A new three-episode arc of Andor has begun, with episode 8 dropping and showing us the continuing fallout of what we’ve seen happening throughout the season so far. It’s a slow build, but the show is doing a fantastic job of exploring things in-depth and offering a truly compelling narrative.
It feels like it keeps getting better and better, and that certainly continues with this week’s episode, “Narkina 5,” named for the prison planet Cassian Andor is taken to with a six-year sentence despite doing nothing wrong.
Let’s dive in to our review of the episode, and as always, full spoilers are ahead!
Cassian and the other prisoners are taken from Niamos to the water planet Narkina 5, where several Imperial prison rafts are located. They are taken into the prison, where they learn that the floors are rigged to cause severe pain in the case of rebellion. Cassian is assigned to work on a floor where the boss, a fellow prisoner named Kino Loy, tells him what to do. Each table on the floor competes with each other, while each floor competes with each other as well. We see what life is like in this prison, and we also see some prisoners communicating via hand signals with each other. But it also serves to break the wills of some prisoners, such as the one who commits suicide by jumping onto the floors and being fried.
Meanwhile, Dedra Meero’s investigation zeroes in on searching for Cassian Andor, seeing him as the link to Luthen, whose identity remains unknown to the Empire but who they refer to as “Axis,” since they believe him to be the central link in the coordinated rebellion. As part of this inquiry, Meero questions Syril Karn about what really happened on Ferrix. He insists that he can be a help to them, but Meero doesn’t take him up on it (at least not yet).
On Coruscant, Mon Mothma and her husband, Perrin, throw a party for some Senators in which Mothma is attempting to sway them to her side on a vote. She also connects again with Tay Kolma, who informs her that their plan with the bank will be more difficult than originally thought.
On Ferrix, Maarva is in failing health (though she continues to try to aid the rebellion), causing Bix to want to try to find Cassian. She contacts Luthen, but he doesn’t respond and shuts off communication with Ferrix. But this communication has consequences, and the Empire tortures those involved, and they capture Bix, bringing her to Meero for interrogation. Vel and Cinta are also on the planet, looking for leads on Cassian, and Cinta tells Vel that she is planning on staying there to settle down.
As for Luthen, he heads off to Segra Milo to meet with Saw Gerrera, trying to get Saw to cooperate with another rebel cell on an attack. Saw refuses, not wanting to work with these other cells who don’t see things his way, and Luthen’s attempt is unsuccessful.
It seems like Andor just keeps getting better and better as the season goes on. I’m loving the story that’s unfolding, and I think it’s filled with tons of themes worth unpacking that relate to our world as well.
Let’s start at the end, with Luthen talking to Saw Gerrera. It’s great to see Forrest Whitaker back as Saw (as well as others like “Two Tubes” and Moroff!), and he’s as eccentric as ever. The main premise around his scene in this episode was about how he refuses to work with the other rebel cells, and one of the biggest reasons why is because one of them was a Separatist. For those who know Saw’s history in The Clone Wars, this makes sense – but it does raise the interesting point about how former enemies might, within 15 years, come to fight together in a different war. The point, in other words, is how difficult it will be for these groups to work together for any sort of coordinated effort.
Luthen, for his part, is trying to do that (and the Empire thinks he’s more successful than he really is). He wants Saw to work together with this group, but I don’t think Luthen’s modus operandi puts him in the best position to be this “axis” for the cells. He wants Saw to trust others, but Luthen isn’t exactly the most open or trusting of others. Besides, Luthen doesn’t seem quite as radical as Saw, but he still leans more toward that side of things. As I wrote before, a big question the show is raising is about how to fight. Right now, we’re seeing a rebellion that refuses to work together, with different cells operating totally independently of each other to pull small jobs here and there. Luthen rightly recognizes that this won’t defeat the Empire, but he’s having trouble convincing others of it.
