What does it take to start a rebellion? What sort of thing could happen to spark the fight? Is it a single moment of tyranny, a single instance of the Empire overstepping their bounds in their grasp for control, or is it a single act of rebellion itself, the fire that starts the fire, breaking the illusion that the grasp of tyranny cannot be undone?
The road to tyranny, to the Empire, all seemed simple enough. They were there and then they’d be gone and life could continue on as is. There would be no consistent rules to the galaxy but death, the Empire and taxes, and all three could be viewed simply as a part of life. The only cost to maintaining that life is paid in compliance.
It is the act of not seeing the atrocities on the peripherals, the people displaced, the entire cultures slowly eroded away until all that is left of them is dust. More people are lost than found. For Cassian Andor that person is his sister, lost long ago. A visit to a bar tells him almost nothing of where she could be, and it would have been an inconsequential trip if not for the two men he kills on the way out.
It’s an introduction to the story that really sets Andor (2022) apart from the rest of the Star Wars filmography. When Han casually shot Greedo, it’s hardly frowned upon. Obi-Wan just cut off someone’s arm moments before, and the music kept playing regardless.
There is a cold grit to these first deaths in Andor in which a fatal accident and an execution in the rain immediately casts Cassian in moral grays. Cassian walks a fine line between being a con man and thief, lying his way to stay afloat, when a rare opportunity emerges. There’s a chance for lot of credits, and all he has to do is help a small team of rebels rob the Empire.
A rebellion isn’t cheap. X-Wing production doesn’t pay for itself, let alone the means of housing and transporting rebel troops to and from the front lines of a war that hasn’t even really started. That money has to come from somewhere, and that’s where Mon Mothma comes in, this time with a role that’s more than just background exposition.
A rule is added here, a rule is added there, incrementally giving the Empire control in the name of fear by a manipulated Senate that bleeds its people’s power directly into the Emperor’s hands. There is a game that is being played as she fights against the Empire any way she can in public, and any way she can in private, and that private life funneling money into a growing rebellion is slowly catching up with her.
There’s a point in the show where I was expecting the story to just skip forward. Characters were finding themselves in positions that didn’t allow for much freedom to move around, and it would have made sense for the story to just time skip and allow things to just develop and grow without needing to show it, but Andor didn’t do that.
Instead, it spends its time showing the results of tyranny, of an Empire left to grow with unchecked power. Over the course of the show you see genocide complete, you see genocide in progress, you see genocide coming to be. Regardless of compliance, the Empire is out there and unavoidable as their grasp takes every aspect of control until all culture that isn’t the Empire is strangled out from between its fingers.
What does it take to start a rebellion? The right words in the right ears? That single moment of tyranny? A step too far, the pushing back against a final boundary that makes compliance impossible? That is what Andor is about, not just the backstory of a character from a spin-off, but of a man asked to stand against tyranny, or just be another brick in the wall.