(Welcome to A Different Point of View, a column where we explore the supporting characters of the Star Wars universe and discuss why they deserve more time in the spotlight.)
This week’s article is an exercise in serendipity. Captain Cassian Andor is the name on everyone’s lips as of publication, but I swear to you I was already writing about his fascinating life history before Lucasfilm came crashing in with their latest announcement.
But just in case you didn’t see any of the ancillary Star Wars films, let’s start from the beginning, shall we?
Who is He?
Cassian Andor is a born rebel. Almost literally. One of his famous lines is “I’ve been in this fight since I was six years old.” That’s…a long time. Especially considering he is twenty-six at the time of his death, meaning he gave two decades of his life to the cause. That’s some True Believer™ stuff right there. A ruthless pragmatist who gets the job done, regardless of the emotional cost to himself or his team, Andor rose quickly through the Rebellion ranks to obtain the rank of Captain.
However, unlike what Star Wars fans have become accustomed to, Andor was not an ace pilot or crackerjack politician. He was an intelligence officer and assassin. In fact, Captain Andor is the first time audiences were truly exposed to how even the heroes have to get down in the muck of war; they just hide it better. Reserved but charismatic, Andor was the perfect operative for undercover missions. Even Baze Malbus said Cassian had “..the face of a friend.” Think of him as the Star Wars equivalent of a rough-and-tumble James Bond.
When Was He Introduced?
Audiences first met Cassian Jeron Andor in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story back in 2016. From the first moment he is on screen, actor Diego Luna plays Andor as someone who is well-versed in tamping down his morals to get the job done. When his informant who tells him about the Death Star plans is unable to escape due to an injury, Andor barely hesitates to distract and then execute the man. Better a dead informant than one that can give the Rebels away to the encroaching Stormtroopers.
It is Andor and his companion — the reprogrammed Empire security droid K-2SO — who rescue Jyn Erso from her imprisonment at the behest of Mon Mothma and the rest of the Rebellion leadership. Despite his reservations, Andor follows orders and brings Erso to find the pilot that defected from the Empire and knows the location of Jyn’s father. It’s only at this point that the mission begins to fall apart and Cassian Andor gets to show his true mettle. Having set him up as a loyal soldier, Star Wars then asks a hard question: what do we owe the men and women who sacrifice their moral centers for the greater good? In the case of Andor, the answer is simple. You owe it to them to try. To never give up.
Even if you die.
Why is He Fascinating?
There has never been a character like Cassian Andor in Star Wars. At least, not in any part of a galaxy far, far away that survived the Expanded Universe purge. Here is a man who knows nothing outside of war. He’s been molded from a young age by violence and trauma, essentially indoctrinated into a lifestyle from which he cannot escape. Not that the Rebellion would stop him from leaving, but what other life does he know? If the script were flipped and Andor was a lackey of the Empire, audiences would immediately denounce him. Instead, Lucasfilm gave us a gift: a complex character with traits not normally associated with the “good guys” but one that nevertheless would have to exist to do the things people like Leia and Han and Luke cannot or will not. Much like the arms dealers in Star Wars: The Last Jedi, the entirety of Andor’s existence reminds audiences about the “war” part of Star Wars.
Captain Andor’s history is littered with moments that would have broken many people. Born on the Outer Rim planet of Fest, he perhaps left the cold mountainous planet before he was even old enough to remember it. His (unnamed) father was part of a protest at the Imperial Carida Academy that turned deadly. The unraveling Galactic Republic didn’t take kindly to folks protesting their increased militarization and responded with deadly force. Whether Cassian was with his father when this happened or was at home with his mother on Fest is unknown. What is known? Andor became a child soldier of the Confederacy of Independent Systems by the time he was six, throwing rocks at Clone Troopers.
Yep, that’s right. At least one side of the Clone Wars was recruiting actual kindergarteners for their cause, which draws a straight line to the infant abductions carried out by the First Order. The question is, how did a boy working ostensibly for Count Dooku end up switching sides to the Rebellion? The Clone Wars ended in 19BBY when Cassian was only seven years old. We know Cassian was recruited by General Davits Draven, one of the top officials in the Galactic Republic’s military intelligence arm before the collapse of democracy. Draven would go on to join the Rebellion and, somewhere along the way, he picked up a scrappy orphan with a lot a gumption and little training. How are audiences supposed to feel about the Rebellion bringing a child — or perhaps a young teenager if Andor went out on his own for a few years — into the fold and training him to be an emotionless spy and assassin?
Then there’s K-2SO. We know Andor found the droid during an undercover mission to the planet Wecacoe with two other operatives. Their mission is to extract Imperial data but they were fed bad intel. With stormtroopers crawling all over the place, Cassian and his companions deactivate K-2SO and wipe his memory. The only problem? It doesn’t stick and they have to do it several times, which adds yet another disturbing gray layer to Andor’s characterization. However, I find it personally very telling that a boy who was raised to kill finds companionship in a droid made extremely blunt via multiple memory wipes.
What Stories Could Lucasfilm Tell?
Well, obviously nothing after Scarif unless they want to take me up on my retcon where the shard of kyber crystal Jyn Erso had somehow activated latent Force-powers and through up a bubble of protection around them. But there’s still plenty of plot to explore prior to Captain Cassian Jeron Andor’s ultimate sacrifice.
Starting at his youngest, Andor’s childhood and teen years are ripe for a Young Adult book or two. While YA tends heavily towards female protagonists these days, Harry Potter and Percy Jackson have proven kids will read stories about any gender as long as the narrative is interesting. And what is more interesting than a kid growing up under the shadow of war? YA doesn’t shy away from heavy themes and getting inside the head of Cassian while he is still forming his sense of self — all while being influenced first by the insurrectionist cell he joins as a child and later the Rebellion — could be a fascinating character study.
Of course, if Lucasfilm wants to bring back Diego Luna, they could always have him pop up in an animated show or…
So this literally just happened while I was writing this article: a new Star Wars live-action TV series starring Diego Luna as Cassian Andor was announced.
I spent all day working on this article and Disney just…tweeted it out
Breaking News: Am I Psychic?
I promise to only use this power for purely selfish reasons. But let’s take a look at what is coming down the pipe from Lucasfilm. Taking place prior to the events of Rogue One (duh), the unnamed series will showcase the Rebellion’s formative years from another angle. Star Wars Rebels focused on the single-cell-turned-family-unit but there was plenty of other shenanigans going on. From the press release:
The rousing spy thriller will explore tales filled with espionage and daring missions to restore hope to a galaxy in the grip of a ruthless Empire. A release date for the series has not yet been announced.
This actually makes my speculation job so much easier because it narrows down a time frame. The nascent Rebellion is a very specific period of time from 19BBY to 0BBY, but if Diego Luna is reprising his role it bumps the time frame for the show to about 8BBY to 0BBY because it’s gonna be pushing it just to see Luna as an eighteen-year-old.
My guess? We’re going to see Luna’s meteoric rise within the Rebellion as he earns his reputation for being a man who gets the job done, no questions asked. If we’re lucky, it will also explore the psychological and emotional toll secret agents live under as they put the cause ahead of themselves. We know Andor did things for the Rebellion that left marks on his soul since he more or less tells Jyn Erso that is why he’s joining her suicide mission to Scarif: “Everything I did, I did for the Rebellion, and every time I walked away from something I wanted to forget, I told myself it was for a cause I believed in. A cause that was worth it. Without that, we’re lost. Everything we’ve done would have been for nothing. I couldn’t face myself if I gave up now.”
Just what are those things Cassian Andor has spent years not facing? We’re probably going to find out sometime in 2020.
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