‘Andor’ Asks Us to Climb Toward Rebellion

When you're at the bottom, there's only one way out.
Andor Episode Andy Serkis Climb

Star Wars Explained is our ongoing series, where we delve into the latest Star Wars shows, movies, trailers, and news stories to divine the franchise’s future. This entry examines Andor Episode 10 and how Andy Serkis locking eyes with the viewers is a call to action.

They did it. As promised during Andor‘s exceptional climax last week, Cassian (Diego Luna) and Kino Loy (Andy Serkis) rallied their former prisoners around them and rioted their way to freedom. Not everyone made it out, it’s hard to determine whether Loy found a safe shore or sunk to a watery grave, but all found heroism in the attempt. As their day shift floor manager said, it’s better to assume you’re already dead. They either perish in the escape or rot in the cells. The Empire already threw away the key.

Andor began as a pulse-pounding revolutionary thriller, but these last few episodes have elevated the series to heights the Star Wars franchise possibly has never achieved before. Art is subjective, blah, blah, blah. Your mileage may vary. However, I know I’m not alone in this thinking. Watching Andor Episode 10 the day after a Red Wave proved rather shallow injected some extra oomph into the show’s emotional core.

With every passing chapter, Andor feels less and less removed from our current political and cultural climate. George Lucas always intended Star Wars to have a little civic fervor, but A New Hope‘s anti-fascism finger-waving came off rather quaint thirty-two years after the second world war ended. And most folks at the time failed to connect Luke Skywalker’s Rebellion with the Viet Cong.

America’s distance from dictatorship has shortened dramatically in the last several years. Hopefully, most of us have a better understanding of what Congressman John Lewis fought for his entire life. Democracy is fragile, and when it breaks, it’s usually done so by our own hands. See also Padmé Amidala’s forboding words in The Phantom Menace.

The prequels, by the way, were when Lucas truly double downed on his politics, granting permission to sibling stories like The Clone Wars and Andor to run righteous. Trade Federations! Fabricated wars! Incompetent Gungan senators! Oh my.

When speaking to Rolling Stone, Andor showrunner Tony Gilroy explains how Joseph Stalin’s Georgian heist in 1907 inspired Andor’s Aldhani heist, a small violent action used to front an uprising. “This shit all costs money,” says Gilroy. “People gotta eat, they gotta get guns. You gotta get stuff.”

Gilroy and Andor‘s creative crew are treating the rise of the Rebellion deadly seriously. The dressing is Star Wars, but the meal underneath is regurgitated human history. They’ve dialed up A New Hope‘s political parallels while dialing down its Flash Gordon serial vibes. The rollicking adventure is still present, but the blaster fire smolders with consequence. No one falls down and is forgotten. When Cassian’s comrades drop dead during Episode 10’s prison riot, the camera hangs on their still bodies. We’re forced to contemplate their loss before we get back into the action.

For the second time this season, the word “climb” screams from a character’s lips. We first heard it out of the true-believer Nemik (Alex Lawther) after having his legs and torso crushed as their Aldhani escape craft rocketed starward. His last words act as a desperate encouragement, pushing Cassian through their treacherous route. The word immediately recalls K-2So’s final line in Rogue One, with his “climb” begging Cassian and Jyn Erso (Felicity Jones) to crawl their way up the Scarif data vault, where they eventually transmit the Death Star plans to their Rebel cohorts.

In Episode 10, the “climb” occurs during the initial revolt. Cassian, Kino, and their fellow shift workers have struck against their guards. They’ve shorted the electric floors and jammed the elevator between their level and the platform above. Hesitation will mean their death. There’s only one way out. Up.

Kino yells, “climb,” and the imprisoned rebel. Machine parts become clubs and projectiles, soon replaced with stolen blasters. The tiny Imperial staff cowers behind locked doors. The rioters take the command center. Cassian encourages Kino to rally the remaining inmates. He explains that they’re in charge now, but now is temporary.

Director Toby Haynes has Andy Serkis deliver his overhead address while staring directly down the camera barrel. It’s as fourth wall-shattering as anything in SheHulk. Suddenly, Kino is talking to us. We become more than his audience; we become his recruits.

“Wherever you are,” he says. “Right now, get up. Stop the work, get out of your cells, take charge, and start climbing.” Kino reiterates the numerous injustices they’re facing. A hundred men were killed on level two. The sentences they’re living are a fiction. No one beyond the prison walls knows what they’re going through.

“You see someone who is confused,” Kino continues, “someone who is lost, you get them moving, and you keep them moving until we put this place behind us.” No one is coming to help. Bitching about your current situation solves nothing. Collaborating with the system only furthers your misery. The only rescue you’ll encounter is through your own hands.

The way “climb” is executed in Andor underscores the position of those speaking. They’re on the bottom. The rebellion must rise as the Resistance and Rey Skywalker will inevitably follow in the sequel trilogy.

Again, there’s only “one way out,” Episode 10’s title. It won’t travel itself. Cassian, Kino, and you gotta make it happen.

Andor offers no easy solutions. After the harrowing prison break, we return to Coruscant, where Imperial Supervisor Lonni Jung (Robert Emms) is revealed as a Rebel mole. On a catwalk high above the planet’s surface, Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) bluntly soothes the spy’s wavering position. There are no other options; he must continue to leak information to Luthen’s people if he enjoys his family’s company. The threat is short but sharp.

Luthen is willing to part with fifty (and probably more) Rebel soldiers if that means keeping Jung in the Imperial Security Bureau. As he’s already made his perspective painfully obvious to Mon Mothma (Genevieve OReilly) in Episode 7, Luthen is happy to be the monster as long as that means fighting other monsters. Damnation is not only an acceptable casualty; it’s a necessary one.

Or is it? Episode 10’s “climb” is likely not the last one uttered in Andor. We’re still waiting for Cassian to join the cause against the Empire officially. Knowing where he ends in Rogue One, he seems like a potential Luthen clone, but maybe his thinking aligns closer with Mon Mothma’s civilized disobedience. Or, more likely, Cassian will find his heart in the manifesto written by the show’s first character to declare a “climb” – Nemik.

Cassian is a rogue with delusions of virtue. During the Aldhani heist, he scoffed at Nemik’s nobility, claiming realism, but the show’s lingering camera held the truth. Through its frame, we saw the cracks in Cassian’s cynicism. His climb from darkness and despair is in progress. As is ours. Ascension is never-ending. There’s always more that we can reach toward. Even at the bottom. Especially at the bottom.

Star Wars: Andor Episode 10 is now streaming on Disney+.

Brad Gullickson: Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)