Every episode of “Andor” (which is the best thing to happen in “Star Wars” since “The Last Jedi”) has left me on a high with its exploration of fascism in outer space and the intricate character traits of the people traversing through it. With the arrival of a new episode, the thought that this is going to be the one where things will go downhill for the show has haunted me (because that has been happening with every IP acquired by Disney). But once I’m done watching, that fear turns into euphoria again, as the realization sets in that I am not only witnessing one of the best “Star Wars” shows but also one of the best shows of the year. In Episode 8, we were introduced to Andy Serkis’s Kino after Cassian’s entry into the superjail known as Narkina Five. We saw Luthen Rael meet up with the one and only Saw Gerrera to get him to join the Rebellion. However, the conversation wasn’t very fruitful. And we saw Dedra Meero going all the way to Ferrix to extract information about Cassian from Bix Caleen.
Major Spoilers Ahead
Dedra Starts To Break Bix
Episode 9 of “Andor” opens with Dedra torturing Bix into admitting that she’s in cahoots with Cassian and that she knows everything about the Axis (I think they are using this term to refer to Luthen because the Empire doesn’t know about him yet), and how both of them are connected to the Aldhani Garrison attack. When Bix refuses to budge, Dedra employs Dr. Gorst to use his methods and get Bix to talk. And the method is one of the most horrifying things I’ve ever heard. As explained by Gorst, there was an Outer Rim moon called Dizon Fray. The species living there protested against the construction of an Imperial refueling center. So, the Empire committed mass genocide and proceeded with the construction. But while dying, the species (specifically the babies) let out a cry that caused a severe amount of emotional distress to the communications officers documenting the phenomenon. In order to torture Bix, a sample of that “choral, agonized pleading” will be used until she speaks.
Sonic torture is a thing that’s used by interrogation experts to break down prisoners. Countries like the United States, Iraq, Israel, and Greece are known for their use of popular music to torture those who are being held captive. So, it’s not a stretch for the fascist Empire to do the same. Except, in this case, they aren’t using music but the cries of those who they’ve killed. It can seem unrealistic to some but given how fascism is being normalized in real life, it feels prophetic, nonetheless. Meanwhile, on Narkina Five, Cassian and the rest of the prisoners toil away, assembling parts for the Empire. Ulaf starts to show signs of physical and mental weakness, and Cassian reveals that he’s already working on an escape plan. But the main issue is the constant rotation of the new prisoners and Kino keeping such a keen eye on everyone that it’s not giving him any room to do anything substantial. And in case anyone is wondering what the end result of furthering fascism for one’s selfish needs is, this episode eventually makes it very clear.
Vel Is Mon Mothma’s Cousin?!
While presenting the topic of how the Republic shouldn’t give full control of the galaxy’s legislative powers to the Empire, Mon Mothma notices a frightening amount of naysayers. Dejected, she makes her way home to her ungrateful husband, Perrin, and her annoying daughter Leida. The only thing that brightens that journey is the fact that her cousin has arrived to meet her. And that cousin is none other than Vel Sartha. Now, Vel has already shown how proficient she is at wielding guns and rappelling down huge buildings. But she’s amazing at showing sexist men like Perrin their place, who keep talking about why she isn’t married to a man yet. Since we know about Vel’s sexuality (yes, she’s lesbian), this particular conversation feels really offensive because Perrin, in addition to being such a bad husband to Mon, is sitting there assuming that Vel is heterosexual. Can this man do anything right? Sadly, Vel gives Leida a pass even though she’s as annoying as her father and leaves to continue searching for Cassian.
