Warning: This article contains spoilers from Andor episode 9.
Since he’d already played Supreme Leader Snoke in the sequel trilogy and he wasn’t featured in any of the Andor marketing, it was a pleasant surprise to see the talented Andy Serkis rejoin the Star Wars universe as prisoner Kino Loy in Andor’s eighth episode.
As the prisoner managing Cassian’s floor, it initially seemed like Kino would be an antagonist in this story arc. He had a strict, no-nonsense approach and was easily angered. Kino believed in the “game” the Empire was forcing the prisoners to play and was willing to walk over the other prisoners and play by the rules so he could complete his prison sentence and earn his freedom.
The events in episode 9 prove that Kino would be far more than just an antagonist for Cassian to overcome as Kino underwent his own satisfying arc in this episode. His first scene in the episode begins to show a new side of the character as he shows compassion toward the elderly prisoner Ulaf, emphasizing that Ulaf will soon be the next prisoner to complete his sentence and earn his freedom.
Kino even compliments the table five team on making a “wise move” with having Cassian and Ulaf switch places to further their productivity. At this point and when Kino gives the same spiel he gave Cassian to the new man on the floor, it is clear that Kino is still all-in on the game the Empire is making the prisoners play. Yet, the audience sees that there might actually be a decent person underneath Kino’s often callous demeanor.
Serkis truly begins to show off his acting range when Kino and the other prisoners on the floor first get wind that something horrific happened on level two. Kino’s voice remains commanding and confident, but his eyes betray the seeds of fear and doubt that have been planted, the possibility that something is seriously wrong and that he can no longer trust the system he’s counted on.
When they’re back in their cells and Cassian asks Kino if he’s ever thought about escaping and presses him for information about how many guards are on each floor, Kino is still dismissive toward Cassian, and yet he lacks much of the conviction he’d shown earlier.
After a little more information about what happened on level two is passed along, the fear deepens in Kino’s eyes, now accompanied by a look of craving as he tries to desperately cling to his belief in the system. He tries to convince his fellow prisoners it’s just a rumor and they should just keep going about their business, but even Kino is no longer convinced by now.
The turning point in Kino’s arc comes when Ulaf collapses. The concern that Kino shows for him is touching and referring to Ulaf by the nickname “Uli” hints that he and the elderly prisoner may be closer than anyone realized. If Ulaf could get through his last shifts and earn his freedom, then Kino can believe that he can do it as well.
The medic who arrives to treat Ulaf says he’s had a stroke and gives the elderly prisoner euthanasia while revealing that Ulaf is receiving a peaceful and better death than any of the prisoners will get now.
Cassian and Kino learn from the medic that a prisoner released on level four was put on level two the next day. When the other prisoners on that floor realized what had happened, the Empire killed them all. It becomes clear that no matter hard the prisoners work and even if they complete their sentences, the Empire will never free them now.
Between this sobering revelation and the death of Ulaf, Kino stops clinging to his belief in the system, and finally tells Cassian that there are never more than twelve guards on each level of the prison. There is a new kind of conviction in Kino’s voice when he delivers this final line of the episode.
Serkis nails every little nuance of Kino’s arc in episodes 8 and 9, from the subtle changes in his voice, to how expressive his eyes are, and the ways the character carries himself at different points in the episodes.
The excellent writing and Serkis’ compelling performance make Kino’s gradual transformation believable, allowing the final line in the episode to hold tremendous weight that feels fully earned.
Kino will undoubtedly play a vital role in the inevitable prison escape in episode 10. As for whether he will survive the escape, it seems unlikely. Given his character development, Kino seems like a prime candidate to sacrifice himself to help the other prisoners escape and defy the Empire. Like Ulaf, the number of days left in Kino’s prison sentence have been mentioned multiple times, making it feel all the more tragic that they thought they were close to getting out, only to die instead.
Much like Nemik during the Aldhani heist, Kino will probably die, but he will have taught Cassian valuable lessons that will help shape the rest of Cassian’s life. Kino can teach Cassian that it’s never too late to change and make amends, even when a person has done bad things or been selfish.
This can inspire Cassian to join the growing rebellion despite some of the selfish acts he’s done and can arguably lead to Cassian going to Scarif in Rogue One, determined to do the right thing despite all the terrible things he’s done on behalf of the Rebellion.
Whether or not Kino survives the events of episode 10, his character and the acting of Andy Serkis have been among the many highlights of this series.
Kino’s story perfectly demonstrates that in a fascist society, there is no hierarchy of oppression. Even those who play by the rules will ultimately suffer and their actions only help the system that abuses them and countless others. The only way to counter this is rebellion, just like the one Cassian and Kino will lead in the next episode.