Andor S1E06 The Eye

To me, the standout feature of “The Eye” is its magnificent bleakness. Don’t get me wrong: it’s a thrilling, tense episode, featuring an almost perfectly executed heist, and because Gilroy and company have given us no information at all about how it will unfold, there’s always a question of what will happen next, so that the viewer is as uninformed as the hapless Imperial commandant and his family to what the intentions of the Aldhani rebel cell.

But this is also an episode in which nearly everyone, including basically every character in the Imperial base we’ve seen have dialogue or gets given a name, will die. Four out of seven of the heist crew are killed. The commandant drops dead, Cinta kills the engineer colonel. Even the communications officer who spoils the heist is killed. Cassian splits from the rebels after he’s forced to kill Skeen, who turns out to be a complete liar. Nemik, whose death was telegraphed the moment he was introduced, goes out in a particularly brutal way—his spine is crushed during the rough takeoff by a cart loaded with the credits, and after being kept alive by a “med spike” so he can navigate to safety, he eventually dies on the operating table. 

I think that bleakness makes the ending—Luthen in the back of his shop laughing with joy at hearing the news of the heist—both incredibly cathartic and incredibly disturbing. It’s a reminder that this is, at the end of the day, a success. Even getting the money to the rebellion itself is sort of side benefit, the main effect is to get the word out that the Empire can suffer a loss. It is a victory trumpeted across the media in the galaxy, disrupting the Senate.

And yet, that tonal dissonance lays out for us that Luthen, despite his clear passion for the work, and his anxieties around the heist, and even his assumed minor affection for Cassian, is at a remove. Among all the characters in the show, only Luthen gets to celebrate the heist as a success. Luthen doesn’t watch Lt. Gorn get gunned down when the ruse falls apart, he doesn’t nearly get choked to death in the cockpit by an Imperial soldier hiding behind the stairs during the firefighter, he doesn’t hold Nemik’s hand as he screams “climb!” through his pain to guide Cassian through the Eye to safety as they’re chased by TIE fighters—all of these are inconsequential details for him. How the sausage gets made is less important than the sausage itself.

Luthen’s not the only person for whom people are just means to an end. The beginning of the episode features a close look at the Imperial Commandant—Jayhold Beehaz, quite the Star Wars name—and through him a more detailed look at the colonization of Aldhani, relayed through his explanation to Colonel Petigar, the engineer. The Empire has pushed the highland Aldhanis to the Free Enterprise Zone in the lowlands, but a few still trek up to the temple in the valley for the Eye. To combat this, the Empire has set up a number of stops along the way designed to peel off as many of them as possible, so that a journey that includes thousands at the start dwindles to a hundred or so. In addition, there’s a formal renewal of the Empire’s lease through a trading of goat hides. And while they might not be coming back for the next Eye, the Commandant jokes that, once the airbase construction gets underway, they’ll ultimately return as the Colonel will “need plenty of arms and legs to build all that [he has] planned.”

The Aldhani who do make it are less than enthused with the Empire. The headman treats Beehaz with scorn, ultimately waiting until he’s turned his back to burn the goat hide he’s been given. But the one thing that unites them is the Eye itself, an event so rapturous that even their Imperial guards stand shoulder to shoulder with them to watch.

One of the kind of remarkable heel turns in this episode is Skeen. He reveals to Cassian that he never had a brother, the story was invented, while offering to abandon Vel and Nemik and steal the freighter for themselves. It doesn’t feel out of place, necessarily, though I think the only establishing done for this plot turn is Skeen’s failure to provide covering fire to Taramyn during the heist, leading to the latter’s quick death. It’s not necessarily the most obvious behavior (and I would argue that, even in a world where you’re hoping to steal the entire loot, it doesn’t make much sense to do in the middle of a gunfight where you, too, are pinned down), but it’s enough to make it not feel completely out of left field. 

