(Image credit: Disney Plus)
Following the conclusion of the jailbreak set piece in episode 10, we are once again reminded of the other, equally important elements that make up the “Andor” story of the origins of the Rebel Alliance. And boy did that jailbreak get our hearts pounding, but with just two episodes left, including this one, it’s difficult to see where exactly the first season of this groundbreaking “Star Wars” live action spin off on Disney Plus (opens in new tab) is going to leave us for the potential year-long break we imminently face between this first season and the second, which has only just begun principal photography.
We’re reminded of how this struggle is unfolding for so many, in a number of ways and how they are risking their very lives to resist the consistently tightening grip that the Empire has over the galaxy. Not every battle takes the same format. And while this show has redefined what can be considered “Star Wars,” it has followed a basic formula, which is in essence the very effective build up of tension of ran inevitable set piece, followed by the execution of said set piece, then a recovery period and repeat.
While it has supposed expectation on every level, from the mind-blowing story to the perfect pacing, from the masterful character building to the understated production design and from the exceptional dialogue to the phenomenal performances, it has been a tale of two near-identical repeated cycles of structured storytelling. Quite how this will conclude for the end of the first season next week remains to be seen.
To be clear, that isn’t a criticism — at least not yet anyway — it’s simply an observation. Both the raid on the Imperial base on Aldhani and even more so the escape from Narkina 5 last week, were superbly well written, mind-blowingly well filmed and all-round expertly crafted, but the journey has a slightly cyclical feel to it now and what happens in the last two episodes will affect how those set pieces sit in the overall flow of the story.
This week’s installment, entitled “Daughter of Ferrix” is by far the shortest episode yet, coming in at under 40 minutes and if you shed even just a tear or two last week, oh boy, you’re gonna need a big ol’ box of tissues this week, ’cause it’s a full-on blub-fest.
This episode also marks the first major on-screen appearance of the Cantwell-class Arrestor Cruiser. The ship’s design, based off a World War II aircraft carrier, was first created by visual effects artist Colin Cantwell as one of the potential designs for the Imperial Star Destroyer in “Star Wars: episode IV – A New Hope” though it wasn’t used and we got the more familiar wedge shaped ship. Forty years later, the production crew for “Solo: A Star Wars Story” looked through Lucasfilm archives for ship design ideas and came across this and decided to use it for an Imperial ship in the film, though it only wound up being used in a short Imperial recruitment video. The name for the ship, Cantwell-class, was first used in the novelization of that film when it almost captured the Millennium Falcon and the original script for that film actually featured a scene where the Falcon was captured by the cruiser, but it was ultimately cut from the final version.
It’s a fun throwback to the development history of one of the greatest sci-fi sagas ever created, but we still think it’s hideous. There’s a reason that design wasn’t adopted, but it’s an Imperial cruiser intended for a purpose and in space, function very much defines form. However, all things considered, its placement is understated and it hasn’t been shoved into the story just to sell toys. Although, that’s probably inevitable. Another nice nod is the inclusion of two thoroughly entertaining Keredians (opens in new tab), named Cycyed Ock and Dewi Pamular who assist both Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and Melshi (Duncan Pow) in their escape off world from Narkina 5. This species too was briefly seen in “Solo.”
What is new to the “Star Wars” universe though is Luthen Rael’s (Stellan Skarsgård) discount Death Blossom that enables him to eventually evade the Imperial cruiser. That was certainly unexpected and fun and more importantly reminds us that on top of being a thrilling Cold War-esque drama that happens to be set in space, it is also ultimately science fiction.
One of the many things that makes this show stand head and shoulders above most others is the creativity and the ability to recognize when less is so very much more. Beautiful camera angles, cleverly imagined VFX shots and of course the unbelievably high standard of the VFX throughout. It’s also interesting to note that the show’s creator, Tony Gilroy, has elected to not rely so heavily on Lucasfilm’s and Pixomondo’s pioneering StageCraft “AR wall” technology that’s utilized much more heavily in “The Mandalorian” and “The Book of Boba Fett,” instead preferring to use real locations and sets wherever possible.
In an interview with SlashFilm (opens in new tab), “Andor” VFX producer TJ Falls said, “There were a lot of sets that were practically built that we then augmented and extended upon and finding the best way to extend them, creatively shoot them to have the most fulfilling result, to our traditional all-CG approach for our spaceships and the way that we deal with things. And then still utilizing things like our StageCraft technology that [Industrial Light & Magic] uses.”
Despite being somewhat shorter and for once not causing a tension-induced heart attack, this remains an exceptional episode and the events that unfold potentially set up a thrilling conclusion next week. Cassian Andor will invariably return to his homeworld for his mother’s funeral and the delicious Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) together with the Imperial Security Bureau will probably be waiting. The pacing wasn’t quite as effective this week, but that’s what happens when you adopt a rollercoaster-style approach to storytelling and we’re once again slowly cranking up the lift hill before reaching the peak and plummeting back into free fall, maybe, next week.
Four additional networks will be showing the first two episodes: ABC on 11/23 at 9pm ET/PT, FX on 11/24 at 9pm ET/PT, Freeform on 11/25 at 9pm ET/PT and (opens in new tab)on 11/23 and 12/7. While this is excellent news, just showing the first two episode won’t give new viewers the chance to see that first act conclude properly, which is something of a shame and probably also very deliberate.