Twenty years ago, when I first saw Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings, I was so enthralled with each three-hour movie that time flew by easily in the theater. I had sworn only 90 minutes had past when Frodo and Sam looked towards Mordor at the end of The Fellowship of the Ring.
If there is an opposite end of the spectrum to that wonderful experience, it must be Andor. I can barely stay awake during most episodes, and I won’t attribute this to age. Time slows down, not in a good way, as the approximate 50-minute serials feel more like a couple of hours apiece.
It’s neither thrilling nor entertaining, in any way, to hear Mon Mothma tell her driver to turn left onto the expressway (yes, that was actually a line, a few episodes back). Dialogue is simple and predictable. Plot is contrived and forced, like most recent non-animated Star Wars. It’s difficult to believe, on a planet and in a fiction where intergalactic spaceflight is easy, that a small band of protorebels needed to live as impoverished hermits as prerequisite for a successful garrison heist.
Let me cut to the meat of the issue: Andor is slow. And I don’t mean slow, I mean sloooooow. Really, really, slooooooooooow. Episode 8 of 12 released this week, and if the stories were given any sort of reasonable pace, this should have been, at worst, episode 5 (i.e. every three part story is at most two episodes of content spread over three, and potentially just one hour of story, especially the first). Dead air and slow speech drags the show interminably. Whenever a particular sequence seems to be getting interesting, picking up steam, Andor cuts to another sequence to start the snooze fest again.
The sad part is that the snail’s crawl filler is hiding potentially the best non-animated Star Wars series, the pace of nothingness laughable at times. The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett suffered this to a degree as well, counter to the winning magic formula of the classic six movies, leveraged more recently in the several animated series. Faster sequences would have solved a lot of Andor‘s problems, from the remedial diagolue to the cardboard, forgettable characters (just get to the good stuff and we can forgive the rest!). The formation of the Rebellion is of course ripe for story (although, frankly, Star Wars Rebels covers the general idea in a far more interesting and fun way). Imperial Intelligence on Coruscant is a fresh angle, having the characters with the most potential.
Perhaps, the final four episodes of Andor will wrap up the story arcs into something amazing. Characters and arcs finally started to merge in episode 8, if only by osmosis. But the doldrum pace is a harbinger of problems ahead. Slow, even very slow, is forgivable an episode or two, but after eight, the pattern is set. There is only so much lingering chitchat at senatorial cocktail parties one can take, when the default expectation is lightsaber duels.