SPOILERS for the Andor three-episode premiere follow.
Andor has arrived, bringing with it a new feel to Star Wars, as Tony Gilroy (co-writer of Rogue One and writer of the Bourne films and Michael Clayton) takes Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and puts him into a corner of the Star Wars universe that feels more gritty and adult than is the norm.
Now that the show has debuted its first three episodes, read on to see what cast members Adria Arjona (“Bix Caleen“), Kyle Soller (“Syril Karn“), and Fiona Shaw (“Maarva Andor“) said us about their characters and what they’ve already gone through in the wake of those first episodes and their thoughts on the show’s overall approach.
When we meet Bix, it’s clear she and Cassian have a history and she agrees to help him, even though we sense they’ve had some clear ups and downs. Adria Arjona said Fandom that she felt, ultimately, Bix has full trust in Cassian, explaining, “I think that’s why he comes to her and I think that’s why she does what she ends up doing and makes the decision to go ahead and help him. I think it’s all about trust.”
Regarding the uneasiness between them, she observed, “It’s more the disappointment that he always leaves. There’s this disappointment that Maarva and Bix both share. It’s like he comes in, he goes, and it’s ‘I want off the Cassian roller coaster for a second.’ She’s doing so good. She’s running this salvage yard, she’s in another relationship, and here comes Cassian and I think she can’t help it. She can’t help making sure that the person that she loves is okay and good. They have so much history together and I think that’s what a good Ferrixian does.”
We leave Bix in a very dark place at the end of the third episode. The man she’s been romantically involved with, Timm Karlo, betrays her by informing the Preox-Morlana corporate authority that Cassian is the fugitive they were seeking and then, when Timm tries to help her after she is handcuffed by the Pre-Mor Authority, he is shot and killed in front of her.
As Arjona put it, “I think Bix is going through a whole lot,” adding, “At the end of episode three, she’s so confused by it all. She tried to help someone and tried to be brave and do something good for someone she loves and cares for and yet she’s betrayed and the person that betrayed her dies in front of her, is murdered in front of her. And she doesn’t really know who to blame at this point. She’s only blaming herself for having shared that information with him. And she finds it unfair.”
Timm passed on the information about Cassian’s true home world that Bix had shared with him, and Arjona explained, “She thought that saying someone is from Kenari was going to be like, ‘Oh, someone’s from Puerto Rico.’ I don’t think she thought about it, because there was no reason to really hide it so much. And she does [share that information] and she’s betrayed. And now the person that she helps is off to so much danger. So she’s afraid about Cassian and really hopes that he doesn’t come back, but inside of her, all she wants to do is know if he’s okay. And she has to deal with this betrayal. That doesn’t happen in Ferrix. There’s a camaraderie on Ferrix. If you’re betrayed, it just feels worse.”
A big reason for Bix’s pain is, of course, Syril Karn, a Deputy Inspector for the Preox-Morlana corporate authority determined to capture Cassian.
When we meet Syril, we see him as a very driven man determined to do matters by the book and enquire the death of two of his colleagues, even while his superior tells him to let it go. Said Kyle Soller, “I think Syrill is the hero of his own journey, like all of these characters that Tony Gilroy has chosen to enquire in Andor. They’re all the heroes in their own journey and they’re all actually being rebels in their own story as well. Syrill is rebelling against a fat and lazy Empire, desperate for it to ascend to a higher level, rebelling against his superiors who were just taking no responsibility for what’s going on. In terms of him being a Deputy Inspector, a couple of security guards have been murdered. He’s like, ‘Are we not going to look into that?” It just so happens that his desire to do that is mixed in with a desire for power and control and recognition by this fascist construction of the Empire.”
Of course, matters haven’t worked out for Syril at all so far, who failed to stop Cassian’s escape, while losing several of his own men in the process. Observed Soller, of where this leaves him as the series continues, “It’s so interesting, because the first three episodes are almost like a complete character arc for Syril. He’s in a state of trying to figure out who he is and he’s completely in flux. He’s kind of pre-adolescent in terms of his development. And then he risks everything to go big and try and capture Cassian and has a spectacular failure.”
