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Saturday, November 26, 2022

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“One Way Out” Star Wars Prison Break

Andor in prison

Image: Disney+

With this week’s “One Way Out,” Andor takes its place as masterful modern myth-making, every frame a powerful statement. We have missed, you good Star Wars, and it’s great to have you back!

Directed by Toby Haynes and written by Beau Willimon, this episode—the conclusion of the Narkina 5 prison arc—solidifies Andor as not only the best of recent Star Wars, but the best of recent television.

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When Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) says “it’s time,” you know he means business. It’s a chilling moment, and for a beat everything comes to a screeching halt. Kino (Andy Serkis) and the others in their block express some last-minute hesitation but move to work through it. Andor reiterates that they’re not getting out; 5,000 are about to find out that it doesn’t matter if you finish your sentence, you’ll be funneled back in until you drop. Luna’s performance imbues Andor with deep empathy, something that the character can’t avoid expressing any longer. That’s why the show is his: Andor acts as a conduit to amplify what everyone’s feeling and express it, making them realize they’re stronger together. The truth he speaks is raw—he’d rather “die taking them down than die giving them what they want.”

Time is of the essence, as this is juxtaposed with Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and Partagaz (Anton Lesser) looking at the success of their staged strike to lure out Kreegyr. Another high-ranking Imperial Security Bureau officer, Lonni Jung (Robert Emms), steps ahead of Dedra in her moment to suggest they act as usual to not draw any attention to what they know. You feel the anger rising in Dedra that she’s getting undermined every step of the way. Surely, she’s going off to torture someone to cope… hopefully Karn (who we don’t get to see in this episode).

Partagaz and isb

Image: Disney+

Back at the prison, it’s when Kino finally steps in to take charge that shit gets real. And it makes sense, he’s been the block’s de facto leader as a supervisor. Trust was built on this man; they have seen how strong they are in their workflow with this man, and they know they’re more capable than the guards with their bzz bzz sticks. So you know it’s really on when Kino says “it’s time” and “to make it look good.” They go through the motions of being “on program,” but know they trust each other more than the lazy Empire gives them credit for—a power they have over an organization that’s about pecking order and doing the least to win the most. Let’s go Star Wars prison break!

There aren’t too many moments outside of the main event unfolding on Narkina 5. But we do get a glimpse of our girl Cinta (Varada Sethu) realizing that Andor’s mother is being watched. Everyone on Ferrix is waiting for his return. Andor ties this universe together—he’s a man without Jedi powers, and just a practical know-how about the way the world works. And no, he’s not the only person like this; the show does an excellent job saying that there are people like Andor scattered across the galaxy who can radicalize those around them to push back against the Empire. Power to the people.

Meanwhile, on Coruscant, Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) meets with that Chandrillan thug with deep pockets: Davo Sculdun (Richard Dillane). Immediately you can tell that Davo is new money as he looks around at the status Mon doesn’t have to flaunt. Without saying a word you can tell he covets it. His opener about how the “indulgence of great wealth is freedom from other people’s opinions” had me cringing so hard knowing where this was going to go, because it was clear he wasn’t going to ask for money from the jump. I don’t know why Mon thought it would be that; as she insisted with Tay (Ben Miles), she would just rather the transaction be financial.

Davo and Mon

Image: Disney+

Davo reassures her that the cost of dodging the Imperial law is challenging, but interference is avoidable—he’s a gambler, he would know—and he requires no fee to help her “charity work.” He turns over a new leaf by referencing the importance of Chandrillan tradition, and you can see Mon freeze as she realizes it’s a personal cost. Davo wants higher standing and to better his reputation—and he’d sure like to bring his son to meet her daughter Leida, since they’re around the same age. Marrying age, that is. Mon immediately declines in horror but Davo reminds her that their positions make choices for them and that she should think about it. No matter how bratty Leida is, Mon clearly does not want to put her through what she herself went through.

Over at Luthen’s, Kleya (Elizabeth Dulau) delivers a message that one of their contacts wants to meet face to face. She’s obviously perturbed at the timing right after Aldhani and the new Imperial regulations, and insists he let her go do it. Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) takes it in stride and points out it’s surprising whoever it is waited a year to reach out.

