Another week, another episode of Andor, and another week of being blown away at how good this show is.
It feels like it’s happened quite a bit this season, but as a new episode comes out the show continues to top the previous highs it had reached, which is certainly saying something. And episode 10 is my favorite of the series yet, with some thrilling payoff to the last few weeks of buildup. But it also includes some absolutely stellar performances that cause it to stand out all the more.
Let’s dive into our review of “One Way Out,” and note that full spoilers are ahead!
On the Imperial prison facility on Narkina 5, Cassian Andor tries to convince Kino Loy that the time to act is now and that they might not get another chance. “I’d rather die trying to take them down, than die giving them what they want,” Cassian tells him. Kino gathers himself and tells the others from their group that they’re going to fight back. As their shift comes the next day they continue with business as usual, all the while Cassian prepares their plan. Seizing the opportunity given by the arrival of a new prisoner, the other prisoners spring into action. They circuit the floors and take down the guards, and from there they spread the word to other floors, liberating them. Cassian and Kino take the command center, where they order the guards to disable the power. Kino delivers an impassioned speech over the intercom, encouraged by Cassian, rallying the prisoners to fight back and climb the prison to freedom. They do, and they get free, able to swim to safety – but Kino informs Cassian that he can’t swim, staying behind as the others go free.
Meanwhile, on Ferrix, doctors are called to Maarva’s home to care for her, while Cinta watches – and so too does another figure (presumably ISB), waiting for Cassian to come back.
On Coruscant, Mon Mothma and Tay Kolma meet with Davo Sculdun, a wealthy “banker” thug. Sculdun offers to help Mothma move her money and refuses to take a fee for it – but wants to introduce his son to her daughter. Mothma quickly refuses and ends their meeting saying she isn’t even considering it, but Sculdun seems to think otherwise.
The ISB continues with their plan to deceive Anto Kreegyr with the death of his pilot framed as an accident, and Lonni Jung suggests that the Empire should investigate to make it seem normal. Later, Luthen Rael gets a message about a mysterious person wanting to meet him, and it turns out that it’s Lonni, who has been working undercover for the rebellion from the inside of the ISB. He feeds Luthen this latest info but wants out of the fight, and Luthen says that he’ll let Kreegyr’s men die in order to protect this ISB plant. Jung feels trapped and asks Luthen what he’s had to sacrifice, and Luthen passionately tells him, concluding he’s sacrificed everything.
The whole first season of Andor has been incredible, but episode 10 is the best it’s ever been – and one of the finest episodes we’ve ever seen from Star Wars.
Let’s start with the obvious from the episode, with the prison break. We knew it was coming from the moment that Cassian was sentenced to six years in prison (because we knew it’s only five years prior to Rogue One), and we spent two whole weeks seeing the inner workings of the Imperial prison. We saw the hopelessness of it, the tyranny of the Empire’s oppression, and the building tension that would soon erupt. But we also got to know these characters in the prison, so that by the time we see them rising up in revolt – with not all of them making it out alive – we’d become invested in them. There are several we could mention, but none more so than Kino Loy, played by Andy Serkis. As if we needed more proof as to how good of an actor Serkis is, he absolutely shines in this series, and this episode in particular. He’s freaking brilliant. He winds up leading the revolt, having gone from someone who simply wants to put his head down and do his job trying to survive to someone who’s willing to risk everything for something bigger than himself.
And it’s Cassian who inspires this in him. His line “I’d rather die trying to take them down, than die giving them what they want” is fantastic, and it’s such a perfect reflection of how his character has been growing in this series. Another way it’s demonstrated is by the fact that he’s shown having trouble to sleep the night before the attack; on Aldhani, Nemik has hte same trouble yet Cassian doesn’t. Cassian has come to embrace this in a way that he didn’t before. There was a time – in fact not long before this episode – that Cassian thought he could just put his head down and try to survive away from the Empire, but he’s come to realize that he can’t. And he inspires that confidence in others, such that in Kino’s impassioned speech to the prisoners he quotes that same line from Cassian.
We’re seeing something very important about Cassian: he inspires others to lead. He causes those around him to be better. We saw it earlier in the prison arc, where instead of taking credit for success he gives the praise to one of his fellow table mates. Cassian doesn’t need to be the center of attention, the one getting all the praise. He’s content with lifting others up to places they couldn’t get to alone. So with Kino, Cassian doesn’t take over as the leader of this rebellion; he knows that Kino has to be the one doing it, and that Kino has to be the one to deliver the message to the others. But it’s Cassian who motivates Kino to do it, and it’s Cassian who inspires his very words. Years later, the same thing would happen in Rogue One. As the squad heads to Scarif, Cassian has the respect of the crew but lets Jyn Erso take the lead. She was someone who just tried to ignore the fight and make her way on her own, but Cassian helps her embrace the fight – and ultimately she’s willing to give her life for the cause. We’ve not seen Cassian take point as a leader, but we’ve seen him continually motivate and strengthen those around him to lead. It’s a different take on leadership than we typically get from this franchise (or any other), to see the main character not as the main leader but as the one who motivates and props up others to do it. He makes people better, and that’s a noble trait.
Cassian has come to embrace the fight against the Empire, something that Mon Mothma and Luthen Rael have already done. But this episode continues, in stellar ways, to raise the question of how one should fight. A major theme is that not only is it important to fight, it’s also important how you fight. So Mon Mothma meets with Davo Sculdun, who she really doesn’t want to work with but sees no other real option. Will she compromise on her conscience in this way, even if it’s forgivable? Even more, will she give her daughter away in a sort of arranged marriage, according to Chandrilan customs, for it? Mothma is no fan of that custom, as her strained marriage with Perrin has shown all season (and Perrin’s friendship with Sculdun speaks volumes). It’s interesting that the last we see of Mothma in this episode, after just one scene, is with her insisting she’s not considering Sculdun’s offer but the “banker” thinking otherwise. We’re supposed to wonder how seriously she would consider this, how far she would be willing to go for this rebellion. Would she sacrifice part of her daughter’s future for the sake of this cause? And if so, then what’s she fighting for anyway, if not for a better future for her daughter, for other daughters and sons throughout the galaxy? If, in order to secure a better future for her daughter, Mothma has to sacrifice her daughter’s future relational freedom, is it really worth it?