There is another who agrees, however, and it’s Mon Mothma who will eventually succeed at uniting these cells into an organized Rebellion. Seeing this played out in the series makes it all the more impressive what Mothma is able to do, and I think it also is highlighting how her way of doing things is, in the long run, far better at uniting people than Luthen’s: she fights to help and save people, not to win a war in its own right. And because of that, she’s willing to notice the people behind these matters. She takes the time to trust Tay Kolma with these matters, and she continues to advocate for good in the Senate. But I also think that in this episode we see signs of Mothma distancing herself from Chandrilan customs. We learn that hers was an arranged marriage with Perrin when she was 15 (though she doesn’t seem thrilled about those customs), and she rejects the worms in her drink even though she used to love them. Why does this matter? Perhaps I’m reading too much into it, but Chandrila is largely a world of wealth and luxury, and it’s precisely that which Perrin embodies. And it’s precisely that which Mothma is pushing up against in the Senate. How will this wealthy Senator from a prominent world lead a Rebellion (and a galaxy) full of sufferers, exiles, and people in need? By showing that she’s not an ignorant, arrogant elitist just out for her own good, and that’s what Mothma demonstrates each step of the way.
But in this regard she stands in stark contrast to most of the others we see in this series. The Empire is arrogant and privileged, and others who have it, like Perrin, seem to revel in that. They don’t care about those suffering, so it doesn’t bother them that there are tons of prisoners unjustly kept by the Empire, and whose sentences are unjustly extended. It’s impossible to miss that Andor is giving us a commentary on our own political structure in the United States, as a reflection on our own prison system. I’m not sure it’s a coincidence that the first shot of this episode opens up on a black man about to be taken away to prison by an unjust government. Now I’m not trying to draw a one-to-one correlation between the Empire and the American government (certainly not!), but it is true that the oppression and injustice is most often felt by those who are needy (like those Mothma advocates for) or those incarcerated for lesser crimes (like those in the prison). It’s all a portrait of what happens when those in power care only about their position and their own good and not the good of those under their authority. When that happens, people will suffer.
The prison here is truly haunting, as it’s designed to break the prisoners of any hope. When the one prisoner commits suicide, it’s treated as so commonplace that the others view it as more of an inconvenience than anything else. Escape seems hopeless. Yet we know that something’s going to happen, and we see some of those seeds being planted as we see some of the prisoners secretly communicating with one another. We also see some familiar faces, like Melshi (who will join Cassian on Scarif) and Andy Serkis, who was a fun surprise cameo. The prison evokes vibes of THX-1138, and it further underscores the horrors of the Empire. But it also shows once more the different ways that the attack on Aldhani has affected people. We saw previously that it spurred Maarva on toward rebellion, but here we see that the prisoners know it caused their sentences to be extended for no reason. Cassian is being confronted by the ways in which his actions (though no one knows that) have effected so many others. I’m sure that’s a lesson he’ll carry with him for the rest of his life, not least of all when he gives his life for the good of the galaxy.
Meanwhile, Mothma is fighting against the unjust actions taken by the Empire, and she attempts to win Senators to her cause at a dinner party. There’s a discussion between Senators about this, and one Senator mentions that “if you’re doing nothing wrong, what is there to fear?” Mothma immediately comes back with a perfect reply: “I’m fearing your definition of wrong.” It’s a brilliant line, and one that shows us the crux of the matter: the Empire’s determination of right and wrong is unjust. But the wealthy Senators don’t need to be afraid of that, because they get the luxury of living by a different set of rules. Again… that sounds familiar, doesn’t it?
And as that fallout continues, the Empire closes in on the hunt for Cassian. Dedra Meero is taking point on this, and I’m guessing Syril Karn isn’t done either. But the irony, of course, is that the episode shows us simultaneously that the Empire is hunting for Cassian yet already has Cassian in prison without knowing it.
Overall, Luthen was right: the Empire would close their fist all the tighter after Aldhani, and it would rally more people to their cause. We’re seeing that happening. Yet what Luthen has missed is that those people aren’t just numbers aiding a war effort, but actual people who are suffering. That’s where Mothma balances him out well, and where this series is excelling at showing us thought-provoking moments on a weekly basis. It’s fantastic.