Talking about Cassian, he begins to chip away at Kino’s whole theory that the guards in Narkina Five are constantly listening to what they’re saying, in addition to punishing them for everything. This goes back to the theory Cassian laid out in front of Luthen in Ferrix, that the representatives of the Empire don’t have to care that much about what the people are saying. The fear and oppression are going to force them to suppress their thoughts, which is exactly what’s happening with Kino and the rest of the prisoners. So, instead of making a plan and strategizing, they are all sitting in silence and letting the Empire walk over them. Since Cassian has been arrested under the pseudonym Keef, and Bix is evidently giving up no information, the ISB is still looking for him and the rest of the Rebels who were with him at Aldhani. Also, the reason Dedra hasn’t started to torture Maarva is that Dedra knows she’ll die instantly because she’s so weak. Then they’ll have no bait to bring Cassian out to Ferrix.
‘Andor’ Episode 9 Ending Explained: What Does Ulaf’s Death Reveal To Cassian And Kino?
After learning that the prisoners on level two have been “fried” because of a “mistake,” Kino begins to question how indispensable he actually is. Syril Karn tries to get in touch with Dedra under the pretext that his and her ambitions are the same. But Dedra shoots him down (metaphorically, of course) because she has more important matters to attend to. One such matter involves the capture of a Rebel pilot and bringing him in for questioning without alarming the separatist leader Anton Kreegyr and stopping a raid planned on the power station at Spellhaus. Elsewhere in Coruscant, Tay Kolma sits down with Mon to talk about bringing in the “thug” Davo Sculdun as a charitable donor because both Kolma and Mon’s funds are way too tough to move around without setting off any alarms. Mon seems to be against the idea, but her exasperated sigh basically indicates that she’s going to give in. Because, as Vel said earlier, the Rebellion comes first. That includes overlooking personal preferences.
During the heartbreaking concluding moments of episode 9 of “Andor,” we return to Narkina Five only to see Ulaf suffering a massive stroke. While taking him to his chamber, Ulaf loses all consciousness. So, Cassian and Kino stay beside him until Doctor Rhasiv arrives to check on him. Firstly, the doctor declares that Ulaf is incapable of recovering from the stroke and that he needs to die so that he can be replaced. Secondly, both Cassian and Kino ask him about the aforementioned “mistake” that led to the deaths of the prisoners on level two. What Rhasiv says shocks the living hell out of them. So, apparently, a prisoner who was released from level four ended up back in level two. As soon as everyone on level two realized that they were fried to death. Cassian asks Rhasiv bluntly if that means no one is getting out. Rhasiv says that after this fiasco, nobody is making it out to prevent any public discussion about the Empire’s blunder. Death is the only form of freedom anyone is going to get.
As Cassian and Kino start to walk back to their cells, Cassian asks him one more time about the number of guards on each floor. And Kino finally answers him honestly that, at any given time, there are always 12 guards. This indicates that Kino has understood that their release dates are nothing but a ruse, a lie, and a mirage. The prisoners are here until they die of natural causes or are killed by the guards. While they are there, they are made to hate each other and the Rebels. And here’s a theory: the machine parts are useless. They are probably being assembled on one floor, disassembled on the other, and then being assembled again. In real life, we have food, textiles, furniture, and many other amenities coming out of the mini factories set inside prisons. So that, despite being prisoners, they can contribute to society. “Andor” shows that the Empire isn’t doing even that on Narkina Five. They are treating the people in there like guinea pigs who are going round and round with their hopes of freedom diminishing every single day.
So, believe it or not, there was a comment floating around on Twitter that defended Narkina Five by calling it a prison that “seemed preferable to locking someone in solitary for 23 hours a day at the taxpayers’ expense” because the prisoners were being productive. And I am sure that isn’t the only person who thinks that fascism is good. Given how matter of fact and professional the behavior of the Empire is, it’s natural for the naive folk out there to perceive them as an organization that’s doing its job. They don’t see oppression as oppression. They don’t see torture as torture. They see it all as a part of their job. But the moment a form of government that’s being run by a dictator (which is Emperor Palpatine in this case) starts to look “normal” and not offensive, you need to stop and reflect. Fascism, oppression, indefinite imprisonment for no reason, and occupying towns because of “rebellious activities” aren’t normal. Fascists only care about themselves. They don’t care about the common people parroting their ideas. They are going to come for them as well. Before that day comes, you’ve got to choose a side.