“Everyone has their own rebellion.”
In an episode that feels very small in terms of scope, scale and what’s accomplished as far as advancing the plot, those words, spoken quietly to Cassian by Faye Marsay’s Vel Sartha may capture the larger essence of the Age of the Rebellion better than any spoken on screen in any Star Wars project to date. Episode 5 of Andor, brilliantly titled “The Axe Forgets” showcases some beautiful scenery and wonderful cinematography as the backdrop to Cassian’s struggle to forge bonds and build trust with his new team. In what feels like the calm before the storm, the episode’s team-building moments that make up the bulk of the runtime seem to echo classics like John McTiernan’s Predator and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings.
When they start their march, they are a team only in the loosest sense, united only because everyone, as it turns out, does have their own rebellion. And while they don’t initially trust nor much like one another, they are able to find common ground by understanding how each of them has been the tree on the receiving end of the Empire’s axe…and none of them have forgotten. And so while it may not feel like the larger plot of the 12-episode first season of Andor has moved along much by the end of Episode 5, for this group of people about to strike out against the Empire, nothing could have moved at all if not for the time spent together in it.
The creative duo of director Susanna White and writer Dan Gilroy teamed up to illustrate the growing tensions not only amongst the team on Aldhani but also far away on Coruscant. Kyle Soller’s Syril Karn is hen-pecked by his insufferable mother, Eedy, while holding on to his hatred for Cassian; Denise Gough’s Dedra Meero continues to sense a growing threat, too random for anyone else to see; Mon Mothma’s work for the Rebellion is coming at the cost of her family; and Luthen Rael expresses anxiety that he may have overreached in his effort to strike back at the Empire. Though each of them only get a little time to shine in the episode, White and Gilroy make the most of it, carving each of their unique concerns out of the same material: the Rebellion, which now includes Cassian. And it’s Rael’s words in the episodes final moments that truly serve to frame just how tense of a moment the entire galaxy is on the edge of, even if only a few of them know it. As he says, what comes next may just be the start of it.
In that sense, “The Axe Forgets” feels like the last bit of requisite exposition before the show switches gears. The characters have been developed, the costs to them made clear and their roles in it seemingly solidified. Episode 6 would seem to be the time for Andor to transform into the fast-paced action-adventure that fans certainly associate with the Star Wars franchise. But as the pace quickens, keep in mind that while each of the Rebels are trees who have been hit by the axe of the Empire, they’ve all been axes to the tree of the Empire and they are about to collectively take their biggest hack yet. And as the roots of the Empire extend to new parts of the galaxy, they’ll prove a tough tree to fell.