Andor: The Complete First Season (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)

  • Reviewed by: Bill Hunt
  • Review Date: Apr 24, 2024
  • Format: 4K Ultra HD
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Andor: The Complete First Season (Steelbook) (4K UHD Review)


Various, created by Tony Gilroy, based on Star Wars created by George Lucas and Rogue One directed by Gareth Edwards

Release Date(s)

2022 (April 30, 2024)


Lucasfilm/Disney+ (Buena Vista Home Entertainment)
  • Film/Program Grade: A
  • Video Grade: A+
  • Audio Grade: A
  • Extras Grade: B-

Andor: The Complete First Season (4K UHD)




As the franchise’s very first target audience, Generation X tends to have a complicated relationship with Star Wars. Though an instant classic upon its debut in 1977, George Lucas’ original installment is often dismissed as a children’s film. But that description simply doesn’t bear scrutiny. Sure, its archetypal “hero’s journey” was inspired by Flash Gordon matinee serials, and two of its central characters were intended as bumbling comic relief. But the film’s young protagonist experiences the murder of both his adopted parents and his newfound mentor, even as its female lead endures torture. An entire planet’s worth of innocent living beings are wiped out in a casual but calculated act of genocide, and the film’s anti-hero shoots a man in cold blood in an obvious kill-or-be-killed situation. These are hardly the hijinks of the Apple Dumpling Gang.

After a thrilling climax—and three years of waiting virtually in the dark—Irvin Kershner’s 1980 sequel, The Empire Strikes Back, proved an even darker experience as the Empire’s retribution came swiftly. Mysteries were revealed and an unlikely romance blossomed, but the film’s heroes essentially had their asses handed to them from start to finish. A beloved character was captured, fate unknown. The young protagonist gained new wisdom, but also uncovered a terrible secret: the architect of all his misery—the man who’d just cut off his hand—was his own father. This was followed by yet another three year wait for the audience to find resolution. Now... none of this was exactly grindhouse material or otherwise hard boiled. Both films delivered adventure and wide-eyed wonder; they were just plain fun. But to call Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back childish is a misnomer. It would be more accurate to say that they were made for the child in everyone, a fact borne out by the broad demographics of the eager theatergoers who lined up in droves to see them.

But here’s the thing: implicit in the progression from that first film to the second was the promise that the Star Wars franchise would continue to grow in complexity and maturity with its audience. Yet that didn’t happen. Richard Marquand’s Return of the Jedi in 1983 was a regression on every front. In 1997, Lucas proved that he’d failed to understand his creation in the same way his audience did by blunting all three films for his cherished Special Editions. Slapstick creatures and digital eye-blinks were added, Han Solo’s encounter with Greedo was made toothless—this apparently considered too much for children to handle—even as Luke’s gruesome homecoming discovery and obvious continuity errors (like the Millennium Falcon’s missing sensor dish) were left untouched. And in 1999, Lucas delivered a trio of prequels that really did feel childish, complete with farting and bumbling aliens, ham-fisted exposition delivered in barely-disguised Asian and Middle Eastern accents, and characters that seemed obvious (if unwitting) cultural stereotypes.

It’s not exactly surprising then that much of the franchise’s original audience felt betrayed by all this. And so the situation remained, until Gareth Edwards’ Rogue One: A Star Wars Story arrived in theaters in 2016 (with a big assist by Bourne trilogy scribe Tony Gilroy) to recapture their hearts and minds with its tale of a motley band of misfits, malcontents, and mercenaries—none of them Force users and most working-class—who band together for a daring mission to fulfill the original 1977 film’s iconic opening crawl:

It is a period of civil war.
Rebel spaceships, striking
from a hidden base, have won
their first victory against
the evil Galactic Empire.

During the battle, Rebel
spies managed to steal secret
plans to the Empire’s
ultimate weapon, the DEATH
STAR, an armored space
station with enough power to
destroy an entire planet.

Over the next two hours, we met the likes of Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones), Chirrut Îmwe (Donnie Yen), and many others, then learned their heroic fate. Most of these characters were introduced in the process of becoming Rebels themselves, but Luna’s Andor was already a weary veteran and ruthless covert operator, who’d been fighting the Empire since he was a boy. So how exactly did Cassian become a revolutionary? What were the events and forces that drew him—and thousands of other workaday individuals like him—into a seemingly hopeless David and Goliath struggle against the creeping injustice of intergalactic fascism? That’s the story at the heart of the critically-acclaimed Lucasfilm and Disney+ streaming series Andor, the first season of which has finally arrived on physical Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD.

