The first season of Andor has come to an end, and what a first season it was!
Episode 12, “Rix Road,” was a perfect finale that wrapped up some of the threads this season while looking toward the second one, delivering high stakes and being packed full of emotion.
Let’s dive in to our review!
As the people of Ferrix prepare for Maarva Andor’s funeral, all the pieces are set in motion. Funeral preparations are made, Dedra Meero arrives to oversee the ISB’s investigation, Vel and Luthen arrive to kill Cassian – who shows up in secret. He’s looking for Bix, and Brassa tells him where she is. The plan is put forth that Cassian will rescue Bix during the funeral.
On Coruscant, Mon Mothma tells Perrin that she knows he’s been gambling again and wonders where he’s getting the money from. During this, their driver is secretly listening in on the conversation and reports this to the ISB, who think they can use Perrin’s gambling problems and loss of money to their advantage. Later, Mon and Perrin introduce Leida to Davo Sculdun and his son. Meanwhile, the ISB celebrates the death of Kreegyr and his men, though Dedra thinks they should have captured them alive.
At the funeral procession the people of Ferrix come together to hear a recorded message from Maarva, in which she gives a stirring speech rousing support in the fight against the Empire. Brassa springs into action, and the rest of the civilians follow suit, fighting the Empire’s guards. During the battle the Empire turns to lethal force. Cassian rescues Bix from her captivity, and Syril Karn rescues Dedra Meero from danger during the fight.
In the aftermath, Cassian helps Bix, Brasso, B2 and a few others escape off-planet, telling them that he will come find them. He surprises Luthen aboard his ship, telling him to either kill him or take him in. Luthen smiles, and the episode ends.
In a post-credits scene, we see droids using the parts assembled by Cassian and the other prisoners on a large project. As the camera pans out, we see the Death Star under construction.
This series has been fantastic from start to finish, and it just got better and better as the season went on. This episode was a near-perfect finale that carried on the emotional themes and tension that has been there all along, letting us have just enough closure while propelling us forward to season two. I can’t really say enough good things about this series, and this episode was certainly a worthy finale to this first season, serving as a halfway point for the series as a whole (which is crazy).
1. Nemik’s Manifesto
There were several moments of particular highlight for me, which I’ll center around three messages that we hear. The first is from Nemik’s manifesto, which we hear him reading while we see Cassian sitting alone in the Ferrix night. We hear Nemik say:
“There will be times when the struggle seems impossible. I know this already. Alone, unsure, dwarfed by the scale of the enemy. Remember this. Freedom is a pure idea. It occurs spontaneously, and without instruction. Random acts of insurrection are occurring constantly throughout the galaxy. There are whole armies, battalions that have no idea that they’ve already enlisted in the cause. Remember that the frontier of the rebellion is everywhere. And even the smallest act of insurrection pushes our lines forward. And then remember this. The Imperial need for control is so desperate because it is so unnatural. Tyranny requires constant effort. It breaks, it leaks. Authority is brittle. Oppression is the mask of fear. Remember that. And know this: the day will come when all these skirmishes and battles, these moments of defiance, will have flooded the banks of the Empire’s authority, and then there will be one too many. One single thing will break the siege. Remember this. Try.”
That’s a powerful bit of writing, and the whole season we’ve been seeing Nemik’s words ring true: there are acts of insurrection going up all over the galaxy as the Empire oversteps, because the constant effort for them to try to keep the “peace” actually just exchanges peace for terror. And in all of that, they’re afraid. We saw that in the prison escape, as the Imperial guards hid in fear while the prisoners got away. But we also saw that in this episode, as the people of Ferrix fight back, and the Empire is afraid. Dedra Meero, looking like she has had little battlefield experience, is shaken by it – just like Syril Karn was early in the season.
The civilians on Ferrix, meanwhile, fight back. It’s an insurrection. They don’t know that they’re aiding any sort of larger rebellion, but they’re fighting back against the Empire and its tyrannical overreach. Their fight is a noble one, and it’s thrilling to see unfold on-screen. But it’s not exactly a “victory.” Yes, they manage to strike fear into the Empire, but we also see the stormtroopers turn their blasters on the civilians, picking them off without much resistance. It’s frightening to see stormtroopers like this, hitting their targets while the civilians can’t even fire back, and even the way the blasterfire hits the people drives the force of it home. This is a massacre, not a victory. Luthen watches it, close enough to observe what’s happening but far enough away to keep his own hands clean. His presence there, amidst the chaos and death, reminds us of two themes we’ve been seeing all season: first, he is actually right that by overreaching the Empire will rally more people to their cause. That’s been one of the main stories that we have seen: by overreacting to the incident on Ferrix in the first arc, the Empire inadvertently yet directly led to the events on Ferrix in this final episode. Luthen is quite right that this is needed for the rebellion. But the second point is the one that Mon Mothma has pointed out to him: that in doing this, people will die. Luthen is seeing a people rise up against the Empire just like he wanted, but it’s a massacre in the process. That massacre will, in turn, surely not help the Empire’s PR, but it’s the death of people. That’s nothing to be flippant about… despite the fact that Kreegyr’s death is treated as such by both the rebels and the Empire.
