“Wouldn’t you rather give it all at once to something real?”
At the time they were spoken to Cassian Andor by Luthen Rael, those words seemed to be a foreshadowing of the known end of Andor’s story: his death on Scarif in service of the Rebellion as seen in Rogue One. In a story like Andor where the ultimate fate of the main character is a known quantity, an easy argument can be made that there are no stakes for that character and that everything that happens to them is irrelevant. Episode 7 of Andor goes a long way in disproving this argument as it strips Cassian of everything the series has made important to him so far, providing stakes that are a payoff of the emotional investment made through the first six episodes.
Predictably, the heist on Aldhani has caught the attention of the Empire and their response, detailed by Colonel Wullf Yularen in a brilliant cameo, is crushing and ultimately speaks to the ruthlessness of the Empire. As terrifying as the Empire’s response sounds for the rest of the galaxy, Cassian believes himself to be relatively safe from them. However, over the course of the episode, Cassian is faced with the consequences of his choices. Returning home to Ferrix, Cassian is sequentially dismissed by Bix and Maarva while the audience learns that Luthen Rael intends to tie up the loose end Cassian created when he killed one of his crew and bailed. Now on his own, Cassian ends up on the resort planet of Niamos where he ultimately finds himself detained by an Imperial Security Droid and given a six-year prison sentence. Choices have consequences and Cassian experienced them all in rapid succession. By the end of the episode, it would appear he has given it all even though we know there’s more in store for the character.
The strength of this episode, then, isn’t in the cliffhanger ending of Cassian’s sentence. True tension is absent given the known outcome of the character. Rather the strength lies in Diego Luna’s performance as Cassian struggles to accept that he’s created his own hell. Even in the episode’s closing moments, Cassian can’t help but try to dig himself out of a hole when it’s clear he’s only making it deeper. Luna’s performance has been strong across the board, but his understanding and care for the character are on full display in this episode.
The episode also continues to provide a fascinating look inside the burgeoning Rebellion by focusing on the stark contrast between two of its key figures. As Mon Mothma makes a surprise appearance at Luthen Rael’s storefront, a scene plays out where Rael’s ruthlessness is shown to equal that of the Empire. Rael’s blunt words to Mothma, spoken while he displays the blunt-force Utapauan monk cudgel, serve to symbolize that there’s dirty work to do for the fledgling Rebellion, no matter the cost to those who may not even be aware it’s happening. There’s work to be done and Rael will see it through, no matter the consequences, including ordering the death of Cassian, who he seemed to hold value in so recently. Despite her horror at what Rael’s plan has wrought, Mothma continues to do her part in finding a way to financially back the Rebellion. Genevieve O’Reilly shines during Mothma’s dinner party where she demonstrates how invisible her character is to those in power by setting up plans to fund the Rebellion at her own dinner party. Seen as an “annoyance” to those in power, Mothma continues to keep up appearances (“Smile.” “Smile.”) while putting herself in a position similar to Cassian’s where she may well lose everything.
Fascinatingly enough, even as Mothma advances her plan, Andor finds a way to make us root for the character that might ultimately prove her greatest foe: Deedra Meero. Slighted so far at every turn, Meero cleverly takes advantage of the Empire’s response to find the information she’s needed to help prove her theory of a connected Rebellion forming. Challenged at an ISB meeting, Meero boldly makes her claim about the Rebels, finally catching the attention of Major Partagaz in a positive way. Like Mothma, Meero has been seen as an “annoyance” until now. It appears Meero will become a major player in Andor’s game, and one whose investigative brilliance may find her on the opposite side of the board from Mothma.
Though it takes its foot off the gas pedal again, Episode 7 provides a much-needed reset following the last 3 episode arc that culminated in the Aldhani heist. Perhaps in hindsight, the Aldhani heist will almost certainly prove to be a pivotal moment in the history of the Rebellion. They’ve announced their presence to the Empire and the Empire’s response, as Yularen says is to determine how tightly they will close their fist in response. Those words are almost certainly meant to cause fans to remember Princess Leia’s warning to Governor Tarkin in A New Hope: “the more you tighten your grip, Tarkin, the more star systems will slip through your fingers.” So perhaps, in hindsight, the Empire’s response to the Aldhani heist, as seemingly predicted by Rael, will also prove to be a pivotal moment in the history of the Rebellion. Episode 7 allows for think time about the repercussions of the choices made in the first six episodes, both on an individual and galactic scale. The Empire has announced its response. How will the galaxy respond in kind?