There is so much to unpack from #Andor that I’m not going to attempt to do it all at once. But I came across something so deeply meaningful in the first few episodes that I had to pause and write about it. Whether or not you watch the show, there is something remarkably encouraging to learn from what I’m going to share below, so read on.
I’m only five episodes in and still brewing on the incredible story that I’m watching unfold. I wouldn’t call this a “fun” show. The Mandalorian is fun and super rewatchable. The Bad Batch is fun, I’ve watched the first season three-four times already.
Andor is not “fun”, but Andor is incredibly powerful, and I am sitting here watching it as a student of storytelling and learning so much. (And yes, the cinematography and detail are breathtaking, and the action scenes are mindblowing in their choreography. Also, the score is pretty epic.)
Rogue One is where this whole story leads, so we have gotten the story backward. We know where Cassian ends up, and now we are learning how he gets there. It’s a good thing I know who Cassian Andor becomes because when I first “meet” him in Andor, he is not a likable character. In fact, almost no one is. They are all grubby (Star Wars does have showers, right?), striving, miserable people who are trying to eek a living out of a cold, wet, muddy planet. I have yet to see a bright color, a big smile, or a green plant in this place.
Cassian himself is a walking hurricane of unpleasantness (even his suave good looks can’t cover that). He’s angry, bitter, miserable, guilt-ridden, and scared all the time. He owes everyone, owns nothing, and hangs his head low. He has no sense of solid identity or dignity. You can see the guy has street smarts, but his head is down in the mud. His only ambition is to stay alive (quite reasonable but not exactly inspiring). If I hadn’t already seen who Cassian becomes, I would be tempted to give up on this guy.
Through a series of unfortunate and bleak circumstances, Cassian ends up needing to make a quick getaway from his current planet – Ferrix. The authorities are going to track him down and likely hang him. He’s been saving an item for his insurance policy, an incredibly valuable and rare Imperial part, and now he believes the sale of this part will be his salvation and give him enough money to go on the run. Through a friend, Cassian calls in a mysterious “buyer”. He hopes to make enough money to go on the run, and leave some for his adopted mother – Maarva – one of the only characters you feel a hint of warmth towards in the beginning.
We see the arrival of the mysterious buyer, and as all mysterious buyers should arrive, he arrives VERY mysteriously. He is stoic, and silent, with a wall of concrete in his face (but his trench coat is absolutely fabulous as all mysterious trench coats should be). However, you feel the power this man carries. He has come, and with his coming, he carries the weight of destiny and greatness in his every step. This is a man who brings armies to their knees, a man who causes planets to shake, a man who is willing to find diamonds in the mud and set them in their rightful places. There is a sense of purpose, identity, and confident dignity in this man’s every thought, movement, and facial expression. He appears to be the exact opposite of Cassian.
As this mysterious buyer flies on public transport into the city on Ferrix to meet with Cassian, a friendly stranger strikes up a conversation with him, complaining about the high prices and swindlers on this planet. Then, as the transport just reaches the city’s edge, the stranger says something profound, “You know what they say, if you can’t find it in Ferrix, it’s not worth having.” The buyer smiles slightly, he seems to understand the concept well.
At this moment, the soundtrack picks up to tell you to pay attention. The scene transitions and we see the same transport is now in the sky, flying right above the grimy section of town where we see a desperate Cassian Andor running through the muddy streets to prep to meet the buyer.
I paused, rewound the scene, and watched it again, letting the impact of that moment fully sink into my heart. “If you can’t find it in Ferrix, it’s not worth having.” And then we see Cassian.
Cassian Andor is worth having.
The buyer and Cassian meet in an appropriately shifty warehouse. Cassian is all business, he wants to sell his part for a high price and leave before anyone can catch up to him. The buyer, Luthen, wants to have a conversation. He wants to know HOW Cassian came across this rare Imperial part. Cassian reveals, “You just act like you belong there. They are so arrogant, they cannot imagine that someone like me could walk into their houses, their factories, spit in their food. They don’t even care.”
Luthen agrees, and then speaks in greater depth on the great evil the Empire represents, how they control people and tell them to move, how to live, when to die, and so on and so forth. Cassian does not understand the purpose of this conversation, aren’t they just here to do a deal and move on? Then Luthen reveals his true purpose. He didn’t come here just for a part, he came here for CASSIAN.
“Special people are rare.” In moments he reveals he knows Cassian’s entire backstory (freaking the crud out of Cassian). Luthen came for something far more important than a rare part, he came for a rare person – the person he believes Cassian to be. Luthen is building a rebellion, and he wants Cassian to join it.
At this moment, the authorities show up (intent on bringing Cassian into custody). Luthen already has a plan for extraction, but Cassian is still not grasping this larger picture. In the midst of blaster fire back and forth, Cassian tries to retrieve his rare part (despite Luthen warning him not to). This foolishness causes Cassian to get shot and get hit with a piece of machinery. He still continues to go back for that dumb part, over and over again. Finally he is forced to flee the building, and even after he and Luthen have escaped the premises, Cassian says, “The box! We could still go get the box!”
We, the audience who know the details of this Rebellion that Luthen is building, cannot believe that Cassian is so hung up on that dumb box. It’s rare, yes, but it’s just a part. It’s a tiny piece. It’s an insignificant moment, but to Cassian in his current, head-down mindset, that dumb box is everything.
