This episode of Andor is more emotional and nuanced than the previous ones. We see Cassian struggling to adapt to life in prison, and the galaxy is still feeling the effects of the garrison heist.
Hell on Earth
The episode picks up where we left off: with Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) — aka Keef Girgo — being dragged out of Niamos by stormtroopers, all while screaming that he’s just a tourist. He learns he’s being sent to Narkina 5 which consists of several factory facility buildings, not connected to each other. Built on water in the middle of no where. With swirling whirlpools placed in front of all the obvious exit routes. In other words, have fun trying to escape.
After they arrive, Cassian and the other prisoners are forced to take off their shoes and walk into the facility, barefoot. They meet their commander and guards, who are not carrying any weapons. Why is that? The commander presses a button on a handheld device, and the prisoners fall to the ground in agony. The floors are made of Tungstoid steel, which causes excruciating pain for anyone who makes skin-to-floor contact. This is why the prisoners are barefoot, while the commander and guards wear special boots to protect them.
Young and able-bodied, Cassian is declared “labor-worthy”, and he’s assigned to room Five-Two-D — where the prisoners work twelve-hour shifts in one of the prison’s factories. Five-Two-D’s manager, Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), is a fellow prisoner who wants Cassian to remember something crucial: “I have 249 days left of my sentence. I have a free hand in how I run this room. I’m used to being in the top three on the level. You will wanna keep that happening”. Productivity is encouraged, evaluation is constant. Each table competes with one another to build equipment in the least amount of time.
Cassian meets the team he’ll be working with at his table: Jemboc (Brian Bovell), Ham (Clemens Schick), Xaul (Josef Davies), Taga (Tom Reed), Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank), Melshi (Duncan Pow). Production is low, so the room has to do a 39-minute sprint segment. The most productive table is allowed to eat food that’s flavorful, while the least productive table will be disciplined (shocked). If that wasn’t depressing enough, the Public Order Resentencing Directive has led to the revaluation of all prison sentences. All prisoners are in an anxiety-induced stasis, where they have no idea when, or if, they’ll be released.
Cassian spends his first day taking everything in, looking shell-shocked. He notices one of his cellmates using sign language to interact with another prisoners on the other side of the building, but no context is given on what they were saying. After thirty days (or “shifts”), Cassian has gotten used to prison life, but he hasn’t become immune to the dehumanization Narkina 5 inflicts on its prisoners. In a disturbing scene, one of the prisoners commits suicide by leaving their cell (remember, the floors can be electrified at ALL times). What’s worse is that everybody but Cassian were annoyed about the smell.
Only a month into his new job at the Bureau of Standards, people from the Imperial Security Bureau stop in front of Syril Karn’s (Kyle Soller) cubicle. He’s brought before Supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), who confronts him on multiple false reports he filed regarding Cassian Andor. When Dedra asks what is in Blevin’s report on the Ferrix fiasco, Syril admits he doesn’t know because he wasn’t allowed to read it, even though he signed it. Dedra leaves the room, telling her assistants to give him the report and hold him there.
In a meeting with other ISB officials, Dedra shares the information she promised from the last episode. She knows about Cassian, that he had the missing Starpath, and that he killed two Corpos. This explains her interest in Syril because she knows Cassian has ties to Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård), who’s code-named Axis. She believes Luthen/Axis is part of an organized rebel effort to get specialized Imperial gear. She makes a request for full planetary comnet, full garrison tech package, Series Nine Spectrum surveillance, local agent funding, Code Droids—all very expensive. Furthermore, she says it’s worth the money to safeguard lost technology, with Ferrix being the first mistake Luthen/Axis has made. It’s the only clue they have.
Later, Dedra questions Syril about the report. While Syril is shocked of all the rebel activity missing in the report, there’s nothing he can tell Dedra that she doesn’t already know. Syril was unable to a give full description of Luthen’s physical appearance. Dedra dismisses him and that’s when Syril starts to unravel, only slightly. He has an unhinged look in his eyes as he explains how helpful he could be to her investigation.
“Can one ever be too aggressive in preserving order?” Syril asks, but Dedra is losing her patience.
“Raise the alarm one more time, and it won’t be me you’re speaking to,” Dedra threatens. “Forget this happened.”
After Dedra leaves the room, Syril smiles to himself.
Dedra and the ISB aren’t the only ones looking for Cassian. Rebels Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) and Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu) are in Ferrix with the task of killing Cassian to protect Luthen’s identity. Cinta says she’ll stay behind and rent a room around the corner from the home of Cassian’s adoptive mother, Maarva (Fiona Shaw). Vel is upset about the plan, since they’ll be separated — so soon after reuniting post-heist. Cinta makes it clear to Vel that “the struggle will always come first. We take what’s left.”
Speaking of Maarva, her health is deteriorating after injuring herself looking for a tunnel underneath a hotel the ISB is using for their HQ. She refuses to leave Ferrix due to her hopes of a future rebellion against the occupying Imperials. Cassian’s friends Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) and Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) don’t know what to do about Maarva, especially since they haven’t seen/heard from Cassian. Bix uses her hidden comms to send Luthen a message about Cassian. Luthen doesn’t answer, but his assistant Kleya (Elizabeth Dulau) intercepts the call. She suggests they shut off all communication to Ferrix. When Luthen hesitates, Kleya icily states he’s not thinking clearly. Luthen orders Kleya to shut off communication, but it’s too late. The ISB captures Bix and takes her to the hotel to be interrogated by Dedra. Considering the last person Dedra questioned is being dragged out of the room looking beat up, this is not going to end well.
Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is hosting another lavish party at her home, as she tries to garner support for her legislative agenda. She seems to have hit a roadblock, as her fellow senators don’t appear to have any problems with the Empire’s PORD legislation. Unfortunately, this will probably lead to even more oppression. To make matters worse, Mon’s banker buddy/partner-in-crime Tay (Ben Miles) warns of new banking regulations, making their ability to funnel money for the rebellion difficult.
Meanwhile, Luthen travels to Segra Milo to meet with Saw Gerrera, (Forest Whitaker) a dangerous anarchist. Luthen offers Saw new equipment for free if he agrees to work with another rebel group. To say Saw flat out rebukes Luthen’s offer is an understatement. The Rebel Alliance seems to split into several factions based on certain beliefs (at least that’s how Saw labels them). He doesn’t want to work with any of them because he feels they’re “lost”. When Saw asks Luthen where he stands, he voices his concern the Empire will grow so powerful nothing can be done to stop Palpatine. He wants all the rebels to put their differences aside and come together. It’s a nice speech, but it has no effect on Saw, who sends Luthen on his way.
This episode is drowning in irony. Cassian has committed crimes ranging from theft, murder, breaking into an Imperial garrison — yet he’s serving a six-year prison sentence for loitering. There are parallels between him and Syril, with both men trapped in a sort of stasis while the rest of the world moves on. Only Syril is stuck in a mental prison as he clings onto his obsession with Cassian and clearing his name. The real kicker in this episode is that the Empire and the rebels’ are oblivious to the fact that their issues with Cassian have been resolved. Cassian is imprisoned and keeping his role in the garrison heist a closely guarded secret. Yet Dedra, Syril, and Luthen are looking for him, not realizing he’s been neutralized as a threat.