Andor is a show about the messy side of the galaxy far, far away and the even messier people who inhabit it. Angry people, unpleasant people, liars and killers looking for any way to focus their frustrations at a universe in the grip of totalitarianism. But it’s also about the bell guy.
The bell guy in Andor doesn’t even really have a bell. It’s more of a giant metal slab. He gets up at the crack of dawn on the planet Ferrix every day—maybe he has the only functioning Star Wars equivalent of an alarm clock in town—and climbs his tower. He selects his two hammers off the wall, from their well-worn holders. He prepares, adjusting his ear guards—or maybe they’re headphones, maybe he’s a fan of classical jizz—so he’s not about to be deafened by his work. His ritual. He places the hammers down on his slab to do this, then picks them back up. He assumes his pose, the pose he assumes every morning, in preparation for this moment.
And he hammers. Bong-bong, one after the other. He allows the sound to reverberate. Bong, this time both at once. He goes again, Bong-bong, bong. There’s people here and there lurking out there in the early dawn, but it’s when the bell guy that’s not really a bell guy—he’s the bell, I guess, spiritually speaking—rings his hammers that life starts on Ferrix, the bustle of the town below beginning to blossom as his hammers ring out, over and over. The sound fades, the day begins, and bell guy presumably goes on with his life, his job done until the morrow.
These chimes and ringing drones are clearly somewhat important to Ferrixian culture, as far as we can tell after the bell guy’s daily ritual opens Andor’s second episode. When the Morlana corp-sec forces arrive in town, it’s a system of chimes and bells, rather than yelling people, that alerts the citizens of the town to shut up shop and scarper. There’s this ritual of this man and his hammers, up at the crack of dawn every day, to ring the streets awake. No one ever clunkily states this in dialogue, we don’t learn that in 527 BBY someone rang a victory bell with their warhammers in some legendary Ferrix civil war. We don’t know the bell guy’s name, we don’t know his deal except for the fact that he gets up and hammers that slab every morning.
We don’t need to, and hell, Andor didn’t need set the scene for its sophomore episode by following this character. But it does, and it’s important that it chooses to do so, both drawing our attention to it but not yet drawing it enough that we know the ins and outs of this person’s life. They’re largely unimportant to the grand scheme of things, and yet they’re also incredibly important. Bell guy probably has a Wookieepedia page already. It’s probably two sentences long. He deserves it. I don’t know how I’d find it, because it probably won’t help if I pull the site up and put “bell guy” in the search window.
The bell guy represents one of the most wonderful things about Star Wars worldbuilding at its best: seeing, and not telling. The bell guy gets us to ask questions. What’s his deal, how did this town decide this is what they needed to get people in the mornings? Why isn’t it a droid? Was it a droid and then it stopped being one because it was awkward during the Clone Wars? How do you apply for the bell guy job? Do the people in a galaxy where Faster-Than-Light capable starships are commonplace really not have that many alarm clocks? They’re questions we should probably never get the answers to, although we can forever live in fear that contemporary Star Wars might eventually give him a comic book one-shot or a chapter in a novel, because that’s just how it is sometimes. But it’s enough that we are compelled by this tiny bit of detail, this little thread in the larger tapestry Andor weaves, to ask the questions anyway.
Andor’s view of the Star Wars galaxy is peppered with these little details in the way that the franchise’s capacity to overexplain itself at times rarely is lately—the payphones Timm uses to narc on Cassian, that little step-droid at the spaceport Luthen arrives on Ferrix at that exists literally for people to step all over it. The bell guy and his hammers, hammering away every morning. None of them are really important to the plot, and they don’t need to be: they make Andor’s slice of the galaxy far, far away feel lived in and textured beyond its primary narrative thrust, and make it feel like we are being guided into a world that exists beyond the metanarrative edge of its scripting.
Hammer away, bell guy. You’re what makes Star Wars’ worlds go round, and not just because you get everyone up every day.
Update 9/23/2022 8:00PM EST: Bell guy does indeed have a Wookieepedia page, attributed to a title given to him in Andor episode 2's closed captions, the Time Grappler. Bell guy/Time Grappler is the greatest character ever conceived in the history of Star Wars.
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