See, Cassian does not believe that he is worth having. He sees himself as a meaningless, useless bit of trash. For how much he hates the Imperials, he sure agrees with them in how he treats himself and his life. He does not see himself as he is, or as he can be.
Luthen, on the other hand, carries a higher perspective. Luthen sees the whole galaxy, and he sees one man. He sees how one man and the whole galaxy are connected. How one man can be the tipping point, the domino that falls to change a whole, enslaved galaxy. Luthen sees the purpose, potential, and destiny that Cassian carries. Luthen sees a diamond in the mud that he desires to pluck out of the grime and put in its proper place. Luthen sees Cassian, and Cassian is terrified of it. He either can’t, or does not desire to see himself as what he can be. So he fights against this idea that Luthen has. He cannot see that he is worth having.
In flashbacks, we see Cassian as a child, stranded on a distant planet where a mining disaster presumably killed all of the adults. A ship crashes on the planet, and Cassian is inside the ship, exploring it. His current life is very primitive, he carries a blow-dart gun and wears face paint. Upon entering the ship, Cassian finds a whole room of shiny glass displays. He looks at himself in the reflection, and he is somehow horrified to see himself. What does he see? Fear? Sorrow? Loneliness? Anger? Hopelessness? Vulnerability? In a fit of rage, child Cassian begins smashing screens as he screams as hard as he can. He doesn’t want to see himself, he doesn’t want to believe.
It is at this moment that a younger Maarva – a scavenger – comes upon young Cassian. She is instantly moved to compassion, seeing a child who is in need of warmth, love, and safety. Her scavenger partner would leave Cassian to his fate, but Maarva refuses. “I’m not leaving him here to die.”
Cassian fights her, so she injects him with a sleeping drug and then carries him to her ship, laying him gently down on the bed. She sees Cassian as he is and as what he can be, and though he may fight her, she’s going to pick him up and carry him away to a better life.
These flashbacks play back and forth in between the scenes of Luthen and Cassian making their escape from Ferrix. Cassian emotionally fights Luthen’s attempt to pull him out of the wreckage of his life and take him into his future, but circumstances force Cassian to board Luthen’s ship and take off with him. The flashbacks play back and forth, we see Maarva take child Cassian away from the brokenness of his childhood, and we see Luthen take grown Cassian away from the wreck and ruin of his current life. Both of them fly Cassian higher, to a higher perspective, a greater purpose, and both of them force Cassian to look at himself.
Luthen makes a statement to Cassian that seals this whole message together.
“I said I know you, I know the outside, I know what people tell me when I ask, but the rest I imagine. I imagine your hate (for the Empire), I imagine that no matter what you tell me or tell yourself, you’ll ultimately die fighting these b*[insert non-family-friendly word]*s. And what I’m asking you is this, wouldn’t you rather give it all at once, for something real, rather than carving off useless pieces until there’s nothing left? I didn’t risk my *** for the Starpath unit, I came for you.”
The weight, enormity, and power of this statement hit so hard when you know who Cassian Andor is going to become. Cassian Andor is going to become one of the integral few that manage to retrieve the Death Star plans, and thus be the tipping domino that begins the chain reaction that will bring the Empire down. Cassian Andor is destined to help destroy the Empire, and yes, he will die doing so. But he will die sitting peacefully on a beach with a woman he’s learned to love, and he will finally be at peace with himself and what he has given his life to. Cassian Andor is supposed to change the galaxy. Cassian Andor is worth having, he is worth fighting for, and Cassian Andor was made for more than scrounging in the mud. He cannot see it, but someone else did, someone else who was willing to go down and get him, and lift him to a higher perspective to launch him into his destiny. They both desired to bring Cassian into something that mattered, something real! This has happened twice for Cassian, both as a child and as an adult.
Luthen and Maarva are very imperfect characters, I make no claims that they accurately represent all of Who God is, but they represent an aspect of His heart and how He does things that are so incredibly powerful.
You see, we are all like Cassian Andor. We are tired, vulnerable, lost, angry, bitter, broken people who (if left to our own devices), would spend our entire lives running around on the ground in the mud, just trying to get ahead. We use people and things to try to fill up our empty places. We dive into the middle of firefights and get shot up for useless parts and pieces that in the grand scheme of life are meaningless. And often when God, or someone God has sent, comes into our lives to pull us out of that place, we fight them. We are terrified to see ourselves not only as what we are but also as what we could become. We do not see ourselves as having a purpose, meaning, and potential. We do not see ourselves as rare, valuable, special, and “worth having.” We do not see the future where we are an integral part of something important, meaningful, and galaxy-shaking happening. We have such small, mean, broken perspectives, and we could literally waste our entire lives and die in them.
Maarva – “I’m not leaving him to die.”
Luthen – “I didn’t risk my *** for a Starpath unit, I came for you.”
You are a Cassian Andor. It doesn’t matter what mud-hole you came from, it doesn’t matter what you have done, it doesn’t matter how broken you are, you are worth having. Your life matters. You have an integral part to play in this world. You are special. You are rare. You mean more than useless parts. And God did not leave us to die, and He came FOR us! Like Luthen and Maarva see Cassian, God sees you. He knows who you are and what you are made for, and He desires to help you walk into your identity with confidence and purpose. You are a diamond He made, and He desires to set you in your rightful place.
Lift your head up, friend. Look at yourself the way He does.
I’ve only begun this show, and while I don’t pretend to like, agree with, or condone every action taken by every character or show creator. However, I can already see how many threads of powerful truth are woven into the fabric of the story, and I am deeply touched by it.