Andor episode 7 dropped today, and it’s fantastic.
It all centers around the fallout from the heist on Aldhani, and I’m glad that the show is taking the time to show the characters’ reactions to this news, across a range of emotions. Let’s dive in to “Announcement,” which was my favorite episode yet. Full spoilers are ahead!
With the news of the attack on Aldhani spreading across the galaxy, the ISB hears from Colonel Yularen about how Palpatine is tightening his grip and the repercussions that are to come – including the ISB taking the lead on all investigations and therefore having access to military and navy files. Later, Dedra Meero uses this declaration to further investigate the missing tech. That leads to a confrontation in a council meeting between her and Lieutenant Blevin, who tries to get her in trouble for doing. But Major Partagaz sides with Dedra, affirming her ambition.
Mon Mothma pays a surprise visit to Luthen Rael, where she is stunned and speechless about his role in the attack. Luthen tells Mon that there’s no use to a weapon if they don’t use it, and he needed to get the Empire to over-react and impose strict sanctions. Mothma realizes this means people will suffer, and Luthen acknowledges that’s his plan. Mothma leaves, and later hosts a dinner party where she has a long discussion with an old friend, Tay Kolma, who runs a banking organization on Chandrila. Mothma lets him in on what she’s really doing, asking for his help to access her family funds.
Cassian Andor returns to Ferrix and reunites with Maarva, B2, and Bix. He learns that people blame him for what happened on Ferrix, which is now under Imperial rule, but that also people have been inspired by what happened on Aldhani (without knowing of his involvement). Cassian tries to get Maarva to run away with him to somewhere the Empire hasn’t touched, but Maarva refueses. She knows Cassian can’t stay there, but that she also can’t leave – because she’s committed to the rebellion on Ferrix. They remember how Clem was killed by the Empire, and Maarva has had enough. So Cassian leaves and goes to the vacation world Niamos, where on a walk he is wrongly accused by a shoretrooper of being a criminal. He is placed on trial and sentenced to six years in prison for a crime that he didn’t commit and that typically carries a six month sentence.
Meanwhile, Kleya discretely meets with Vel about the mission’s outcome, and orders Vel to find and kill Cassian to tie up loose ends. Syril Karn gets a new job working for a corporation on Coruscant, while Cinta observes an Imperial Star Destroyer arrive over Aldhani.
I’ve been enjoying the whole season of Andor, but this was easily my favorite episode yet. And a large part of that is because of the moments with Mon Mothma.
I’ve made it no secret that the scenes with Mothma are my favorite in the series, and Genevieve O’Reilly continues to be absolutely fantastic every time she’s on the screen. The exchange between her and Luthen was perfect, and her horror at his actions was so genuine. Part of the reason why it’s such a great conversation, and such a great bit of writing, is that they actually both have an understandable point. Luthen’s whole idea is that the rebellion needs the Empire to over-react and become so oppressive that they in doing so turn people against them. He’s actually right. And we might quickly think of the line said by Princess Leia in A New Hope to Governor Tarkin: “The more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” This episode is really about that tightening grip, in many different areas. We see how the Empire’s overreach is actually having exactly the outcome Luthen wanted. “The Empire has been choking us so slowly we’re starting not to notice,” he tells Mon. “The time has come for us to force their hand.”
Yet Mon Mothma won’t stand for that, because it means people will suffer. She’s right too, but Luthen sees this as a necessity for the sake of the greater good. And assuming Kleya isn’t acting without his knowledge (her scene with Vel does have me wondering if she’s far more than just Luthen’s assistant), this even means Luthen is willing to have Cassian killed in order to tie up the loose ends. He’s looking more and more radical by the episode, like someone who would fit in well with Saw Gerrera’s partisans but who will be at odds with Mothma. And that’s because, even though Luthen is right in his strategy, he’s missed an important reality: they’re fighting to help people. But Luthen tells her that, “There will be no rules going forward. If you’re not willing to risk your conscience, then surrender and be done with it.” We know that Mothma will indeed risk everything for the rebellion – and this series is showing us how that goes deeper than we ever knew – but she doesn’t lose her conscience in doing so. She never moves on from the motivation to help people who are suffering under the Empire’s tyrannical reign.
In doing all of this, the show is raising the question of how best to fight. Luthen is right that they need to force the Empire’s hand and rally people to the cause, but at what cost? He’s willing to let people suffer if it happens, and that’s a place that Mon is unwilling to go to. And I can’t help but think again of Rose Tico’s line from The Last Jedi: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate. Saving what we love.” And this is also showing us how these different rebel cells are nowhere near unified, nowhere near an actual group that can truly fight back against the Empire’s reign. That will come, and it will be Mothma who does it. Yet here, it appears as if she’s almost dependent upon Luthen for these matters… until we see her dinner party, where we realize she’s probably more in control than she lets on.
