The latest arc of Andor has given us a new side of Imperial rule with the prison on Narkina 5. Introduced in the episode that shares its name, Cassian is captured and works hard labor to serve his sentence. As he bonds with his teammates, he presses them on forming an escape plan in the latest episode “Nobody’s Listening!” One point he brings up to Kino Loy is the fact that the Empire doesn’t have to waste extra resources on the prisoners because, as the title says, nobody’s actually listening to them.
What I love about the entire prison arc is how much it absolutely highlights one of the Empire’s biggest faults which is its hubris. It’s a nice callback to the conversation Cassian has with Luthen during their first meeting. He says, “They’re so proud of themselves… They can’t imagine that someone like me would ever get inside their house.” We see this on full display in the episodes “Narkina 5” and “Nobody’s Listening!”
The Empire thinks their system is completely foolproof with its electric floors and their special little boots. Despite being understaffed with never more than twelve guards on each level, they don’t feel the need to have more than that. The baddies don’t have surveillance because they believe that the idea and fear of the prisoners being watched are enough. Cassian quickly deduces the lack of cameras because the prisoners are seen as cheaper labor than droids and are replaceable. Also, the Empire just doesn’t care because they think so little of the people they incarcerate.
There is also the competitive format of the labor prison. The Empire makes it a game where the winners are rewarded with actual food and the losers get electrocuted. This is a type of psychological manipulation where the goal is to pit the prisoners against each other. The idea is to keep their focus on beating their fellow inmate to keep their drive away from rising up against the Imperials in charge.
All of this, of course, is about to blow up in the Empire’s face. Their hubris of “Surely no one will beat our impeccable system and defeat us! Surely that would NEVER happen! These people are so below us and fear us that they would NEVER do that!” is exactly why the Empire falls. The Death Star is built to be one big show of force to make people fear rising up. It has the exact opposite effect as Leia states in A New Hope. The harder the Empire squeezes, the more people will slip through their fingers. The prison in the latest arc is a microcosm of that idea.
In a show where hope is hard to find, it’s going to be so much fun to see at least one victory against the Empire as the prison goes to hell next week.
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