Kenari, Kenari, Kenari — it’s the talk of the town in Disney+’s new Star Wars series Andor! The series dives deep into the backstory of future Rebel spy Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), providing us with new information about his birthplace and family history. There’s a whole lot to unpack in Andor’s first three episodes (all streaming now on Disney+), but this Kenari business just may be the most consequential and/or fascinating.
So, what is Kenari? What went wrong on Kenari? And how does this affect Cassian Andor’s backstory? Let’s figure it out. SPOILERS ahead!
What is Kenari?
As Andor says himself while trying to find his long lost sister in a brothel on Morlana One, Kenari was a small Mid Rim system. Just FYI, Naboo (Padme Amidala’s homeworld), Takodana (Maz Kanata’s hangout), and Kashyyyk (Chewbacca’s homeworld) are other Mid Rim planets. And in Star Wars, systems (which include a star and the planets orbiting it) and a single planet often share names kinda interchangeably. So, Kenari is the system and probably also the name of the planet that we see in flashbacks throughout the first three episodes.
So, Kenari the planet — ! It’s a lush, forested planet with an indigenous population whose language, it should be noted, is not Galactic Basic (a.k.a. English). This is very important for Cassian’s backstory, and a detail that Diego Luna specifically wanted to include. Luna chose to keep his Mexican accent when he took the role for Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, and this ended up being the springboard for Kenari’s introduction.
As Luna told Decider, “Cassian is such a unique character in the universe of Star Wars. When you see Rogue One, no one shares his accent. Clearly he comes from somewhere else than everyone around, and you hear very little about where he comes from and what happened.”
While aliens speak all kinds of languages, almost every human we’ve seen in Star Wars speaks Galactic Basic — possibly every human. These Kenari flashbacks are either a rare example or the lone example of humans speaking a completely different language — and the fact that the show offers no subtitles for Kenari makes it feel all the more rare, like even Star Wars itself doesn’t know how to translate it. All of this explains why Cassian Andor speaks with an accent.
Who lives on Kenari?
Kassa, young Cassian, lives with a tribe of people who are indigenous to Kenari (the subtitles say they are speaking Kenari). Now as to their living situation, that’s up to interpretation. First: there don’t appear to be any adults around, with the oldest Kenari being around 18. Are the parents at work in the mines? Was this a stylistic choice to underscore Kassa’s POV as a child? Are all the adults dead? Up to you to decide! It also appears, due to the blending of nature and random bits of machinery and wares, as if most of their village is made of scavenged materials — but that’s also up to interpretation.
There’s also an Republic presence on Kenari — reminder, this is before the Republic became the Empire, so the Republic ain’t as nice as it sounds — in the form of a massive mining operation, one that young Kassa sees (possibly for the first time) during what seems to be his first outing with a group of older Kenari.
What happened on Kenari?
In the flashback, the Kenari kids spot a Republic vessel exploding overhead and crashing over the horizon. A group sets out to investigate the crash (does this happen often? Is this how the villagers get all their gear? More questions!) and that leads them to the mines.
It also leads them to the crashed ship, which is littered with dead Republic officers, their skin yellowed with poison. This fits in line with what the galaxy at large knows about Kenari, as relayed by Cassian’s associate Xanwan: “abandoned after Imperial mining disaster, abandoned and considered toxic, Imperial prohibition.” The look on Cassian’s face lets you know that he knows exactly what Xanwan’s talking about.
So, this is the Imperial/Republic mining disaster, and all of the inhabitants of the ship have been poisoned. It also appears like there might be a bit of a lie in the official report, though. Kassa only survived because a pair of scavengers, Maarva (Fiona Shaw) and Clem (Gary Beadle) come across him in the downed ship. Maarva insists on taking Kassa with them, saying that Republic ships are in orbit and are coming to wipe everyone out. No witnesses, no survivors.
Considering that the official story is that Kenari was abandoned, considered toxic, and the planet is off-limits to everyone, maybe the Republic did do exactly what Maarva was sure they’d do and murdered the indigenous population. Was it solely a mining accident? Or was it a mining accident that led to genocide as a coverup?
That’s it for Kenari, but there’s one other mystery to solve…
How does this change Cassian Andor’s backstory?
Prior to these episodes, expanded universe materials listed Fest as Andor’s home planet and stated that he became a child soldier at the age of 6, and that his first battle occurred in the year 20 BBY (20 years before the Battle of Yavin, as seen in the first Star Wars film) when he threw rocks at clonetroopers. Cassian’s previous backstory also states that his mother is dead, and his adoptive mother — Maarva Andor — is now very much alive.
All of this led fans to assume that Andor was 26 in Rogue One. Diego Luna is 42, but was 37 when he appeared in Rogue One. Since Andor takes place 5 years prior, Cassian is likely close to 32. Yes, actors play young all the time, but does Andor really seem 21 in Andor? On top of that, Antonio Viña, the actor who plays young Kassa, is not 6. He’s closer to 10 or 11. Considering that the villagers are armed and ready to investigate a crash site, that lines up with Kassa having been part of a revolutionary group since the age of 6. Diego Luna confirmed to us that Kassa has been fighting since he was 6.
So, it seems like Cassian’s new backstory is that he was born on Kenari, began fighting either for survival or against Republic occupation at the age of 6, and was then whisked away by Maarva, surviving a culling, around the age of 11. I guess what I’m getting at is that Cassian was probably born sometime around the events of Star Wars: Episode I — The Phantom Menace and these flashbacks probably take place around the time of Star Wars: Episode II — Attack of the Clones. We’ll have to wait and see if any further flashbacks confirm this theory.
New episodes of Andor arrive on Disney+ on Wednesdays.