Under the guiding hand of showrunner Tony Gilroy, the series reveals the younger Cassian—a discontented orphan, hustler, and thief on the junkyard planet of Ferrix—five years before the Battle of Yavin. Cassian lives with his adopted mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw, Harry Potter) and her droid B2EMO, but he’s desperate to find the younger sister he was inadvertently separated from as a child. Unfortunately, his search draws unwanted attention from the agents of the Preox-Morlana Authority, among them Deputy Inspector Syril Karn (Kyle Soller). But another agent has his eye on Cassian too. Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård, Denis Villeneuve’s Dune, Ronin, The Hunt for Red October) would seem to be a vain Coruscant antiquities dealer, but in reality he’s the key link in a growing resistance network funded by Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly, Rogue One, Revenge of the Sith). Though this network has long operated in secret, Rael now wants it to begin lighting very public fires that will draw the oppressed peoples of the galaxy into open rebellion against the Empire, and he means for Cassian to join in the effort. But the Empire is on the hunt as well; the ambitious Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) of the Imperial Security Bureau is determined to snuff out this nascent Rebellion before it really starts.

Make no mistake, Gilroy’s Andor is a terrific piece of drama—a series that might do well on HBO even if it wasn’t A Star Wars Story. Everything you see and hear in these episodes feels grounded in a believable reality, not unlike the original trilogy. Part of that is due to the fact that it’s shot on practical sets and outside in real-world locations. So many seemingly mundane details enhance the verisimilitude here—Karn eating cereal with his overbearing mother, pieces of broken equipment, the obvious pride with which the guy who signals the start of the work day on Ferrix bangs on his anvil, the verdant moss grown over a fallen log, piles of spaceship scrap, the unique astronomical event on Aldhani, the credit-card like slider that locks in a prison sentence on Niamos, a character’s breath condensing in chilly air. Nothing pulls you out of your immersion in the drama; there are no winks and nods to obscure franchise lore, nor are there gratuitous cameos (such appearances that are here are either earned or otherwise make sense given the story). And if there’s a Wilhelm scream in these episodes I haven’t heard it yet.

The series’ cast is first rate across the board; you won’t find a single bad performance here. Luna, Skarsgård, Shaw—each of them shines as you’d expect, but the real surprises come from Soller, O’Reilly, and particularly Denise Gough, who manages to chew the scenery with as little as a glare. Andy Serkis gives perhaps his best performance since The Lord of the Rings as a prisoner Cassian meets along the way. You might recognize Ebon Moss-Bachrach of FX’s The Bear (and soon to be a member of The Fantastic Four) in a strong supporting role, along with Adria Arjona (Good Omens), Alex Ferns (Chernobyl), and Forest Whitaker (Rogue One, The Last King of Scotland). The series’ direction is efficient and effective, its production design and costuming are exquisite, the cinematography is striking and always firmly grounded within the perspective of the characters themselves. Even the series’ score, by composer Nicholas Britell (Succession, The Big Short), feels of a piece with this world, encompassing electronic club music, traditional orchestrations, and the local Outer Rim equivalent of a VFW marching band.

Best of all, Andor assumes, even demands, its audience’s intelligence. Its story isn’t a re-hash of events we’ve seen elsewhere, nor does it ‘rhyme’ with other parts of the franchise—it’s complex, subversive, and economical. Attention is paid to both context and subtext. The stakes actually matter here; choices feel both universal and personal all at once. Many of the characters are morally ambiguous and face their own individual struggles and ethical dilemmas. The “good” guys do terrible things in service of honorable goals or higher ideals, while the “bad” guys are true believers in the righteousness of their cause… even principled. (The philosopher Hannah Arendt’s notion of the “banality of evil” is on full display in this series.) Nothing is ever black and white in Andor; this is a show that lives in gray shadows, where the line between justice and injustice is constantly blurred.

What Andor is not is a show about destiny or birthright; there are no Jedi or Sith among its characters, nor are there stock heroes or mustache-twirling villains. It’s important to remember that even in the Star Wars universe, most people aren’t Force users but simply regular folks of all stripes who decide to fight for their lives and for each other when they’ve finally had enough of the Empire’s abuses. This is a series about selflessness and sacrifice, one that suggests that even love itself can be an act of rebellion in the right circumstances. Andor is a slow burn to be sure, a pot that simmers and roils yet takes an entire season to reach a full boil. But when it does, it’s thrilling. Make absolutely no mistake: this series represents Star Wars at its finest.

Andor was captured digitally by cinematographers Adriano Goldman, Frank Lamm, and Damián García in the X-OCN ST codec (in 16 bits and 6K resolution) using Sony Venice cameras with Panavision C and G-Series anamorphic lenses. It was finished at the 2.39:1 scope ratio for its streaming and physical release, and is presented here on 4K Ultra HD with HDR10 high dynamic range. As you might expect, the image quality is a major improvement over the Disney+ stream. With video data rates consistently in the 80-90 Mbps range (encoded for 100 GB discs), the result is much greater clarity and fine detail, a notably richer color palette, and an image of far more depth and dimensionality. There’s none of the banding and artifacting sometimes visible in the Disney+ stream. Notably, the HDR experience on disc is more of what you expect from this format, with deeply detailed shadows and more naturally bright and eye-reactive highlights. Perhaps best of all—and unlike The Mandalorian and other recent Star Wars series—Andor has actually been shot on large practical sets and out in the real world, so none of the limitations of the StageCraft Volume are in evidence. This is a fantastic 4K image, absolutely rock solid at all times and full of nuance.

