Cassian Stages the Prison Break of the Century

Dec 22, 2022

At the end of last week’s episode, Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) revealed that there are only ever twelve guards on duty, and with Episode 10 of Andor, Cassian (Diego Luna) plans to take full advantage of the Empire’s weaknesses. But even after learning that no one is getting off Narkina 5, Kino is still hesitant about pushing back against the Imperial Officers—he is still convinced that they have the power in the situation. Of course, Cassian doesn’t see it that way, because “power doesn’t panic.” Since his arrival at the Imperial factory facility, he has seen the way the officers scramble to cover shifts and struggle with maintaining control. He’s also observed that the officers are at their weakest when they introduce new prisoners to their unit, which means they have to act fast in the wake of Ulaf’s (Christopher Fairbank) death.

Cassian’s insistence that the tide is going to change for them pushes Kino into a crisis of faith. He’s still desperately clinging to the idea that he might actually finish his sentence and be let off Narkina 5. He has been a model prisoner: he’s kept his head down and followed rules, overseen the work of other prisoners, and done what he was supposed to do. But Cassian knows, firsthand, that it doesn’t matter if you do the right thing — the Empire is going to find a reason to lock people up, keep them locked away, or kill them. It’s only after Cassian tells Kino, “I’d rather die trying to take them down than give them what they want.” that Kino finally sees what they have to do. At first, none of the other prisoners believe Cassian when he reveals what happened on Level 2, but Kino finally snaps and confirms that everything is true and no one is getting out.

While the uprising on Narkina 5 takes center stage in Episode 10, Andor doesn’t lose sight of the other plots unfolding across the galaxy. At the Imperial Security Bureau, Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and the rest of the ISB celebrate their successful mission after Kreegyr’s men fell for the trap they set with the pilot. But one of the ISB officers doesn’t seem as jubilant as the rest. Lonni Jung (Robert Emms) cautions them that they don’t want to raise any suspicions with Kreegyr and his men, so in order to keep up the status quo they will need to “take an interest” in the pilot’s death. While this scene seems fairly straightforward, it also brings Lonni into the foreground and prepares audiences for the twist at the end of the episode.

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Of course, the rebels aren’t the only ones to have installed a spy to watch their enemies. On Ferrix, a group of locals and Doctor Mullmoy (Matt Dunkley) talk amongst themselves about the fact that Maarva isn’t taking her medicine because it’s putting her off her food. That scene smartly showcases that not only is Cinta (Varda Sethu) keeping an eye on Maarva’s house—but Corv (Naoufal Ousellam) has been left behind to watch what’s happening around Cassian’s childhood home. While Corv and Cinta don’t necessarily cross paths, it seems like Andor may be preparing audiences for Cinta to run into trouble on Ferrix.

On Coruscant, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is facing the consequences of agreeing to go along with Tay’s (Ben Miles) plan to work with Davo Sculdun (Richard Dillane) in order to funnel their money under the Empire’s radar. The three of them are very careful with how they speak about the situation, even though it’s just seemingly the three of them in Mothma’s residence. There’s a lot of doublespeak wrapped within Davo’s questioning about her marriage to Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie) and his praise for “the old ways” on Chandrila. He attempts to pressure Mon into admitting that she and Tay are looking for a more fluid banking situation for their foundation, something that will allow him to “bundle” their financial contributions to avoid scrutiny from the Empire’s cumbersome oversight—but she quickly realizes he isn’t going to give her any of this without something being given in return.

While he has no interest in charging them a fee for helping their “charity,” he does wish to arrange a meeting between his teenage son and her 13-year-old daughter Leida (Bronte Carmichael). Andor has shown what a miserable relationship Mon has with Perrin and has made a point of addressing that they were trapped in an arranged marriage, and Mon’s panic is palpable as she realizes that her own daughter might be damned to face a similar situation in order for her to follow the vow she made to the rebels. Even after Davo assures her that he isn’t looking for a betrothal for his son, Mon refuses to even consider the offer—but Davo points out that that is untrue. If they intend to keep the foundation’s financial movements under the radar, Mon is going to have to accept Davo’s offer, and that realization nearly brings her to tears.

