Riding high off the final seconds of last week’s episode, Andor hits the ground running in “One Way Out” as a quickly-radicalized Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) and Cassian (Diego Luna) commit to escaping their Imperial prison now or be trapped inside its factory gears forever. Episode 10 is a crisp, tight experience — possibly even Andor’s shortest installment yet — and yet it still continued the show’s uncanny ability to deliver a heady glass full of dramatic tension. The writing for this show is easily on par with any Emmy contender, and if it’s not recognized next year, you’re going to find me breaking elevator pipes in a bathroom and staging a revolt.
Let’s do this.
“No Way Out” kicks off with the body of Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank) being carted past the prisoners/slave laborers on a floating stretcher, and Andor truly does not get enough props for aping the ’70s retro futuristic look from A New Hope. Don’t get me wrong, The Mandalorian did a great job at aping that classic trilogy feel, but you could splice scenes from Andor directly into the first film and you’d never know they were from 40 years later. The whole THX 1138 aesthetic also doesn’t hurt.
After that moment of bleak existential dread, Cassian and Kino are somehow in a separate room by themselves. It took me a minute to clock what was going on here, but we’re apparently catching up with them immediately after the barn-buster “Never more than 12” line. They’re in an entryway between where Ulaf died and the prisoner bunks. Despite seemingly committing himself to escape, Kino is already having second thoughts. Cassian is saying we need to move now, and in some fantastic acting from Serkis, Kino is visibly torn between fully knowing his sentence is a bullsh*t carrot dangled on a stick and wanting to return to the comfort of chasing that carrot. One of those doesn’t involve fighting his way out of a massively oppressive underwater structure, so you can appreciate his dilemma.
Cassian, however, knows time is very short. They just learned that the prison wiped out an entire floor of inmates all because the Imperials made the mistake of rotating a man back in after he’d been released. The facility is afraid of the prisoners learning the truth about their sentences because it doesn’t have the manpower to hold them all off. Yet. Once again showing his resourcefulness and all-too-frequent experience with being put under a boot, Cassian explains to Kino why they need to attack tomorrow before the Imperials have time to add more guards.
Kino is, again, understandably terrified at the prospect, and that’s when Cassian drops a line that I’m sure made tons of people pump their fist and yell “F*ck yeah!” in their living rooms.
“I’d rather die trying to take them down than giving them what they want.”
That is a damn good line, and I truly hope people enjoyed it. Unfortunately, it made me groan after years of guillotine memes and unserious pseudo-revolutionaries with white-collar jobs yelling “Up against the wall!” or “Burn it all down!” Starting around 2015 an entire ecosystem sprung up on Twitter that convinced a bunch of gullible idiots that electing Bernie Sanders is the pathway to turning America into a new Communist Russia, which was actually awesome by the way. Long story short, I’m a jaded old man from having front row seats for some super dumb shit.
Anyway, Kino finally commits himself to the attack and surprises the men in their bunks by dropping his no-nonsense demeanor and letting them know the rumors are true. There is no getting out. They’re doing this thing in the morning, and they shouldn’t fear what happens because just by being in the prison, they’re already dead.
In a nutshell, the entire jailbreak slaps from start to finish. It easily surpasses the Aldhani heist because, as always, Andor does not drop an episode that isn’t progressively better than the one before it. As much as I hated the cringe factor of the “die trying to take them down” line, I literally had goosebumps watching the inmates realize the strength in their numbers. The whole thing was beautifully executed from the action choreography to Andy Serkis’ performance. We seriously need to stop hiding that man behind CGI characters.
And, yet, despite the emotional payoff of the Narkina 5 jailbreak that would’ve made for a stellar installment just by itself, this episode was just getting warmed up.
There’s a reason Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) is the header image. If you’ve been following along with these recaps, you know how I feel about Mon’s husband. The dude sucks, and this show has made it a point of emphasizing that Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie) is an insufferable rich douche who just wants to get drunk at parties with politicians who aren’t “boring,” which is clearly what he thinks of his wife. Well, now we know why Perrin has been an obnoxious space Proud Boy, and it’s yet another example of Andor firing shots from corners you will never see coming.
Still working with Tay Kolma (Ben Miles) to free up her family funds so she can more discretely finance the Rebellion, Mon agrees to meet with a “Chandrilan thug” named Davo Sculdun (Richard Dillane). True to his reputation, Sculdun is overseeing a shadowy financial apparatus that has been so profitable, he literally doesn’t care about money anymore. He does, however, care deeply about Chandrilan traditions, particularly one that’s been in front of our faces the whole time.
Sculdun can easily help Mon with gaining discrete access to her family funds, but one of the most brutal shoe drops in the entire show arrives when Mon attempts to negotiate her fee. Again, Sculdun doesn’t want money. He would simply like to visit Mon’s home again — with his 14-year-old son.
How many weeks have we all spent wondering what’s going to happen with Mon’s daughter? Leida (Bronte Carmichael) has always been there, occasionally bubbling up above the surface of the show, and there was clearly some sort of danger in those appearances. Was she going to rat out her mom? Disown her when Mon’s rebel activity finally comes to light? There has to be some gut punch coming.
