Warning: There are some minor spoilers. This is not a review for people who have not seen the show.
The 10th episode of "Andor" aired on Wednesday. The show has been the slowest of slow burns, but like a good chili or a fine stew—the result and individual flavors have been harmonious in ways no other Star Wars piece of art has yet reached. For those who were fans of "Rogue One," this series was viewed as the backstory of a heroic character whose story only got one film to shine. "Andor" is not Cassian Andor's backstory, despite his name being in the title. That would be reductive to this show's content. It is many things. It is a story of living under the boot of totalitarianism. It is an allegory for living as an immigrant in America. It is a lens through which we see all the things the Star Wars universe was intended to represent in one elite story.
Immigrants Together In America
“Aren’t you tired of fighting with people who agree with you? There’s no chance any of us can make it real on our own.”
I can get political here. The show itself is political, but not as simplistic as those that came before it. American society has been in a firestorm of change, growth, and building tension for as long as anyone has individually noticed it. There are scenes in this show that conjure images of the George Floyd protests in the scenes of Imperial law-enforcement agencies abusing their power against citizens. The more subtle pieces I found most engaging. Andor was born on Kenari. When these forces ask about his place of origin we can see the subtle look of disgust and judgment on their faces when they say, "from Kenari!?" It may not have stuck with everyone, but anyone who was born in another country has seen that look at some point in this American life. The way Luthen himself plays a character when he dressed in his Coruscant garbs shows how many immigrants code-switch throughout their daily interactions.
Perhaps the most powerful device this show has is that Andor—the star of the show, does not show up in every scene as a political radical with a heavy-handed message. The show's political acumen and political power come from the fact that Andor is just trying to survive. Immigrants in America lead these kinds of lives, and sometimes just surviving is overlooked by those who can afford to lead the charge.
One Way Out
The buildup of "Andor" has lifted off to such heights that the next few episodes will be a lot of payoffs, and "One Way Out" gives us a lot. Early in the episode, Cassian (Diego Luna) speaks to Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) and he gives a quote that may have been missed. It was not lost on me how much it was a paraphrase of Mexican revolutionary, Emiliano Zapata. Cassian says, “I’d rather die trying to take them down than die giving them what they want.” Zapata once said, "I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees." This show knows what it's doing.
The performances from Serkis and Luna are breathtaking. The prison break scene is one of the best we have seen on screen and despite the spoiler warning, I do not want to give any more away. It is just something that needs to be watched. Surrounding this main storyline, the walls for our main rebellion leaders, Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and Mon Mothma, (Genevieve O'Reilly) are closing in. Following a delightful revelation of another spy from deep inside the Imperial ranks, Luthen gives one of the best-written speeches/monologues
in the episode since the golden days of Sorkin-ish-West-Wing-dialogue.
It is arguably the second-best speech in the episode, depending on taste. That could not matter less.
What matters is whether you're watching this show. It is a slow burn and takes some patience at first. Not slower than any other show, but only if you are used to Star Wars films. Come to this show without that attitude. It has some of the best-written characters and the most truly tense moments in any Star Wars piece of media ever made. I am an "OG" Star Wars nerd. You can trust me.