The raid on the Imperial base on Aldhani was very much front and center in this week's episode. While the other story threads weren't forgotten, for the sake of maintaining the suspense, they were shown towards the end of this installment and will almost certainly have their turn in the spotlight sometime very soon.
After all, the story of Cassian Andor clearly has many threads that ultimately lead to the official formation of much of the "Star Wars" lore including the Rebel Alliance, the raid on Scarif and the Battle of Yavin.
Having given my heart rate time to return to safe levels once again, one of the first things that sticks out about this episode is that the director, Susanna White, chose deliberately to retain a linear storytelling format and not any kind of flashback device that might have started this installment in a very different manner. We've all seen it used now a million times, but this episode could so easily have begun by going straight to the firefight in the hanger bay and then, after a few minutes, circling back with a "Six hours previously" caption, or something similar. But, White didn't, and by opting for a purely chronological format, she successfully continued to build tension to the point where blood pressure monitors around the country were exploding.
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So far, "Andor" has been a masterclass in intelligent story writing that has accomplished something that's seldom seen on television: The successful, seamless escalation of tension over the past six episodes. However, we must remind ourselves that the team behind "Andor," the brothers Gilroy — Dan, Tony and John — distinguished their style and obvious talent for dramatic storytelling with movies like the Jason Bourne films, "Nightcrawler" and "House of Cards." Heck, I even enjoyed "Freejack."
We must also remind ourselves that while we gush over "Andor" (for it is totally gushworthy) storytelling of this quality does exist on television: "Severance," for example, "Better Call Saul," HBO's "Watchmen" and "The Boys" are just some examples.
And it exists within science fiction too; "The Expanse," "Battlestar Galactica" and "Babylon 5" are the classics, with "Halo" and "For All Mankind" representing more contemporary examples. And honorable mentions going to the first seasons of "The Man in the High Castle" and "Lost in Space." The point is…that we don't see it often enough and we've never seen it as good as this within the "Star Wars" universe.
Andor's story, from our first introduction to his world in "Rogue One," has offered Disney and Lucasfilm the opportunity to give this approach a go and thankfully it's been handled well. Can you imagine how good "Rogue Squadron," the project that was due to be directed by Patty Jenkins, could've been if a less made-purely-to-sell-toys and more cerebral approach was taken? Hopefully we'll see more of this, possibly even in Season 3 of "The Mandalorian," who knows. Or dares to dream.
Back to this week's episode. The raid more or less takes place in real time and as such, we're deeply invested in every element, be it the actual raiding party, or the secondary squad or even the gathering crowds outside. All the while, we shuffle closer and closer to the edge of our seats and hope the Imperial forces do not detect any kind of anomaly that might give the game away.
And herein lies our only grumble with this episode — and indeed the series so far. And it's not dialogue, or any particular scene … it's with the actual plan of the heist. The theft of 80 million credits from the Imperial payroll is a bold, ambitious plan at any time. And the fact that the triennial Mak-ani bray Dhani celestial event, more commonly known as the Eye of Aldhani, provided a distraction, is brilliant. It could very loosely be compared to the Rebel incursion on the forest moon of Endor, although that strike team was bigger than this one, but it's still the basic principle of a very small, secret unit, infiltrating a large, secure base with a significantly larger enemy force in place.
And that's fine, but the success of this plan actually depended on using hostage labor to load the loot. It's not like they just encountered a whole bunch of hostiles unexpectedly and were forced to deal with them, because otherwise they could — and should — be either tied and gagged or stunned. Or more preferably, all three.
But no. There was so much moolah that had to be loaded onto the unspecified Imperial freighter, that in order to complete the heist within the duration of the Eye of Aldhani event, additional help needed to be factored into the plan. And while no one here at Space.com is a proven military strategist, it's glaringly obvious to anyone who has watched just a few, even half-decent bank robbery movies that hostages = trouble. Let alone loads of them.
Are we expected to believe that none of these hostages would even try to overwhelm their captors? Not even a young, ambitious Imperial grunt who adamantly believes he can be a hero? All it would take is just one to cause a distraction and then it's simply a matter of strength in numbers.
Now, this is an extremely minor and arguably a very pedantic point, but in a show that has quite literally been faultless so far, it drives a wedge between the viewer and the immersive experience; the neural link between our brains and that big, black television screen is severed, albeit temporarily, but severed nonetheless. Couldn't the writers not have perhaps addressed this by quelling an attempted uprising? A reluctant, but necessary show of force to make an example. After all, their lives are on the line here if they don't succeed.
Since Andor (Diego Luna) is an antihero and we've already seen him kill without hesitation to protect himself, it might have been interesting to see one Imperial officer begin to make a move … but unbeknownst to him, Andor is watching the whole thing from a distance. In his mind, he knows exactly what the Imperial is about to do and without so much as a second's hesitation, Andor blasts the officer. After the officer slumps to the floor, everyone immediately stops what they're doing and Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) stares for a moment at
Cassian Clem, then shouts in only the way that she can, something to the effect of, "If anyone else moves, they will be shot! Instantly!"
Of course, it's just a suggestion. (You know the most believable, meticulously-planned, similarly-sized military operation ever seen in cinema? In this writer's opinion, it's "The Dirty Dozen.")
There's a nice scene where Imperial TIE fighter pilots scramble to intercept the stolen freighter and one pilot is silhouetted against the evening sky as he climbs into the cockpit and begins his pre-flight check. We'd like to see Imperial TIE fighters in launch mode and if you recall, we were treated to a beautiful, Colonial Viper launch tube-inspired TIE take off in "The Mandalorian" Season 2 episode "The Rescue." More of that please.
There is a causality count, because there absolutely would be, but for the most part the whole episode is handled very well, as we are now expecting each week. Director Susanna White chose not to dwell for long at all on the Mak-ani bray Dhani, but instead keep our focus very much on the raid. Plus, the raid itself doesn't fill the 40 minutes and the story takes an unexpected turn once the robbery is over, which incidentally also demonstrates the title character's unflinching ability to do what is required, when it is required.
The first six 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.