Cassian & Bix Face the Empire’s Cruelty

Over the last eight episodes, Andor hasn’t shied away from the brutal realities of surviving under an authoritarian regime—whether that be police brutality or cruel prison labor—and Episode 9’s opening scene delivers fresh new horrors to be reckoned with. In “Narkina 5,” Bix (Adria Arjona) was taken into custody by the Empire for questioning about suspicious activity on Ferrix, and today’s episode dove straight into her first encounter with Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) which will undoubtedly alter the trajectory of Bix’s life moving forward.

Even in Cassian’s (Diego Luna) absence, his actions have cast a long shadow over the residents of Ferrix who, at one time, considered him a friend. Bix does her best to avoid Dedra’s questioning about him, the fractal radio unit, and The Buyer (Stellan Skarsgård), but scare tactics force Dedra to admit her part in signaling to “The Buyer.” Despite Bix’s resilient spirit, she realizes that no matter what answer she provides Dedra with, the ISB officer won’t believe her, so why bother? Dedra almost seems to relish in the fact that Dr. Gorst will get to utilize his “chaotic” interview system on Bix, revealing that she’s so much more than just a woman trying to make her way in a man’s world. She’s someone who fully intends to take advantage of all of the horrors that the ISB has in their arsenal, so long as it brings her power.


Dr. Gorst’s method of “interviewing” subjects is somehow even more horrifying and sinister than the Bor Gullet that Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker) employed against Bodhi Rook (Riz Ahmed) in Rogue One. As the doctor explains to Bix, during the Empire’s colonization efforts, they encountered a sentient species called the Dizon Fray which was hostile toward them. Their hostilities led to local commanders being granted permission to use any means necessary, which prompted the massacre of the Dizonites, which the Empire publicized to encourage other sentient species to fall into line. The screams of the dying Dizonites—mostly children—caused the local commanders to go insane, and the Empire decided to harness the piercing screams as a torture tactic. Director Toby Haynes beautifully—and tragically—transitions from Bix’s agonizing screams as the audio is unleashed straight into the whirring hiss of the drills on Narkina 5, creating a jarring and disturbing transition from one form of brutalization to another.

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Now weeks into his prison sentence, Cassian has started to find his footing within the Imperial factory facility. Every day is still largely the same, with the prisoners being forced to make literal cogs, which continues to reinforce the imagery linking Andor to larger philosophical ideas about capitalism and the industrial prison complex, but there are some noted shifts in Cassian’s demeanor with his fellow prisoners. He shows genuine care towards the oldest of the prisoners, Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank), perhaps as an extension of the care he once showed his mother Maarva (Fiona Shaw), and more importantly—he’s starting to scheme with those around him. Most notably, he and Birnok (Rasaq Kukoyi) realize that the platforms that the Imperial officers use to bring down new prisoners aren’t capable of frying them and that during the times when they’re bringing in those new prisoners they’re at their weakest. Though a full prison escape still seems like a pipe dream at this point, it’s clear that they’re slowly starting to lay the groundwork for an eventual attempt, especially when Cassian uses his break to saw away at a pipe in the ‘fresher.

When Andor reunites audiences with Bix on Ferrix, she is weary, sweaty, and clearly suffering from Dr. Gorst’s torture. Deedra seizes on her weakened state to get the information she needs about Cassian. When she finishes with her, Dedra informs the commanding officer on Ferrix to treat Bix as a witness, rather than a hostage, and gives him permission to hang Paak (Abhin Galeya) to remind the citizens of who is in charge. Dedra takes the information back to the ISB headquarters and reports that she fully believes that Cassian Andor is the mastermind behind everything that “Axis” is doing—including Aldhani. (Dedra, have you not listened to Midnights? Clearly, Cassian is an « Anti-Hero, » not a “Mastermind.”) The interrogation of Bix reveals that he had recently returned to Ferrix, clean-shaven and loaded with credits, which matched the description that officers had given of the rebels that attacked the garrison on Aldhani. Dedra also revealed that she chose not to question Cassian’s mother because she was too old and frail, but the reality was that she wanted to leave her so they could use her to bait Cassian into a trap down the line.

Speaking of that business on Aldhani, Mon Mothma (Genevive O’Reilly) attempts to sway the Senate to push back against the Emperor’s Public Order Resentencing Directive, citing it as a heinous act against the freedoms of the people they were elected to represent, yet her ardent pleas fall on deaf ears as her fellow senators shut off their lights and choose to ignore the Empire’s continued overreach. It’s a scene that feels far too reminiscent of modern-day politics, where senators and political leaders choose to ignore the best interest of their constituents, so long as their own livelihoods are protected. After the crushing defeat, Mon is met with unexpected news: her cousin has arrived at her residence. When she returns home, her daughter Lieda (Bronte Carmichael) is rhapsodizing over the new gown that has been gifted to her by Mon’s dear cousin Val (Faye Marsay).

While early trailers for Andor revealed that Mon and Val would be having a conversation at some point during the series, the familial connection between them isn’t as unexpected as it might seem. After all, during “Narkina 5,” Cinta (Varada Sethu) taunted Val for being a rich girl running away from her family, and Val does have a certain Chandrillian vibe about her. Mon and Val very carefully talk around their involvement in the rebellion, shrouding their words with comments about vows made, travel plans, and Val’s eventual trip back to their homeworld. Again, the comment about Val being a spoiled little rich girl comes up when Mon encourages her to travel around and let the world remember her for her wealthy façade. Later, when Val sits down to dine with Mon and Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie), Val talks about her plans to return home to Chandrila and Perrin can’t resist making a glib comment about how Val needs to find herself a husband—which would definitely be an issue, considering her relationship with Cinta.

