It’s now apparent that Andor’s first three episodes served together as something of a prologue to the main event, with the thrust of the narrative getting well underway this week. It’s slow going, but in a galaxy overstuffed with winking nods and increasingly gratuitous cameos, Andor’s intimate and deliberate structure may well be what you’ve been missing from Disney+’s Star Wars offerings so far.
We begin, somewhat ironically, in Hyperdrive. Luthen has smuggled Cassian off Ferrix and offers him a choice: get paid a hell of a lot of cash to complete a risky mission, or get dropped off on the nearest rock planet and take his chances. Cassian at first opts for the former, but we (and Luthen) know better. Cassian claims he wants nothing to do with the uprising against the Empire bubbling up across the galaxy. “[It’s] better to live. Better to eat, sleep, do what you want!” he tells Luthen. From what we know, Andor’s been pretty intent on keeping his head down ever since he left Kenari. Not the noblest of choices but remember: He’s got a sickly robot and adoptive mother (both sadly missed this week) to take care of. Luthen’s unmoved. “No matter what you tell me or tell yourself,” he growls, “you’ll ultimately die fighting these bastards. Wouldn’t you rather give it all at once for something real?” It may be the inspiring kick up the ass Cassian needs, or it may be the payday, but he ultimately relents and joins a rebel mission years in the making.
Andor does a lot of impressive work this week, and we’ll get to that, but there’s still a fundamental disconnect between what we see in the character of Cassian Andor, and what we’re told. We’ve seen no fire behind Diego Luna’s eyes yet (and we know he’s capable of that), and once again it’s up to a supporting character to tell him (and us) what he is and what he wants. He’s a long way from the cocksure rebel we meet in Rogue One, but you can still have an immature, searching character without them being quite so uninterestingly passive. I hope it’s a temporary problem, but throwing your leading man undercover when we still don’t really know who he is without a cover is a frustrating choice.
It’s a relief, then, that the main plot coming into focus is expansive and compelling. Dropped off on the charmingly rustic planet of Aldhani under the assumed name “Clem” (his adoptive father’s name), he’s embedded in a group of rebels lead by Vel (Faye Marsay) who, rather than risk her group’s ire by bringing on a mercenary at the eleventh hour, pretends Clem was in her plans all along. I’m not sure if anyone’s buying it, but we also get a hint of a spy within the tight-knit group’s ranks.
We get a slew of character introductions this week—none more important than Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), a powerful Senator and crucial part of the Rebel Alliance whose canonical appearances go all the way from the early Clone Wars to 1983's Episode VI. She meets Luthen, wearing a wig(!) at his antiques shop(!!) ostensibly to get a gift for her husband but in actual fact, as soon as Luthen’s assistant steers Mothma’s shady driver to peruse some old coins, collaborates with Luthen on their ongoing grand scheme to take down the Empire. O’Reilly has been excellent as the steely but passionate politician since her very first appearance, and it’s great to have her back in the mix not just as a totem of the rebellion, but a character in her own right. We get a snippet of her home life once she returns from her meeting with Luthen, finding her husband preparing for a dinner with a high-ranking governor. The relationship reveals itself as strained within seconds, Mothma feeling suffocated by her day job and the small talk she’ll have to make with her peers as the Empire runs rampant across the Galaxy. “Must everything be boring and sad?” her husband whines. Presumably he’s one of those guys who would rather not get political, but Mothma knows there’s nothing political about the urgent threat of the Empire.
Elsewhere on Coruscant, an Imperial task force convenes and go-getter Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) is told, in no uncertain terms, to end her obsession with Ferrix and that pesky Starpath unit. She sees a pattern in the recent robberies and civil unrest but her superior, Major Partagaz (Game Of Thrones’ Anton Lesser!) doesn’t want to hear it. It doesn’t help that her colleague, Lieutenant Blevin (Ben Smith, a.k.a. Doc Brown) refuses to lend a hand. I’m not sure how much sympathy we should be reserving for a hard-working Empire cop, but Meero’s righteous frustration will only build from here, I imagine.
Back on Aldhani, the plan is revealed. In three days the group will go undercover as Imperial officers and steal “the quarterly payroll of an entire Imperial sector.” Andor immediately questions the likelihood of getting away in a freight ship with TIE Fighters on their tail, but they’ve got it covered: Turns out a celestial event that happens once every three years is coming up, and they can use the “billions’’ of meteorites as cover. Whether or not the plan works remains to be seen but one thing’s for sure: They better show us this damn sky spectacle.
- Syril Karn’s still around! He’s been stripped of his authority and has to move back in with his mom, who slaps and then hugs him on sight, which is exactly what I also want to do to him. Is a collision course with fellow true believer Meero on the cards?
- An excellent TIE Fighter jump-scare reminds us all of the Empire’s threat, and just how cool the sound design is for those ships. That’s the sound of death, and there’s no Luke Skywalker around to shoot them out of the sky like a video game. One or two will be enough to wipe Vel’s crew out in seconds.
- Luthen gives Cassian a treasured heirloom as a down-payment. If I’m not mistaken, that there’s a Kyber Crystal: the power source of every Lightsaber.
- Aldhani makes for a great Star Wars planet, ably set in the Scottish Highlands. It all feels very earthy and real until we walk past a pen inhabited by four-horned sheep and it’s like, Oh right, this is an alien world.
- In addition to Maarva and Bee, Bix is also missed this episode. I hope the folks on Ferrix are holding up, and that we see them next week.