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Thrilling ‘Andor’ Finale Keeps It Grounded

With barely a blaster or Stormtrooper, the Disney+ series nails its first season finale.

Shadowy close up on a man with dark hair, looking determined; still from "Andor."

“Andor”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Andor” Season 1 starts and ends with Ferrix.

Cassian Andor’s (Diego Luna) adopted home planet is where his journey began, as “a nobody…who’s fucked it all up.” The Season 1 finale, written by Tony Gilroy and directed by Benjamin Caron, covers the funeral proceedings of Cassian’s mother figure Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw), as all the characters converge on what they know will be a pivotal moment.

It’s the first time everyone on “Andor” — with the minor exception of Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), who has her own agenda and troubles brewing — is so singularly focused on the same thing for the same reason. Luthen (Stellan Skårsgard) and his rebels always had their missions, Syril (Kyle Soller) and Dedra (Denise Gough) had their own methods of enforcing Empiric agenda, and civilians steered clear of it all — including Cassian himself. He returns home knowing the risk and that there’s a target on his back, because he can no longer leave a loved one to fend for themselves against this tyranny. The friends who helped him out of discomfort or pity now proudly risk it all for a changed man.

IndieWire’s Ben Travers praised “Andor”s craftsmanship in his review, and that production detail is showcased here. From the sets to the costumes to Nicholas Brittell’s haunting funeral march, every frame is designed to keep viewers firmly immersed in the moment. Cinematographer Damián García is all but showing off at this point, with intentional shadows, closeups, and crane shots that illustrate the magnitude of Maarva’s status and impact.

Shaw has been giving one of the show’s many outstanding but muted performances, culminating in the funeral speech. Gilroy’s mastery of dialogue is on full display, projected to the assembled characters and working as both declaration and narration. Shaw’s face isn’t even in most of it, but her voice thrums with purpose, and it’s every other face in the crowd that gives away the power of her words. When she finally shouts “Fight the Empire!” — so simple yet effective — all hell breaks loose.

Blue-white hologram of a woman's torso projected from a small robot for a massive crowd in a town square; still from "Andor."

“Andor”

Lucasfilm Ltd.

As tension builds superbly throughout the episode, it’s hard to imagine everything boiling down to blaster fire and CGI action, as it usually does in Star Wars and Marvel. But when the tension finally breaks, it’s refreshingly raw.  Through directing and production, “Andor” subtly underscores the humanity and resonance of events on screen; Imperial officers fight the crowd with S.W.A.T. shields and clubs. The blasters come out, but the sequence relies on grounding elements that could be part of almost any show or film. An officer shouts “Open fire! Fire at will!” which says everything about his position and intent. Even the Stormtroopers — rarely seen in this series — look more menacing than usual, their helmets angled slightly downward as they gun down civilians in broad daylight. It’s almost like there’s an expression on those helmets, a merciless one. Close ups and short scenes intercut with the central fight give it room to breathe without losing momentum, like Cinta (Varada Sethu) stabbing an officer in an alleyway, or Dedra being overpowered by the crowd and clawing her way back to safety.

And throughout it all there’s Cassian, a man on a mission, a man with a plan — no longer the guy that no one on Ferrix wants to see walking down the street. There’s still another season of “Andor” teeing up the Cassian established in 2016’s “Rogue One,” but the show is quite literally halfway there. There’s no going back for this character, and the journey ahead is unlike anything he or we are expecting.

“Andor” is now streaming on Disney+.

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