It also leads to what I’d call Cassian’s “Han shot first” moment, in which he shoots Skeen the moment Skeen takes his eyes off him. I mentioned this in the comments way back in the first episode, but I think of Cassian as the sort of embodiment of “Han shot first.” There’s no attempt to trick Skeen into revealing himself to Vel, or going along with the plan to double-cross him. It’s just to lure him with open-ended conversation, then blast him when he slips up. And it’s remarkably effective because there is a sense here that Cassian is, actually, killing for the cause. If he were just a mercenary, just in it for the money, Skeen’s deal would be of value. But instead, when Skeen shows his true colors as a traitor—a rebel who is rebelling against everyone—Cassian kills him.

And while he does run away, he does so by returning Luthen’s sky khyber and taking only his share of the loot, minus enough to buy a new ship from the doctor (albeit holding the seller at gunpoint). Cassian says it’s so that Luthen will be comfortable forgetting he existed, but there’s a sense here that he’s trying to establish he’s acted in good faith, which, again, if he were just a mercenary who didn’t care, he wouldn’t have killed Skeen for the rebellion. Similarly, though he initially refuses Nemik’s manifesto, he takes it once Vel insists that it was Nemik’s dying wish. This series will end with Cassian as a committed rebel—and this season will end with him as an official one, but if you’re really looking for the point at which the stone starts rolling in earnest, I’d say it’s right here.

Stray Observations

  • The only major demerit here for me is the commandant just having a heart attack to cause the heist to collapse. It feels too on the nose for me: “ahaha, the corrupt commandant, living high on the hog, growing too fat for his own sash of office, is killed by his own excesses.” There are a million ways you could’ve written it that would’ve avoided tired tropes like that. His wife could’ve said something about making sure to take his medicine or something. It would’ve taken just as little dialogue to establish.
  • Colonel Petigar is an engineer, so he won’t be sweet-talked. He’s also got orange squares on his Imperial Rank Insignia Plaque, which I think is a first (previously, red, blue, and yellow have appeared). That said, it’s hard to say if it’s intentional or not: in Rogue One we saw Galen Erso (also, presumably, an engineer) wore a rank insignia with four yellows and one red. Petigar has five oranges and one red. It could be just a color mismatch—this is a series in which every officer on the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi wore the same plaque because of a costume error.
  • The ISB is sent on full alert, with Major Partagaz telling the various supervisors that they will not be going home that night. Rather, they need to be prepared to present “every sector and planetary retaliation plan” to him.
  • Luthen, just before hearing the news, tries to sell a customer on an item with the comment, “there’s an inscription on that one, in a language no one remembers.” When the customer says it’s sad, he explains it’s “liberating.” She’s free to invent whatever meaning she wants for it. I can never tell if this is what Luthen’s cover persona is thinking: an Imperial who doesn’t really respect the original civilization, who will replace the actual meaning with whatever suits him, or if Luthen legitimately thinks that.
  • The headman, to Beehaz, asking Gorn to translate: “Tell him our ghosts have strong hands and long memories.” That’s some hate. Gorn’s translation is much more diplomatic, but Beehaz seems to have understood pretty clearly, while also not being able to prove it.
  • Vel informs the Commandant that there is “one path, one choice: we win, or everyone dies.” When Beehaz complains the rebels will kill them anyway, Vel reacts with scorn, “because that’s what you’d do, isn’t it?” To be fair, I think Luthen would.
  • This is one of the few times that TIE fighters have felt legitimately scary. Typically, a TIE fighter without Darth Vader in it is no big deal, they’re just fodder for a Star Wars protagonist to destroy. And they do, still, end up blowing up spectacularly and pinwheeling with one wing through the air (they’re still TIE fighters), but the chase is tense because they are shown to be zippy, agile spacecraft and their pilots’ headgear has always been fairly menacing, and in the bulky freighter with no way to shoot back, you almost expect Cassian and company to get killed. Luckily, the Eye is a billion crystals exploding.
  • Nemik, the morning of the heist, having thought about the revelation that Cassian is a mercenary, has decided that mercenaries are tools and if the Empire has no moral boundaries, then why should they refrain from using certain tools? Not sure how this squares with the rest of Nemik’s philosophy, other than “ends justify the means.”
  • Vel is still insecure about leadership, this time stalling on calling the heist, much to Taramyn and Cinta’s chagrin. Cinta calls her out on it, and there’s a bit of an establishing here that Cinta is not particularly taken with or supportive when it comes to Vel’s personal failings.