History versus Mythos and the Necessity of Both

First, let me reiterate that Andor is not only the best Star Wars show, it is quite possibly the best television of the year. Yes, I am aware of the fantasy dragon and elf shows and the incredible dramas that have come out this year alone, but seriously, a very legitimate argument can be made that Andor is better than those. It would, at the very least, be in several Best Of lists and easily top five for most. Accordingly, I am begging you to please watch this show. I am not saying this to get more. It’s fate has already been decided and set at 24 episodes across two seasons, so there really is not a chance for more Andor, but there is opportunity for more genre storytelling like it across the board if it gets eyeballs because I know it will be showered in awards. So, please, watch this show. The first season is already 10 episodes down; thus, binging the whole season is not too far off. Anyhow, this post is not about getting you to watch, but more an exploration of what the show is doing.

In essence, Andor is history to the films’ mythology. Obviously, these are all fictional works, but the various productions in the Star Wars franchise are all purposely crafting a larger narrative universe. Each show and movie builds and adds to the tapestry of stories that make up the universe of Star Wars. And Andor is the rare series that manages to improve virtually every production that came before it. It does this, in part, because, again, it is telling a more grounded history of the Rebellion and Empire compared to the narrative we are provided in the movies. The Star Wars films, and specifically the Original Trilogy, are presenting an epic saga with all the pitfalls of the genre. Even with how each major film in the nine movie series begins (A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away) suggest that the films are recounting past events of the rise and fall of the Galactic Empire and the Heroic Rebel Alliance that brought about said downfall. It shows the evil Palpatine, the Sith Darth Sidious, as the master manipulator who brought about the end of the Galactic Senate to fulfill his goal of a universal empire under his leadership. The films also tell of the great Rebel Alliance that rose against the evil Empire and was guided and supported by the Force through the famous Skywalker bloodline who would birth the greatest and most powerful Force users the Galaxy has ever known. The grand battle between Light and Dark that was destined to happen with Good being victorious as it was preordained to be. It is a grand, inspirational story. The great legend of the Skywalker Saga told to generations to give them hope and purpose. And Andor utterly trashes that idea for the better.

While the films are creating a Great Epic, Andor is relating the harsh truths of what the Empire really was and what it actually took to finally grasp victory from its clutches. As we see in the series, the Empire was not the machinations of a single individual. Instead, it was the ongoing result of a million choices made by hundreds of thousands of people who cared more about their personal desires for wealth, influence, position, and power over the lives of people and alien species. Those beneath them are just stepping stones toward the next rung on the hierarchal order of bureaucracy. There is a reason that we see the Empire through middle management and corporate subsidies in meetings discussing outright war crimes and murder like line items on the quarterly spreadsheet. We see the Empire represented by banal bureaucrats because that is basically what it is. For most people, the Empire is not Sidious sitting on his throne with Vader at his side. It is a local Prefect in a black uniform demanding production rates go up next month or rations will be cut. It is a warden smiling as they electrify your body just enough to harm but not kill. It is a local magistrate signing a piece of paper that declares your home new Empire territory requiring you to vacate in two days. The Empire is not a Sith pair with lightsabers zapping things left and right. It is just ordinary people giving in to their impulses and desires at the cost of others.

Equally, the Rebel Alliance is not a group of heroes preordained by the Force. It is a collection of messy, broken, barely functional individuals and coalitions that see and understand the threat the Empire is. It is not accidental that Cassian is an oppressed minority whose planet and people were destroyed by the Empire in their pursuit of resources. Nor that the few freedom fighters we have seen have been assortments of diverse downtrodden individuals who have been harmed and oppressed by the Empire. Although we see Mon Mothma and Luthen in the upper echelons of society making deals and plans for the future of the rebellion, the ones in the fight and on the ground are the miners, factory workers, farmers, prisoners, and the billions of people spread across the galaxy who have been pushed and pushed and pushed until a line was drawn and they swung back. However, they are also not the clean and pristine heroes we have in the films. These are men and women and aliens that are just trying to survive in a cruel universe and will do anything to accomplish that goal. So, they commit crimes, kill people, send their own soldiers to their deaths, and take sins and stains upon their souls to gain an inch of ground against the Empire. The pure heroes and legends of the films only have a chance because of the difficult, nearly impossible, decisions the characters in Andor made. We see the price of rebellion and the costs it takes upon those forced to rise up against the growing tide of fascism and oppression.

Of course, it is not incidental that this show is ongoing during this time in our world. The parallels and allegory to the real world could not be more blunt or apparent if they placed a giant neon sign pointing them out. Yet, the writers and production crew behind the scenes are also making clear what it takes for rebellion to be successful. We see how Luthen has molded himself into the monsters he is fighting against and how that choice will make him a pariah rightfully judged by history if it even remembers his name. Or Mon Mothma navigating the ever growing treacherous waters of Senate politics trying to fund the rebellion and keep the powers of the Emperor at bay and what principles or moral she is willing to compromise and outright sell toward those goals. We know that she will ultimately fail, but that does not make her journey any less engaging nor the weight of her actions any less heavy. And we see how the Rebel Alliance of the films began as not a single unified force but as small acts of defiance and rebellion across the cosmos that cost lives and homes and safety and sanity. Again, the parallels to our real world is not accidental. Even as these words are written there are demonstrations, protests, armed unrest, and outright war across the Earth as people of every creed and color are pushed to the brink and yell “No More. No Further” and fight back.

In the future, there will be songs and stories of these events told to children and taught in schools. The gritty details will be overlooked or ignored in favor of the heroic names and grand battles that decided victory. In short, the myths and legends will be spread, but now we bear witness to the choices and actions, as dark and difficult they may be, that will one day bear fruit to that promised time. It is truly astonishing that post Disney Star Wars is the vehicle for this story. And I, again, beg you to watch this film for your benefit as to the kinds of stories that can be told in even the most commercialized, inoffensive, and child friendly spaces.

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