This image is from the official trailer for “Andor” distributed by Disney+.

The premiere episode of “Andor” on Disney+ is a slow beginning to the years-long tale about to unfold, but slow in the meticulous and methodical sense of the word. Following Cassian Andor (Diego Luna, “DC League of Super-Pets”), the series is a prequel to the Star Wars film “Rogue One,” detailing the five years leading up to the events of the 2016 movie. We know where the story of Cassian and allies ends in “Rogue One,” so rather than having to jump straight into an epic galaxy-traversing plot as many of the films do, “Andor” is graced with something most Star Wars media doesn’t possess: time to meander. 

It’s not the first Star Wars television series, following on the tails of pop-culture-favorite “The Mandalorian,” the less memorable “The Book of Boba Fett” and “Obi-Wan Kenobi,” but this entry to the franchise does something new with its format. Becoming the longest original live-action series on Disney+, “Andor” will have 24 episodes released over the course of two years.

The show doesn’t waste any of its long time frame — starting strong in the first episode, “Andor” makes clear that a driving undercurrent of its mission is to allow us to see distinct communities and planets that we haven’t had time to sit with previously. Normally, the most viewers see on a planet in the Star Wars universe is some kind of high-speed chase, a political dealing or a back alley fight. While this show certainly includes its fair share of those elements, the settings feel more tangible and traversable. This tangibility is clearly due in part to the choice to use practical sets over the innovative ultra-HD video screen backgrounds, known as StageCraft, that were utilized for other Star Wars television series. The result is a griminess and truthfulness to the realm that is levels above past projects. In “Andor,” there are distinct trademarks between towns, from neon lights on Morlana One to red brick and dirty mechanical garages in Ferrix. 

Only one thing seems more important than worldbuilding in “Andor”: character development. From this show’s perspective, the worldbuilding that has been a defining part of the Star Wars franchise since it began in 1977 serves the purpose of allowing the audience to sit in the towns and see the people who live in them, the people that pass through them and the people that disrupt them. Already “Andor” has proven more exploratory and intimate than other Star Wars media because it adoesn’t show us characters reduced simply to their titles: Jedi, Sith, Mandalorian or bounty hunter — it shows us people. Its biggest goal is to not build a narrative around the powers that be. This is a show about the seeds of rebellion, and if the audience is to believe in the rebellion, they have to believe in the people starting it. Director Toby Haynes makes these priorities clear in the first episode, allowing fans to breathe easy knowing that they are simultaneously going to get the worldbuilding they have known and loved for decades along with the gritty personal stories of the people that have been at the periphery of the franchise’s past.

“Andor” has certainly gathered a talented to bring the rebellion and its adversaries to life. Luna makes a strong return to a role last seen on screen in 2016. Equally sensitive and brutal, Luna’s Cassian continues to be one of the most layered characters in the Star Wars franchise, making him a worthy leading man for this important series. While Cassian returns, new characters arise. Adria Arjona’s (“Father of the Bride”) Bix Caleen is likely to quickly become a fan favorite. Arjona brings a guarded aura necessary for any character attempting to survive in Star Wars, but she also has an intelligence and a staunch grip on the reality of the way the world operates that makes her instantly likable. Kyle Soller (“101 Dalmatian Street”) is another standout as Deputy Inspector Syril Karn. While there is a mystery surrounding Karn’s motives, Soller portrays him as dedicated and striving to do well out of necessity to go up the ranks. Karn may not have proven himself as an inspector yet, but Soller certainly proves to be a capable actor. Lastly, it would be remiss not to mention B2EMO. Every Star Wars media needs a droid side character, and B2EMO fills the job beautifully here, wanting to be a good friend to Cassian while at the same time acknowledging that he can only fulfill Cassian’s requests when he has sufficient battery power.

While, ultimately, little plot is revealed in the course of episode one, it stands as a strong and purposeful exposition. Not only does it introduce new people and places in a universe that has existed for 45 years, but it takes on a new perspective of which stories get told in the universe. In the first 41-minute-long episode, not a single lightsaber is shown, the word Jedi is not even whispered and the Skywalkers are not connected in any way to the characters. For the first time in a while, Star Wars’s quintessential plot armor is removed, and audiences have to question how or if people will make it out of fights and chases unscathed. “Andor” may be the addition to the live-action universe of Star Wars that finally brings excitement and anticipation to a franchise that was beginning to feel stagnant.

Daily Arts Writer Mallory Edgell can be reached at medgell@umich.edu.