Andor, Tony Gilroy’s prequel series to Rogue One, is firing on all cyllinders as it ramps up in both tension and political intrigue.
Cassian (aka Keef Girgo of Deris-plata, the titular protagonist played by Diego Luna) is sent to Narkina 5 in a harrowing sequence in which the Empire filters its prisoners to various destinations based off of their home planet and other discriminant factors such as age/ability. The prison’s harsh environment would drive anyone insane, employing oppressive tactics along with Tunqstoid steel floors to fry anyone who steps out of line (the guards wear heavy-duty boots to avoid getting shocked). Some time has passed since the Aldhani heist, and as Kassa (Andor) endures 30 shifts of providing slave labor for the Empire (working with a team building complex machine parts on a tight schedule) he is clearly feeling the cold Imperial boot of oppression.
Andy Serkis is Star Wars’ best kept secret as he makes his debut in Andor as the lead prisoner in charge of productivity, Kino Loy (you might know him as the voice of Supreme Leader Snoke among many other accolades). He has 249 (219 now) days left of his sentence and he seems determined to keep the Empire happy until that day comes. The incentives or rather the deterrents presented by the prison system remind me of the corporate subjugation depicted in Severance (another sci-fi series which involves another prison of sorts).
Mon Mothma carries on with her political guise at social events, listening to Tay complain about new banking regulations on Coruscant, and gesturing to other constituents that “One forgets to savor the familiar.” There is mention of the Rebels blowing up the garrison on Aldhani, which is interesting given the fact that Cassian’s crew was only involved in a heist of 100 million Imperial payroll credits. This sets up speculation as to how the Empire controls the message, and whether they would have spun the narrative that the Rebels blew up Alderaan (A New Hope); or perhaps perpetuating the idea that blowing up a ‘Rebel’ planet is somehow justified given all of the horrific acts of terrorism they have been reported committing.
Meanwhile, ISB Supervisor Dedra Meero is pressing Syril Karn for information about the inciting incidents on Morlana One and Ferrix, while the deputy claims “Cassian Andor is a murderer and a threat to the Empire” and he was only trying to protect the Empire. After expanding on Blevin’s report through Syril’s account, Meero addresses the ISB (headed by none other than Wullf Yularen), identifying a mystery figure dubbed ‘Axis’ behind this network of Rebels that they are after. Dedra commends analyst Karn for his assistance, but also warns him that if he doesn’t stop raising red flags over Cassian Andor that she won’t be the person that he must answer to.
On Ferrix, Bix and Brasso check in on Maarva (and Bee). Even though it is clear Maarva is another rebel who refuses to run and hide, Vel and Cinta have arrived to await for their only opportunity to close out their business with Cassian (Vel leaves but a very devout Cinta stays as this is their only lead). After failing to reach Luthen through the rebel frequency, Bix is captured (Brasso urged her to run to Zorbys) along with Paak for conspiring against the Empire and is subjected to interrogation by Lieutenant Meero herself.
In his antique shop, Luthen discusses the current state of their operation with his faithful assistant Kleya. He expresses his very real concern of Andor being a loose thread that knows too much. Before shutting down and leaving for Segra Milo, Kleya concludes the following: “It’s all different now. We’re going loud. Vulnerability is inevitable.”
Saving the best and most exciting addition to the series for last, we see Benthic (or their twin Edrio?) as Luthen arrives on Segra Milo; signalling that fan-favorite rebel extremist Saw Gerrera (of Rogue One ilk) would not be far behind. The chemistry between Saw (reprised by Forest Whitaker) and Skarsgard’s Luthen is genuine, and even though the renegade rebel leader trusts nobody but himself there is a mutual respect for the work both parties do in opposing the Empire’s oppressive regime (“Oppression breeds Rebellion”, after all). Luthen offers sought-after Imperial tech for free if Saw agrees to provide air support to Anto Kreegyr (a separatist rebel) on a strike against the Empire; which garners no sale as Saw accuses other factions (separatists, the partisan Alliance etc.) of the Rebellion of being truly lost (his conviction hammered home by his stating “I am the only one with clarity of purpose.”).
Even though the episode ends on a shot of Cassian working with his prison squad and his peer Melshi (played by Duncan Pow who’s credited as Sergeant Melshi in Rogue One, hint hint…) assuring “it’s good, it’s good”, things appear far from good. Two thirds into Andor’s opening season, there has been a constant build of intrigue and politics in a galaxy far, far away through compelling character development and intense circumstances conjured up by director Toby Haynes and this episode’s writer Beau Willimon (with a seamless handoff by the seventh episode’s director/writer combination of Benjamin Caron and Stephen Schiff). The inclusion of characters such as Saw Gerrera and Mon Mothma feel less like fun cameos and more integral to the story being told. Tony Gilroy’s vision thus far has shown us our favorite galaxy as lived-in as one can imagine during its most hopeless time in the clutches of the Empire, and it will be exciting to see in the final four episodes how all of the moving parts align to form the cohesive Rebel Alliance that we see in the original Star Wars trilogy.