Star Wars is at a pivotal juncture in its nearly half-century existence, as Disney pushes the franchise beyond its lucrative but poorly-received sequel film trilogy into a true omni-channel media property fueled by new shows on Disney+. Of course, that’s all easier said than done. Sure, Lucasfilm scored with The Mandalorian, its debut streaming spin-off that drove millions of initial subs when the platform launched in 2019. But the division has struggled to recapture the same level of excitement with subsequent efforts. Andor, the latest addition to the Star Wars live-action TV universe, is one of the least watched series so far, despite receiving the best reviews of any new Lucasfilm project in years.
This is not surprising, given the more mature setting that isn’t ideal for kids—and, in some ways, it might actually be a positive development for a franchise that’s sometimes too obsessed with its own mythology. Previous Star Wars shows like The Book of Boba Fett and Obi-Wan Kenobi tie into nostalgic storylines from the previous films. Mandalorian literally pulls in Luke Skywalker by the end of the second season. But Andor, based on the 2016 film Rogue One, is one of Lucasfilm’s first major attempts to expand the I.P. sandbox. The galaxy becomes Lego bricks instead of puzzle pieces. And that comes with some risks.
Disney’s challenge lies in determining how Star Wars can expand beyond its already sizable fanbase—both by bringing in younger consumers without an emotional attachment to the original films, and by hooking audiences that normally wouldn’t care about Star Wars. We’ve seen Marvel embark on this strategy with Ms. Marvel (a quirky teen comedy in the vein of Scott Pilgrim) and She-Hulk (a satirical workplace comedy that literally pokes fun at Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige and the Marvel content machine) and Warner Bros. with Batgirl (if it had ever been released). Andor, which was created by Bourne Legacy director Tony Gilroy, is a Star Wars show designed by, and designed for, people who aren’t all that interested in more of the same Star Wars. That might not be what superfans want—but, in the long run, it’s exactly what Disney+ needs.