By Kieran Burt.
Episode 8 of Andor continues its stellar run, with the writing continuing to deliver meaningful conversations and drama set in the Star Wars world. Andor finds himself in prison, and the Empire deploy their forces to fully occupy Ferrix in another well paced methodical take on what the absence of trust can do to destroy evil.
A strong theme present within the whole episode is the idea that united we stand but divided we fall. It’s most obvious in the prison section of the episode, with a surprising cameo from Andy Serkis explaining that each of the seven workbenches compete against each other for the title of most productive, a title in turn each of the seven rooms on the floor compete for.
The one who is most productive wins flavour with their food, but the least productive get an electric shock. It’s a beautiful game to pit the prisoners against one another, and encourage them to be more productive for the Empire. If the prisoners realised their strength as one, they could defeat their captors, but as it stands they compete against each other for menial reward and the Empire’s benefit.
This dog eat dog philosophy is repeated across the episode. It’s constantly shown in the halls of the Imperial Security Bureau, but its spotlight here is with Dedra Meero and Syril Karn. Meero goes to Karn for his report on Ferrix, but isn’t interested in his resolve to find Andor or Karn’s obvious ingenuity in finding him. She kicks him back to a boring job where his skills will be wasted, despite the talent he has.
But this is unfortunately repeated with our rebel heroes. Kleya forces Luthen to shut down contact with Ferrix, they have no interest in that system anymore nor do they truly care for the people of Ferrix, so they cut ties, despite the help they could offer. Luthen gets a chance to be vulnerable, showing that in some sense he does care about Ferrix, but not enough to stand up to Kleya.
While their opening lines are full of lies, Saw Gerrera and Luthen have an open
conversation about ideology, with Stellan Skarsgård continuing to show Luthen’s vulnerability. Forest Whitaker returns to Star Wars, continuing the unhinged Saw audiences got in Rogue One. Saw admits to Luthen that he has no interest in working with other rebel cells even though they have the same goals.
Luthen spells out what this will mean, that only the Empire will benefit from this. Saw drops add a fun bit of world building, not obscured by jargon and following the George Lucas method of name dropping wider events and names to flesh out the world.
That’s the point of the theme. The rich and powerful keep those beneath them divided with petty squabbles to keep them angry at each other, and not united against their true enemy, the rich and powerful. It’s unfortunate how often this plays out in real life.
Rolling back to the start of the episode, it builds up to the sterile prison. First with the harrowing ride over, then the idea that this is the last time that the prisoners will breathe fresh air, and the terrifying demonstration of the electrified floor.
The demonstration from all the actors involved here, including Diego Luna, sells the idea of this, with them crumpling to the floor, inducing an automatic cringe of horror from the audience.
This horrible feeling is repeated later on, when a prisoner lands on a sizzling floor after falling. The buildup to this moment breeds terror, the audience knows what’s about to happen but are powerless to stop it. You can smell the sizzling flesh.
Mon Mothma holds another party, with those being where she’s at her most confident. She’s doing the complete opposite of divide and conquer, attempting to shore up support for a vote – hopefully one that will be shown – and having debates with senators about the appropriate length of criminalisation.
Of course, it’s an easy one for them to have, as no matter what, they are never the ones that face any consequences for it. Only last week audiences saw the problems over the “only worry if you’re doing something wrong” mantra, with Cassian being arrested on trumped up charges for doing nothing.
Finally, this episode focuses back on Ferrix. Dedra sets up on the planet, requesting more resources from Colonel Yularen to crack down on any lead the Empire has on rebel activity.
She immediately works on breaking Paak and Bix, showing a more typical Imperial, moustache twirling attitude to the others. Hopefully actor Denise Gough doesn’t lean into this too heavily, else Meero will lose some of the complexity she’s shown in previous episodes.
Andor episode 8 delivers another strong, well themed episode with a strong criticism of how the rich and powerful keep the poor beneath them. The acting and writing continue to depict a complex set of characters and situations and give a strong start to a prison break episode.