By Ben Konuch
“Welcome to Narkina 5.”
“Andor” slows down its pacing in its eighth and ninth episodes, but for good reason. In these last two episodes, Cassian is taken to Narkina 5, an Imperial prison colony with unrelenting rules but decent conditions and a promise of release at the end of each worker’s sentence. Forced to work to exhaustion for twelve-hour shifts and compete against other worker teams, most inmates want to keep their heads down and get through their term, but Cassian isn’t content with giving up. As he schemes and bides his time, the galaxy outside his cell moves ever closer to igniting.
On Coruscant, Dedra showcases her persistence and skill as an ISB agent by linking Cassian’s involvement with Aldhani to what happened at Ferrix, connecting the dots and furthering her hypothesis that an interconnected rebel plot is taking form. From this point forward the Empire shifts its attention to “Axis”, the person in charge of whatever conspiracy is playing on in the shadows, a character we know as Luthen.
Every scene with the ISB is equal parts fascinating and unnerving as we see the efficiency and dedication of these men and women while also witnessing their utter ruthlessness for the sake of “security.” Anything goes if it means protecting the Empire’s interests, and tensions build throughout these two episodes as their crosshairs get closer and closer to Luthen.
These episodes also start to utilize the character of Syril Karn, the corporate officer in charge of the failed attempt to apprehend Cassian on Ferrix. For the last few episodes, we’ve watched this character steep in his anger and resentment of Cassian, as it’s cost him his job, his dignity, and quite possibly a piece of his sanity. Kyle Sollar plays Karn with masterful utilization of non-verbal acting and characterization to perfectly demonstrate Karn’s increasing frustration with the world and especially Cassian, who has become the embodiment of everything that’s gone wrong in his life.
But in episode eight, Dedra finally calls in Karn for questioning, giving him purpose as he reveals key details omitted from reports about Ferrix and setting her on the path straight to Cassian’s home and loved ones. While episode nine makes it unclear if Karn will be able to play a bigger part in the hunt for rebels, watching the way “Andor” slowly weaves its separate plot threads together is extremely narratively satisfying.
This shifts the spotlight onto Luthen and Mothma, who are both working frantically under increasing pressure and danger. Mothma continues to advocate for justice in the increasingly hostile Imperial Senate while her family actively turns their backs on her. To make matters worse, financial lockdown might mean that Mothma will have to turn to a shady criminal banker in order to keep funding Luthen’s plans. Additionally, a shocking twist reveals a connection between Mothma and Vel, one of the only survivors of Aldhani and one of Luthen’s assets, and with it comes a better understanding of both characters.
We see Luthen briefly converse with famous rebel terrorist Saw Gerrera, explaining how they need to keep pushing the Empire into anger and retaliations in order to get the galaxy to wake up. This short but immaculately acted scene helps demonstrate the utter chaos of rebellion in this dark time, with so many small rebel cells trying to fight the Empire on their own little fronts while standing for completely opposite goals, making unification under one Rebellion seem impossible.
This scene reveals a vulnerable side of Luthen we have never seen before, his fear that complacency to the Empire’s sins will allow it to grow so big that by the time the galaxy at large realizes, it’ll be impossible to change. “Oppression breeds rebellion,” he says, and that our rebels can either get the Empire to oppress the galaxy into action or be strangled by complacency.
When it comes to that oppression, nothing has shown the weight of Imperial subjugation like Cassian’s ordeals at Narkina 5. There is no blatant torture, no unnecessary cruelty until inmates step out of line, but that’s the twisted beauty of this system. Narkina 5 is a manifestation of the Empire as a whole, looking pristine and clean on the surface, and although there’s hardship and strife, it could always be worse. But this is exactly what eats away at the inmates of Narkina 5, wearing them down to resigned complacency. If they endure some pain, keep their heads down and don’t cause trouble, everything will turn out okay and they can eventually be released in peace. And if the galaxy cooperates and keeps in their perfect little white plastisteel lines as the Empire wants, then people will think that everything will eventually work out for its citizens.
But Narkina 5 can’t keep up the illusion forever, and Cassian finds out the horrible truth with Kino (Andy Serkis), a prisoner and shift supervisor tasked with keeping his men in line. All of episode nine was filled with Cassian trying to make plans to find a way out of this impenetrable prison and a sometimes hostile, always indifferent Kino refusing to help him. But when episode nine ends with a shocking revelation about the truth of Narkina 5, Kino realizes everything has to change and delivers one of the best one-liners in recent Star Wars history.
Overall, “Andor” episodes 8 and 9 slow down the pacing for more fantastic worldbuilding, character development, and deep allegory for the state of the galaxy as a whole. Constantly building stakes and tension for what’s to come, “Andor” has perfectly set the stage for revolt – both in Narkina 5 and the galaxy as a whole.
I give “Andor” episodes 8 and 9 a 9/10
“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 volleyball with his friends.
Images courtesy of Lucasfilm