New live-action show could bring the excitement back to Star Wars

Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.

Disney has been making a lot of big announcements (including some fun rumors) about what kind of programming will be involved with their new streaming media platform. In regards to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they’re planning some shows featuring several great characters that have fallen short of their own feature films. With Star Wars, they had previously announced The Mandalorian, which would be directed by Jon Favreau.

That’s all very exciting, but none of it is exciting as their most recent announcement: A new live-action Star Wars series featuring Diego Luna, who played Cassian Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. If you’re familiar with this character, you’re probably wondering why this is a big deal. In the entire pantheon of Star Wars history, Andor – a spy in the Rebel Alliance – doesn’t exactly stick out as one of the most compelling characters.

In fact, that’s probably Rogue One‘s biggest problem. It was set in a familiar time period, in the days heading up to the events of A New Hope. In the process of telling the story of stealing the Death Star plans, director Gareth Edwards was able to put together several cool character cameos, recreate a bunch of classic destinations, and shoot one of the best and most iconic third act’s in the entire franchise.

But the one thing that kept Rogue One from becoming a true Star Wars masterpiece – other than Uncanny Valley Tarkin – is the total lack of character development. I suppose empathizing less with the characters makes it a bit easier for the audience when – SPOILER ALERT – they kill everyone off at the end, including Andor. But the audience never feels much of a connection to Cassian, Jyn Erso, Baze Malbus, and the rest. Sure, Chirrut Imwe might’ve been the most likable of the bunch, but that doesn’t mean we ultimately learned that much about him.

There simply wasn’t enough run-time to flesh out the main characters, tell the story, and fit in appropriate cameos for Tarkin, Darth Vader, Mon Mothma, and Bail Organa. That’s okay. Rogue One was pretty good anyway, and all the fan-servicey Star Wars callbacks make it a joy to rewatch. No need to even mention the hallway scene at the end.

So, what makes a series set around Andor exciting if his character was generally underwhelming in Rogue One? I’ll borrow a line from Director Krennic here: “Its remarkable potential.”

Bail Organa in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. | Lucasfilm

The best thing Disney has done with Star Wars since purchasing Lucasfilm back in 2012 is Star Wars Rebels. That was the cartoon series spanning four seasons following former Jedi padawan Kanan Jarrus, his young protege Ezra Bridger, pilot Hera Syndulla, and several others. The series wrapped up late in 2017, giving us a (mostly) satisfying conclusion for the characters while holding true to the continuity of the original trilogy.

Rebels had a major advantage that the movies haven’t, which is that it was allowed several hours to look deeper into the more mystical side of Star Wars. The characters explored ancient temples and found Sith holocrons. They re-introduced Ahsoka Tano as an older, wiser, post-Clone Wars leader, and in the Season 2 finale they gave us a lightsaber battle between her and Darth Vader – the dark visage of her former master, Anakin Skywalker.

In the series finale Rebels explored the World Between Worlds, which is as intricate as the Force gets in the Star Wars universe. It’s a nexus point in time, allowing travel to different and important parts of history. If this idea had been introduced in one of the movies, it would’ve been considered somewhat hokey. It might’ve been a bit too Harry Potter for the Star Wars saga. But in Rebels, it just worked.

This new show will get an opportunity to use its longer overall run-time to explore the early days of the Rebel Alliance in a way that we’ve never seen before; not even in Rebels. While the rebellion looms throughout the original trilogy, we rarely see them in full force. The heroes don’t arrive at the base on the moon of Yavin IV until the end of A New Hope, and the Rebel Alliance disappears from the storyline of The Empire Strikes Back after the Battle of Hoth. It’s not until Return of the Jedi that we really see the full strength of the rebellion.

There is another reason for Star Wars fans to be excited about a show based around the rebel spy, Cassian Andor. One of the coolest things about Rebels was the fact that it was set around five years ahead of the events of Rogue One and A New Hope. The Alliance was still in its infancy, the Empire was ruling the galaxy, and most of the characters we know and love from the saga were alive. The Cassian Andor series will be set in a similar time period.

And therein lies the biggest key to this show’s potential. While the show may develop Andor as its main protagonist, there is no doubt that other familiar characters will be present from time to time. Here are some of the characters that could make appearances:

Saw Gerrera: The character actually made his first appearance in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, another cartoon series that was set during the time period between Attack of the Clones and Revenge of the Sith. Lucasfilm wrote him into Rogue One and cast Forest Whitaker, then later wrote the character into Rebels and brought back Whitaker to do the voice. If they can convince Whitaker to come back, involving Saw and further explaining his split with the Rebel Alliance would work.

Mon Mothma in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
Mon Mothma in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. | Lucasfilm

Mon Mothma: She first made an appearance on the big screen in Return of the Jedi. It was a short scene explaining the attack on the second Death Star, and actress Caroline Blakiston received probably two minutes of screen time. Genevieve O’Reilly played a young version of the character in Revenge of the Sith, but her scenes ended up on the cutting room floor. She returned for a few short appearances in Rogue One, and then also lent her voice to the character in Rebels. It seems almost impossible to imagine a series built around Andor as a rebel spy in the early days of the rebellion without the occasional appearance from Mon Mothma.

Bail Organa: If Mon Mothma is the mother of the Rebel Alliance, then Bail Organa is the father. The two worked together and were instrumental in the creation of the organization, with the original intention being to simply resist the Emperor when the Imperial Senate couldn’t. It might be harder to convince Jimmy Smits to play the character again for more than just a cameo, so we’ll see on this one.

Leia Organa: With Bail Organa in the fold, Leia wouldn’t be too far behind. Hey, maybe we’d even get a closer look at her mother Breha and a little more time on Alderaan. After all, we’ve only seen the infamous planet in a brief scene in Revenge of the Sith and as it was being destroyed in A New Hope. Who wouldn’t want a slightly younger Princess Leia teaming up with Cassian Andor for an episode?

Enfys Nest: The two of you reading that saw Solo: A Star Wars Story will know that Enfys Nest was a character introduced to the canon in that movie. She’s a rebel leader in the early days, running with a small gang and robbing the rich to build up the resistance. Lucasfilm hasn’t gone out of their way to tie together their movies and TV shows as of yet, so it’s reasonable to question whether Nest – and a character such as Hera Syndulla – will show up. But it wouldn’t be a stretch to do it.

Darth Vader: Why not? James Earl Jones is getting a bit old to be voicing Vader for movies, but would he agree to do a few lines for an episode in a TV series? This one is probably a reach, given the fact that a rebel spy isn’t likely to survive a run-in with the Dark Lord of the Sith. But we can dream.

There are no guarantees that this newly announced series is going to be any good. Clone Wars was mostly good and Rebels was consistently great, but those shows had the benefit of animation. The series in question obviously will not. And even Star Wars Resistance, which is in its infancy, has had pretty pitiful reviews thus far. You never know what you’re going to get.

But Lucasfilm made a big step forward in choosing Andor as a character to build a live-action series around. The character will finally get some on-screen development, and the greater Star Wars universe might benefit as well.

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