2. Maarva’s Funeral Address
There is a second speech that was fantastic, and it was Maarva’s funeral address, recorded and played by B2 for the watching crowd. It’s a truly stirring speech, delivered brilliantly by Fiona Shaw, and it serves as the impetus for the rebellion on Ferrix:
“My name is Maarva Carassi Andor. I’m honored to stand before you. I’m honored to be a daughter of Ferrix, and honored to be worthy of the stone. Strange, I… feel as if I can see it. I was six, I think, first time I touched a funerary stone. Heard our music, felt our history. Holding my sister’s hand as we walked all the way from Fountain Square. Where you stand now, I’ve been more times than I can remember. I always wanted to be lifted. I was always eager, always waiting to be inspired. I remember every time it happened, every time the dead lifted me… with their truth. And now I’m dead. And I yearn to lift you. Not because I want to shine or even be remembered. It’s because I want you to go on. I want Ferrix to continue. In my waning hours, that’s what comforts me the most. But I fear for you. We’ve been sleeping. We’ve had each other, and Ferrix, our work, our days. We had each other, and they left us alone. We kept their trade lanes open, and they left us alone. We took their money and ignored them, we kept their engines churning, and the moment they pulled away, we forgot them. Because we had each other. We had Ferrix. But we were sleeping. I’ve been sleeping. And I’ve been turning away from the truth I wanted not to face. There is a wound that won’t heal at the center of the galaxy. There is a darkness reaching like rust into everything around us. We let it grow, and now it’s here. It’s here, and it’s not visiting anymore. It wants to stay. The Empire is a disease that thrives in darkness, it is never more alive than when we sleep. It’s easy for the dead to tell you to fight, and maybe it’s true, maybe fighting is useless, perhaps it’s too late. But I’ll tell you this… If I could do it again, I’d wake up early and be fighting these bastards from the start. Fight the Empire!”
First, it should not be lost that Maarva’s holographic address is a pivotal point in spurring on rebellion in Cassian and Ferrix, just like Galen Erso’s holographic address is a pivotal point in spurring on rebellion in Jyn Erso. The parallels between Cassian and his mother, and Jyn and her father, are numerous in this series, and both parental figures serve as key influences in getting their children into the fight.
Second, Maarva’s address mentions the funerary stone quite a bit. As we saw last week, per Ferrix custom a person is cremated and their ashes formed into a brick. Brasso carries this brick forward in the procession, but after Maarva’s speech Brasso uses the brick to start the fight, killing a trooper by smashing him in the head with it. It’s a nice way of highlighting how, even though Maarva isn’t there with them, she’s still fighting these bastards. Her life has been one of fighting.
Because the third element here is the content of the speech itself: it’s easy to get lulled to sleep, and Ferrix has… but it’s time to wake up and fight. Again, that is such a fitting summary of the series overall, because it’s showing us how the galaxy is waking up to these matters and fighting, but more prominently, how Cassian is waking up and fighting. It’s a poetic twist that one of the things that spurred on Maarva’s fight, waking her up from her slumber, was the heist on Aldhani – which Cassian was instrumental in. Yet Cassian, even after Aldhani, wanted to run. He came to realize that he couldn’t through his trials in prison, but now it’s Maarva – herself inspired by Cassian – who inspires Cassian to wake up and fight. She has inspired Cassian, Brasso, Wilmon, and others on Ferrix to take a stand against oppression.
There is no use turning away from a truth you’d rather not face when there’s a gaping hole at the center of the galaxy from which you won’t be able to escape. As long as good people turn their gaze away from it, pretending like it’s not happening or not caring that it is, then the hole will just continue to grow until one day it consumes everything, and there’s no escape from that. So we have people in the Empire who are just so satisfied with their own luxury that they don’t care what’s happening to others. That’s why it’s so important that this finale happens on Ferrix, where we started, with a simple people rising up to fight. These are precisely the kind of people who the Empire does not care about. They simply view it as another system to rule with order, and don’t pay any regard for the people or their customs. Even this funeral procession is allowed (and it doesn’t go like the Empire expects) for pragmatic reasons, hoping to catch Cassian. All the Empire cares about is their own wellbeing and agenda, not the good of those they’re governing.
