"Andor" on Disney Plus masterfully set up lots of nice, new story sub-threads, but does its eighth episode continue to do so as effectively? The short answer is a resounding "yes." And not only that, but there is a wealth of incredible story-telling jam packed into episode 8, entitled "Narkina 5," plus some interesting cameos … and even a little bit of mistaken identity.
We last saw poor Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) being punished for nothing more than being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Justice is swift — and clearly sweeping — in the new age of the Empire and following a laughable legal proceeding on Niamos, he is dispatched to Narkina 5. Episode 8 is named after this Imperial Prison Facility for very good reason, for it is the star of this epsode's installment.
Aside from a few, very small dips in what is otherwise exceptional and impeccable pacing, this show has been of a seldom-found, extraordinarily high standard throughout. And at every step of his inadvertent incarceration, we can feel the fear coursing through Cassian's veins. Luna captures it beautifully, mostly in his eyes and when his brow isn't furrowed, he's usually still struggling to take in his new environment. That said, there are tiny changes in his facial expression throughout his prison induction and the character shows inhuman amounts of resolve in not letting fear completely take over, but rather focus on the more immediate problem, that of simply staying alive. And as each agonizingly long second ticks by, it becomes apparent that he gradually understands what he must do to stay alive.
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The production design of Narkina 5 is simple and extremely effective and there's a reason for that; the sterile, white, soulless environment acts to slowly destroy any remaining individuality, as prison life becomes your only life. George Lucas used something similar in "THX 1138."
It's delivered with the same style of piercing precision as the office environment seen in "Severance" only you won't get fatally electrocuted working for Lumon Industries. The fear that maintains this production line nightmare successfully permeates from that black mirror of your television screen and into your very soul as you wonder whether or not you might accidentally forget where the bathroom facilities were and step out onto the electrified floor.
From the moment his incarceration begins, Andor's education mirrors our own and what's especially interesting to see is the multi-stage, systemic breakdown of the hierarchy within Narkina 5, ultimately ending up with the legendary Andy Sirkis, in a beautifully cast cameo as Kino Loy, the inmate floor manager, so to speak. It will be interesting to see is if what these prisoners are tasked with constructing is actually shown. There certainly seems to be a lot of them and no doubt it's Imperial weapons of some kind, but has the decision been made to reveal it, or will it simply remain a MacGuffin?
The Empire is gathering momentum and is, to all intents and purposes, very nearly at full strength, which could be considered the moment that the first Death Star becomes officially operational. According to canon, it was only after its destruction at the battle of Yavin, that Emperor Palpatine opted to build a second, even bigger Death Star. And as such, a significant recruitment drive would be needed to replace the approximate 350,000 troops and officers — not to mention hardware — lost when Luke scored his game-winning three-pointer with a proton torpedo.
But for now, as its paranoia grows and constant suspicion of insurrection allows acts of suppression to be carried out on a whim, Imperial forces tighten their grip on the galaxy and punish anyone who even so much as looks suspicious. Consequently, whatever is being constructed down there, under all that water, the Empire seems to need a lot of. Components of a TIE perhaps? YouTuber New Rockstars seems to concur with that theory. However, Star Wars Fanatic believes the Narkina 5 inmates are building the undercarriage leg attachments to an Imperial Probe Droid. It's also entirely probable that inmates on each of the many floors in this detention facility are building something different.
To paraphrase Han Solo in "The Empire Strikes Back," I don't know how he's going to get out of this one. As much as we're attempting to process Andor's new accommodations, you can't help but feel he's already one step ahead of us and we're prepared to place a large wager that he's already memorized the needlessly complicated, bureaucratic procedure of processing and that will be key in his eventual escape. What will happen to all the other inmates? Will the facility flood as part of Andor's escape, or will he simply be able to sneak away? Will the other inmates form the Rebellion? There are so many questions, so many interesting avenues for amazing storytelling…and it's safe to say that we have confidence "Andor" will deliver.
The age-old debate of terrorist or freedom fighter has taken a back seat throughout most mainstream "Star Wars," but it's much more evident here, this week. Andor's survival is mirrored somewhat by Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) as he struggles with a slightly less-lethal incarceration, working in the Fuel Purity Department at the Bureau of Standards on Coruscant, but to him, staying in the game is worth his life. Hunting Cassian Andor has become his life. If only he just asked for a job serving the Empire.
Every other crucial story thread also progress enough to maintain our interest, something that sounds straightforward and yet other big budget sci-fi shows can't successfully achieve this, but this episode focuses — and quite brilliantly so — on poor Andor's current situation. However, being able to watch Stellan Skarsgård (Luthen Rael) and Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) together in a scene was masterfully understated. Then there was a moment in this episode where Every Single Person watching, suddenly sat up and asked whoever was in earshot, "Did he [Skarsgård] just say what I think he said?" And thankfully he didn't.
We're talking about Kleya Marki (Elizabeth Dulau) and basically a little bit of confusion that has arisen from Skarsgård's pronunciation of "Kleya" as it sounds an awful lot like "Leia." Plus the long, dark hair and youthful looks of Dulau don't help. But as we mentioned last week, this is simply a coincidence, or oversight, and more than likely no one could've anticipated her name would sound so similar when the legendary Swedish actor would say it on set. That said, given Disney has a Skywalker problem that it has tremendous difficulty letting go of, we could all be forgiven for jumping to this conclusion. It ain't so though, phew, 'cause that would've been really disappointing.
Finally, in other "Star Wars" news, rumors abound that the third season of "The Mandalorian" will drop on Feb. 22, 2023. While not yet officially confirmed by Disney Plus, it sounds about right.