at the ISB which was a pretty regular opponent in a lot of early Star Wars RPG campaigns. People are uncertain at best about the Empire as the show begins and it only gets worse as it goes on.
Third it's an interesting look at normal life and normal people in the Star Wars universe. We see corporate security in action and some of what their life is like. We see criminal activity. We see a guy looking for a job. We see a guy dealing with his mother's expectations and concern for his career. We see relationships pushed in different directions both through individual actions and because of Imperial crackdowns. We see some prison life. There's a fair amount of people trying to go about their normal daily business as events unfold around them. It's just an interesting element that has not come up a lot in prior Star Wars media.
The downside is that it does move a little slow for a Star Wars show. There is a lot of setup and while the payoffs are solid there is not a ton of action - early on it's a heist, not a space assault. There are no Skywalkers and no lightsabers and no mention of the force at all. It's much more of a thriller than an action movie.
I loved Rogue One and it had some similarities so if you hated that movie I suspect you will have a hard time liking this show, but if you liked it then you should give this one a look - it's worth your time.