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Back on Narkina 5, the next day has arrived and Kino gives the prisoners in his unit a rallying speech about how they’re done counting shifts. His attitude has completely shifted now that the reality of their situation has fully set in. He tells them there’s only then and now: he no longer cares about living or dying because he’s assuming he’s already dead. What’s so fascinating about this point, that Beau Willimon’s script seems to be driving home, is that this is a theme that’s carried within Cassian all the way through to the events on Scarif. From this point forward Cassian lives like he knows he’s going to die—and we, as an audience, know that he is going to give everything to ensure the Empire doesn’t win. Narkina 5 is the small, flickering flame that lights the forest fire within him.

The prisoners aren’t the only ones on edge after the “disruption” on Level 2. The Imperial officers warn the prisoners on the skybridge that no one is allowed to speak during shift transfer, and they push the idea of collective punishments for non-compliance. The officers may not know what is about to happen, but it is clear that they recognize that they can only contain the prisoners for so long once word gets out about what really happened to Level 2. Once they settle into the shift, Taga (Tom Reed) starts stressing that he’s going to die and Cassian attempts to calm him down, even though there is a very real chance that none of them are going to make it off Narkina 5 alive.

Like with “Nobody’s Listening,” Cassian takes off to the fresher during his break and resumes sawing away at the pipe with his makeshift shiv. This time, however, he has to succeed in cutting through the pipe completely before the prisoner transfer is complete. The tension mounts as he struggles with it, resorting to pulling and prying at it while the countdown begins to get on program before they’re all punished for non-compliance. As the officers step onto the platform above him, Cassian manages to cut the pipe and make it back into the main room just as Birnok (Rasaq Kukoyi) gets into position. The officers are running behind, and in their haste to get the transfer completed they are entirely oblivious to the fact Cassian is soaking wet, that a pipe is leaking, and that all the prisoners are starting to arm themselves with their equipment. Ham (Clemens Schick) and Xaul (Josef Davies) start a fight to cause an even bigger distraction, buying Cassian time to break the lift while Birnok jumps onboard to take out the guards. As hell starts to break loose, the prisoners start throwing their tools and the equipment that they’ve been forced to make at the guards—turning the product of the imprisonment into their weapons.

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In a last-ditch attempt to waylay the inevitable, the Imperial officers turn the floors on, but the prisoners manage to jump up onto the worktables to avoid being fried, and, with the water from the leak cascading across the floor and soaking through the poor construction, the quick shock of electricity causes the facility to short out and essentially cripples it.

With the floors shut off, the prisoners are able to make their escape, climbing up the lift and spilling into the sterile corridors of the factory. Kino and Cassian head up to where the command center is, while Melshi (Duncan Pow) and the rest of the surviving prisoners make their way to liberate the rest of the factory. When Kino and Cassian arrive in the command center, they discover it’s just three guys manning the room, and the one that has been the voice of God is using a filter to manipulate his voice to sound more intimidating. In reality, he’s just a spindly officer who is quick to cower when one of his fellow officers is shot dead. Cassian makes them shut off the floors throughout the facility, but turning them off isn’t enough—he wants them to cut the power to the entire facility to put an end to the torture once and for all.

In an absolute power move after weeks of being forced to stand on program and obey their every command and rule, Cassian forces the two officers to get a taste of submission. Even though he has been the architect behind their escape, Cassian realizes that he can’t be the one to give the rallying cry to the rest of the prisoners; it has to be Kino because he is the one that tells them what to do every day. Reluctantly, Kino stands before the mic and informs everyone in the factory that the prisoners are now in control of the facility, but it’s very much a weak, half-hearted announcement. Cassian prods Kino to do better than that and, in typical Andy Serkis form, he delivers a soul-stirring speech that incorporates Cassian’s profound words from the start of the episode. What’s so profound about those words—“I’d rather die trying to take them down than give them what they want”—is that it is essentially what Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) told Cassian when he was trying to get him to invest in the Aldhani mission: “Wouldn’t you rather give it all at once to something real than carve off useless pieces till there’s nothing left?” This is why authoritarian regimes try to silence and suppress rebellious speech, because they know how powerful it is when ideas are shared and passed along. All it takes is one spark.

