For the first time ever in live-action Star Wars, we got a glimpse of the Imperial Senate in session near the end of the sixth episode of Andor.
It’s a brief look, as we see Senator Mon Mothma in the middle of an impassioned speech against the Empire blocking Ghorman trade routes, but we see that nobody is listening to her – because what few Senators are there are engrossed with a news report about a robbery at the Imperial facility on Aldhani.
The contrast between the Senate seen here in Andor and the Republic Senate seen in the prequel trilogy is stark. Fourteen years have passed in-universe, and even the feel of Coruscant itself is different. It looks familiar enough, but it also feels more sterile. The show is doing a great job of showing how the Empire has sucked the life and joy out of what it touches, and that includes the Senate. Here, the Senate is mostly empty despite being in-session, and there are glaringly few Senators in attendance despite Mothma’s important concerns. And even those who are there grow far more concerned with the robbery than the speech, because they’re more concerned about protecting their own financial interests than in helping those of others.
The Senate during this era is significant and is the way Emperor Palpatine keeps a firm grip on the worlds under his rule, but it doesn’t have the same influence as it did during the Republic. But the Senate will remain intact until A New Hope, when the construction of the Death Star emboldens Palpatine to dissolve the Senate – as instead of using the Senate to keep worlds in order, he plans to use the new battle station. Yet even in A New Hope there is mention about how the Imperial Senate won’t allow certain things, which is evidence that it does have power and significance.
Yet what this show did so well, even in this one brief scene, is show us both how the Senate still operates but also how it is ineffective in stemming the oppression of the Empire. Mon Mothma in this series is a rebel, but she’s working in government and politics to try to bring that about. Within a few years, she will come to realize that she can’t bring about the change needed in the Senate and, in the face of the massacre on Ghorman, resigns to formally launch the Alliance to Restore the Republic.
So here, we see Mothma trying to do what she can in the Senate to help those oppressed by the Empire’s rule, but to no avail. It’s a small scene, but one that speaks volumes.