The fourth episode of Andor is now out!
The episode begins the second arc of the series, serving as the first of three episodes in this storyline. But it picks up directly where episode 3 left off, and through the course of the episode we see the triumphant return of Mon Mothma!
This one’s my favorite of the four episodes so far, so I’m excited to dive into the review. Full spoilers are ahead!
Aboard his ship, Luthen tries to convince Cassian to fight back against the Empire in a way that counts, offering him the chance to pull a job on Aldhani. Cassian eventually agrees, and upon arriving on the planet Luthen persuades Val – the leader of this particular mission – to accept Cassian into their crew, despite the mission being just three days away. The mission is to infiltrate an Imperial facility and steal the payroll for an entire sector. Val leads Cassian on the long trek back to camp, where the rest of the small crew is very unhappy about the newcomer. But they continue to make final preparations in advance of the mission.
Meanwhile, Luthen heads to Coruscant, where he resumes his job as an antiquities dealer. He receives a visit from Senator Mon Mothma, who comes looking for a gift for her husband but really has another motive: telling Luthen that although Imperial scrutiny has tightened, she believes she has someone to add to their circle of trust. Luthen lets her know that he trusts her judgment, and she departs. Upon arriving back at her apartment, Mon is surprised to find her husband setting up for a dinner that he’s hosting – with several of Mothma’s enemies in the Senate invited. She is furious about it and tells him not to do it again.
Also on Coruscant, the Imperial Security Bureau meets to discuss recent security incidents, and when the skirmisk on Ferrix is brought up Dedra Meero is intrugued. The box stolen by Cassian came from her sector, so she wants jurisdiction – which the sector officer refuses, She takes it to her superior, who tells her to stay in line and file her reports as usual, not acting on a mere instinct in this situation. The incident on Ferrix is enough for the Empire to shut down the Pre-Mor Authority, however, and take full control of the system. This leaves Syril Karn out of a job, so he pays a visit to his mother on Coruscant.
Of the four episodes we’ve seen of Andor so far, this one is easily my favorite. It’s the kind of political drama and thriller that Star Wars has been missing, and I’m totally here for it. That’s not really a surprise, since it’s what I was most excited for in this series anyway, but this episode was awesome at building it up.
And that, of course, is largely thanks to Mon Mothma. Genevieve O’Reilly returns to the role, and in this one episode she basically had a bigger role than in all other Star Wars combined (she appeared briefly in Rogue One, had some scenes cut from Revenge of the Sith, and voiced the character in episodes of Rebels). She is absolutely superb in every scene she’s in here, and truly steals the show. And her two scenes were very different, yet both brilliant.
The first one is with Luthen Rael, and both O’Reilly and Stellan Skarsgard do an incredible job of showing the facade they have to carry. It was smart filmmaking to show Luthen preparing aboard his ship, as we see him literally transforming himself into a whole different person, and seeing what looks like some fatigue from having to keep it up. He’s a totally different person when Mothma arrives, as is she. And when they’re finally alone, you can actually see their personas drop, before they each pick it back up while re-emerging. It’s great. And it serves to highlight, in ways beyond what dialogue ever could, the stakes and the weight of what they’re each carrying. They are both sympathetic to rebellion and working toward it, but scrutiny is higher than ever and they have to keep up the persona of someone very different than they are. Even the fact that Mothma’s driver needs to be distracted for this to happen really serves to drive this home.
I’m still curious to see what Luthen’s rebellion ties wind up being, as it seems like he might see things a bit more like Saw Gerrera does rather than Mon Mothma. But he’s obviously an ally of Mothma’s, and I’m curious to see how this develops from there. Another thing to note about this scene is that it’s absolutely packed with easter eggs (so don’t believe any of that crap about there being none of them in this series), as is the whole episode. There’s a reference to Rakata, which is very cool, and there are plenty of intriguing artifacts in Luthen’s collection (including the armor Starkiller’s was based on, a Twi’lek kalikori, a tablet referencing the Mortis gods, and what looks like Indiana Jones’s whip frozen in carbonite – among tons of others.