Primary audio on these discs is offered in English Dolby Atmos. And unlike the compromised sound experience on the Disney+ stream, the uncompressed Atmos mix really shines. All the dynamics are present, with pleasing LFE and immersive use of the height and surround channels. The soundstage is nicely wide, with subtle atmospherics all around the listener. Dialogue is clean and readily discernible, while movement is smooth and buttery. Stand-out moments include the warehouse firefight at the end of Reckoning, the stunning Eye of Aldhani, Rael’s escape from an Imperial Arrestor Cruiser aboard the Fondor, and of course the Rix Road funeral procession and Maarva’s stirring holographic speech, all of which take full advantage of the overhead channels. This certainly isn’t an aggressive or blustery surround mix, but it serves the visuals well and—again like the imagery—is a nice improvement over the streaming experience. Additional sound options include English 2.0 Descriptive Audio, as well as French and Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital. Subtitles are available in English for the Hearing Impaired, French, and Spanish.

Disney’s 4K Ultra HD Steelbook release of Andor: The Complete First Season features all twelve episodes spread across three UHD discs. The specific episodes and bonus features included are as follows:


  • 1x01 – Kassa (UHD – 39:12)
  • 1x02 – That Would Be Me (UHD – 35:40)
  • 1x03 – Reckoning (UHD – 40:19)
  • 1x04 – Aldhani (UHD – 46:59)
  • Andor: Declassified (HD – 5 parts – approx. 40 mins in all)
    • Ferrix Part 1: Imperial Occupation (HD – 8:18)
    • Aldhani: Rebel Heist (HD – 7:42)
    • Coruscant: Whispers of Rebellion (HD – 8:44)
    • Narkina 5: No Way Out (HD – 7:30)
    • Ferrix Part 2: Fight the Empire (HD – 7:35)


  • 1x05 – The Axe Forgets (UHD – 43:12)
  • 1x06 – The Eye (UHD – 50:40)
  • 1x07 – Announcement (UHD – 50:14)
  • 1x08 – Narkina 5 (UHD – 53:18)


  • 1x09 – Nobody’s Listening! (UHD – 46:55)
  • 1x10 – One Way Out (UHD – 42:50)
  • 1x11 – Daughter of Ferrix (UHD – 42:59)
  • 1x12 – Rix Road (UHD – 54:14)

The disc menus offer a slideshow of production artwork set to music. While there are only about 40 minutes’ worth of bonus content in this set (all on Disc One), it’s still quite good. This season’s story is composed of essentially five different chapters—Andor’s introduction on Ferrix, the Rebel heist on Aldhani, political and security maneuverings on Coruscant, the Narkina prison escape, and the climax back on Ferrix. So a featurette has been created for each that examines the relevant characters and their journeys, the various subplots, and the production and design work. Gilroy and Luna appear often to comment and offer insights, as do Skarsgård, Shaw, O’Reilly, and some of other the actors, along with key members of the crew. We get to see behind-the-scenes footage, production art, and other filmmaking ephemera. All of it is entertaining and worth your time. Really, the only complaint here is that there simply isn’t more of it. Well, okay… there is one more complaint that should be mentioned: These episodes don’t have chapter stops, so scanning to find a favorite scene can be tiresome. But that’s a minor issue. Also included in this package is a set of collectible artwork postcards. And the discs come packaged in a lovely Steelbook case featuring custom artwork by graphic designer Attila Szarka. Note that there are no Blu-ray versions included—those are available separately—nor are there Digital codes.

When all is said and done, if fuzzy creatures and wisecracking video game characters swinging lightsabers, blasting Stormtroopers by the dozen, and pulling Star Destroyers from the sky with the Force is what you crave from this franchise, Andor is probably not the show for you. But for those who’ve loved Star Wars since beginning… those for whom that original 1977 film offered their first steps into a larger world of cinema with multilayered storytelling and complex world-building… Andor is a gift. It’s hands-down the best Star Wars since Rogue One, and before that The Empire Strikes Back. That’s not to say that all Star Wars needs to be like this series; there is certainly room for simpler, lighter, and more childlike experiences in this universe. But until now, that’s almost all we’ve gotten, so it’s fair to say that many longtime fans had simply given up hope. And as we all know, rebellions are built on hope.

Per showrunner Tony Gilroy in recent interviews, Andor: The Complete Second Season is now in post-production on target for its streaming release on Disney+ later this year or early next, and it sounds like he’s damn proud of his work on it. Well, he certainly should be. Let’s hope that the decision-makers at Disney and Lucasfilm are smart enough to realize that this series is their new benchmark. Andor: The Complete First Season doesn’t exactly set a new standard for physical media or 4K Ultra HD releases. But thank the Maker for it, because it’s absolutely not to be missed.

- Bill Hunt

(You can follow Bill on social media on Twitter and Facebook)