*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode five of Andor*
If you thought episode five of Andor was going to be Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) and the crew of rebels, he recently met performing the heist of an Imperial garrison payroll, think again. The buildup is getting rather tense since it felt like episode four was setting up one of the most special set pieces in Star Wars history. Time will tell if the payoff will be worth the wait, but episode four of Andor is the most expository yet.
And while exposition is standard when you want to build your world from the ground up, it didn’t have to be so sluggish. There are instances in which the episode soars, most notably when Andor interacts with Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), one of the rebels who doubt Andor’s willingness to complete the mission.
Bachrach is a severely underrated actor, who has been underused in shows like The Punisher, but always brings great dramatic pull to his roles. His performance in Andor is no different; he is underused but amazingly effective on-screen. There’s palpable tension between Cassian (or ‘Clem’) and Skeen whenever they’re together, as if Andor knows Skeen suspects him of hiding something important. And when he eventually discovers Andor’s goals, the mission is at risk.
I wouldn’t be surprised if his character doesn’t survive another episode, which is a shame since he is a brilliant actor who deserves more prominent roles in the future. He always gives his all with every performance, even if his screen time is limited.
The acting makes the episode a worthwhile watch, with Luna having a more significant presence than in other episodes this time and establishing great tension between himself and the group of rebels planning the heist. The “heist planning” part is immensely thrilling because you never know when the Empire will be lurking. There’s a sense of dread every time they spot a TIE-fighter flying over them, never knowing if they’ll see their guns, or what the characters are currently doing. And whenever you hear its unmistakable screech, you’re on the edge of your seat as much as the characters scramble to hide their plans.
That’s the only action scene Andor‘s fifth episode has going for. Still, its haunting scene is a brilliant setup for what will (I’m this confident) be one of the most exciting action setpieces coming from Star Wars in recent memory. Episode three established that practical action is the way forward for Star Wars to be exciting again, and episode five gives us slight flourishes of what will come. These moments are intense, alongside Andor’s relationship with the Rebels, which is developed further so we get invested into their arcs when many of them will inevitably die. It is what it is, but it doesn’t take long for us to get attached to the characters, and their mission, even if Andor is sent in the middle of the task by Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) only for the money.
Andor’s arc is one of the episode’s most decisive moments, but it falters when it starts to focus on Rael, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly), Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), and Deedra Meero (Denise Gough). Soller is still magnifying as Karn, but his conversation with his mother (Kathryn Hunter) doesn’t hit as strong as it should. Meero’s quest is still a bit uninteresting, while Mothma seems to have been added as an afterthought in this episode than an integral part of the show. O’Reilly gives a fantastic performance as the character, possibly her best iteration of Mothma yet, but the lines she’s given don’t do the character justice.
Still, Andor has a chance of being genuinely spectacular next week when the titular character and the rebels infiltrate the Imperial garrison. If anything, episode five only made me want the next episode immediately, but we’ll have to wait for a week. That’s the sign of a great show, and one I hope will come to a stunning midseason conclusion. We’re just going to have to wait and see what happens.
The fifth episode of Andor is now available to stream on Disney+.