If Andor has a thesis statement, I would argue that it’s contained within this episode (and then explicitly underscored in “Rix Road”). When you are trapped in an oppressive system, one that thrives on the false belief that compliance will save you, you have, as the title goes and as Kino says until it becomes a refrain, “one way out.” You have to fight it.
The escape itself is frantic, chaotic, with faces (if not always explicitly the names) we know well from the past two episodes getting gunned down, and gunfights in the sterile halls of the prison. Serkis’ Kino survives through random chance when the guards activate the floor only to have it short circuit as it makes contact with the water from the line Cassian and his chief co-conspirator have sawed through. Given that Kino starts the day by saying, “play it how you want, but I’m going to assume I’m already dead and go from there” it’s a wonderful bit of irony, and Serkis’ portrayal of the shock at having survived transforming to the realization that they have neutralized the prison’s main weapon against them and can now capitalize on it is as he leads the floor in an attack is one of those high-emotion performances that you can’t help but watch with your heart in your throat.
I think this episode also underscores who Cassian himself actually is. He is the mastermind of this plan—in the previous episode, we saw him and his main other conspirator discuss how the lift between the guard station and the factory floor isn’t electrified. He presses Kino for information about the prison’s functions and the guard’s behaviors. He chooses the day.
But he doesn’t lead the attack. He’s an integral piece of it (he’s the first prisoner to handle a blaster and shoot a guard with it, he leads Kino to the control room) but it’s Kino who gives commands, and it’s Kino that Cassian gives control of the PA to in order to rally the entire prison to the escape. Kino ultimately speaks a mix of his own words and Cassian’s own from the antechamber, but it’s his voice that steers the prisoners in their rebellion and escape.
Things are only slightly less tense on Coruscant, even though we only have about three scenes there. Mon Mothma meets with Davo Sculdun, the Chandrilan banker she deems a “thug.” It’s a wonderful little scene, with Davo directly taking on his lack of standing in polite society compared to Mon, ultimately conditioning his loan to her on his son and her daughter being placed into an arranged marriage, similar to Mon’s own (unhappy) marriage to Perrin. Especially as he starts the meeting with assurances that, despite his unsavory reputation, she’s not diminished by taking his money, there’s an irony here of doing exactly what Mon expects of him—essentially forcing her to trade him a personal favor rather than money. She dismisses him immediately and ends the meeting, declaring she’s not considering it, which he marks as her only lie (although, given that she told him all the money was for a charity, it’s maybe the first lie she wants him to believe). Genevieve Reilly’s face says everything as she’s left alone. She’s been adamant that it was too far, but it’s also clear to me that she’s not so much considering the offer as reflecting whether she’s really willing to go that far for the rebellion.
One man who knows exactly how far he’ll go is Luthen, who explains as much in his scene with ISB Supervisor Lonni Jung, here revealed to be a Rebel, planted in the ISB by Luthen to filter information to him. Luthen coldly decides to sacrifice Anto Kreegyr and his band of 50 people to maintain Lonni’s cover, then forces Lonni to remain at the ISB. There’s some interesting choices here by Skarsgård—he’s clearly checking a subordinate attempting to defect, so his voice drips with disdain, but his rhetoric is soaring: “Your investment in the rebellion is epic […] We need heroes, Lonni, and here you are” he says. Kreegyr and his band are being sacrificed to keep Lonni and his new daughter alive.
But, as he observes, Luthen’s own investment is a one way trip to hell. He may believe the ends justifies the means, but he’s not deluded into thinking that the ends are moral or that he’ll be celebrated for the outcome. Or that he’ll even live to see it. “I burn my decency for someone else’s future; I burn my life for a sunrise I’ll never see,” he says.
Neither is he alone in this. In one of the most heartbreaking turns of the show, the prisoners reach their escape only to discover the “one way out” Kino has told them about means leaping into water and swimming for a distant shore. Only Kino himself can’t swim, as he explains to Cassian’s surprise. Serkis has said in an interview that they tried that line’s delivery multiple times, and ultimately they chose the one where he seems sort of sadly bemused by the irony that he may have led the breakout, but he won’t be escaping himself. He’s already dead, as he told the inmates of 5-2-D, and he’ll almost certainly be killed now.
- The control room commander’s attempt to split hairs on what the “it” in the phrase “turn it off” could possibly refer to in a prison where the floors are electrified gets one of the men under his command instantly shot. He does instantly and expertly comply with “on program” when Cassian shouts it at him, though.
- I actually kind of like that this very commanding voice through the PA modulator is, at the end, kind of a nervous, nebbish, unassuming Imperial.
- To get 5,000 prisoners on board with a full escape, you need some people to independently choose to follow, to take those supportive actions of courage, and we see that with Zinska, Kino’s counterpart for 5-2-N. When Kino announces that “all floors are cold” over the PA, it’s Zinska who decides to step out of his cell first and potential risk his life to test whether that is actually true or not.
- The sneering warden from the first prison episode who seemed so taken with the electrical floor is shown cowering behind a door in a huddle of other guards, keeping silent as the prisoners stream past on the other side, occasionally glancing in the windows.
- Sculdun has a number of heavily meaningful laden lines, but a couple of standouts are, “it’s your money, you should be able to do what you like with it,” while discussing Mon’s inherited wealth—the libertarianism of a wealthy gangster—and “our positions sometimes makes decisions for us.” The word “position” here has multiple meanings—both Mon’s position as Senator, as a notable Chandrilan, and her position as someone stuck, with Sculdun’s loan as her only way out. “A little discomfort may be the price of doing business” Sculdun intones, while extorting her.
- Luthen’s speech on his sacrifice might as well be a Shakespearean monologue, the poetry of the lines in them—”I’ve made my mind a sunless place; I share my dreams with ghosts” is something Richard III or Macbeth would say when contemplating their own evil.
- I enjoy the reveal of Lonni Jung as Luthen’s mole in the ISB. He’s been lurking in these briefings, and Partagaz has a somewhat contentious relationship with him (I believe in the episode before this he gives him a sudden deadline on a report in punishment for giving too many different answers about how something is). That said, I’m not sure how the intelligence officer in charge of Scarif could miss the Death Star being built in his sector, but Lonni being aware would negate much of the plot of Rogue One.
- Luthen sends Lonni back up the elevator with the line, “I need all the heroes I can get.” Cut to Cassian and Melshi running across the sands of Narkina 5.