If Andor were to end with “Rix Road” I would be satisfied, at least as far as Cassian Andor’s story goes. Everything I need to know about Cassian has been answered over the course of the series, and “Kill me…or take me in” and Luthen’s return smile is all the connective tissue I truly need between the Cassian that appears in Andor and the Rebel operative in Rogue One.
But what I would miss is what happens to all the other characters: how did Mon, for example, come to leave Coruscant without her family. What happened to Luthen, and how did his network transform into an organized armed rebellion capable of eventually meeting the Empire in open battle. How did Melshi end up a soldier after disappearing on Niamos to tell the story of the inmates on Narkina 5. I’m even curious about the outcome for Dedra and Syril, and the ISB’s hunt for “Axis.”
And most of all, what happened to Ferrix? In the middle of the season we were more or less absent from the planet entirely, focused heavily on Aldhani, Coruscant, and Narkina 5. Here, we return to an incredible payoff, with nearly every character we’ve ever seen set foot on the planet having their own complete narrative in the riot that makes up the bulk of the third act of the episode.
“Rix Road” is a masterpiece, with its heart Maarva delivering her own funeral oration, following a stunning piece of music by series composer Nicholas Brittell that plays from the band as they lead Maarva’s procession through the streets, a long mournful stretch of music that takes a deep breath after a forlorn trumpet’s soliloquy and resolves into a determined chorus of high notes and flutes not unlike a piping to stations or trumpet charge. We’ve heard snippets of this piece throughout the series, at least early on (I tried to call them out when I heard them, but I have almost certainly missed other appearances), and noted that typically they appear when a choice is about to be made. Here, under Maarva’s guidance, the people of Ferrix make just such a choice: to fight.
I suspect, if you are not already sold on the premise of Andor as a treatise on the pernicious nature of fascism itself, this episode is a bit too didactic, with Nemik’s voice over and Maarva’s monologue turning subtext into explicit text. But, for me, it makes sense to cap the season with these, to have Cassian consult Nemik the day before the funeral, just as he listened to Nemik before the heist, and to have a cultural ceremony on Ferrix where the dead attempt to lift the living, even if that means Maarva gets to come out straight and inform the attendees of how a fasicst government seizes control and how the governed themselves bear some responsibility for that.
The only break in the confinement of action is a brief sojourn to Coruscant, where Mon Mothma falsely accuses her husband of running up gambling debts for the benefit of her ISB-placed driver (who we now see reports to Blevin at ISB headquarters). This seems to be an excuse to justify getting publicly involved with Davo Sculdun and taking a loan from him, as the last shot of the Mothma family is the arrival of the Sculduns to present their son to Leida. The argument in the car is a good scene—Genieve Reilly plays Mon as mentally prepping herself. She’s expressed before that Perrin can’t be trusted, but she’s crossing the Rubicon now, by directly involving him in her plots unwittingly, outright lying to him rather than just keeping him in the dark, and, from context, using an old settled sore spot between them to do so. Sculdun noted a couple of episodes ago that she was absolutely considering selling her child’s betrothal in exchange for his money, but now she’s made her choice to go through with it, accepting that she’s for the rebellion first, and herself second.
Of course, the character who seems to understand this the most is Cassian himself. Everyone becomes so focused on his mother’s funeral, including Dedra and Luthen, that it doesn’t occur to them that Cassian might put aside his own interests in favor of someone else’s (Bix). But it’s clear Cassian knows. When Brasso admonishes him to look after himself, he shoots back, “it’s too late for that.” He’s not just being a smart alec, he’s sharing the evolution of his character: one whose own story takes a back seat to that of others, who truly is no longer living for himself.
As the end of the episode shows, that’s not necessarily a happy place to be. With a long pause and a hardened sorrowful look in the very last scene, Diego Luna manages to convey which of the two options, “Kill me” and “Take me in,” that Cassian himself would’ve preferred.
- Dedra appears at the beginning, flanked by two deathtroopers, from an Imperial shuttle in what seems to be an oblique reference to arrive of the Emperor on the Death Star II in Return of the Jedi
- The actor who plays the Imperial Prefect does it as a pitch-perfect arrogant worm of a man, who seems shocked when he’s promptly beaten by the crowd after literally breaking up a funeral, and then just as offended and surprised to find the planet breaking into open insurrection. He also seems incredibly displeased with how Dedra treats him, but needs to yield to her authority.
- Dedra is pissed that Anto Kreegyr’s men are killed outright, with no prisoners taken for interrogation. Partagaz puts her in her place, reminding her that he’s her superior, and that this mission was about retribution.
- I get that Nurchi needs to get arrested to maintain his cover, but I don’t understand how having the undercover ISB agent arrest him doesn’t blow that guy’s cover.
- Mosk gives his Pre-Mor hat to Syril on the transport in, a nice little bit of business and loyalty. Later, however, we see he’s been dazed by Paak’s pipebomb and then see him drowning his sorrows in his flask.
- I know Dedra’s a cold-hearted fascist agent, but there’s a legitimately terrifying moment when she’s stuck in the crowd, fumbling for her pistol, and being pulled by many different hands. No matter how fitting a death it would be for her to be torn apart by angry Ferrixians, it would be horrible to watch. That said, I’m not sure how, given the number of people grabbing her, Syril gets her away just because he has a gun to her back.
- I’ve watched the funeral march, speech, and riot about a dozen or more times now, it never gets old. Especially Maarva’s last fight against the Empire: Brasso using her brick to club an Imperial soldier in the face.
- The post credits scene reveals that the items being made by the factories on Narkina 5 are the joints for the pieces of the Death Star’s dish, meaning that Cassian has, essentially, helped to build the thing that will eventually kill him (and that he will die helping to destroy). Like Nemik’s manifesto or Maarva’s speech, I think your mileage may vary, depending on how you approach this show. It’s either a bit of dramatic irony, or it’s extremely heavy-handed. I think there are some logical holes here, but for the most part it works for me.