The brilliance of this show is that we know what Mothma should choose, in an ideal world, but we also understand that the state of this fledgling rebellion is such that to not take Davo’s offer could seriously risk everything she’s been fighting for. What is she willing to sacrifice for it?
Which, of course, pairs wonderfully not just with Cassian’s story, but also with Luthen’s. For as great as the prison break was, and for as awesome as Andy Serkis’s performance was, it’s Stellan Skarsgard who steals the show in a scene late in the episode with one of the most well-written and well-delivered monologues in the entire Star Wars franchise, one that’s worthy of all the praise it will get and more. We learn that there’s a rebel spy within the ISB, which isn’t particularly that shocking, and that he’s been working with Luthen. And as they talk in the lower levels of Coruscant (which was awesome to see in live-action), we see how far Luthen already has gone. He’s willing to sacrifice the lives of fifty men in a failed mission rather than risk losing this ISB mole. Once again he’s casual and calloused toward the lives of others and simply sees them as pawns in a larger cause. And again we see the show’s brilliance in that we know Luthen’s flippant attitude toward life is wrong, yet we also recognize how in many ways the rebellion probably could indeed use these kind of sacrifices to get off the ground.
And Lonni feels trapped in it. He can’t really get out of it because Luthen (representing the rebellion) won’t let him. He lobs veiled threats about Lonni’s young son and insists he can’t afford to lose heroes like him. And he can’t really get out of it because the ISB wouldn’t let him just walk away, no matter what excuse he comes up with. He’s in this game, and he can’t get out. It’s the same road Luthen has gone down, but Luthen has gone down the road to a place of darkness from which he sees no escape.
Lonni feels that he’s sacrificed so much while Luthen hasn’t, so he asks Luthen what he’s given up for the cause. And that leads to the moment I mentioned earlier, with expert writing and a home run performance by Skarsgard in delivering it. He reflects on what he’s given up for the rebellion:
“Calm. Kindness. Kinship. Love. I’ve given up all chance at inner peace, I’ve made my mind a sunless space. I share my dreams with ghosts. I wake up every day to an equation I wrote 15 years ago from which there’s only one conclusion. I’m damned for what I do. My anger, my ego, my unwillingness to yield, my eagerness to fight, they’ve set me on a path from which there is no escape. I yearned to be a savior against injustice without contemplating the cost and by the time I looked down there was no longer any ground beneath my feet. What is my sacrifice? I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them. I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude. So what do I sacrifice? Everything!”
There’s no better encapsulation of Luthen’s character, both in this episode and this entire season, than that. Luthen started on this path to fight the Empire, but along the way he found that he lost his way and sunk to the same depths the Empire did, using the very same tools to fight them. He’s helped the rebellion in many ways, yet at the cost of his own soul. He’s a cautionary tale of how to fight, and it’s why Mon Mothma’s decisions here are all the more important. Will she embrace the same thing Luthen did, compromising his conscience, morals, and soul for the greater good? Luthen says that he spent all his time fighting injustice – a great aim! – but didn’t consider the cost. Then one day he looked down and realized the ground was gone, and he’d lost his way, seeing no way out from it. This series doesn’t include any Jedi, but in many ways the sentiments he expresses are the things the Jedi had been warning – and been warned – about: if you embrace your anger and hatred and desire to fight, rather than your love and service and desire to protect, you’ll lose yourself to the dark side in the process. You’ll be damned, confined to fight the enemy while using their own ways.
So, as Luthen says, “I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see.” If there’s one thing that unites the rebels in this time period, it’s not the how of fighting. Mon Mothma, Luthen Rael, Saw Gerrera, Anto Kreegyr – they all have differences here. But what they all have in common is the willingness to sacrifice their own lives, their own livelihoods, their own comfort and ease, to make the galaxy better for those who would come after them. Luthen knows that he’s not going to be able to live to see the sunrise he’s fighting for, but he fights anyway. And really, isn’t that the same thing Kino Loy does in this episode too? He knows that he can’t swim, and I’m guessing that he knows their only way off is going to be through swimming. Yet he leads the prison break anyway, leading others to the safety and freedom that he knows he himself won’t be able to experience. And that’s precisely what Cassian will do years later on Scarif, heading into Imperial territory on a suicide mission that may never work on the chance – the hope – that their efforts will lead to a sunrise that others can enjoy. The crew (which also includes Melchi) steals the Death Star plans and give the galaxy hope, but they give their lives in the process.
They sacrifice themselves, sacrifice everything, so that others can live. Yet if you sacrifice those very people for this cause, then what’s it worth in the end? That’s why, while Luthen flippantly is willing to sacrifice these men for the cause, Kino urges the prisoners to help one another out to escape together. And it’s why Mon Mothma, not Luthen Rael, will eventually be the one who’s able to unite these rebel cells.
So yes, this series is brilliant, and this episode is the best of all of them. It’s crazy that we have just two episodes left, but I continue to be blown away by how good it is. This episode was riveting and had me on the edge of my seat, but it was really the performances by Andy Serkis, Diego Luna, Genevieve O’Relly, and Stellan Skarsgard that cause this to work so well. This show deserves all the praise it’s getting and more. It’s just that good.