In the press notes for Andor, the newest Disney+ Star Wars collection, star Diego Luna says he was interested in reprise his function from Rogue One as Rebel spy Cassian Andor “as a result of I used to be instructed will probably be a 12-episode collection that can be as very similar to a movie as it may be.” Later, he says, “It looks like we’re making a really lengthy film.”

This is a depressingly frequent sentiment in TV today, suggesting one or two issues. Somehow, 20-plus years after The Sopranos elevated the thought of what tv storytelling may very well be, movie individuals are nonetheless on some stage embarrassed by the thought of working in TV, and/or(*) they merely don’t perceive the ways in which the 2 mediums are completely different — nor that “a really lengthy film “is nearly by no means a good suggestion.

(*) Not to be confused with this present’s title character.

Unless you might be David Simon or have labored extensively with David Simon, you might be nearly definitely setting your self as much as fail with this strategy. A season of tv was not designed to be an eight-to-22-hour film. Television having particular person episodes is a function, not a bug. Whether you might be telling one large story or a collection of smaller ones, episodes are supposed to perform as particular person narrative models. Characters have particular goals which are on some stage resolved inside that unit, and the motion is greatest served constructing to some sort of climax, even when that climax is in the end “To Be Continued.” There are methods to do that which are nearly solely serialized (once more, see The Wire). There are methods to do that which are largely standalone (your typical well-made cop/physician/lawyer procedural). And there are methods to mix the 2 (which Breaking Bad and The Sopranos, amongst others, did expertly), in order that there are a variety of distinct, memorable episodes that perform as their very own entertaining factor, whilst they’re servicing an enormous overarching plot.

The nice majority of people that speak the “we consider our season as a 10-hour film” speak are typically screenwriters who haven’t any earlier expertise in tv. Often, they’re taking an thought they couldn’t promote as a function movie and easily elongating it, with none thought or care given to how tedious and repetitive a film’s three-act construction feels when stretched over that period of time. (Even famously lengthy movies like Lawrence of Arabia or The Godfather Part II knew to cap themselves at a shade over three hours.) But even some TV veterans can fall into this lure, just like the showrunners of the varied Netflix Marvel collection, who saved kneecapping themselves by being unable or unwilling to pause the primary plot of their seasons and simply present the heroes being heroes for an hour.

But if that is such a widespread plague, it’s possible you’ll marvel, why am I choosing on poor Diego Luna and his collaborators? First, the 4 episodes of Andor given to critics for assessment are a very irritating instance of this strategy, with the format always undercutting the attention-grabbing issues the collection is doing. Second, you’d suppose that the folks at Lucasfilm would by now perceive the worth of constructing tv that really features as tv.

The Mandalorian kicked off each the existence of Disney+ and this new part of the Star Wars franchise. It is definitely a TV present. Each week, Mando and Baby Yoda Grogu go to a special planet and have a special journey that’s largely resolved over the course of that week’s installment. Even when the seasons construct to a extra serialized climax, the person chapters nonetheless have some sort of self-contained mission for our heroes.

This was adopted by The Book of Boba Fett, which did some notable particular person episodes but additionally blurred the traces extra typically about the place one a part of the story was meant to finish and one other was meant to start. (It had different issues, too — notably that it had no motive to exist as soon as Mando had been given all the pieces that followers as soon as cherished about Boba Fett — however the construction didn’t assist.) Obi-Wan Kenobi was fairly actually based mostly on a film concept that Lucasfilm couldn’t make for some motive or different, so it obtained was a six-hour blob of (largely nonsensical) plot.

If Mandalorian shouldn’t be universally beloved by its viewers, it’s as shut as something can come on this fractured pop-culture age. Its success ought to have taught the keepers of the franchise a lesson or three about the right way to inform tales for TV versus films.

And but.

Now comes Andor, a Rogue One prequel created by that film’s co-writer Tony Gilroy. Gilroy is a hell of a screenwriter. But aside from a consulting producer credit score on a few seasons of House of Cards (a present that always fell prey to pretending it was only a lengthy film), Gilroy has no expertise in TV, and it exhibits. There is barely any form to those first 4 episodes. Three of them don’t even construct to any sort of actual climax, however simply appear to cease at a random level, as if Gilroy, director Toby Haynes, and their editors shrugged and mentioned, “Eh, no person will care as soon as the autoplay perform activates.”

The first two episodes are particularly missing in any sort of considerable type. Perhaps not surprisingly, Disney+ is launching the present this week with the primary three episodes, because the third is the one the place issues lastly begin taking place, in addition to the one one that really has one thing that looks like a conclusion to 1 part of the story. 

It’s a disgrace, not solely as a result of Luna’s Cassian Andor occupies an attention-grabbing place inside the bigger Star Wars universe, however as a result of Andor will get off to a promising begin earlier than issues rapidly start to pull.

