Andor continues to show that there are plenty of surprises left in the "Star Wars" franchise.
What's almost equally as interesting as watching this show, is watching the very mixed responses it's getting. Curiously enough, the patient, methodical, slow-fuse burn doesn't appeal to everyone. And that's perfectly fine: a vintage 1869 Chateau Lafite wine might not appeal to everyone. Some are all about the pew-pew-pew and would prefer to quaff a light beer instead. People like what they like. But … if "Andor" isn't for you, you're missing out.
As excited as we are for this episode 5, entitled "The Axe Forgets," what it does is set up a potentially mindblowing episode next week.
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We open straightaway with a surprise as Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) must deal with the fallout of his actions and face … his passive aggressive mother, Eedy, played to perfection by Kathryn Hunter. And you thought the Empire was hard to deal with.
This element of the story arc is beautifully underplayed and there's a moment at the end of this episode that confirms what some saw coming: Fear may lead to anger, which in turn may lead to hate … but losing your job and being disgraced often leads to rage, and that has a tendency to become best friends with revenge.
What this show has managed to do is create effective character depth and as such, we have become invested quite heavily, quite quickly, in its secondary characters. Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) himself plays an important role, naturally, in this installment, but he is somewhat more of an asset used to explore the backstories of the other rebels that will accompany him on the extremely dangerous-sounding raid on the Imperial base.
And it's not just limited to the rolling, grassy hillsides of Aldhani; the in-depth and unexpected insight into the plagued personal life of Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) is a bonus and will no doubt prove essential in representing the political element of the rebellion against the Empire. Both Alastair Mackenzie, as her husband Perrin Fertha and Bronte Carmichael as their daughter, Leida, provide plenty of fuel for this fundamentally flawed family to feud over.
Yes, we've mentioned before that this show is very much a slow-burning fuse, but after this episode, you'll wonder just how big the pile of dynamite is that this fuse is attached to. The pay off needs to be nothing short of extraordinary to fully justify such a carefully calculated crescendo and if it is, then this show is going to blow the socks off sci-fi fans everywhere.
Like Han Solo before him — or more accurately, how Han Solo was originally, before George Lucas wrecked his raison d'etre in the 1997 "Star Wars" Special Edition — Andor is an anti-hero, who ultimately ends up doing the right thing, but with somewhat more questionable methods than the typical, bold, buff and bare-chested Buster Crabbe-type. Frankly, this is infinitely more relatable in today's world than a saintly sci-fi superhero, plus it's more fun to write and a lot more interesting to watch.
Aldhani itself is actually new to "Star Wars" canon, which means the Mak-ani bray Dhani event is also new. More commonly referred to as the Eye of Aldhani, Lt. Gorn (Sule Rimi) described it in last week's episode "Aldhani" as a celestial event that occurs once every three years that crowds of thousands of local inhabitants gather to watch, some hiking for weeks just to be able to watch it from the sacred land. "Imagine 50 meteor showers all at once, but like a curtain being pulled across the sky until the Eye, the window to the galaxy, forms over the horizon," he explains in a mesmerizing scene.
We learn, through necessary exposition that it's not really a meteor shower, it's a "recurrent band of crystalized, noctilucent microdensities." Basically, billions of crystals that are very heavy, but small and unstable. As the planet passes through the belt, they swarm the atmosphere, heat up and explode. From the ground, it's a thing of beauty. In the sky, it's chaos.
We can only imagine what this is going to look like on screen. The heist that this fledgling band of freedom fighters has planned is relying heavily on the afore-mentioned chaos to cover their escape, providing a distraction during the caper. Even the Imperial labor force is keen to see the rare, cosmological phenomena, further highlighting its significance.
Despite their differences, the amateur insurgents led by Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) finally establish a bond and not a moment too soon, but this process of consolidation — while inevitable — is not handled in a ham-fisted way, thankfully. "Less is most definitely more" is evidently the mantra of this spin-off show and so far, its proving extremely effective. A perfect illustration of this is when a single Imperial TIE fighter is able to remind us of the terror it represents — largely by sound effect alone. It slowly arcs around some high ground and then, like a Junkers JU 87 Stuka divebomber with that haunting howl that instantly identifies it, the agile aircraft skims the ground as the howl transforms into a deafening scream. It's probably the best and most effective performance by a twin ion engine fighter in "Star Wars" so far.
The next episode represents the half-way point through this first season of "Andor" and we simply cannot wait to see what happens next.
The first five episodes of "Star Wars: Andor" are live on Disney Plus, with further episodes debuting every Wednesday until the conclusion of the first season on Nov. 23, 2022.