While Cassian and Melishi try to find a way off the icy landscape surrounding the Narkina 5 prison, other plans are being put in motion around the galaxy. Luthen has to decide the cost of keeping important information from others and seeks the council of Saw Gerrera, who offers him no solace from the weight of it all. On Coruscant, Mon Mothma contemplates recent decisions and in his nondescript apartment, Syril Karn receives a fateful message that sends him off-world once more.
And on Ferrix, a community unites in grief for one of its own, unaware of how it will draw out conflicting forces and interests from across the galaxy…
Cassian (Diego Luna) and Melshi (Duncan Pow) manage to navigate the icy wastes outside the Narkina 5 penal colony and climb the steep, unforgiving cliffs finding two alien scavengers from whom they plan to steal their ship. It doesn’t go according to plan and both the escaped prisoners lbarely last a few seconds before finding themselves netted and once more captives. However the scavengers are no fans of the Empire and it quickly becomes clear that they’ll overlook the hostile introduction and take the men where they want to go. In what feels like quick plotting short-hand to whisk us along in the penultimate episode, both Cassian and Melni are then seen back on the coastal resort on Niamos with them deciding to split up and spread the word about Imperial activities. (Melshi reappears in Rogue One if not before). Cassian rather too easily retrieves his stash of cash and weapons from his old girlfriend’s apartment and essentially resets the story as if the whole incarceration sub-plot never happened. (Don’t get me wrong, the Narkina 5 arc had some of the best dramatic beats of the season, but technically you could seamlessly edit out those events entirely with the only plot-loss being Cassian’s further exposure to the Empire’s tactics and his slow-radicalisation). It does end with Cassian trying to get word back to Ferrix to assure Maarva he’s okay – only to get some devastating news.
There can be very few members of the audience who are completely buying into the idea that Maarva Andor has quietly perished off-screen. To merely have the character – rich with back-story and motivation – and Fiona Shaw – an actor of such a high calibre and demonstrating her craft throughout – fade away without real rhyme, reason or dying proclamation would amount to a narrative crime. The last time we saw her she was musing on a personal attack against the occupying forces and though clearly distressed and weary, every indication was that if she were to die, she’d go out in a blaze of glory, not pass in a rickety armchair surrounded by junk and where we don’t even see her body, merely the ‘wake’ and the desolate reactions of her loyal droid B2EMO (voiced by Dave Chapman). Much is discussed about the community’s memorial tradition of mixing one’s ashes with clay and creating a brick to be added to a structure and that feels too detailed to merely be a throwaway discussion. One suspects that either Maarva isn’t dead at all or if she is, it’s part of an elaborate in-road to cause some chaos for the Imperial forces in the city in her memory… and either way I fully expect things to go boom just in time for Cassian’s inevitable return to Ferrix.
It seems the various threads are drawing others back there as well. Realising that Maarva’s death will likely bring her adopted son running home, Faye Marsay’s Vel Sartha (currently discussing familial and rebel woes with Mon Mothma – Genevieve O’Reilly – on Coruscant) will most likely be heading to Ferrix in search of eliminating Cassian, her partner Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu) is in place to assist, Adria Arjona’s Bix Caleen is barely surviving her interrogation, Kyle Soller’s vengeance-driven Syril Karn is already en route and Denise Gough’s Deedra Meero, who has been tracking all those rebel movements can’t be far behind. (The unreliable and dodgy-connection of the video-call between Syril and his old colleague Kostek (Alex Ferns) is a great balance of comedy and foreboding).
Anyone originally tuning in to the show might well have expected requisite and regular space-battles, though the series mostly eschewed them for street-level drama. That’s somewhat rectified here with Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) momentarily caught off-guard by a nearby Imperial Star Destroyer and having to decide whether he can afford to be boarded. Given his recent activities, he decides discretion is the better part of valour and initiates a carefully-organsied ‘Plan B’, managing to throw off the tractor beam and catch his pursuers unaware before his own identity can be compromised. It’s a nice bit of kinetic punctuation and more traditional ‘Star Wars‘ in tone and a nice counter-balance to the scenes preceding it which are more typical of Andor‘s dark and morally-ambiguous movements. Luthen’s conversations with Forest Whitaker’s Saw Gerrera – in which they have a heavy discussion about strategy and sacrifice and whether they can let a fellow rebel walk into an Imperial trap to protect their well-placed source and larger picture – is quite chilling and once again both veteran actors rise to the occasion, weighing the personal weight of such decisions on themselves and others. (And did anyone else think the object in Luthen’s hand, that the camera lingered upon, initially looked like a wooden-shafted light-saber?)
Mon Mothma’s concerns grow as she’s backed into a corner, desperate to cover the funds she’s used to help the rebels and well aware that Chandrilan customs regarding her daughter and betrothal might play to her advantage despite despising them and knowing their likely future cost. Though the scenes in this week’s episode largely tread similar ground to previous entries, O’Reilly continues to convey the weight of both duty and love, something that’s likely to unspool in Andor‘s second season.
Knowing that the over-all show is limited to two seasons, the show has been something of a revelation, study of the cost of rebellion on average people and a stunning showcase for great actors in supporting roles. As we head into the final episode of this current run, this is a good reminder of the characters in play, the stakes and their tightening connections – in short, there’s much to anticipate…
- Production Design / VFX9