With the penultimate episode of Andor, Tony Gilroy solidifies the series as the gold standard for Star Wars moving forward. Few shows are able to continue to climb higher and higher with each new episode, outshining themselves time and time again, and even fewer are able to accomplish what this series has in its first season. With Episode 11, the stakes soar to new heights as all the moving pieces slowly slide into place, bringing the season’s final act fully into focus.
Cassian (Diego Luna) and Melshi (Duncan Pow) may have escaped from the Imperial factory facility, but they have not escaped from their dire situation on Narkina 5. After escaping the tumultuous water, they were forced to climb up a steep cliff face and Melshi only barely makes it to the summit. It’s Cassian’s encouragement that drives him onward, which continues to reinforce why Melshi follows Cassian into deadly situations in Rogue One. But their perilous situation is not the most jaw-dropping revelation ushered in within the first few minutes of the episode, it’s the news of Maarva’s (Fiona Shaw) death. From the eyes and ears of B2EMO (voiced by Dave Chapman) it is revealed that Maarva succumbed to the sickness hinted about after Cassian fled from Ferrix, and now Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) has to pick up the pieces left behind to prepare for her funeral. Jezzi (Pamela Nomvete) and the other Daughters of Ferrix have also stepped up to assist, offering some comfort to the distraught droid.
With Maarva dead, the Empire’s spy Corv (Noof Ousellam) and the rebellion’s boots-on-the-ground Cinta (Varada Sethu) continue to surveil the Andor residence, in hopes of a sign that Cassian might be making a return trip home to pay respects to his mother. While Cinta’s cover isn’t blown, Corv makes a point of asking her if she knew Maarva, positioning her on his radar. The Imperial officers assigned to Ferrix are prepared to refuse the request for Maarva’s funeral, but Dedra (Denise Gough) sees the benefit in letting the people of Ferrix host the funeral. If they make a big enough affair out of it, Cassian is bound to turn up, and they’ll be able to set a trap for him. And it’s not just the Empire that is hoping to capture him on Ferrix, Vel (Faye Marsay) delivers the news of Maarva’s death to Kleya (Elizabeth Dulau) on Coruscant, so Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) can be ready to take out Cassian. Even worse, Syril Karn’s (Kyle Soller) former sergeant wakes him up in the middle of the night to tell him about Maarva’s death and the rumors that Cassian might make a grand appearance at the funeral. It’s clear that Ferrix is being positioned as the location of Andor’s inciting action, and all the loose threads that unraveled at the mid-point of the season are slowly being drawn taut by Gilroy’s script as tension mounts.
Throughout the season Andor has followed a path that has, more recently, been reserved for the publishing side of Star Wars. Each location that its cast of characters encounters is a vibrant (though often dreary) place, filled with rich visual intrigue, and even more compelling cultures and people that have actually been fully fleshed out. From Kenari to Aldhani, Gilroy hasn’t shied away from creating a world that feels real, and with Maarva’s death, he introduces new funerary customs to the universe. Throughout the franchise’s history, we have borne witness to a handful of funerals, but they were never too far outside the norm. However, in Episode 11, the series introduces the idea of “being bricked,” which sees the residents of Ferrix cremated, packed into a brick, and then placed in a wall to become a physical part of the building of Ferrix. It’s a beautiful custom that reinforces the notion that Ferrix is a tight-knit community.
And it’s far from the only custom explored in the series, or even this episode. Gilroy also dives into the marriage customs of the Chandrilans. With the looming need to cover up her suspicious financial movements, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is forced to seriously consider Davo’s (Richard Dillane) offer of introducing their children. Mon has made it clear that her arranged marriage to Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie) has been a contentious and unpleasant scenario, but that hasn’t stopped Leida (Bronte Carmichael) from seeking out and embracing the old Chandrilan customs—much to Mon and Vel’s horror. It can’t go unnoticed that this seems to parallel the younger generations of modern society who seem determined to revert to puritanical ideals that negatively impacted the generations before them. It’s a startling and ingenious plot point because it makes Mon’s sacrifice even more painful. What’s worse than damning your child to become a child bride, when that’s what they want?
