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 9 and the boiling prison break threatening to transform the series into the best Star Wars entry ever.
Staring at the corpse in the Imperial corridor, I found my brain drifting toward The Shawshank Redemption. “Hope is a dangerous thing,” Red tells Andy somewhere near the film’s midpoint. “It can kill a man.” He’s trying to shake some brutal sense into his prison pal. Dreams of life outside could poison the mind and blind them from the encaged reality they’re living inside. It’s better to stomp out hope and accept their never-ending prison sentence.
In Star Wars: Andor, Cassian (Diego Luna) faces a similar suffocation. He needs out. His six-year stretch is looking more and more like a death sentence every day. His mind is cranking, he’s plotting his freedom, but he needs critical assistance from the shackled suckers around him. He especially needs to know how many guards wander the floors. What kind of resistance will they encounter when they revolt?
The floor boss, Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), wants to hear none of it. He has his shifts in front of him, and once they’re completed, he can return to the outside world. He wishes his subordinates would toe the line like him. Keep your mouth shut, and don’t even dream about escape because the Imperials probably have a way to access those thoughts as easily as they can hear a murmur of descent.
Cassian attempts to bend his ear before bed. He begs Kino to tell him what he knows of the installation that houses them. Kino turns his back. Cassian screams at him, “Nobody’s Listening.” Somewhere Leonardo DiCaprio sits upward abruptly, hearing the episode’s title card chime.
Cassian’s right. The Empire lacks imagination. They could never consider an uprising from below. They’ve got these souls under “their care” smashed.
The Stormtroopers may have their ears clogged, but the walls around Kino’s obstinance are crumbling. He’s taking in Cassian’s words. He’s mulling them over. When Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank) succumbs to a stroke, and a “good doctor” is called in to deal with the matter, Kino recontextualizes his narrow existence.
The doc injects Ulaf with the last substance he’ll ever consume. He sputters a final breath, and a bag and trolly are called to collect him. Cassian gets the doc to confirm the rumors going through the jail. A whole prison shift was eradicated when they discovered an inmate, who was supposedly due for release, was merely moved into another group. Freedom is no longer an option for anyone.
That’s when something awakens in Kino. He doesn’t even realize it, but Cassian can see the gears shifting. As they march back to their section, he again asks how many guards handle each floor. This time, Kino answers, “Never more than twelve.”
Hot damn! If that line doesn’t get you on your feet, then you better check your pulse. Andor refuses to give its characters or its audience relief. From the jump, the series has set its plot on boil. We’re seeing a universe with its neck under the Emperor’s boot. There are the folks resisting the squish from above, and there are the folks adding their weight to the wrinkly monster’s heel. Both parties appear agonized, but one feels righteous while the other feels painfully pathetic. Understanding which group is which should be easy, but you can no longer make such assumptions these days. Beware those wearing “The Empire Was Right” shirts.
When we first met Kino Loy last week, he seemed like a vicious antagonist for Cassian. He’s a betrayer to his kind. The man who holds the whip to others so he can score a little less pain for himself. Last week, Andy Serkis played him with callous precision. A heartless thug who will prove to be an inconvenient roadblock for our soon-to-be Rebel hero.
Throughout Episode 9, I waited for Kino to make life worse for Cassian. In a quiet whisper, I begged Cassian to lay off the dude. Don’t let the boss know you have dark designs toward the Empire. Definitely don’t reveal to him that you’re planning a bust-out.
Andor‘s brilliance is making this mini-monster an ally. Well, let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Kino Loy still has plenty of time to prove troublesome. However, Episode 9’s final moments put a smile across my face so sharp it could cut steel.
“No more than twelve.” Four words. They slap with a victory yet to come but certainly to occur. Cassian gets out; he’s got Rogue One waiting for him. We take comfort in this foregone conclusion even while we acknowledge it as his unstoppable end. Andor builds tension by underscoring the ever-tightening noose on everyone’s neck. All on-screen players are dead-Cassians walking; the entertainment comes from seeing how each character prepares for and meets their end.
Kino Loy discovering the hopelessness of his current situation activates him in a way that we would not have believed after meeting him in Episode 8. He believed in the Empire and its rules. With the lie exposed, a new anger comes forth and, with it, a willingness to hitch his ride to Cassian’s.
What Cassian knows, and what Kino comes to discover, is that hope is a practice. You have to think on it; you have to work on it. Left as a daydream, hope can drive ya mad. Honed and chiseled, hope develops into an instrument. A weapon.
Episode 9’s final line builds a bridge between two brutes. Cassian and Kino are not the fresh-faced farmboys who looked to the skies and saw adventure. They’re beaten and brutalized. From their births, hope has kept its distance, but they can feel it within reach by this chapter’s climax. As Red told Andy in Shawshank, it’s a dangerous thing. It can kill a man. It can kill many men. Those that dare to stand between Cassian and Kino.
Star Wars: Andor Episode 9 is now streaming on Disney+.