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The ‘Andor’ Season Finale Is a Beautiful Triumph

By Mike Redmond | TV | November 26, 2022 |

By Mike Redmond | TV | November 26, 2022 |


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After The Mandalorian instantly became a pop culture juggernaut and delivered record-high numbers for Disney’s fledgling streaming service, Lucasfilm, pulled back the curtain on the flagship Star Wars series’ unique production. Using a revolutionary new filmmaking technology known as StageCraft, or “The Volume,” The Mandalorian production simulated photorealistic location shots on the fly thanks to a soundstage covered from wall-to-ceiling with LED panels. It immersed the actors in interactive environments where they no longer had to “pretend” in front of a green screen.

More to the point, StageCraft brought to life George Lucas’ dream that technology would reach a point where anyone could make a movie in their garage. (The guy famously directed the prequels from a couch.) Granted, The Mandalorian still required millions of dollars and no shortage of Hollywood talent, but The Volume was proof of concept that location shoots could be bypassed with environments quickly conjured in a small room. In theory, it streamlined filmmaking. In practice, it sacrificed artistry for convenience.

With all credit to The Mandalorian for doing an impressive job closing the gap on the Uncanny Valley, the technical term for how the human eye can differentiate between real and artificial images, there are just some things a computer can’t do. A computer can’t design an outdoor set where you can see and feel the tactile interaction between actor and stage. A computer can’t corral a living, breathing throng of background actors in actual, honest to god costumes. A computer can’t find the most human visceral shots using natural light and an array of angles that aren’t restricted to the confines of an LED arena.

Andor did not make those mistakes. It clung to humanity for its storytelling, performances, and production, and you can feel that choice in every inch of the series’ bones. Andor is the art of filmmaking firing on all cylinders. Richly detailed, gorgeously shot, emotionally charged, it is the rare project that not only lived up to its hype week after week, but exceeded that hype with a season finale that hits like a space brick to the face.

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With the penultimate episode funneling almost the entire cast onto the streets of Ferrix for Maarva’s (Fiona Shaw) funeral, the tension is goddamn palpable. That tension is fully aided by a cinematic tightness that, unfortunately, was a little loose last week. I took some heat for pointing out that Episode 11 was a slight stumble compared to Andor’s sterling track record, and now, I can point to a reason for that: The Ferrix episodes, including the finale, were shot first.

When Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) have their big moment in the finale, it’s literally their first scene together. Without getting lost in the weeds here, there were moments in Episode 11 that felt like pickup shots, particularly the final exchange between Cassian and Melshi (Duncan Pow). So if you’re an overly obsessive dork like me who can tell when something’s off, there’s a technical explanation for that. We’re not crazy. Entirely.

Anyway, with Andor’s visual language keyed in, “Rix Road” becomes a master class in ratcheting tension and paying off an entire season worth of details that all mattered. Going into Maarva’s funeral, there was a rapidly growing theory that she wasn’t dead. Full disclosure: I started to buy into it despite my assertion that it’s not the kind of “trick” this show would pull. What changed my mind? B2EMO. The little guy was doing an awful lot of charging last week, and I remembered a moment from the premiere when Cassian asked if he could lie for him. B2EMO said he had just enough of a charge for one little fib, which established a direct link between his battery capacity and deception. Fortunately, as this show does, Andor had something much better in store for Maarva.

In a nutshell, Cassian’s walking directly into a trap. Dedra is on planet to ensure the funeral is enticing enough to lure in Cassian, but also able to be slapped shut so they can contain him. Unlike her superiors at the Imperial Security Bureau, who are now erring towards displays of the Emperor’s strength instead of intelligence gathering (RIP Anto Kreegyr), Dedra is repeatedly yanking back the local ISB station’s penchant to turn the funeral into a killbox. Cassian is the key to finding “Axis,” a.k.a. Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) who is literally right under Dedra’s nose.

Dead-set on depriving Dedra of her prize, Luthen, Vel (Faye Marsay), and Cinta (Varada Sethu) are also in position along the funeral route to kill Cassian before the ISB can pump him for information. He cannot be brought back to the hotel/ISB headquarters alive. Syril and Linus Mosk (Alex Ferns) are also in the crowd where they’ll presumably cock things up for somebody. Sadly, and this is my only minor quibble with this episode, Mosk, my special boy never says a word despite a pocket literally fomenting in front of him. He loves saying when pockets foment!

