Lucasfilm’s latest Star Wars streaming series, Andor, has been routinely described as a “slow burn”; to date, no episode has served as a better exemplar than Episode 8. The 12-episode first season has been neatly broken up into 3-episode arcs and, so far, the second episode of those arcs has seemed to work as the table setter for the high-energy third episode of each arc. That seems to be the case again with “Narkina 5,” though setting the table doesn’t make the episode any less critical.
Episode 8 takes the time to make the characters and the audience feel the extent of the Empire’s response to the Aldhani heist. Ironically, as three different factions search for Cassian for different reasons, he’s already found himself caught in the tightening grip of the Emprie. As Luthen Rael had hoped, the Empire’s response was swift and fierce and Cassian experiences it first-hand in the prison work camp on the planet of Narkina 5. By the end of the episode, a month has passed and while there’s no telling just how long Cassian will be in prison (we know it won’t be his entire six-year sentence), it’s worthwhile to wonder how his time there will shape him into the who we know he becomes. Director Toby Haynes makes the audience feel the mundane nature of Cassian’s time in prison, putting them through the same automated paces the prisoners experience, while also illustrating the hopelessness of the situation through the suicide of a fellow prisoner.
Meanwhile, it’s the wrong time to be a Rebel. As the episode showcases the precision of the Imperial machine (indeed the series’ lead finds himself a cog in the very machine he hoped to take down), it does so in contrast to the fractured nature of the Rebellion. Rael’s visit with extremist leader Saw Gerrera on Segra Milo illustrates just how slipshod the fledgling Rebel Alliance is, if it’s really an alliance at all. Rael and Gerrera lie and posture and argue only to ultimately find themselves no more likely to achieve their “shared” purpose than they were before their meeting, in fact, in light of the enlightening conversation they share, they seem to be parsecs apart.
A slow burn to be sure, but “Narkina 5,” which is another in a line of beautifully shot episodes in this series, brings the tension down a notch from previous weeks but does so simply to lay the groundwork for the next “event.” Though he tried to walk away, Cassian’s mission on Aldhani has led the ISB to Ferrix where they have begun to wrangle up any and everyone associated with him. Episode 8 begun to weave together many of the series’ ongoing, individual threads, causing the rough-and in some cases unexpected-intersection of their arcs. Karn and Meero’s meeting went about as smoothly as Rael and Gerrera’s, which certainly isn’t the way most fans had it playing out. How long does someone with Karn’s ambition stay sidelined? How will he respond to being dismissed by the Empire? These are fair questions which we didn’t even know needed answering. And that’s emblematic of what Andor has provided fans of Star Wars so far. For a series about a dead character, it’s certainly proven to be one of the most thought-provoking streaming series Lucasfilm has made to date.