As work continues to be done as if nothing was brewing, the prisoners grapple with their fate and what they have to do. They remind each other there’s only “one way out” as Andor chips away at the bathroom pipe. At this point, my anxiety was through the roof as the new prisoner was lowered in; the cuts in this scene were so expertly assembled as the perfect storm of events began to unfold. I don’t think I took a breath from Andor creating a flood to fry the frying floors when activated, the staged fight to create the distraction, the new man on the floor getting lowered until the lift was broken, and the skirmishes to find ways to overpower the guards in an attack that was not without sacrifice and solidarity.

the prisoners and the tools of the enemy

Image: Disney+

Gears and tools and bodies moved to overpower two men with blasters. It was stunning to see the tools of the oppressors taken and seeing Imperial rent-a-cops cower in fear at the might of 5000 men. The breakout spreads like wildfire. Prisoners alert other prisoners, propelled by the swell of Nicholas Britell’s singular score. Kino and Andor make it to the command center. The prison announcer guard and his minions realize they are in over their heads, never having had to have dealt with any sort of fight, so they fold really quickly. They shut down the prison and hold the guards in the command center hostage while Kino announces what to do.

Really, give Serkis an award for making Kino one of the most memorable new characters in Star Wars (Snoke who?). I was moved to tears during his stirring monologue about how they control the facility now, that freedom is within reach—and if they fight half as hard as they have been working, they got this. The power of knowledge through word of mouth in community over propaganda is powerful! Chanting “one way out” as they escaped was cathartic to see, while the guards cowered and hid. (I really hoped I didn’t wake my neighbors up screaming at the screen as they jumped into the sea for freedom.) And then one of the saddest moments in Star Wars happens: Kino says he can’t swim, and before Andor can help, he’s pushed over the edge. Serkis’ bittersweetly heroic moment of looking at everyone he has freed, accepting his fate, is a tragic win.

Kino's rebellion win

Image: Disney+

In the episode’s last act reveal, we find out ISB officer Lonni is a double agent. Yes, that guy who turns out was trying to thwart Dedra—he’s the one who wanted to meet with Luthen. And he wants out. But he gets his whole life read up and down by Luthen who knows Lonni has a daughter and a family, and because of them there’s no way out. Luthen doesn’t blink an eye at sacrificing lives—which is a stark contrast to Mon’s humanity. It marks a turn where the rebellion means two different things for these leaders. While Luthen’s not quite at the burn it all down level, he’s losing touch for sure. Lonni tells him Dedra is onto the middleman they call Axis and the thief, but Luthen doesn’t care. He won’t let Lonni quit and asks him to encourage the search. It’s madness and Skarsgård delivers a tour de force as he reveals why this is his endgame. To him, no one can be spared. Kreegyr’s men will die so Lonni’s kid will have a dad, and he assures Lonni his double life is valuable. But what does Luthen have to lose? To him, he’s already lost it all; he’s damned already because his ego set him on a path to be a savior and destroy himself for others to have a future. He knows he won’t see the rebellion he’s investing in. He tells Lonni to stay with it, because he needs all the heroes he can get.

What a riveting episode, which ends on Andor making it to a beach with Melshi (Duncan Pow). He’s become the reluctant leader, the empathetic conduit used to amplify radicalization against the machine. It’s in the people whose peace has been destroyed to manifest ways to restore it for others. That’s what each rebel leader represents and why it should always come down to the everyman. Andor is masterful, emotional storytelling on a scale that makes it the best of television. The future is worth fighting for against powers that seek to commodify lives for the profit of a few—and while freedom will cost bodies and souls, the people will always determine the terms. And that’s on Star Wars.

Andor streams Wednesdays on Disney+


Want more io9 news? Check out when to expect the latest Marvel, Star Wars, and Star Trek releases, what’s next for the DC Universe on film and TV, and everything you need to know about James Cameron’s Avatar: The Way of Water.

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