By Kieran Burt.
The first season of Andor has come to an explosive end with episode 12, and wow. What an episode. It perfectly brings everything to a close, leaving a couple of dangling threads for the second season to pick up.
The episode spends its opening moments ratcheting up the tension, cleverly reminding audiences where everyone is. It does what the previous two action episodes have done, remind audiences of the goal, and let that goal go awry. Here, everyone is out for Cassian, and less people see him than they’d like. It’s set against a literal ticking bomb, made by Wilmon Paak. At some point the bomb and the tension will explode, and this episode delivers this in a satisfying way.
Of course, Andor shows up, and sees the brick where his adoptive father was placed, and has a flashback to his childhood. Clem is talking about old pieces of equipment, and that people would rather buy a new model that does the same thing at ten times the price than look past the rust.
This links perfectly back to Nemik’s conversation about using old equipment will set you free, and also comments on our own consumerist society – people would rather have a brand new phone than look past the dust of their old one. Audiences finally hear his manifesto, explaining that evil and oppression is unnatural, revolution is its correction, perfectly linking to Nemik’s Marxist philosophy. Tony Gilroy’s writing in both scenes shines.
The finale is strongly emotional, with Brasso letting Cassian know Maarva’s last words – she guessed what audiences know, Cassian will be an unstoppable force for good, a speech that lands with Diego Luna’s performance. He’s been amazing throughout the series, showing a complex look at a man trying to survive, but one who learns the value of rebellion, in no small part due to these hard hitting words.
Another emotional part is Maava’s speech to inspire the citizens of Ferrix. It’s not a speech couched in complex Star Wars language, but is instead a simple call to action, with her urging the citizens of Ferrix to wake up to the injustices around them. It’s simple, but incredibly effective. It was the right choice.
The revolution itself was messy, more messy than anyone could have imagined. It demands audience attention, to make sure the Imperial atrocities on Ferrix aren’t quickly forgotten. Stormtroopers firing indiscriminately into a crowd, hitting their targets for once, and B2EMO being violently kicked over are hugely impactful. But there are also cheer worthy moments too, Brasso using Maarva’s brick to fight troops, and of course a crowd of citizens beating Dedra – she is a fascist after all.
Luthen, Syril and Sergeant Mosk all appear, and each gets interesting character moments. Luthen shows his true nature side, running away from the protest. What he told Saw was true. He’s a coward. He sees himself above everyone else, too important to get involved. Syril reunites with his love, Dedra, surely setting up Syril’s ascension to the ISB. Mosk is perhaps the funniest character, just there to crack open his alcohol and support Syril.
Addressing Mon Mothma’s side of the story, it gives audiences more of the cloak and dagger back and forth, and shows how deviously clever Mon can be. It hints that this will be an ongoing next season, and hopefully it’s expanded, Mon definitely got too little of the spotlight. We get confirmation that she did set up a meeting with Davo Sculdun’s son, and Genevieve O’Reilly conveys the conflicted feelings Mon is feeling with just a look, she’s saved the Rebellion, but at a steep cost.
The episode does remember to end on a hopeful note, which Star Wars always should, with Cassian getting Bix to a ship, and she escapes with Brasso, Wilmon, B2, and Jezzi, hopefully they appear safe and OK in season 2.
There is a post credits sequence, ominously showing the Death Star’s superlaser being constructed. Andor did help to build the weapon that will one day kill him, a disturbing thought. After forty years, Star Wars can still make successful ominous shots of a station we’ve seen destroyed, that just highlights its power. The final image we’re left on is amazing, harkening to the title sequence, cinematographer Adriano Goldman did a great job.
Andor delivers a politically charged, emotional and action packed finale, with bits of humour to lighten up the heavy tone. Diego Luna’s quiet performance as Andor shines in this episode. As for the season as a whole, it’s able to conjure up perfectly the many forms oppression takes, as it has had several memorable performances and set pieces that will stay with us for a long time.