SPOILERS for the 12th and final episode of the first season of Star Wars Andor.
It’s no secret that Andor isn’t doing as well in terms of ratings as other Star Wars productions of the last year or even this year. In the meantime, I believe that, in addition to the somewhat leisurely pace at the beginning, the main reason was the unfortunate naming. Don’t get me wrong: Cassian Andor is so central to this story in so many ways that he deserves to put his name on one of the best sci-fi shows I’ve ever seen. But it’s about so much more than him. Stupid that the title “Star Wars Rebels” was already taken.
Andor, that is, the series, is about nothing other than the birth of rebellion. So if one were to describe the protagonist as the least interesting part in this meticulously cast and often enviably sharply observed sci-fi political thriller, one wouldn’t be wrong. But one would also be on the trail of a series’ method of breaking away from the personality cult of the rest of Star Wars fandom. The rebellion emerging here is greater than the individual – as Maarva’s last words to her son through good friend Brasso indicate: Cassian is a spark.
There is an unbearable, but not hopeless, tension about Maarva’s funeral, which begins as a single demonstration of civil disobedience (with a funeral march that subtly uses the harmonies of the Andor theme). The Empire had allowed 30 mourners, and the whole city came. And then she comes back herself, the great Fiona Shaw, if only as a hologram of the visibly drawn foster mother and sets a fuse on Ferrix’s rebellious powder keg on behalf of Andor. With the last of many excellent talks this series has given us so far.
Dedra’s ISB has kept his feet still for a long time because he thinks he can fish Andor out of the funeral procession – with the help of a bilked friend of Cassian’s who betrays his presence to Imperial Intelligence. Dissolving the event by force would mean forfeiting this opportunity. The result is an immensely tense situation that gradually comes closer to escalating, until it finally bangs. In the ensuing chaos, however, Andor prefers to free a severely traumatized Bix, who breaks your heart with only one ear at the window listening to the music.
A lot is happening here at the same time. Luthen, during Maarva’s speech, recalls the man he once embarked upon on this soul-darkening journey, while realizing that it would be a mistake to kill Andor – though it only takes Skarsgard a look and a half to do so. Syril proves to be the first useful stalker in the history of stalking as he saves Dedra from certain death in the crowd (“I should thank them” – an insanely good line that sums up the self-dehumanization of these space-fascists) and Funker Xan is the first supporting character not to be killed off by the Empire with the casualness of a true civil war.
This time the camera stays long and still on his dying face, a deliberately placed contrast that made me feel the death of this character, who had hardly appeared before, all the harder and selectively lets the humanity of the resisters outshine the chaos of violence.
The Mothma family also continues when the driver Kloris actually turns out to be an ISB informer and overhears Mon making a scene to her husband Perrin about alleged gambling. It took me until after the episode to realize that this was a clever diversion by the senator, who was more certain than we viewers that she was playing chauffeur for the other team. Movements in the Mothmas’ accounts look less suspicious with the gambling allegations. In one of the final scenes of the episode, we see Mon actually introduce her daughter to Sculdun’s son-husband, thereby finalizing her transformation into a rebel by sacrificing private happiness and beliefs to the cause. Bitter.
In the end I was a little worried about Luthen, but he ultimately does the right thing and accepts Andor into the ranks of the rebels. If he only knew what “the thief” has recently experienced and done… So all in all: Wow! It was a fantastic last episode, beautifully organic and consistent with the events of the series, which makes it all the more difficult to wait over a year for the sequel. Star Wars Andor brings a humanity to this film and television universe that the fairytale in disguise that was the original trilogy never had. It has a keen eye for the nature of fascism and oppression without despairing of the obvious parallels to reality, and in doing so, captures exactly the mature Star Wars I’ve always wanted.