There are plenty of other name drops too, but one in particular bears mentioning: Sly Moore. She’s on the list of people invited by Mothma’s husband, Perrin, to their dinner, and that’s significant. She’s the mysterious Umbaran female seen alongside Palpatine in the prequel trilogy, and she serves as the Emperor’s Chief of Staff. She’s also slightly Force sensitive herself, and she remains one of the few people in the galaxy who knows Palpatine’s true identity as a Sith. But here’s where it could get interesting: I would guess that Mon Mothma does too (if Bail Organa knew, I would think he’d say something to her), so this dinner could feature the tension of two people who both know about Palpatine yet without knowing that the other knows. I really hope that we get to see this dinner, as I think it will be rife with tension and facades all around.
Backing up a bit, though, the scene between Mon and her husband was actually probably my very favorite in the entire episode. This was the first time we’ve ever seen her husband, but it’s immediately evident that he’s mostly indifferent to the cause and just cares about having fun and living in the luxury they’ve been afforded. What we see of Perrin here doesn’t suggest that he’s evil or has sinister motives, but he’s simply content to live in luxury and doesn’t much care about whether others are hurt by it. But this drives home an interesting dynamic that’s already at play, and I’d guess will become even more prevalent: in the face of rising evil and tyranny, is it enough to simply not actively support it? Or is there a responsibility to stand against it? Perrin seems content to live his life on his own selfish aims; Mothma is determined to spend hers for the good of others. Considering the fact that we don’t hear anything about Perrin later in the timeline, I wonder if this leads to a split, or another tragedy, down the road. But I also think it will serve to reinforce to the audience that the only reasonable option in the face of evil is to stand and fight. That’s what Mon Mothma is doing.
And that’s what Cassian Andor is learning to do as well. The episode contrasts different styles of fighting, seeing Mothma in the political realm and Andor out in the wilderness preparing for an attack. Even the settings are vastly different. I love Aldhani, a beautiful yet empty world that feels so primitive. And seeing Coruscant return was one of the true thrills for me, as it’s been a long awaited moment. One’s a remote world of nature; the other is a sprawling city of activity. These are vastly different storylines, and yet they’re tied together by this motivation to get involved in the fight and not just sit by doing nothing. Cassian has no love for the Empire, that much is clear, but he initially seems to be ok not getting involved. But Luthen tells him that Cassian will fight anyway, but he’ll just wind up losing himself bit by bit; wouldn’t he rather give it all at once in a way that matters? So he gets involved with this crew, and I think the episode did a great job of introducing us to each member of this team in a succinct yet natural way. These are real people, who are really going to be risking their lives for a mission that’s bigger than themselves. I think this will be a pivotal step toward Cassian fully embracing the fight.
This episode is, like the others, highly driven by dialogue, but it just works so well. There don’t seem to be any wasted moments, and yet the show is also in no rush to get where it’s going. Andor is content to sit in the meantime, to tell a thoroughly compelling story and allow the actors to do it through conversation rather than action and fighting. This is as radical of a concept to Star Wars as anything else the series has done, yet I think it’s been a home run. That’s aided by some terrific performances, and in this episode I thought that was particularly true of O’Reilly and Skarsgard, and some really effective writing.
I do think, however, that this means the episodes are meant to stand together more than we’re used to with the Star Wars live action shows. This episode ends super abruptly, which is actually the same thing that happened with episodes 1 and 2. Each one of these three episodes ends abruptly and feels like there’s plenty missing, and that’s by design: each story arc includes three episodes. That’s why the ending of episode 3 felt a bit different. So I think it remains to be seen how effective the weekly episode release will be for a series like this, and part of me wishes they’d release a new arc each week. But for viewers of The Clone Wars, for example, one episode of a multi-episode arc being released weekly doesn’t seem that odd, so I do think it will be fine. It just makes it harder to evaluate individual episodes week by week.
Overall, this was exactly the kind of political thriller I’ve been wanting from Star Wars. After the prequel trilogy took some criticism for being allegedly too politically focused, the sequel trilogy tried to stay away from it entirely. I think that was a mistake, and because of that I think a carefully done political story is just what the franchise needs. Doing so while allowing Mon Mothma to really get her chance to shine is the added bonus.