Star Wars has long had a rocky history with textual queerness—while LGBTQ characters have slowly but surely begun to thrive in the pages of books, games, and comics, on screens big and small the results have been decidedly mixed. It’s fitting then that Andor, a shock to Star Wars’ system as of late, is emboldened in its own approach.
This week’s episode, “The Axe Forgets,” largely follows the rebel cell that Cassian (aka Clem) has been inserted into on Alhdani by Luthen, as they all prepare for a dangerous mission to steal payroll data from the Empire. As with much of Andor’s strengths so far, it is an episode that is deft and rich in a grounded texture with how it approaches its characters, as we get to learn a little more about just why these people have been brought together in a rebellious cause.
We learn of their anger, of their vengeance, of their ideology, all these different people all with valid reason for fighting the Imperial machine. But in a similarly deft scene, we quickly learn, as cell member Skeen fills Cassian in on the myriad personal politics of his fellow rebels as they wake up in their camp, that some connections go beyond cause. It’s a tiny, but significant moment: Cinta, played by Varada Sethu, leaves one of the loosely constructed huts in the encampment, gathering things. As Skeen describes her as tougher than she looks, Faye Marsay’s Vel walks out from the same hut behind her, nestled in a blanket.
“She’s already sharin’ a blanket, if that’s what your wonderin’,” Skeen simply tells Cassian, and we have, in such a quiet moment, Star Wars’ second queer couple in live-action media.
Vel and Cinta’s relationship is not presented as the be-all and end-all of queerness in Andor. There is no grand love confession, no explicit intimacy, but a relationship that is painted quietly—in a line like Skeen’s, or the way Vel’s attitude to Cassian turns on a dime when he briefly flirts with Cinta over his wounded arm. It’s there in glances as they stand with each other side by side, or it’s in looks of discomfort when, as the cell makes its way to begin their mission and Cassian reveals his own mercenary aims for being part of their cause, Cinta softly admits that Vel did not even tell her that she already knew this. But it is a relationship nonetheless, and albeit one sketched out loosely, it feels more powerfully profound than a character screaming it from the rooftop, or perhaps a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it kiss at a victory celebration.
It feels, just as the rest of Andor’s messy, flawed figures do, whether within the Empire or without it, just like a part of this world, seamlessly and without question. It is presented as no stranger than if Vel or Cinta had shared a blanket with Cassian, or Nemik, or Skeen, or Taramyn: it just is. Andor excels at the lived-in feeling that Star Wars often loves to evoke of its worldbuilding, but that is usually a descriptor it saves for props and alien designs, spaceships and blasters. Rarely so much does it apply to its characters, especially ones that take on mythical status like its grandest heroes and villains—intentionally larger-than-life next to the regular people of the galaxy. But Andor takes this feeling, of making a world that is capable of such fantasy as Star Wars and rendering it complicatedly human and real, and indeed lived-in, and applies it to everyone. And that everyone, just as in our own world, includes queer people.
It’s perhaps telling that Star Wars has been around for as long as it has, and it is this subdued, barely touched and subtle relationship in Andor that still stands as one of its most visible queer relationships, on screens big or small. The franchise, for all it successes on the page—which, cynically viewed, can be pushed aside at a moment’s notice by the behemoths of TV and movies as not “real” Star Wars in the eyes of many—or for all its tiny, frustrating steps in live-action and animation, has a long way to go when it comes to giving us queer characters as richly detailed and celebrated as its heterosexual ones. We might not know how much longer Vel or Cinta have in Andor’s world, life under the Empire is always a risky venture for any rebel. But in the here and now, their shared blanket brings vital texture to its world, and Andor is all the better for touching upon it.
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