By Ben Konuch
“I would rather die trying to take them down than die giving them what they want.”
In the last few episodes, “Andor” has explored complex themes such as oppression, complacency and capitulation to overreaching authorities through the imprisonment of Cassian in one of the biggest metaphors in all of Star Wars. Throughout these episodes, the tension and the danger has gradually built up to a breaking point where Cassian and his fellow prisoners will have to take the leap of faith and push back against their captors or be condemned to a life of labor without any hope of escape. This episode sees that leap of faith taken in a triumphant but also painfully realistic escape from the bondage of Imperial slavery.
The standout of this episode is without a doubt Andy Serkis’ performance as Kino and the depth and humanity that his character shows. From the moment that the episode begins, resuming immediately after Cassian and Kino’s discovery and loss at the end of episode 9, Kino visually struggles to come to terms with what he’s just learned about what he’s done for the last few years. He’s been the shift supervisor, the trusted man in charge on their floor with the respect of his prisoners, and to learn that the adherence to the rules that he thought would save these men was actually the very thing that doomed them visibly wrecks him. Kino struggles to process, struggles to get past his shock while Cassian yells at him to make a choice. Tomorrow is the day, Cassian says over and over again. There’s only one way out, and they have to risk it no matter what it might cost because knowing what they know now, they really have nothing to lose.
When the revolt begins, and as men start to die and the odds of escape are put to question, Serkis puts unease, uncertainty and doubt into every look and expression. When he finally makes his choice and takes a stand, his performance as the inspiring voice getting these men to fight is nothing short of electric.
This episode also acts as the biggest turning point in Cassian’s character we’ve seen yet. He knows what has to be done and has realized that running from the Empire or going along with them with your head down will only end in suffering, and finally takes action and takes charge. It’s his plan to escape that sets everything in motion, his urging that gets Kino to finally admit the truth to the rest of the prisoners, and his courage that causes the first strike in what becomes a massive, prison-wide revolt. This change in attitude shows that Cassian has the very first seeds of leadership taking root.
The riot itself is filmed with tension and high, graphic stakes. We know Cassian survives up until “Rogue One,” but that’s not true for the men he’s lived and worked with for the last two episodes. “Andor” doesn’t shy away from senselessly cutting down inmates in their attempts to escape, showing not a glorious fairytale escape but a harsh, bitter reality of what it takes to break free from chains. Characters we’ve come to know are shot down without dramatic flair or sad farewells, just one minute they’re rushing towards a platform and one minute they’re on the ground with a hole burned through them.
Firefights feel raw and charged, with the ever-present tension gnawing away at us as our characters seethe toward the only way out. But the action isn’t even the focus here, it’s on the men finally rising up and the fact that the Empire’s own false sense of security has enabled this revolt to happen in the first place. But the Empire got lax in its strength, and without people like Dedra Meero who have passion and vigilance it will only get worse, and men like Cassian and Luthen have begun to realize how to exploit that. The galaxy soon will too, but until then, we see how brave and desperate men can topple a prison in an exciting escape sequence that ends in bittersweet freedom and heartbreak.
This episode also teases the beginning of Mon Mothma’s downfall in her meeting with a criminal banker that doesn’t go smoothly. Her masks are slipping, and she can’t hide who she really is from the Empire forever. Whether we see that mask stripped away before this season is over remains to be seen, but “Andor” has made every action Mothma makes feel like it could be the tipping point that exposes her true nature. This leads to every scene having importance and urgency, transforming simple family dinners and business meetings into potentially life-and-death encounters.
This episode also gives us our first true look at who Luthen is during one of the best-acted moments in Disney’s Star Wars era. It’s a twist where “Andor” reveals who Luthen’s contact within the Empire has been all along, revealing who Luthen truly is. Luthen is a monster, and he knows it, but what’s more, he knows he has to be one. He has to push the galaxy to the breaking point and sacrifice others without a second thought, all while being haunted by each life he has to let go of. He grapples with the fact that he has given up any hope of a normal life, any hope at peace or security, any hope of love or friendship or bonds that are genuine. He has to exploit others, has to exploit even himself, and has to do it all with the knowledge that no one will ever see his sacrifice. He is a man who has learned to sacrifice anything so that others may gain everything, even if he can never taste the very freedom he’s fighting for.
Because that’s what heroes and rebellions do.
I give “Andor” episode 10 a 10/10.
“Andor” is now streaming on Disney+
Ben Konuch is a sophomore Strategic Communication student and an A&E writer for Cedars. He enjoys getting sucked into good stories, playing video games and hanging out with crazy MuKappa friends.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm