I realize I haven’t mentioned it here on this blog, but Andor is very good. A prequel to 2016’s Rogue One, Andor follows the titular Cassian Andor as he goes from a guy just schlepping about the corners of the galaxy to an all-in member of the Rebel Alliance who helps steal the Death Star plans.
Andor is really taking its time making Cassian into a Rebel; we’re just over halfway through the season and he’s still not a man who believes in any cause, let alone the cause. Sure, he’s been roped into Rebel-adjacent activities and he dislikes the Empire as much as the next guy living under an oppressive regime, but he’s not about to fight a war against the Empire (yet).
But it doesn’t mean the people around him aren’t. Many of the characters in Andor are revolutionaries in one form or another and the show gets a lot of mileage from digging around the way that these people all want similar things but by different means. Everyone wants to watch the Empire burn; not everyone agrees on what that means.
This is uncharted territory for the current Star Wars canon (some of the old EU’s books got into it). We’ve almost always had a united front of Rebel freedom fighters against the Empire, fighters who are in it for the vague notion of ‘freedom’ and because the Empire’s evil. Rebels had some divide between Saw Guerrera’s Partisans’ extremism and the Rebellion at large, but it didn’t really get much deeper than “Hey, maybe we should try not to kill non-combatants.” Andor digs in deeper.
On Coruscant we’ve got Luthen Rael and Mon Mothma, two people trying to kickstart a formal rebellion. Luthen believes in forcing the Empire to respond to rebel activity with increasingly draconic measures in the hope that it drives more people to act. Mon would prefer a gentler hand, fomenting a rebellion without giving the Empire reason to crack down on its citizenry. Luthen and Mon vie against each other, each crafting their own plots even as they’re forced to work together since there are so few people to trust. Can a violent regime be overthrown without hurting the common people? There’s no easy answer and the question weighs heavy between them.
Meanwhile, on the ground, Cassian throws in with a motley rebel cell. As with any motley crew, they’ve all got their reasons for being there. Gorn is a disillusioned Imperial officer who now wants to tear down what he once supported. Cinta’s family was killed by Stormtroopers. Skeen played his motivation off as revenge, but really he’s just in it for the money. And Karis Nemik is out to change the galaxy.
Nemik is writing a manifesto decrying the Empire and justifying a proper rebellion. The others in the cell dismiss him as being an idealist, as being someone too caught up in lofty ideals for the realities of fighting a war. And yes, Nemik the writer is an anomaly in Star Wars, where the focus is more on the warfighters. But those essay-writing dreamers are an integral part of revolution. Alexander Hamilton and others’ writings helped bolster support for the American Revolution; Che Guevara wrote about the need for change in Latin America; Hồ Chí Minh wrote powerful essays calling to oust French imperialism. Can’t have a rebellion without your revolutionary writings.
Star Wars is a story about revolutions and rebellions, its politics inspired in no small part by the then-recent Vietnam War. Andor digs deeper into the discontents that breed revolt and the people that make up a rebellion. Not everyone’s Luke Skywalker, joining the Rebellion after seeing the Empire destroy his home. It’s gonna take some time for Cassian to become that firebrand, but in the meantime, we’re getting a tv show about revolution that delves into the people who make up a rebellion.