Star Wars: Andor Episode 9 shows the horror of the Empire’s systematized cruelty

Image: Star Wars: Andor/Disney+
Image: Star Wars: Andor/Disney+ /

Star Wars: Andor Episode 9 has a little bit of everything we’ve come to love/hate about the Empire: prison labor, a spineless Senate, stalking, and torture. There’s a thick layer of anxiety and tension over every scene in “Nobody’s Listening!” Once again, Andor turns in a superb piece of Star Wars storytelling.

A lot of deep, dark, important stuff happens in this week’s episode. One of the standout moments is also one of the most cringe in Star Wars history. It features Syril Karn (Kyler Soller), of course. His interrogation with ISB officer Dedra (Denise Gough) last week apparently made a real impression…as did Dedra.

Yes, Syril caught feelings for Dedra, who is visibly disgusted by the fact that he’s been hanging out outside the IBS office hoping to catch a glimpse of her. And we thought he could sink no lower.

However, Syril’s feelings aren’t just about Dedra’s “charming” personality. It’s clear he’s in love with the idea of order and discipline at all costs. As a fascist, Dedra embodies order, discipline, and the power of authority.

What do you get when a fanboy stalker and a fascist walk into a space bar? Maybe we’ll find out in future episodes. And I can’t imagine how much more in love with Dedra Syril will be when he hears about the torture she inflicted upon Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona).

Star Wars: Andor makes the Empire scarier and more banal than ever before

Dedra continues to drill down on the Buyer/Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and any connections to Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Bix tries to avoid giving clear answers to questions, but the Empire has ways of making her talk. Dedra instructs an Imperial doctor named Gorst to utilize his “unique” interview methods. Dr. Gorst explains that the sound Bix will hear is the dying screams of children of a sentient species the Empire massacred as part of its colonization efforts. Their screams caused severe psychological distress in the Imperial officers who murdered them.

We don’t hear what Bix hears, but her earsplitting screams are enough, especially as the scene transitions to the harsh metal drilling of the prison labor camp. About a month into his detention, Cassian has developed a camaraderie with his fellow inmates. He and his work team run a tight ship, cranking out literal cogs for the Empire day in and day out. But Cassian and his team also take note of every little detail about how the facility works, how many guards are where and when, and what, if any, weak points there are.

The climactic cliffhanger involves rumors of trouble on another level spreading among the inmates. When Melshi (Duncan Pow) says that the Empire could just keep them all as prisoners in the facility forever and no one would ever know or care, Kino (Andy Serkis) lashes out. While not a villain, Kino is still a prisoner surviving on the idea that his actions will lead to his eventual release.

Kino only has 217 shifts left until freedom, and we see his anxiety start to rise as the rumors swirl and Cassian tries to get information from him about the number of guards on each level. Kino finally cracks when he witnesses the death of Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank), who suffers a stroke and is put out of his misery by an imprisoned doctor. The doctor reveals that the “trouble” on Level 2 had to do with the entirety of the level being fried because of an Imperial mistake. Apparently, a prisoner who had just been “released” was put back into the prison on the same floor where he’d  been before. To cover up the mistake and quell any rioting, the Empire killed the entire level.

It’s then that Kino and Cassian realize that no matter how many shifts they have left, no one is ever getting off Narkina 5. The episode ends with Kino saying there are never more than 12 guards on the floor at any given time.

Andor continues to explore systemic issues affecting both the Star Wars galaxy and our own. It’s a nail-biting, anxiety-ridden thriller that isn’t afraid to show us the dark sides of not only the Empire but also the brewing rebellion. Without feeling too “Star Wars-y”, the show is still very much a Star Wars story that goes beyond grand destinies and space wizards to deliver a smart and authentic take on the nature of rebellion.

Episode Grade: A

Next. Andor Episode 8 explores cruel inhumanity of Imperial prison labor. dark

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