Andor S1E03: Reckoning

When people complained to me about Andor being slow, I always encouraged them to stick with it until “Reckoning.” I think it’s really the pivotal episode of the series in terms of setting up the quality. The next two episodes will be a little bit slower, the sixth episode will be ratchet the tension up even further than this one, and then we’re off to the races in the back half of the season, which I think is where the show really matures. And if “Reckoning” didn’t stick the landing that had been building in the past two episodes, I don’t think anyone would be wrong to bail on the show after one or two episodes.

Luckily, it fucking rocks.

The centerpiece of this is Syril & Mosk’s raid on Ferrix to capture Cassian, which is one of the great colossal fuck-ups of the show. I think what I enjoy about this is that it’s not a planned confrontation. In fact, Cassian and Syril share screentime together exactly once in the entire season, and its this episode. Rather, Luthen and Cassian have their plan, and Syril and Mosk have their plan, and the two collide with absolute carnage and destruction.

The show doesn’t particularly revel in this—the last images are of flight, Cassian and Luthen speeding away over the landscape while the people back in Ferrix are left to contemplate the various disasters that have befallen them.

And disasters abound. I mentioned in the previous recap about Andor’s perceived anti-law enforcement sentiment. This episode very much channels those real-world incidents. The worst is, of course, Bix and Timm. Bix, running towards the fight, accidentally crosses path with four lost Pre-Mor Enforcement, who immediately detain her. When she tries to escape, one of them bashes her head into a steel panel, at which point Timm arrives, and angrily approaches, only to be immediately gunned down by a nervous corpo. And then, having realized their mistake, the Pre-Mor guys run away, leaving Bix handcuffed to a pipe to stare at her boyfriend’s corpse.

Also left to pick up the pieces of the raid are Maarva, B, and Brasso. For Maarva and B, it’s the smashed up house, and the knowledge that Cassian can’t really return. For Brasso, it’s living with his conscience when he ties a cable from a giant piece of scrap to one of the Pre-Mor drop pods, causing the pilot’s (the same guy who killed Timm) death when he loses control. Cassian hasn’t necessarily intended it, but the collateral damage to the people he loves is huge.

None of which can be done without Syril and Mosk making it worse at virtually every turn. There’s a bit of motif in this episode of being unprepared, and while Luthen lectures Cassian on his misgivings, it’s really the Pre-Mor team that has no idea what they’re up against. Mosk terms the Ferrix inhabitants pipe banging as “intimidation tactics. Bluff and bluster” and while he’s not exactly wrong (the people of Ferrix do not come out into the streets to rescue Cassian, or even really do anything other than yell at Syril and Mosk when they leave the Andor residence), it turns out to be effective enough intimidation that Maarva’s able to send her two guards scurrying away. Cassian and Luthen engage the first squad of Pre-Mor who fail to stay back long enough for reinforcements to reach them, killing three of them almost immediately—although, in something of what I think is a nod to the thick plot armor that the heroes in the first trilogy had, one of them actually manages to graze Cassian with a blaster shot. Mosk and Syril’s ambush goes the worst, with Mosk panicking about being surrounded when the pod explodes and Syril getting captured. And then, of course, Cassian and Luthen’s deadly feint.

This is also the first episode to really ruminate on the Empire itself, which has yet to make an appearance. Cassian and Luthen share a discussion of the Empire’s arrogance, its belief that it has won so completely that nothing in the galaxy can stop it, which makes it weak and susceptible to someone like Cassian just walking in in a uniform and stealing critical property out. I’m not always in love with the “when you get strong, that’s when you get lazy” trope for empires—plenty of historical empires have balanced corruption over centuries, and the Empire of Star Wars will last basically all of 32 years, but one of the defining characteristics of the Empire is its bevy of rather incompetent leaders outside of Darth Vader and Thrawn. Showrunner Tony Gilroy also has directly paralleled this story to the beginning of the Russian Revolution in interviews, and if you think of Imperial Russia at that time, it really was fairly rotten to the core. 

But just like the Tsar’s government, the Empire is still dangerous. It’s still the sort of regime where, if you’re caught opposing it, it will kill you first, as Luthen observes when he invokes a comparison of the threat to himself to that to Cassian’s father being hung up on Rix Road for a similar thing. We’re also paralleling Luthen as Cassian’s new surrogate parent—Luthen reveals that his primary goal is to recruit Cassian to fight the Empire “for real.” The episode also ends with a clear parallel of Maarva ferrying Cassian off Kenari to safety, and Luthen flying them off Ferrix to safety, Cassian watching this new older person lead him to a new life from the back of the ship.

Stray Observations

  • In Luthen’s first scene in this episode, the propulsion salesman from the previous episode asks him if he’s staying at the hotel (he’s not), which he characterizes as the ultimate “Ferrix gouge.” We’ll hear a little bit more about Ferrix as a sort of  trading backwater that exploits its position in the Mid-Rim in later episodes, and it’s fun to see how Gilroy and company slip in these moments of world building in just a stray line or two.
  • This the first episode to feature Clem Andor, Cassian’s adoptive father, although I don’t think he’s given in a name in the show, just the credits, at this point. He’s a cautious guy. We also get another bit of world-building, in that he (and Maarva) view the Republic as rather hostile: when a Republic frigate approaches, they agree that young Kassa will be killed for having killed a Republic officer.
  • Speaking of Kenari, we’re told that there was a mining accident and it was declared toxic by the Empire, but it’s not clear that’s what happened to the Republic ship that crashes. That said, the entire crew is show with yellow, jaundiced skin. I’m inclined to think that they crashed, then died of toxic exposure and the kids can surive it somehow in the way the adults can’t, but I have to admit there’s virtually no evidence to support that.
  • Another excellent turn by Fiona Shaw, who is listening to the racket the inhabitants of Ferrix are causing with their metal banging, and uses it to undermine the confidence of her two guards, who take off running as soon as it stops, since Maarva warns them that’s when they should really be worried.
  • Just a shout out to Adria Arjona, who has to play a lot of trauma in this show, and this is her first moment where she’s just focused on her grief. The most heartbreaking part, to me, is that when the Paaks free her, she crawls to touch Timm’s body, only for them to hustle her away right before she’s able to.
  • When Cassian holds Syril up at gunpoint, Luthen tells Cassian to just kill him, then volunteers “I’ll kill him,” and Skarsgard gives it this little chipper pull, like he’s eager to do it. Cassian leaves him tied up instead. It’s actually a little out of character for Cassian, even at this point—he already gunned down one Pre-Mor sentry in cold blood just to make sure there wasn’t a living witness.
  • At the end of the episode, during the parallel escapes, that theme played softly during Cassian’s retrieval of the starpath plays again, this time more explicitly. Having watched the show to the moment at which it’s foregrounded, I do think it’s meant as an audio cue to tell us quite clearly that a choice is being made or action being taken in favor of defiance against the Empire (and fascists regimes).