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As the prisoners start to break free of their workrooms and cells, Kino tells them, “If we can fight half as hard as we have been working, we’ll be home in no time.” But as they make their upward ascent to the loading dock where they were first brought to the factory, Kino makes a chilling discovery that solidifies his belief that he was already dead. The factory is located in the middle of a vast ocean, and he can’t swim. As Cassian moves to the edge, victorious and hopeful, he looks back and watches as Kino realizes his fate has been sealed. Before the two men are able to truly say goodbye to one another, Cassian is knocked off the ledge in the rush to freedom. While Cassian and Melshi manage to make it to shore—Kino’s fate is left unknown, though it is easy to extrapolate.

Earlier in the episode, Kleya (Elizabeth Dulau) comes to Luthen and informs him that there have been markings left around the city indicating that someone wants to meet with Luthen. It’s been over a year since the last contact was made, and with everything that has been happening, Kleya is worried that it could be a trap. If it’s a trap, Luthen doesn’t seem very pressed about it and takes the meeting against what seems to be better judgment.

As anticipated, in the lower levels of Coruscant, which stand in stark contrast to the austere grandeur of places like Mon Mothma’s residence, Lonni makes his way to rendezvous with Luthen. At first, Luthen doesn’t reveal himself, opting to have a conversation with Lonni over the com system in a lift, which is where Luthen makes it clear that he’s been watching Lonni. Since the last time they spoke, Lonni has become a new father and Luthen slyly uses that knowledge as leverage to ensure that Lonni hasn’t lured him into a trap, which he hasn’t. Instead, Lonni has come to tell Luthen all about Dedra and her theories about the Axis, how she’s tearing Ferrix apart to try to figure out who the middle man was that was aiding the thief they’re tracking down. Luthen largely feigns disinterest in Lonni’s intel, claiming that Dedra is wasting her time and claiming that he had nothing to do with Aldhani, in fact, he declined to be involved in it at all. Lonni continues to try to appease him with the information he has gathered, he reveals the plot with the pilot’s death, warns him about Spellahuse, and Luthen starts to realize why Lonni is telling him all of this information, so he assures him that he’s willing to lose fifty of Kreegyr’s men if it means keeping Lonni positioned within the Empire.

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Finally, Lonni and Luthen meet face-to-face so Lonni can admit that the only reason he arranged the meeting was so that he could tell Luthen that he was done and that he was planning to quit the ISB because he just can’t handle the stress anymore. Luthen is quick to point out that Lonni’s plan is ridiculous because the ISB wouldn’t let him go any more than he intends to let him go. After six years of working his way through the ranks, he’s stuck.

Broken by everything he has had to sacrifice for the cause, Lonni questions Luthen about what he has sacrificed, because to him, it doesn’t look like Luthen is suffering the way he has. Everything shifts in Luthen’s expression as he puts to words what he has sacrificed to ensure the rebellion survives. He has sacrificed calm, kindness, kinship, and love. He shares his dreams with ghosts and yearns to be a savior against injustice. He burns his decency for someone else’s future. He burns his life to make a sunrise that he will never see. He has sacrificed everything for the rebellion. And this seals all of their fates, essentially. Once you’re part of the rebellion, part of the movement, there is no stopping. In order to be the spark for someone else’s flame, some part of you has to burn.

The Narkina 5 arc has delivered some truly awe-inspiring concepts, themes, scene designs, and performances. Serkis, Skarsgård, and Forest Whitaker were powerhouses within these three episodes, delivering performances that showcased both large emotions and the subtle ones restricted to shifting looks and curled lips. But at the heart of all the turmoil was Luna’s performance as Cassian came to terms with his situation. From this point forward, it seems like Cassian will no longer be able to sit on the sidelines and watch the Empire—he’s going to have to take action and fight back with real purpose.

Rating: A

Andor is streaming now on Disney+.

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