In the midst of all of this, Ferrix is once again demonstrating that it’s a feisty little town that protects its own. The first Andor “mini-arc” showed a local citizenry that is willing and prepared to repel an outside force. That fight in a bottle is clearly ready to bubble over. Cassian’s presence is mostly kept hidden as Brasso (Joplin Sibtain) and the rest of the town are palpably brimming for a confrontation. They’re also ready to help the grieving Cassian. See his mom’s funeral? Sure. Save Bix (Adria Arjona) from the ISB hotel? Whatever he needs. The Empire can tighten its grip, but it will never snuff out the human bonds formed in this small worker town.

As a touching and thematic flashback shows, Cassian’s father Clem (Gary Beadle) instructs his adopted son on the importance of appreciating things that others are too easy to overlook as he restores rusty blaster parts to a lucrative state with just a little bit of elbow grease. “Eyes open, possibilities everywhere,” Clem tells his a young Cassian who has never failed to take that message to heart.

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With it becoming clear as hell that Maarva’s funeral is a powder keg, the writing in Andor once again surprises me at every turn. As many of you know, I couldn’t stand Karis (Alex Lawther) who I repeatedly referred to as “Manifesto Boy.” Well, I’ll be goddamned if the annoying little idealist didn’t give me goosebumps. As Cassian and Ferrix stand on the edge of rebellion, Lawther narrates passages from Karis’ manifesto and every single line hits. Truly the embodiment of “all bangers all the time.”

Per Ferrix tradition, Maarva has already been cremated and made into a brick that will became a part of the city. As Brasso holds Maarva’s brick at the front of the procession, unless you’re dead inside, you will want nothing more than to see Brasso slam that thing into the face of a space fascist. It is a Chekhov’s gun loaded with righteous fury.

Catching the Imperials off-guard, the funeral starts early as local musicians begin funneling into the procession. The music masks the directions of their numbers, which are clearly greater than what the ISB allowed. A fact that’s evident thanks to the incredible set design I crowed about at the beginning of this piece. Not only that, but the music is the f*cking icing on the cake. After converging together to head down the main street, the musicians switch from a somber funeral march to what is clearly a battle song. The Imperial officers are starting to freak out, but at the same time, the procession is still moving slowly and respectfully. There’s no evident cause for concern because the spark hasn’t been lit. Yet.

Upon reaching the square, B2EMO rolls up and project a massive hologram of Maarva. She begins to deliver a warm speech about the honor of being a Daughter of Ferrix and her love for hometown, but the tension is thicker than Syril’s breakfast table. Maarva pivots into a stirring cry for Ferrix to stop sleeping and stop turning a blind eye to what’s happening around them. It can no longer afford to close its eyes, and there’s only one path forward: Fight the Empire.

With the powder keg lit, the Empire starts firing into the raging crowd who are no longer fighting to keep out an inconvenient security force. Not to get all Jay Sixy, they’re fighting for their freedom. Watching from the sidelines, Luthen is clearly moved by seeing the spark of Rebellion that he started with Aldhani. The people are fighting back. For a brief moment, he actually got to see the “sunrise” that he was so certain would elude him, but also, he needs to get the hell out of here.

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As for Syril, this show continues to zig when you think it will zag. The weird little cereal boy did not cock things up. Instead, he pulled off a daring rescue of Dedra who was about to get the shit stomped out of her. After yanking her off the street by jamming a blaster in her back, she’s understandably caught by surprise when she attempts to disable her captor. And yet despite being stunned by an undeniably brave and kinda badass rescue, she still couldn’t bring herself to kiss Syril. Somewhere, his mom chuckled while stirring a cup of space tea.

With the town in chaos thanks to Maarva making damn good on her promise to fight for the Rebellion, Cassian exploits the opportunity to rescue Bix, who is not doing great. The torture device used on her almost definitely broke her brain. It’s not pretty, and Cassian does his best to coax her out of the ISB hotel and onto a ship where Brasso and B2EMO are waiting. He gives the pilot instructions on how to get off-planet quickly and promises to meet up with them later, but there’s considerable doubt even as Bix tells B2EMO that Cassian will find you. But our boy has another fish to fry.

In the lead-up to the funeral, Cassian spotted Luthen in the crowd and correctly clocked that he was there to kill him. However, Luthen abandoned that objective as Maarva’s revolt broke out and retreated back to his ship that’s waiting in the same spot as his last visit to Ferrix. The visit where he picked up Cassian for the Aldhani mission.

After 12 episodes of showing ruthless cunning and meticulous planning, Luthen apparently never considered the possibility that Cassian might spot him or remember where he parks his shop. Is this an example of the “slipping” that Kleya was worried about earlier in the season? Well, none of that matters because Cassian is standing right in front of Luthen and knows he was there to kill him. But in another move that Luthen didn’t see coming, Cassian is now fully radicalized by his mother’s actions. There’s a gun waiting on the seat for Luthen to pick up and Cassian makes what needs to happen next clear. If his death is the best way to help the Rebellion, do it. If it’s not, he’s in 100%. As Tony Gilroy will later describe in interviews, Cassian has made a “blood oath” to the Rebellion that’s now set in stone. Luthen couldn’t be happier. He just watched the people of Ferrix rise up and now he has a new recruit who’s resourceful as shit. The dude broke into the lightsaber ship that’s definitely a lightsaber. What a day!

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Of course, it wouldn’t be an episode of Andor without an emotional kick in the teeth from Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly). More than anything Andor has ever done, this was the moment I knew this show is even more special than my feeble little mind realized. How? I legitimately felt bad for her husband.

If you’ve been following these recaps from week-to-week, I’ve routinely called Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie) a man-bunned douchebag who’s so bored from being in an arranged marriage since he was 15 that he’ll mingle with his wife’s political enemies if it’ll provide even a single ounce of entertainment. And, yet, I couldn’t help but wince seeing him getting thrown under the bus.

While waiting in the car for her husband to leave a party, Mon is visibly perturbed. However, what we’ll soon learn is this is all a show for her driver, who is definitely an ISB spy as she’s suspected all season. When Perrin gets in, still holding a drink, Mon requests privacy from the driver who pretends to obey the command but is totally listening in. Knowing she has an audience, Mon rips into a visibly confused Perrin for gambling again. My dude is getting sandbagged as she’s thoroughly embarrassed that he’s not only back to his old habit, but on Coruscant where it’s illegal. (Shout out to the Canto Bight reference. The Last Jedi forever!)

Of course, Perrin is not gambling, and in a genuinely protective move, he becomes concerned that someone is spreading lies about him to hurt Mon. He respectfully pleads his case that she can check their accounts and find everything in order, which is true because he’s not the one jeopardizing their finances. He also offers to help sort this out so they can find out who is targeting Mon. Unfortunately, Mon cannot back off this charade. She knows the driver will report back to the ISB about Perrin’s gambling, which he does, and it creates an explanation for her suspicious bank transactions. And, yet, it gets worse.

Not only does Mon call Perrin a liar, but she essentially makes him responsible for pushing their daughter into an arranged marriage. Neither one of them wanted Leida (Bronte Carmichael) to experience what they did. It was the one topic where Mon and Perrin were united, but instead, she made a cold, calculated sacrifice for the Rebellion. It was Mon and Perrin’s worst fear realized, and she laid the blame at his unsuspecting feet. Luthen would be proud.

And, yup, that’s the end of the finale. Absolutely nothing happened after the end credits because, c’mon, this is prestige television, folks, not some Marvel show. It’s not like Andor would rob one of its most strikingly potent metaphors for, I dunno, a cheap Death Star reveal. That’s crazy talk. You’re crazy. Andor with an end credits scene. Haha, good one.

Mike Drops

Roxana had a chance to interview Tony freaking Gilroy for Vulture, and like the finale, she knocked it out of the goddamn park. It’s a fascinating exploration of the road to Maarva’s big moment and what’s in store for Season 2. Roxana did an amazing job, and I particularly enjoyed Gilroy explaining how Andor pulled from a wide swath of historical events to tell Andor’s story of rebellion, oppression, and the human toll of each. What elevates these first 12 episodes is that they’re about so much more than Trump or the Iraq War or whatever American-centric box people have tried to cage it in. Its beauty is that its themes are so much more universal. Like its main character, Andor will not be contained.

— I just want to sincerely thank everybody for reading and commenting on these recaps. This is the longest I’ve ever covered a series, and I’m not gonna lie, I started freaking out when it became clear right out of the gate that Andor was going to slap. When these things are terrible (See: The Book of Boba Fett, Obi-Wan Kenobi) it makes my job very easy because I have an open field to be a snarky asshole. When it’s something as top notch as Andor? I’ve been sweating bullets each week. I mean, Christ, I couldn’t even dunk on Perrin anymore. The aloof bastard got done dirty — just like my intelligence with that end credits scene. (Still got it.)