Which is exactly why Mon Mothma is such a breath of fresh air, but also such a rarity. We’ve seen the Senate, and even Mon’s husband, Perrin, simply soaking up the luxury while the galaxy suffers and burns. We didn’t get much of Mothma in this episode – maybe my one disappointment – but what we did get was brilliant. She’s cornered and trapped, and we saw her last week at her most vulnerable. But that doesn’t mean she’s out of options. She uses the fact that she knows her driver is spying on her to her advantage, framing it as Perrin’s gambling problem. I imagine that could come back to have some significant implications both for how Mothma is able to cover up her finances and how Mothma’s marriage continues to deteriorate. Which is why the scene of Mothma introducing her daughter to Davo Sculdun’s son strikes differently: she is setting her daughter up, potentially, for a strained marriage like her own, even though that’s probably what her daughter would want as per Chandrilan customs. I’m a bit surprised that is the last scene we see with Mothma this season, but I do think it’s setting the stage for what’s at stake. How far is she willing to go?
We know how far the Empire is willing to go. They’ll kill anyone for it. We know how far Luthen is willing to go. He arrives to assassinate Cassian. We’ve seen the importance of fighting… but how?
3. Maara’s Message to Cassian
Maarva Andor hints at how. Earlier in the episode, there’s a moment where Cassian reunites with Brasso (who really emerges as a true hero in his own right in this episode), and Cassian expresses guilt for not being there. But Brasso passes on Maarva’s message for her son:
“Tell him, none of this is his fault. It was already burning. He’s just the first spark of the fire. Tell him, he knows everything he needs to know and feels everything he needs to feel. And when the day comes and those two pull together, he will be an unstoppable force for good. Tell him… I love him more than anything he could ever do wrong.”
Cassian knows all he needs to and feels all he needs to – he just needs to pull the two together. And really, is that not at the heart of this season of Andor? It’s at the heart of the season when thinking big picture. There is a very real sense in which Luthen knows everything he needs to know about the rebellion and the Empire. He knows what needs to happen in order for the rebellion to actually win, even if it’s not pretty. And he’s right. For as much as we might recognize the weaknesses of his radical viewpoints, he’s right: the galaxy does have to reach a tipping point, or else things like this on Ferrix won’t happen. Leia Organa says as much early in A New Hope: “The more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” Luthen sees this clearly. He knows what he needs to know.
On the other hand, there is a very real sense in which Mothma feels everything she needs to feel. She understands the risks, understands the merits of Luthen’s view, understands how to form a rebellion, yet knows that it’s about the people they are fighting for. It’s why she struggles so much more with a possible marriage proposal for her daughter than Luthen does about the possible death of fifty men. Because while Luthen sees those men as simply the means toward the end he knows must happen, Mothma sees these people as the very ones they are fighting for. It’s like Rose Tico says in The Last Jedi: “That’s how we’re gonna win. Not fighting what we hate; saving what we love.” We see it play out with Vel and Cinta too: Cinta just keeps moving with her fight against the Empire, while Vel isn’t convinced. Mothma sees this clearly. She feels what she needs to feel.
Now, by the end of this series I think we’ll see at least Mothma (if not Luthen) come to a place where she is able to hold both of those things simultaneously enough to lead an organized Rebellion that is both smart and skillful, while also compassionate and right. But I also think we’re seeing, on a smaller scale, all of that play out in one individual: Cassian Andor. The season has really been about how he becomes involved in the fight. He’s been a guy who just tries to keep his head down (like Clem), but that’s put him in jail. He can’t escape the Empire. So, over time, with the influence of people like Luthen and Nemik and Kino and Maarva and others, he comes to embrace the fight. That’s why the ending scene is so perfect: Cassian tells Luthen to either kill him or take him in. He’s done running. He’s willing to give his life for something that counts. As Luthen told him at the beginning of the series, wouldn’t he rather give his life all at once for something that really counts? He’s ready to do that now. Luthen doesn’t have to say anything, but his grin – and the fact that we know Cassian survives – says it all.
Because Cassian will be able to combine what he knows and what he feels, ultimately giving everything on Scarif for the survival of the galaxy – proving to be an unstoppable force for good. The post-credits scene, which was phenomenal, shows that Cassian and the other prisoners were literally building the tools that hold the Death Star’s laser dish together. Cassian was literally helping to build the weapon that would one day end his life – but he would give his life so that the Rebellion could prevent so many others from dying in the same way. The Empire views Cassian and these prisoners as mere screws in the larger system, building screws to hold together their massive weapon. But Cassian views them as people. Even in this episode, while a blasterfight rages on Cassian is focused on saving Bix, then getting others to safety. That’s what this is all about. It’s about people. People rising up against an evil so great that the odds seem impossible, but people rising up anyway. People who have been awakened by the Empire’s oppression and are ready to fight. People like Cassian Andor. Rebels.