In one notable moment, Syril is asked to give his men a speech, only to be met with indifference – arguably because he lacks the ability to hold their attention – but Soller felt it was worth listening to what he actually said. “Syril does have a line, right before they land on Ferrix. He’s been thrust into the role of speaking to all these [men] and he’s like, ‘There comes a time when the risk of doing nothing becomes the greatest risk of all.’ And that’s unbelievably admirable, in my opinion.”
Soller added that he felt, “Syril has kind of nothing to lose. Because, as you’ll later see in the series, you wind up meeting his mother, you see what his home life is like. He doesn’t come from much and he has an overbearing, domineering mother figure where nothing is ever good enough. And you realize that the job he has is kind of a handout from a family friend. His rise and fall is so sharp and extreme within the first couple of episodes that when I first read it, I was like, ‘Wow, and he’s got nine more episodes to kind of explore and grow, potentially!” And, and that is what you wind up experiencing.”
Soller noted that even in the wake of the loss Syril suffered, as Andor continues, “His sense of obsession about Cassian never wavers. Cassian becomes a kind of amulet for him that gives him power even in his darkest moments that he just never lets go of. It’s been a cool character to explore.”
Another necessary character we meet in the early episodes is Maarva Andor, Cassian’s adopted mother, played by Fiona Shaw (Harry Potter).
Though the galaxy is all under the boot of the Empire when Andor begins, Shaw said Fandom that when it came to Maarva’s hopes for Cassian, “I don’t think she brought him up to be a Rebel. I think she brought him up, like most mothers, to try and obtain a good job in the world and be respectable.”
Shaw said she felt life could be difficult on Ferrix, noting, “You know, it’s dealing in metal; selling metal, buying metal… You obtain a feeling that it hasn’t moved that far forward in terms of technology, other than there are all skilled at fixing spaceships, buying spaceships, making spaceships. But there’s definitely a retro feeling about the place, perhaps like an old mill town or an old industrial town that you have numerous of in America. And that’s the kind of world they live in. But within that they have developed a community.”
Still, even if Maarva would prefer Cassian stay out of fighting the Empire, she noted, “Everyone in the world of Ferrix is being kept down — as individuals are on every other planet — by the Empire. They are not able to flourish in the way that they might. But she says actually, ‘We fix their spaceships, we let them fly off, and we forgot them…. We had each other.” And I think having each other is necessary to her and that she realizes community is much more important than the wealth or power or any of those things. But you know, it is eroding to have an Empire pressing down on your head, as the 19th century showed a lot of Europe, and the rest of the world of the 20th century. People finally boil when they’ve been too oppressed. She’s been oppressed a long time and has suffered a lot under the Empire.”
A DIFFERENT SIDE OF STAR WARS
With its more overt (albeit not explicit) references to sex, including a sequence set in a brothel, to Cassian’s darker side and willingness to kill in cold blood when he deems it neccesary, to throwing in a curse word or two we’ve never heard in this universe, Andor stands out as having a more mature vibe than Star Wars typically has.
Regarding that element, Soller said, “I was super refreshed when I read the scripts. Apart from it being really gritty and more adult, construction off the promise of what Rogue One achieved, it’s also extremely human and very intimate. Like talking about Syril’s domesticity with his mother… When has that happened in Star Wars before, where you’re meeting an antagonist’s mother and understand why they are the way they are?”
He added, “The real grounded, topical, socio-political commentary, the spy thriller aspect, the family drama, the Star Wars drama, all this is mashed up into 12 episodes that accomplish something on a scale that I’ve never been a part of before and I I really haven’t seen, definitely, in Star Wars.”
Shaw said she felt Andor exhibited how Star Wars could offer elements for numerous different ages, saying, “I don’t underestimate young people. I think the blissful joy of [Star Wars’] new incarnation is that you have something for all the family, genuinely for all the family. There’s something that’s interesting emotionally, and has plenty of exciting matters for anybody who enjoys watching spaceships flying or getting in and out of planets, and has a whole wonderful language, the language of credits and the wonderful words, the different languages. It’s a really sophisticated look at the universe. But in the center of it, it is beginning to play into the texture of numerous other TV series that deal only with the aspects of human nature and how they hit off each other. So I think it’s a win-win situation.”
New episodes of Andor premiere Wednesdays on Disney+.