By Ben Konuch
“Of course I’m afraid! But there’s a difference between fear and losing your nerve. You want out of this? Make a choice. Don’t use me as an excuse.”
“Andor” has quickly shot up the ranks of my favorite pieces of Star Wars storytelling. Fresh off the high note of episode three’s action-packed conclusion of the first story arc, “Andor’s” next two episodes are again slow-burn world-building that culminate into a visually stunning and narratively satisfying sixth episode that reminds me why I absolutely adore the world of Star Wars and the stories that it can tell.
Set immediately after Cassian and Luthen escape from Ferrix, these three episodes take their time to continue to flesh out their characters and the growing threat of what revolt against the Empire means. The concept of an organized rebellion movement is still so foreign that the central struggle of this story arc revolves around Luthen sending a grudging Cassian to the planet Aldhani; not to start a revolution or majorly cripple Imperial efforts but to instead pull off a precision strike on an isolated Imperial base to steal credits from the payroll treasury.
For us audience members who are used to grand Kessel Runs and huge fights against the Empire, this shift in the purpose of “rebellion” perfectly demonstrates the utter hopelessness of life under the Golden Age of the Empire. Even such a small job is framed with two episodes full of buildup and tension to keep me on the edge of my seat right until the action kicked off in episode six.
The highlight of this arc, especially in episode four, is the way “Andor” delves into Luthen’s character and introduces us to Coruscant politics and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly reprising her role from Rogue One). This is the first time live-action Star Wars has really delved into the murky world of Imperial politics, and it is fascinating. Seeing the way the Imperial Security Bureau (referred to as the ISB) monitors Mothma, the way they have to go through so many covers and bluffs simply to talk without hostile ears overhearing them, and the fascinating way that Luthen is trying to subtly coax the senator determined to protest evil in the proper way into taking a step towards radical Rebellion.
We also get our first insight into the workings of the ISB through the perspective of Dedra Meero (wonderfully portrayed by Denise Gough), an agent rising the ranks who starts to dig into the incident on Ferrix and whether or not it’s linked to a greater Rebel threat. We finally get to see how the ISB works, and what the systems the Empire uses to keep its people subjugated and controlled. While Dedra’s story takes a side path in this arc, the way she refuses to back down from a challenge shows that she’ll be on Cassian’s tail, and the greater rebel effort, very very soon.
While Mon Mothma tries to thread the line between rebellion and revolution, Luthen has left a begrudging Cassian on the planet Aldhani to help a rebel cell pull off a seemingly impossible heist. While both Cassian and the rebels initially don’t want Cassian there, the group slowly warms up to the idea that they need him to help infiltrate the Imperial garrison. Episodes four and five take their time to introduce us to the proposed plan and the full weight of what taking on the Empire, even in such a seemingly insignificant way, would look like. There is no Rebellion to come swooping in with their X-wings to save the day if things go wrong. There are no heroes, no Jedi, no fail safes, and no allies. It’s just Cassian, Vel, Taramyn, Skeen, Nemik, Kaz, and Gorn. Seven insurrectionists against an Empire and half of them don’t even trust each other.
This all leads into episode six, which in my opinion is one of the single best episodes of Star Wars storytelling we’ve had in years. After properly building up the stakes and these new characters, of which Nemik is without a doubt the most interesting and most compelling to me, the crew embarks on the heist. From the start of the episode tension abounds, and as the details of their plan rapidly start to fall apart, “Andor” shows a fascinating view of what early rebellion looks like.
Each of the crew members are competent and have their share of combat experience, but each and every one of them is painfully inexperienced with going up against the Empire and how it works. They overcome and improvise, but also make mistakes, hesitate, and show fear. Just because they have their own areas of expertise and skills doesn’t mean they’re a well-oiled team yet, which demonstrates just how daunting a Rebellion in its early stages would be.
After tense suspense, another wonderfully crafted action sequence, and one of the most spectacularly gorgeous setpieces I’ve seen in modern Star Wars, episode six ends with Cassian making a tough decision that demonstrates his coldness and ruthlessness, and ability to do whatever he thinks is necessary, while still showing that he is still very far from being the rebel committed to the cause that we see in Rogue One.
I give “Andor” episodes 4-6 a 9.5/10.
“Andor” is now streaming on Disney+
Ben Konuch is a sophomore strategic communications student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games, and failing horribly at wallyball with his friends.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm