Star Wars: Andor Recap: What Radicalized You? (Season 1, Episodes 4-6)
We’re running a recap series of Andor on Disney+. There are spoilers, duh! You’ve been warned.
At this point in the Star Wars timeline, the Rebel Alliance remains little more than random pockets of insurrection scattered across the galaxy, an incessant buzzing in the ears of Imperial middle managers. Yet with the secret support of sympathizers like Senator Mon Mothma and the financial backing of antiquities dealer and professional wig-wearer Luthen Rael, the hodgepodge Rebellion has planned its most audacious attack yet.
A small motley crew has conspired to infiltrate an Imperial outpost on Aldhani and rob a garrison brimming with credits. The idea is simple. Cassian Andor, having been thrust into the heist by Luthen, will disguise himself as an Imperial soldier, along with stormtrooper-turned-rebel Taramyn Barcona, revolutionary ideologue (and manifesto writer) Karis Nemik, and a peeved-off opportunist Arvel Skeen. They have the help of an Imperial traitor on the inside, Lieutenant Gorn, making straight and preparing the squad’s way. At the same time, two other foot soldiers remain on the outside: Cinta Kaz and their team leader, Vel, jamming all communications coming to and from the base.
In the words of Al Pacino from Heat: “This crew is good.”
Editor’s Note: The writer previously quoted Michael Mann’s 1995 masterpiece crime drama in his last recap and will not be permitted to do so again.
We’ve discussed before how comically easy it is to sneak into Imperial bases in the Star Wars universe. Yet here, in just one of the many, many ways Andor messes with the franchise’s usual conventions, it’s taken these last three episodes to demonstrate just how complicated such a feat would actually be.
The scheme is set to take place under the veil of “the Eye of Aldhani,” a triennial, awe-inspiring celestial event (and occasion of spiritual significance to the planet’s native Dhani population) in which a gazillion meteors harmlessly burn through the planet’s atmosphere, creating a kaleidoscope of explosive color in the sky. With a demoralized and bored Imperial crew distracted by the spectacle, the rebels have reasoned the Eye is a perfect diversion for their sneak attack.
Upon entering the garrison, Andor and the crew capture an Imperial officer, Jayhold Beehaz, along with the man’s wife and son. They hold the family hostage, forcing Jayhold to open the garrison’s vault, at which point the rebels make Jayhold and the vault’s crew load a nearby freighter with heaps of Imperial credits.
Like with any good TV or movie heist, all does not go according to plan. A comms soldier picks up the insurrectionist frequency and is alerted to the crime in progress. He leads a small squad to the vault, and a firefight ensues. Taramyn and Gorn are killed. Jayhold suffers a heart attack. Meanwhile, Andor manages to pilot the ship out of the base under a barrage of TIE fighter artillery and exploding meteors, with Nemik, Skeen, and Val in tow. Unfortunately, in the high-speed race to escape, Nemik is pinned down and seriously injured by a heavy, unsecured rack of credits.
Rather than make a clean break with the prize, Skeen insists they detract from the plan and convinces a reluctant Vel and Andor to fly Nemik to a nearby doctor on a remote planet. Later, with Nemik under anesthesia as Vel observes the operation in another room, Skeen isolates Andor and solicits a new proposition: betray Vel, abandon the Rebellion, steal the ship, and split the haul of eighty million credits between the two of them.
“So no rebellion for you?” Andor asks him.
“Oh, I’m a rebel. It’s just, uh…” Skeen trails off. “…me against everybody else.”
Skeen reasons he and Andor are just alike. Both were “born in the hole,” trying to claw their way out over other people. But with little hesitation, Andor interrupts the speech and shoots Skeen dead. Andor took issue with the insinuation that he is a common criminal without a moral code to a higher cause. That, or he reasoned Skeen would kill him at the first chance.
Nemik dies on the table. The crew may be good, but at this point, it is also mostly dead.
Disillusioned and ready to get the heck out of dodge, Andor ambushes Vel and the doctor at gunpoint. He tells them of Skeen’s betrayal, demanding his share of the loot and returning the kyber crystal necklace that Luthen had given him as a downpayment. Vel relents, but only after bestowing a copy of Nemik’s unpublished manifesto to Cassian.
“He said to give this to you,” she tells her captor.
Cassian has had enough. “I don’t want it.”
“He insisted,” she implores him.
Cassian grabs the draft and escapes, credits in hand, a free man.
There’s a kinda-jokey yet mostly-serious Internet meme where people share the moments that “radicalized” them. They’re the experiences that take a man or woman from inaction to action, from apathist to revolutionary. Halfway through the first season of Andor, we’ve not yet seen the inciting event that transforms our protagonist from a poor, dodgy survivalist with a loose moral code into the spy willing to die (and kill) for the Rebellion that we saw in Rogue One.
Cassian Andor has presumably experienced many such radicalizing events already. We have reason to believe a young Kassa’s biological parents were killed in a mining disaster with the rest of Kenari’s adult population. It was a disaster caused by a greedy, power-hungry pre-Imperial Republic.
Some years later, before the events of this series, Andor’s adopted father Clem was executed by the Empire as well.
On top of this, Cassian’s oppression under Imperial (and Republic) rule appears inextricably tied to his status as a marginalized indigenous man with an accent, targeted and harassed because of his “outside” immigrant status.
Are we to believe that the gift of a first draft manifesto will be the key to unlocking Andor’s eventual radicalization? Perhaps. I doubt the show will have a scene where Andor reads the book and sets it down with tears in his eyes, a changed man. But it’s possible.
Life-altering prose tends to scratch at abiding itches. The best books are filled with our missing puzzle pieces.
The works that have changed my life put words to ideas I’d felt in my bones long before I ever read them. Nemik’s manifesto may be one of the last pebbles that tips the scale from Kassa on the run to Cassian on the warpath.