Andor comes back for its eighth entry that largely feels like a setup episode. That’s not perse a bad thing, as the show tends to build on the foundations of what’s come before it. But this episode highlighted an issue for me about Andor and that’s Andor himself.
Cassian finds himself incarcerated on Narkina 5 after his sentencing last week and the prison, well the prison sucks. Like Shawshank Redemption sucks. Inmates who are deemed fit for labour are filtered into work camps within the detention facility in order to make parts for the Empire. They get as much food and drink as they want, as the Empire wants its workers fueled up and ready to contribute and the prison itself is the spitting image of squeaky clean. But there’s a catch to this prison. The flooring has the ability to be controlled and creates a crushing gravity well with various tiers, which crushes an inmate to the ground, or, on its highest tier, can kill. Due to the crippling work, one inmate decides that suicide via internal crushing is a better solution, offing himself in the middle of the night, his corpse trapped on the floor.
The Empire bypass this by wearing special boots while the inmates go about their business barefoot. The Empire pits each floor and each workstation against each other and Andor’s floor manager is none other than the great Andy Serkis, who returns to Star Wars after his tenure as Snoke. His character is less than a year away from freedom so he’s willing to lay down the law on his crew in order to be the best workers in the station, which makes his life more comfortable. It showcases that for those in power, this prison system is something of a game, that pits fellow inmates against one and other and creates competition instead of allies. And what exactly are these inmates working on? Cogs, which, yes is a little heavy-handed but hey, the Empire definitely needs its cogs.
Due to some coordinated hand signaling, Andor learns that there’s some silent communication between the various floors, which leads me to think that this arc will culminate with a prison break, one where Andor and company will have to get their hands on some of those special boots. But Andor is almost entirely mute in this episode and it highlighted that despite, being named Andor, one could argue that he’s the least interesting aspect of the show. I do wish we saw more emotion from Andor, especially this week. Frustration at the way the Empire treats people would have been good, but like always, Andor is fine to just keep his head down and do his time. This episode skips ahead by thirty days at one point and shows that Andor has adjusted to the routine and doesn’t seem too phased by it, despite his initial protests of “I’m just a tourist”, which for once, he was being totally honest about. But he’s not resistant to the Empire and doesn’t work with rebelling with the other prisoners.
But once again, everything orbiting Andor is quite interesting, one way or another. While Andor himself was confined and silent, the show bounced around a lot to other locations a fair bit. We learn that Syril has been making a lot of complaints to the ISB about Andor (some of it false) and it eventually gets Meero’s attention. Syril doesn’t get recruited by the Empire, which was his ultimate goal it seems, but supplies Meero with information on Cassian, which she then presents to the ISB. I love how Syril states he was a great worker who was workly terminated and would be an asset to the Empire, but his petition still fans on deaf ears. Ambition, while useful, only goes so far.
Meero eventually ends up on Ferrix, which is under total Imperial control now. Meero is on the hunt for Andor, hoping that his old haunt will gain her some information by interrogating some of his old friends and colleagues. I quite liked the staged blunder in the hotel, where Meero states to keep the tortured prisoner on the chair for Bix to see, only to pretend there was a miscommunication and urged the prisoner be transported. In short, she wanted Bix to see the outcome but she wanted to paint herself as sympathetic and not tyrannical in Bix’s eyes. She knows what could happen, but maybe this person will be more sympathetic. It’s a great power move and another example of why I really love the Imperial stuff in this show. They’re not only ruthless, but smart as well, which makes for a nice change.
We also cut to Luthen heading off planet to meet with the one and only Saw Gerrera. I wonder how casual audience members, who don’t know his story, reacted to seeing Forest Witaker again, but also noting that the character looked and acted wildly different than his brief screen time in Rogue One. Luthen petitions Saw to join the larger Alliance, but the Partisan, known for his more radical ways, denies this request. I hope this scene isn’t a one-and-done cameo though. I genuinely think it’d be great to get Saw on board, only to cross a line that Mon isn’t willing to cross herself and get exiled from the Alliance. Considering the Alliance is made up of a lot of shady characters, having one that’s deemed too extreme while Luthen and Vel seek to assassinate Andor.
Mon Mothma is the only part of the episode this week that felt like it didn’t really establish anything new. Further fancy dinners and talks of finances and the Empire looming large did feel like a retread on the previous ground without really pushing this narrative forward. Which is a shame as I really enjoy the political angles the scenes with Mon and her circle provide.
In the end, Narkina 5 was a good episode, one I wouldn’t call filler but it was also one that lacked the same caliber of writing seen in previous episodes. Andor himself wasn’t particularly engaging, but the larger narrative orbiting him continued to be compelling if a little inconsistent. Will we get a prison break next week? I guess we’ll have to strap in and wait!
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