Turns out, it was something far, far worse than anyone could’ve ever imagined: She has to marry an a-hole like her dad.
Goddamn, you play too hard, Andor.
The Torment of Darth Luthen
So, just to reiterate, this episode already staged a magnificent jailbreak that paid off two claustrophobic episodes of the Empire’s slave labor apparatus along with a brilliant character arc in Kino Loy, walloped Mon Mothma with the worst dramatic stakes on the entire show, and there’s still an outstanding scenery-chewing performance left to go? Jesus Christ.
For weeks now, I’ve clocked Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) as basically the Emperor of the Rebellion. Like Palpatine, Luthen is a master strategist who’s keenly adept at playing an intricate game of chess across entire systems of planets. The Aldhani heist fired off a chain reaction from the Empire, and Luthen now has to grapple with the fruits of his accelerationist plot that has made his job exponentially more difficult.
Luthen’s latest plot to attack an Imperial stronghold on Spellhaus seems to falling apart due to the heightened diligence of the Imperial Security Bureau. And it is. However, this episode reveals a card that many suspect Luthen had up his sleeve the whole time: A spy in the ISB. Like everything in Andor, the spy is not Dedra or any of the suspects that have been tossed around. Instead, it’s Lonni Jung (Robert Emms), an innocuous character who has seemed like nothing more than a standard ISB bureaucrat.
The problem is Lonni wants out. He just had a baby and being a Rebel spy in the thick of the ISB is a good way to orphan the little tyke. Much like the Empire, Luthen does not let go of his prizes. He informs Lonni that he’s too valuable and will stay where he is at the price of the Rebel team who is walking into a trap on Spellhaus. Lonni balks at the lives being thrown away to keep him in place and asks Luthen what he’s sacrificing for all of this prompting Andor to roll up its sleeves and swing at the fences.
While clad in a flowing dark cloak and black gloves, Luthen delivers a monologue whose lines I won’t repeat because they would rob them of their proper place coming from Stellan Skarsgård’s mouth. This is pure Shakespearean drama like nothing this franchise has ever seen before. Only just now am I also realizing it can be read as a sly “F*ck you” to Kylo Ren’s speech about being torn in The Force Awakens.
You see, Luthen truly is the Emperor of the Rebellion, and he hates that fact with every fiber of his being. Unlike Star Wars’ usual brand of one-dimensional characters, Luthen is truly torn apart by his ego pushing him to engage in the task at hand. He has no true friends, he is alone with his thoughts far too often, and he’ll most likely die before seeing his victory achieved. Without the aid of the Force, Luthen will topple the entire Empire with nothing but his ruthless intellect that allows him to treat human lives as nothing more than pawns. He has adopted the methods of his enemy, and it has damned him to an internal hell of his own making. A necessary hell, but a hell nonetheless.
— Someone suggested a name change for this section a while back, and my apologies for not remembering who. But not only did I love it, I George Lucas’d this bitch and changed the heading in every single recap. Just like in the sack, I shoot first now. … Wait.
— Did Kino break out of prison only to die because he couldn’t swim? If you prefer to keep that ending ambiguous, don’t read any further. We good? In a new interview with Tony Gilroy, he specifically pushes back on the notion that Kino drowned and notes that you don’t see him die. Our brand new baby revolutionary is still out there.
— Speaking of Tony Gilroy interviews, I don’t make it a point to read them before going into these recaps. In fact, I try not to because I want these things to be mostly vibes. I don’t want to know each episode’s intent. I want to communicate the message it beamed into my thick skull. That said, I couldn’t resist diving into Gilroy’s latest chat with The Hollywood Reporter where they picked his brain about this episode and Andor in general. It was just too goddamn fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the part where he pushed back on the whole mini-arc narrative because, while there are definitely little three part stories tucked into the show, they only work because of what’s happened in the entire season. The shoe drop with Mon Mothma’s daughter only hits because her husband has been a dick going all the way back to his introduction in Episode 4 where he whined about not getting to hang out with fun fascists. God, he sucks so bad.
— In addition to the Luthen speech being a Shakespearean smorgasbord, just in those few short minutes Andor completely ate Obi-Wan Kenobi’s lunch in showing the seedy underbelly of the Star Wars universe. While allowing that The Mandalorian Season 3 could end up absolutely rocking — and I genuinely hope it does — Lucasfilm needs to be doing some serious soul-searing on how much it plans to rely on The Volume.
— Speaking of Obi-Wan, as much as I’m fully onboard with Andor’s ground-level approach to the Rebellion and how the Empire crushes ordinary people beneath its heel, I kind of want to see this show put its gritty, suffocating stamp on Vader albeit very, very briefly. Which is wild because I f*cking hated the Vader scene in Rogue One. Hated it. But this production has been so pitch perfect that it would be neat to see Cassian or Luthen catch a quick glimpse at what the Empire is packing even though underwater human grist mill prison did a significant amount of heavy lifting. Like, surprise, the Empire is exactly as ruthless as you expect, but also, it’s got a f*cking Jedi robot guy with neck snap magic. This feeling may pass, and I really hope it does because Andor is light years beyond that level of fan service. But if it could thread the needle of not feeling like fan service and continue to outdo Rogue One in every single way? We got a stew going.