Bix (Adria Arjona) is still alive on Ferrix, but only just. She’s haunted by the sounds she was forced to hear, plagued by the whispers of Doctor Gorst trying to pry information from her. Even in her weakened state, the Empire is still looking for answers about Cassian Andor, and they know threats of more time with Gorst will get her to talk about what she knows. This time, they want to know if Anto Kreegyr was the man she introduced Cassian to. With the ISB narrowing in on Anto Kreegyr, elsewhere in the galaxy, Luthen returns to Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) to dissuade him from getting involved in the mess. Saw is understandably alarmed that Luthen knows what sort of attacks the ISB is planning, and more unnerved by the fact that Luthen is willing to sacrifice the lives of 31 rebels just to keep one ISB operative alive. Saw accuses Luthen of being part of the ISB, which isn’t necessarily unfounded paranoia, but Luthen is quick to talk him off the ledge. If he was part of the ISB, why would he try to keep Saw alive? Luthen sees letting the ISB have this victory as a way to make them weak, to make them believe they are capable of having the upper hand. The conversation spirals down into a pivotal moment that made it into early trailers for the series: “Let’s call it war.” And Saw is right, the Empire and the rebels might be maneuvering small actions against each other, but it is ultimately a war.
When Luthen makes his escape from Saw’s hideout, he runs into an Imperial patrol looking to flex their power. Even after Luthen provides them with an Alderaanian chaincode that clears their system, they still trap his Haulcraft in their tractor beam, with the plan to board and unlawfully check his vessel under the guise of “practice” for investigating known partisan activity in the area. The Haulcraft might appear to be like any other hunk-of-junk vessel we’ve seen in the Star Wars universe, his is suped up like the Star Wars version of Knight Rider’s KITT. With quick maneuvers, and some unexpected firepower and weaponry, Luthen makes his escape, leaving the Imperials to question what—and who—they just encountered.
On Narkina, Cassian and Melshi run into more trouble when they encounter the Narkinians that occupy the land. They’re tired of Imperial occupation and initially mistake the pair as being more trouble for them to deal with. But once they realize that they’re escaped prisoners, they’re quick to help them secure a shuttle to get them off Narkina and headed in the direction of safety. Knowing that he has money—and Nemik’s manifesto—stashed on Neimos, that’s where Cassian takes them. Safe, rested, and dressed in fresh clothes, they head out to a comm station, so he can get word back home that he’s safe. Xanwan (Zubin Varla) intercepts the call to Bee and informs Cassian that his mother has died. Diego Luna gives a stunning performance as reality crashes over Cassian like the waves crashing in the distance, the pain is palpable—it’s in his eyes, the subtle flex of his fingers, the tension in his shoulders. But he masks that pain when he returns to Melshi, focusing instead on what they have to do. Melshi insists that they need to split up, to maximize their chance of survival and ensure that one of them gets the word out about what the Empire is really doing. Cassian doesn’t burden him with his personal pain; he doesn’t let go of that mask until he’s alone.
In the final moments of the episode, the chaos and heightened energy of everything leading up to this moment settle into place on Cassian’s shoulders as Nicholas Britell’s somber and haunting score fills the silence. Watching Cassian process the news of his mother’s death, and the new reality that he can never go back to the way things used to be is heartbreaking. The heartbreak is further compounded by the image that director Benjamin Caron crafts with this moment, which brings memories of Rogue One rushing back to the forefront. This isn’t the only time we’ve watched Cassian stand on the shoreline and stare at the horizon. This moment fully situates him on a path destined for tragedy, but it’s a tragedy that will restore hope in a hopeless place.
Andor is streaming now on Disney+. Check out our interview with Andy Serkis below:
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