Rogue One was the primary Star Wars movie to be solely tangentially related to the Skywalker household. As Cassian leads a staff of mismatched, emotionally broken allies on a suicide mission to acquire the plans for the primary Death Star, the film takes on a a lot darker tone than those about Luke, Anakin, and Rey, whereas nonetheless demonstrating the aptitude for journey and informal world-building that made the franchise so enormous to start with.

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Soller as company safety officer Syril Karn.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

Andor appears to be pushing this even additional at the beginning. It is 5 years earlier than the occasions of Rogue One. Cassian shouldn’t be but a part of the Rebellion, however merely a person with a tragic previous making an attempt to get by below the cruel rule of the Empire. The present opens with a sequence owing extra to Blade Runner than Star Wars, as Cassian visits the pink gentle district of a corporate-run mining planet, strolling fastidiously by means of a wet evening, questioning a intercourse employee at a brothel concerning the whereabouts of somebody he as soon as knew, and getting right into a nasty battle when two different prospects take a dislike to his look. (Someone will later say, “They clearly harassed a human with darkish options.”)

But as soon as Cassian returns to his present house on one other industrial planet, Ferrix, issues start to float. We meet different colourful characters: Cassian’s adorably anxious droid B2EMO (the franchise’s most on-the-nose identify since Elan Sleazebaggano tried to promote dying sticks to Obi-Wan in Attack of the Clones); his mechanic buddy Bix (Adria Arjona); his adoptive mom Maarva (Fiona Shaw); Bix’s mysterious buying and selling associate Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård); and Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), a company safety officer who’s principally the Star Wars equal of a mall cop determined to be handled like the real article.

It’s an attention-grabbing group of supporting characters. Soller is fairly nice as we watch Syril wrestle with the huge gulf between his heroic fantasies and the uglier realities of life within the Empire, and Stellan Skarsgård is having himself a palpably nice time enjoying a chameleonic determine like Luthen. Yet Gilroy struggles to justify the necessity to give Cassian Andor his personal collection. Luna’s wonderful, however Cassian wasn’t one of many individuals who most popped off the display in Rogue One. Here he comes throughout as a extra muted Han Solo, quietly in it for himself, whilst folks like Luthen preserve making an attempt to recruit him for extra necessary issues just like the Rebel Alliance. He’s nearly solely reactive, following the agendas of different folks. We know the place that is all going, and whereas that’s not routinely a crippling downside (see Better Call Saul), Cassian in these early episodes doesn’t appear price such a protracted origin story.

Like Star Trek: Picard, Andor appears a case of a principally family-friendly franchise taking up the superficial trappings of extra grownup storytelling — along with the brothel, there are phrases that Hayden Christensen was by no means allowed to say — with out feeling appreciably extra refined in storytelling or theme than what got here earlier than. And like Picard, Andor rapidly will get slowed down in an ongoing plot it doesn’t fairly know the right way to break down from one episode to the subsequent.

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Skarsgård as Luthen Rael, left, and Genevieve O’Reilly as Mon Mothma.

Lucasfilm Ltd.

It’s promising that the third episode will get issues transferring and appears extra centered total. (It’s additionally by far the most effective use of flashbacks to Cassian’s traumatic childhood.) The fourth episode then shifts into a completely new part of issues, with a change in locale, a number of new characters — notably Genevieve O’Reilly reprising her Rogue One function as secret Rebel chief Mon Mothma — and a brand new goal involving a heist. But even that one meanders fairly a bit and once more stops at a very random level.

This entire “12-hour film” mess began as a result of movie studios have largely stopped making entire genres, notably these for/about adults who wouldn’t have superpowers. As a consequence, the individuals who wish to inform these tales must do it on tv. But the upshot is that each mediums are diminished. Movies are missing selection, whereas TV is now being flooded by exhibits which are too lengthy, too gradual, and too amorphous, solely as a result of they have been initially meant to be instructed in a a lot tighter type. And these exhibits are made by individuals who act like they’d a lot somewhat be doing this for the massive display. 

While we’re nonetheless totally on Ferrix, Gilroy and Haynes introduce a anonymous character whose job is actually to be the native bell ringer. He has no spoken dialogue, but we see him getting ready for his twice-daily obligation with nice vigor and pleasure. It is maybe the franchise’s greatest use of such a minor character because the rancor keeper cried in Return of the Jedi, providing a way that each one the folks on this galaxy far, distant have their very own inside lives and tales, even when we’re principally specializing in the identical group time and again. But as the person who alerts the beginning and finish of each day on Ferrix, he additionally satirically represents the sort of construction that Andor is so sorely missing.

The first three episodes of Andor premiere Sept. 21 on Disney+, with further episodes releasing weekly. I’ve seen the primary 4 of 12 episodes.

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