After Val departs, Mon has another serendipitous meeting with Tay (Ben Miles) about their “foundation” which is creating a little bit of trouble for them. Despite their best efforts, it doesn’t look like they’re going to be able to channel money through it without raising suspicions. Tay has a suggestion, but Mon is immediately hesitant about working with the Chandrillian banker Davo Sculdun, who she calls a “thug” not a banker. Unfortunately, if they want to help the rebellion, moral sacrifices are going to have to be made it seems.

Back on Narkina 5, things are starting to get even tenser for prisoners, as rumors start to swirl about something happening on Level 2. As we revealed yesterday in an exclusive clip, tensions begin to flare on the skybridge while Cassian and the other prisoners are waiting to start another shift. While Taga (Tom Reed) attempts to get word from prisoners on another skybridge in the distance, Melshi (Duncan Pow) ominously remarks that the Empire could keep them in the prison forever and no one would know, which sets off Kino (Andy Serkis). While last week’s episode left audiences viewing Kino as an antagonist of sorts, considering he had been elevated to acting as a foreman of Unit 5-2-D, this brief moment cracks the character wide open. Kino is clinging to the promise of his freedom and the rumors of trouble on Level 2 sets him on edge because it’s a threat to the only thing he has left to hold onto. And despite his vehement protests that nothing is happening—there is trouble brewing within the factory. Cassian eventually confronts Kino and attempts to see if he would be willing to help stage an escape, but Kino is solely focused on the 217 shifts he has left to complete. Cassian attempts to plead his case, pointing out how the Empire doesn’t care about them and essentially views them as no better than droids, but Kino isn’t willing to budge, and he isn’t willing to reveal how many guards are on each level.

Once again, Andor shows Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) at home with his mother Eedy (Kathryn Hunter) having a conversation over breakfast. These mundane moments have become an anchor point for this character and reinforce the idea of how isolated he has become since returning home. Like with previous episodes, their conversation is fraught with mother-son tension, with Syril complaining about his mother leaving dinner out for him when he told her not to, and Eedy pushing back that she does everything for him, and she gets nothing for her investment. Her criticism comes to an abrupt stop when he reveals that he’s received a promotion at work—and suddenly she’s not snidely calling him a tenant, but rather praising him as someone his uncle will be proud of. But little does she know that his promotion was designed to keep him quiet about the whole Cassian Andor situation and that it’s only driven him a little crazier. (Dedra, this one’s the “Mastermind” you should be worried about.)

Now that Dedra has cut Syril out of the conversation, he has taken up learning the path she takes to work every day so they can have a clandestine meeting to discuss the situation. Naturally, Dedra accuses him of stalking—which he is doing—and the conversation continues to spiral as Syril leans hard into fanaticism, claiming that “just being in your presence, I realized life was worth living.” Dedra pushes back, telling him he’s crazy and threatening to have him arrested if he continues to pursue her. Syril is left devastated that, yet again, no one sees his determination to do the right thing. While there’s no question that he’s actively trying to assist the bad guys, in his mind he’s trying to track down the murderer that killed two of his co-workers and no one seems to care. After shaking off her stalker, Dedra makes her way to the ISB headquarters where she discovers they have captured one of Kreegyr’s men near Steergard. Using the same tactics he used on Bix, it is revealed that Dr. Gorst managed to get the pilot talking, and he revealed that the rebels had plans centered around Spellhaus. Fearing that Kreegyr might get spooked, they plot to stage the pilot’s death to look like a tragic accident.

Rumors continue to swirl on Narkina 5, with new whispers coming in that the entirety of Level 2 got fried out for what Zinska (Mensah Bediako) called “making trouble.” The fear that something could actually be wrong finally crystalizes in Kino’s mind, leading him to lash out against Melshi who is ever the pessimist about their entire situation. But tensions reach a fever pitch when, during their shift, Ulaf succumbs to the slow-acting illness that has been weighing on him throughout the episode. Cassian tries his best to assist him, shielding him from the prying eyes of the officers watching them, but by the end of the shift, he loses his footing and control of his body. Cassian and Melshi attempt to carry him back to their cellblock, but he doesn’t make it very far—leading to Kino calling for a medic. Fearing that Melshi might make a scene, Kino sends him away and stays with Cassian while they wait for Doctor Rhasiv (Adrian Rawlins) to arrive. Unfortunately, Ulaf has had a major stroke and Rhashiv quickly accesses that he won’t survive, so he puts him out of his misery. While he administers the fatal dose of medicine, the doctor reveals that Ulaf is lucky actually because in a week they will all be wishing they were him. Kino questions him further about what really happened on Level 2 and the Rhashiv explains that someone who had already been released from the factory was accidentally returned to the same floor they had been working on and, out of fear, the Imperial officers fried the entire floor to cover up their mistake.

Realizing that they are never getting off of Narkina 5, the ninth episode of Andor ends with Kino telling Cassian that there are never more than 12 guards on a floor at any given time. The tables have turned and Kino is finally ready to stage their escape, because clearly following orders isn’t going to get him out of prison any other way.

Episode 9 delivers the same non-stop, anxiety-inducing storytelling that Beau Willimon delivered last week, with fresh subtle twists and turns that keep audiences on their toes. Tony Gilroy’s series continues to showcase what Star Wars is capable of doing; blending the tension of prestigious spy thrillers with deep commentary about the real world, all the while situating its broad cast of characters among the familiar landscape of a galaxy far, far away. As Andor heads into the final three episodes of Season 1, there is no doubt that the series will deliver some of the best storytelling to come out of the franchise since Rogue One and The Last Jedi. With Luna at the heart of the story and Gilroy’s guiding hand navigating this perilous time period, it’s primed to devastate as much as it will inspire.

Rating: A

Andor is streaming now on Disney+.

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