It’d be easy, I think, to say that “Announcement” is a comedown after “The Eye.” Certainly, the tension is less pronounced and the narrative less focused than the fifty-odd minutes that episode spends almost entirely on the heist. But in many ways, I think this is really one of the places where Andor firmly establishes itself as a show not just set in the Star Wars universe because that’s where Jedi and X-wings and lightsabers are, but because it allows us to examine the building of a rebellion absent the historical context that would create a moral clouding if this were to be a historical drama set on earth.
For me, the standout exchange of this episode (and there are many) occurs between Mon Mothma and Tay Kolma. It’s a fraught exchange. Luthen’s derided her asking to involve another person in the conspiracy earlier in the episode, in between more or less telling her to “grow up” in response to her concerns about the pain and suffering the heavy-handed response from the Empire to the Aldhani heist will cause, and it’s critical that she be able to sound out Tay’s loyalties without revealing her hand.
The two of them perform a lazy walk around Mon Mothma’s party, going at each other from the sides, rather than straight out. Luckily, Tay misinterprets Mon’s opening as a request to involve him in the Empire’s business, warning her away from his because he’s “done more than just grow weary of the Empire.” You can see the desperate relief on Genevieve Reilly’s face as Mon realizes she’s suddenly been thrown a lifeline. And then, more or less, turns the tables on Tay when she’s able to basically throw his critique of her as being the token toothless opposition back in his face the moment he realizes he’s dealing with someone far more committed to opposing the Empire’s overreach than he realized, so much so that Mon will not even tell him what, exactly, he’s really getting involved in both to protect him and protect herself. Mon’s about to get a whole lot more ruthless, and this is the episode in which she steps from being dreadfully concerned about the rebellion to something resembling the deft political operator one would assume she’d have to be to end up leading the Rebellion by Return of the Jedi.
For Cassian Andor, our ostensible protagonist, this episode is one of being hoist on his own petard. His return to Ferrix is fraught with disappointment. Both Maarva and Bix reject him. Bix because he’s caused so much death and destruction in Ferrix, and Maarva because, ironically, she’s now inspired by the heist and determined to fight the good fight there on Ferrix. It’s a scene built on dramatic irony: Cassian can’t tell her what he’s been up to, but tries to quash the inspiration he himself has created. Similarly, when he tells Maarva he can’t understand why she’d opt to stay behind, she tells him he will—which, of course, is the arc of the season and ultimately the show.
Cassian’s exploits have also caused a huge shift at the Imperial level. The ISB is unleashed, much to Dedra Meero’s dismay. She correctly interprets the point of Luthen’s plot here—it’s to cause the Empire to become more harsh and cruel, to justify the existence of the nascent Rebellion to everyday people, the reveal the lurking fascism they’re living under. Luthen confirms as much to Mon Mothma when she confronts him about wanting the Empire to take harsh retaliation—noting, in an echo of Nemik’s observation, that “the Empire has been choking us so slowly we were starting not to notice.” Luthen sets her in her place fairly harshly, calling out her apparent naivete. When she points out he told her they were just building a network, he asks her what she thought the network was for, then asks, “has a weapon ever been built that hasn’t been used?”
And heavy-handed the Empire’s response are. Sentences are automatically doubled under the “Public Order Resentencing Directive” or P.O.R.D. Any planet caught harboring rebels will be forced to pay tribute in the amount of five times the stolen payroll. In a bit of foreshadowing that might be missed the first time through, the use of any local festival or ceremony as cover is prohibited.
All of which leads to Cassian’s final ironic twist, being arrested on Niamos, the party beach planet he’s fled to. In another bit of irony to Rogue One, the planet is patrolled by shoretroopers (who make up the bulk of units fighting on Scarif in the movie) and KX-series security droids. Cassian is arrested, not for doing anything, but simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, resulting in one of the most real circular logic interactions with a shoretrooper you’ll ever see (and I’m sure many people who’ve interacted with cops or other people with authority to detain will recognize). After making fleeting eye contact with one, he’s stopped, and each vague question that receives a vague question only makes him more suspicious: Asked if he’s part of it, he asks “part of what?” to which the trooper responds, “I’ll ask the questions.” He’s arrested for a vaguely anti-Imperial charge, which the magistrate, who seems to be bulk processing folks, notes would’ve only been a six months term prior to the P.O.R.D., but unfortunately now is six years in prison.
Which is how we get to the next exceptional triplet of episodes in Andor.
- This episode opens with Syril in his Coruscant cage room, then ends with him trapped in a horrible space cubicle at the Bureau of Standards.
- Vel discovers that she won’t be meeting with Luthen, despite her success, just Kleya, who immediately assigns her to go kill Cassian, particularly by joing Cinta on Ferrix. Cinta, at least, does what she’s told.
- Cassian’s beau on Niamos reminds him to pick up the “greeny revnog” which he also enjoys.
- Speaking of, we see Cinta on Aldhani (which we learn from some side talk that the Empire has begun arresting assumed conspirators among the populace). She’s able to witness a Star Destroyer entering the atmosphere, but we don’t see her escape, except that she uses a small speeder to go down a mountain.
- “I won’t have peace, I’ll be worried about you all the time.” “That’s just love—nothing you can do about that.” GUTTING. Fiona Shaw really kills in these moments. Cassian is, intentionally or not, guilt-tripping her with his emotions, and Maarva essentially twists it on him to dismiss it, but Shaw plays it so that, for Maarva, she’s reading between the lines and honors Cassian’s love for her and says it with such affection and care and sorrow that it feels like someone punching you in the gut with a hug.
- “Supervisor Meero, do you mind having your integrity ventilated in public?” Partagaz’s Socratic seminar approach allows him to both identify the tension in the room when Blevin calls out Dedra, and yet not necessarily criticize or support either.
- Dedra’s powerplay at the ISB makes for a compelling narrative to her, but on reflection, I’m not 100% convinced it does anything overall for the season narrative, except to suggest the ISB isn’t totally comprised of dupes. It also demonstrates Dedra’s ability to play the game—while she’s broken protocol by collecting data cross-sector, she’s also got data to prove a galaxy-wide conspiracy, which is what Partagaz asked for.
- Also at the episode’s beginning, we get to see Colonel Wullf Yularen, the head of the ISB, giving a speech to the room of Supervisors in which he tells them that he’s spoken personally to the Emperor and they’ll be given full powers. Many people who didn’t watch the Clone Wars or Rebels animated shows won’t recognize the former Captain/Admiral Yularen, Anakin Skywalker’s reliable naval commander from those, but they may recognize a mustachioed man in a white tunic from the meeting in A New Hope where Vader chokes out a guy for calling out his “sad devotion to that ancient religion.” He goes in a long line of characters who nobody names in any dialogue in Star Wars live-action.
- I do really enjoy the KX-series reveal. For a moment I thought we were going to get Alan Tudyk’s voice, but instead, it’s a much more threatening digital garble and a droid that is incredibly literal—told to “hang on” to Cassian, the droid interprets it as “hang” which is to say lifting Cassian off his feet by his neck. There’s a great sort of compare/contrast of the unthinking unfeeling machine of the Empire in the human cogs that play into it, and the literal unthinking unfeeling machines in the KX droids.