WARNING: This article contains minor spoilers from Andor Episode 8.
Narkina 5 seems to be in a pleasant world, full of lakes and forests. But the prison itself displays a system that is magnificent in its manipulation, and criminal in its cruelty. The prison is designed to not only hold its prisons but use up their bodies like a non-renewable resource. This system is unlike anything we have seen in Star Wars so far and is remarkable in its weaponization of competitive human nature.
Andor shows humanity stripped of its imagination
One of the key parts of the Imperial prison is the more minute choices. Sure you have the obvious electrified floor, the pitting of prisoners against each other classic management theory style, but some of the menaces are hidden in the details. For example, most everything is in a sterile white, without any opportunity for expression. We also see that the intent and design of the prison are creating an “other” that is to say an unknown faceless enemy that you compete against to avoid punishment and win a reward (even if the reward is flavor?).
Even though some of the prisoners have figured out some sort of sign language to communicate with other groups in other shifts we clearly see that they aren’t allowed time to converse about any non-work related tasks. This is both inside and outside of their group. This serves a minimum of two purposes for the Empire. The first is limiting the ability of the prisoners to rebel (and I am quite curious how Andor is going to get out of this one) and the other is limiting expression. The prisoners are stuck in different physical locations with not even physical overlap. We all know that the conversations we have with our friends, companions, or even acquaintances often are what get us through the day and the Empire has even taken that away in this prison.
Competition is the prison that we all fight, not just those on Narkina 5
You might think that this kind of oppression or fight might only happen inside an Imperial prison on Narkina 5 but we sometimes do this to ourselves. Other times we love to compete against others in our workplace, on social media, and even sometimes with our ‘ideal’ self. I think the most dehumanizing part of this prison is the fact that it divides its inhabitants against each other based on something that humanity (and evidently all species) struggle with.