*Warning: the following article contains spoilers for episode eight of Andor*
The hunt for Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) has now started. Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) is interrogated by Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), who seeks to look for Andor, as she believes he knows who a mysterious man named “Axis” is and where he would be. Karn wants to help, but Meero does not wish to do it, which leads to another iconic Karn meltdown, brilliantly executed by Soller. He has been criminally underused in past episodes, and I hope we’ll see a reunion between him and Andor before the season ends. Axis is indeed Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), who has orchestrated the Aldhani heist, and the Empire thinks he is a dangerous threat to their plans. Rael doesn’t do much in this episode, save for having a conversation with Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), whom he tries to pin the Aldhani heist on. The thing is, Gerrera thinks Rael orchestrated it. No matter, the conversation has established their relationship further than Gerrera did in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (he was one of the weaker parts of that movie), and Whitaker gives a far more gripping performance inside one dialogue scene than in a whole Star Wars movie.
I’m excited to see what direction the show will give Gerrera–hopefully, less silly scenes than “Lies! Deception!” or Bor Gullett. What an embarrassing role for Forest Whitaker to have taken, though I am glad he returns here and seems far more compelled by the material he’s given in Andor than in Rogue One. And it shows in the facial expressions and the on-screen chemistry he holds with Skarsgård’s Rael. Time will tell just how they will team up to topple the Empire. Meanwhile, Vel (Faye Marsay) and Cinta (Varada Sethu) are on Ferrix looking for Andor, but he’s nowhere to be found. Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) also has no idea where he is, but she has trouble of her own. While Andor is gone, she is tending to Maarva (Fiona Shaw), who seems ill and frail compared to the last time we saw her, as she has grown more inspired to revolt against the Empire and do more reckless stunts in the hopes that the rebellion will come to save them.
However, the Empire has taken an interest in Caleen and kidnaps her for interrogation. Meero seems keen on wanting to know Bix’s side of the story on Andor’s whereabouts, but that will be saved in the next episode. Arjona is having one hell of a year in film and television, having starred in Morbius, the HBO Max remake of Father of the Bride, Irma Vep, and now Andor. And I will say that her performance as Caleen in the series is the best thing she has done this year (having seen everything else). There’s lots of emotional nuance in her portrayal of the character that makes her a fully-developed side protagonist, though one hopes she will get out of the next episode in one piece.
Meanwhile, for Andor he’s now imprisoned in a highly dangerous maximum security imperial jail on Narkina 5. There, he meets Kino Loy (played by Andy Serkis. That’s right, Andy Serkis, who played Snoke in the sequel trilogy, portrays an entirely different character here, in live-action, no less!), who instructs him on the competition between the tables. The more productive table, which constructs material for the Empire, the more flavor they get in their food. The less productive one gets “fried,” meaning massive electric shocks. The floor is supercharged to kill someone if it’s “hot” (red, kind of a play on “the floor is lava.”). I won’t lie: the setup for the prison is insanely cool–the imperial guards are despicable individuals, but the prison looks like one that’s impossible to escape. It’s great to see Andy Serkis in a live-action role, especially one that seems to be catered to his talents. I loved Snoke but thought they had wasted him too early in the franchise, as he could’ve been much more menacing if they had taken his time with him. However, we’re seeing another version of Serkis in the Star Wars universe. I’m delighted that he always does a terrific job playing whichever character he gets on screen in live-action and motion capture.
This means only one thing: Star Wars prison break. It’s bound to happen. We’ve got imperial guards in boots that prevent them from being shocked, while the prisoners have to endure 12-hour shifts and compete against one another for “flavor.” But something’s brewing. One of the inmates was discussing sign language with someone else in a far-off section. What are they saying? What are they plotting? We’ll know soon enough.
Every week, Andor continues to impress me. Whether it’s the intricate plotting, staggering action scenes, or just plain good (and classic) storytelling, it’s a terrific change of pace for Star Wars. It takes its time to establish characters we care about and a gripping story before thwarting them into action setpieces with massive emotional weight to them. I never know which direction the show is going, but I cannot wait to see where the character will end up next. Onto the next episode!
The eighth episode of Andor is now available to stream on Disney+.