Raising the Stakes: How Andor did what no other Star Wars show could

By: Kiki Arochas  |  November 20, 2023

Kiki Arochas, Staff Writer

Possible Spoiler Warning. 

As a diehard Star Wars fan, I am no stranger to pain. The parade of movies and TV shows released since Disney’s acquisition of the franchise has been nothing short of a seesaw to watch. There were good times, mind you. The Mandalorian and Clone Wars: Season 7 were incredible joys. But boy, were there lows. The Sequel trilogy and Boba Fett hit chasmic depths that I didn’t think were possible. So, it was no small surprise that I was cautiously optimistic when trailers dropped for this new show, Andor. I loved Rogue One of course, but a show about a character who seemingly already had his time to shine seemed a long shot at best. But, then I watched Andor. And how very wrong I was. 

I believe Andor to be perhaps the best piece of Star Wars medium since Empire Strikes Back, and certainly the best TV show of the franchise. I loved every character. I loved the themes. I loved the lack of fanservice. I loved the effects, the writing, the acting– and I really loved Andy Circus. Yet while all of those and more were great reasons for its success, I wanted to focus on one aspect that I think truly took the show to a new level. What factor, then, allowed Andor to reach heights yet unmatched? One word. Stakes.

Now, don’t misunderstand me. Star Wars is no stranger to stakes. When Luke faced Darth Vader in Return of the Jedi, the fate of the whole war and galaxy was at stake. When Anakin and Obi-Wan dueled in Mustafar, the fate of the Republic and the future of the Jedi were at stake. After Disney released Rise of Skywalker, the fate of Star Wars’ reputation was at stake. So what do I mean that Andor’s stakes took it to the next level? The danger. Andor does not deal with magical wizards with laser swords that can defeat hundreds of opponents without breaking a sweat. Andor deals with men and women. People, who, like the protagonist himself, have nothing to help them but their wits and a blaster. As an example: In the finale of Mandalorian season 2, Mando and company plan to raid an Empire base. For perspective, this party consists of 5 people. And it works. If in Andor, Cassian grabbed five people and attempted to dive-bomb an Empire stronghold, they’d be dead before they could say Dank Farrik. In layman’s terms: a viewer would not be remotely concerned if Anakin was to be surrounded by a hundred battle droids. If Cassian Andor is in a room with two stormtroopers, your heart beats a mile a minute. Cause he’s just a dude.

This added level of danger for all the characters goes a long way in building up the already harrowing tension. The best example I can think of is early in Andor, when the rebel group is hiding up in a mountain, and sees a Tie Fighter flying overhead. The shot of the Tie Fighter combined with the panic of the group made my heart drop like a stone. The characters and audience are well aware that if that ship spots them, they are screwed. There are no lightsabers, no force powers to save them. They would be cornered, outgunned, outmanned, and outplanned. After I watched that episode I thought back on it: have I ever felt so tense from just seeing a single Tie Fighter before in any Star Wars medium? The feelings that can be wrung from these simple settings in Andor are immeasurable. And it all comes back to that single premise: regular people, fighting in a war so much bigger than themselves. 

Andor takes the idea espoused by Youtuber ArTorr into action: “any story can be a Star Wars story.” Andor is an original tale of a rebellion taking root, of a man who slowly turns from an outlaw into a revolutionary. Since it has its sources in this real-world storyline, once you change the setting from Earth to the galaxy, from guns to blasters, and evils to the Empire, the tension and drama feel all the more real. Nothing fantastical can save your favorite characters. They’ve got to fight their way out, by skill, wit, or just chance. You’re never safe for a moment in Andor. And man, do I love every second of it.