"Andor" continues to prove why it's one of the most expertly-crafted "Star Wars" productions to date.
This week's episode probably won't be able to focus on Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) in prison on Narkina 5 as much as last week, or at least … you'd be forgiven for thinking that going in. The other elements that are crucial to tell this amazing story in its entirety obviously include Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) and Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), plus Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) of course.
But a surprising amount of screen time is in fact dedicated to Andor and his struggle to stay sane during his unfortunate incarceration. And there's an interesting situation developing. You could argue that the relentless, non-stop component building that has can make the difference between being electrocuted and not could be Andor's own 'Bridge over the river Kwai.' And it will ultimately result in madness, ill health or any one of a number of outcomes, especially since we know now that no one leaves Narkina 5 alive.
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The flipside is that the close-quarters reliance on other team members to work hard and focus … is basically like those team building exercises that large corporations pay wads of money for various teams and departments to take part in, for an afternoon. Imagine doing that, except this isn't about getting upset if Frank from Finance accidently drops a wheel nut — no, this is about depending on co-workers for your very survival. And now imagine doing that for an entire day, day after day. The bond that builds will be a strong one. In fact, it will be an unbreakable one.
Instead, the actual physical torture shifts to poor Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) and clearly Meero enjoys her work. There's a subtle, but discreet nod to "Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope" here as the shot where the sliding door closes on Princess Leia's cell as she's about to be tortured on the Death Star is recreated perfectly, complete with a focus on the boots of an Imperial Officer walking past. An Easter egg like this is much more of a genuine gesture of respect and consequently they're more enjoyable to see, as opposed to something that's shoved in simply for the sake of it, or worse, to encourage toy sales.
Caleen could provide a link to Luthen Rael, whether or not she does remains to be seen. She was Andor's ex-lover and despite her poor judgment in subsequent partners, she appears to be a believer in the cause. In fact, Supervisor Dedra Meero of the Imperial Security Bureau has quite the episode this week and the undeniable highlight is the sexually charged conversation she has with Syril Karn outside the Imperial Security Bureau.
Moreover, she clearly relishes the notion that he's slowly becoming infatuated with both her and the idea of pure unadulterated authoritarianism. As she walks away, she appears to touch her mouth, or at least her face. Is it an attempt to regain composure after her arousing encounter, a telling gesture for someone so buttoned up and internalized, whose arms and hands never leave her sides or behind her back? Is she inhaling his scent? Or is she doing that thing where you test your breath on your hand? Either way, we suspect there's a future fling in store (opens in new tab) for those two.
One of the many reasons this epic, enthralling sci-fi drama is so effective is the pacing. The tension is beautifully built and methodically escalated once again as the stakes have inadvertently got higher for Andor and indeed behind the scenes too, where funds must be covertly channeled and allies desperately sought in the ever-increasingly unresponsive senate. While not quite as much screen time is dedicated to the political machinations of Sentor Mon Mothma and Chandrilan banker Tay Kolma (Ben Miles), it is enough.
Everywhere we are taken in this show leads us to a story thread that could have significant implications, from the aforementioned tension between Mothma, her family and her friends, between Mothma and Luthen Rael, between Rael and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) and so on. The Gilroys have created a captivating and intriguing political web, which is exactly how it should be and exactly how it would be.
When we do return to Andor, locked deep underwater in the Imperial labor facility on Narkina 5, we see the foundations being firmly laid for an escape and frankly even just the thought of where this is going makes the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We also learn that no one ever leaves Narkina 5. More importantly however, we learn that the inmates have also discovered this, and the subsequent bonding that forms between Andor and Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) is enough to make you reach for the tissue box and cue up "The Shawshank Redemption" to watch immediately afterwards.
Cassian Andor's survival instincts are awe-inspiring, quite frankly, and it's no wonder he eventually became a top Rebel operative as we saw in "Rogue One." So many other significant sci-fi IPs could learn from this spin-off as Disney has finally managed to let go of the Skywalker saga, even for just one show, perhaps Paramount could follow a similar lead and offer us a standalone, limited series spin-off show, focusing on brand new characters that aren't inescapably locked into co-existing with established characters and storylines. Sure, "Star Trek: Discovery" fits this description, sort of, but let's not beat around the bush, that show fumbled the ball in season 2 and forever lost it over a neighbor's fence, never to be seen again.
We know that the prospect of experimentation is not outside the realms of possibility; do you remember when "Star Trek" embarked on its first, full-on foray into funny sci-fi with H. Jon Benjamin? So why not try dip a pinky into something more cerebral? "Rogue One" was proof of concept that something traditionally not "Star Wars" could in fact still be "Star Wars" and "Andor" has taken that notion and run the full length of the field without so much as even stopping to spike the ball.
In other news, teeny-tiny details are emerging about season 2 of "Andor" and how it will begin to include familiar elements from this point in time in "Star Wars" history such as the continued development and growth of the Rebel Alliance, their intelligence gathering and eventual attack on the Death Star. We will of course keep you updated as we find out more ourselves.