Critics of the show – from what I’ve read – have been a bit eclectic in finding one if not multiple reasons they’re unable to truly get behind its various characters and stories. By contrast, Andor’s loudest and most vocal supporters do tend to gravitate toward the mutual position that – ahem – it’s an adult story set in a universe that was arguably created for young’uns. Because its players are going through motions and layers of – ahem – narrative complexity (their words, not mine), those singing the show’s infinite praise typically cite showrunner Tony Gilroy’s slow-burning, plot-heavy mechanics, insisting that the storyteller has most effective brought the Mouse House franchise into the modern era of long-form storytelling.
Now, frankly, I’ve got no real bone to pick with any of that. If I wanted to, I suppose that I could argue about that whole ‘adult perspective,’ but I think – at the end of the day – those quibbles are more likely boiled down to polite differences of opinion. You see the world your way, and I see it mine: while we might share some experiences and maybe even a like-minded platform about maturity and the like, the differences of our education, morals, and upbringing still influence each of us to whatever uniqueness we might find in our respective worldviews … so I’ll leave that issue aside in discussing my thoughts on Andor (generally) and its tenth episode, “One Way Out” (specifically). I do this because – as I said above – I think the installment really crystallized my dissatisfaction with the program.
“One Way Out” was received some incredible accolades in many, many online communities. Some have likened it to Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (1995), a solid and cinematic retelling of the life and times of Scottish warrior William Wallace. (FYI: while I enjoyed the picture as did seemingly all of mankind – if you believe what you read – I didn’t find it the G.O.A.T. of a film so many did.) While I’ve no interest in mincing words on that comparison (and its flaws), I can certainly understand and appreciate how some might allow their emotions to runaway with themselves and demand “One Way Out” be – ahem – christened the greatest Star Wars moment ever filmed … but let’s dial that back just a minute, can we?
In all seriousness: what were Andor and his fellow inmates supposed to do?
For those who might not be following the show as closely, “One Way Out” is, essentially, a jailbreak. Both the wrongly and justly accused residents of an Imperial prison join hands, rise up, and overthrow their captors, throwing off their figurative shackles so that they can pursue a lie beyond their obvious oppression. It’s all captured with some fabulous staging – along with some fabulous cinematography – and I’d be a fool to not give the episode’s loudest voices my agreement … but, again, I ask you … what were these folks supposed to do?
Thematically, Andor is understandably about the founding of the Rebel Alliance. History – real history, and not filmed stuff – has shown us that those who are bound and shackled by tyrannical governments have a pretty solid track record of eventually reaching a boiling point and inevitably pushing back; and despite all of the protestations about how “One Way Out” deserves to be considered the defining hour in all of Star Wars I found it a bit underwhelming and – ahem – downright predictable. Perhaps that’s owed to the fact that I read quite a bit of history, and I’ve long ago accepted the political reality that breaking a culture is not as easily achieved as Hollywood and its employees might have us accept. That’s the stuff of movies … but the stuff of reality is that there are plenty of dark and bloody moments when regular Toms, Dicks, Harrys, Jacks, Jills, and Barbies said, “This far, no farther.”
As good as “One Way Out” may’ve been rendered, that’s all there was to it.
And – taking the argument a step further as I’ve long been known to do – what about those prisoners who were legitimately incarcerated – perhaps even for life – who fundamentally deserved to be behind bars? Andor – as a property – has never quite clearly staked out perfectly the chronological particulars within the broader Star Wars timeline (yes, yes, yes, I’m aware of when it’s supposed to take place), so couldn’t it be very likely that this prison existed well before Palpatine’s current shenanigans and contained authentic bad people? Real criminals? Serious ne’er-do-wells? While Cassian undeniably never deserved the sentence he received (and, yes, please remember that I’m ignoring the fact that he probably would’ve been sent elsewhere if his true nefarious past was known), hasn’t the show inserted far too much wiggle room into a franchise that’s long been a classical struggle of good versus evil?
Because the show is (in my opinion) truly running a bit too fast and loose with its own mythology, I’m having trouble appreciating the yarn its spinning. Facts matter, and – as I’ve suggested that I’ve no possible way of knowing whether every single resident of this prison had the ‘heart of gold’ they’ve given Cassian – the story of the oppressed ‘prisoners’ was given no authentic examination whatsoever. Instead, all of these inmates were granted the kind of ‘feel sorry for me’ aesthetic applied to our hero – who has no fundamental journey or quest, at this point, that I’m aware of – so they’re just as innocent as he is … only he isn’t innocent … well, he is and he isn’t … and do you FINALLY see what I’ve been saying about bad writing ruining even a halfway decent show?
Again: don’t misunderstand me. If you’re thrilled with Andor, then I’m happy for you. As I’ve always argued, there’s vastly more room in our world for inspired adventures; and if you find Andor and these loosely-constructed myths to your liking, then so be it.
Given the fact that this is allegedly coming from the same minds who crafted Rogue One – which I enjoyed vastly more than anything in here to date even with its allegedly eleventh hour retooling – I’m just surprised it’s making so little narrative sense.
Still … may the Force be with us. Always.