And speaking of that dinner party, it’s my favorite scene in the whole series. It’s about as extended of a conversation as we’ve ever had in Star Wars, and it’s brilliant. Mon Mothma speaks to one of her oldest friends, Tay Kolma, asking him for help. She’s constantly being watched – the Grand Vizier has infiltrated her meetings, her driver is an ISB plant reporting on her, her transactions are being watched, and she admits that her husband is not to be trusted either. She conveys the massive risk she’s taking in even confiding in him, and it’s underscored by the fact that at this party are tons of guests, including ISB agents. She’s asking for Kolma’s financial assistance and helping her access her family funds, all under the guise of just more of her charitable endeavors. “They know they watch me, and I want that,” she tells Kolma, “because as long as everyone thinks I’m an irritation, there’s a good chance they’ll miss what I’m really doing.”
It’s a scene as packed with tension as any you could imagine, yet it’s just two characters talking – one of whom we know survives for years afterward. That’s the brilliance of this show, though, is that it’s so superbly written that it’s most enthralling scenes, and the ones that pack the most tension and intrigue, are dialogical. It’s so well-written, and my favorite of all is this line from Mothma: “I’ve learned from Palpatine. I show you the stone in my hand, you miss the knife at your throat.” That’s exactly what she’s doing, and she’s playing the game well.
But this show is highlighting better than ever the true terror of the Empire. We knew already that it’s evil, but now we’re getting to see how it’s oppressing people and how they have no recourse. Clem was just trying to blend in, and then trying to stop a riot, and he got hanged for it. Cassian was just walking along the beach, and was falsely accused of a crime that carried a six month sentence – and was given six years, unable to do anything about it. It’s precisely what the episode is telling us: the Empire overreaches in response to an attack like Aldhani, and in so doing it turns more people against them.
But I’m guessing it also helps Cassian realize that there’s nowhere he can truly hide from the Empire. He wants to run away, together with Marva and B2, and start over somewhere away from the Empire’s grasp. Yet that was Clem’s idea, and he was killed. And Cassian does get away to a resort world, and still runs into the Empire. He can’t hide. Every day, the Empire grows stronger, and every day it tightens its grip. As with Mothma and Luthen, the show is telling us that it matters how one fights – but with Cassian, we’re also seeing that it matters that one fights. He can’t just turn his head away and pretend like it’s not happening, and run away somewhere to escape it all. It’s not possible. In the face of such tyranny and fascism, good people must rise up against it – yet they must do so while keeping in mind that they’re doing so to try to help people.
All of this leads into a scene that, if not for the dinner party, would be my favorite in the entire series to-date as well: Cassian’s conversation with Maarva. Fiona Shaw is superb, and it’s hard not to get emotional while she’s talking with her adopted son. She tells Cassian that he must go, but that she cannot. And when Cassian responds that he won’t be able to stop worrying about her, she tearfully responds, “that’s just love.” It’s fantastic. But it also highlights something else: Bix tells Cassian that people blame him for the Empire’s overreach on Ferrix, but Maarva tells him that the actions on Aldhani have inspired many. Cassian doesn’t view himself as a hero, but others do, for standing up to the Empire. It has inspired Maarva to do the same. The rebellion is spreading.
And Dedra Meero knows this. The ISB meetings are great, not least of all because we got a Colonel Yularen appearance, which was awesome! But the second meeting in this episode, seeing Dedra and Blevin go at each other, was phenomenal. Blevin is power-hungry and protective of his domain, and he wants things done by the book. Major Partagaz, however, praises Dedra for going outside the lines by using the newly granted authority. She is a truly compelling Imperial character because she actually is very competent and onto the right things. She thinks that there’s a coordinated rebel effort that’s intentionally designed to circumvent sector lines… but not many share her point of view. She is, of course, more right than any of them realize. But seeing how her thoughts are so often, and so quickly, dismissed gives a look at the arrogance of the Empire that Cassian spoke to Luthen about earlier in the series. The Empire can’t conceive of people stopping them, so they get bold, arrogant, and blind.
So yes, this is easily my favorite episode of the series so far. The scenes with Mon Mothma, Maarva, and Dedra Meero in this one were particularly fantastic, with superb dialogue and superb performances doing more to create tension, intrigue, and excitement than even the action epic last week could. It’s a sign of this shows’ brilliant, yet different, approach to Star Wars storytelling, and I’m loving it.