Ferrix isn’t the most distinctive planet in the Star Wars galaxy, especially compared to the visual riches of Coruscant, Ahch-To, or Naboo. It’s another desert outpost full of characters trying their best to stay off of the Empire’s radar; less dusty and lawless than Tatooine, less lonely than Jakku, but also not quite as bustling or eclectic as more heavily populated systems. But give some credit (maybe even some Republic credits?) to Andor for making Ferrix’s secondhand nature, with its industrial workers and big scraps of metal everywhere, feel evocative in a way that has eluded some other recent additions to the ever-expanding list of Star Wars planets.
This is especially true in Andor’s third episode, which, as many critics, including Vulture’s Roxana Hadadi, have pointed out, feels like the conclusion of a supersize pilot; rather than getting the two-hour network-TV premiere (which would really be 96 minutes without ads), we get three “episodes” that add up to just about … 96 minutes. But while Andor’s opening salvo feels more satisfying as a three-episode whole than individual installments, these episodes have done their best to distinguish themselves within that framework.
Here, that’s done through intermittent crosscutting that at times practically integrates the flashback material (which could conceivably be a series wrap, given where it ends up) into the present-day action. As mini-Cassian explores the imperial ship that has disrupted his life on Kenari, he flies into a rage and starts trashing the place, perhaps after doing some of that Empire-era “fomenting” mentioned in the previous episode. Then Maarva, another proto-Rebel, and B2 all show up on the scene. Maarva makes the call to take this child — who doesn’t speak her language and would be easy enough to leave behind — with them as they ransack the ship and flee the incoming soldiers. This material is mixed so closely with Empire rent-a-cops approaching Ferrix and closing in on Cassian (which includes interrogating present-day Maarva) that it’s a little jarring — presumably intentionally so: Younger Maarva talks about the approaching soldiers, and then we see Syril Karn and his boys making their way through town.
As the bad guys tromp around searching for Cassian, the people of Ferrix spring into action, banging on a series of ubiquitous hanging metal bits that may have looked ornamental but serve as an all-purpose alarm system. It’s too much individual rattling for 14 soldiers to silence, an expanded version of the ceremonial bell-tower figure seen in the previous episode. “Intimidation, bluff, and bluster,” one of the officers calls it, a knowingly laughable characterization from anyone Empire-affiliated and cannily suggesting an air of self-victimizing grievance that will be familiar to anyone paying attention to the would-be martyrs of today’s right wing.
Hanging metal also figures into the episode’s big action set piece — the first of the series, really. Rael and Cassian find themselves in a shoot-out against some of Syril’s men, but they use the enormous metal parts, swinging from chains and attached to pulleys above them in the warehouse, to overcome the troops’ firepower advantage. Ferrix may be a comparatively minor planet, but it quietly serves as a test case for the Rebel Alliance following the “how democracy dies” despair of Revenge of the Sith: People can band together and fight off fascist encroachment.
Before the troops arrive, Rael and Cassian have their fateful meeting arranged by Bix. Rael is supposed to be there to buy Cassian’s device, which can track every Imperial coordinate for nine parsecs. But he’s more interested in the how than the what of this device, specifically how Cassian was able to steal it from the Empire. (A pause here to complain about just how many Disney-era Star Wars stories manage to tantalizingly hang the possibility of sneaky thievery and heisting in front of us only to shrug and turn them into shoot-outs or, as with this episode, keep them offscreen.) This is a pivotal conversation, perhaps self-consciously so; series mastermind Tony Gilroy packs it full of familiar writerly phrases: “This isn’t that,” “Rule No. 1,” and so on delivered with enough relish by Skarsgård to both sell them and call attention to the sale. It’s really Diego Luna, though, who gets the better lines in this exchange, explaining how he was able to waltz off with an important piece of Imperial equipment: “They’re so fat and satisfied, they can’t imagine it … that someone like me would ever get inside their house.”
With the added pressure of violent confrontation and the promise of an escape ship, Cassian agrees to go with Rael. They wind up leaving the precious box behind, though Cassian does briefly agitate for bringing it along, which will surely be read by Rael as a testament to his grit and determination — also, one assumes, proof that Cassian is the real prize Rael was hoping to score here. (If I were Cassian, I’d be a dick about it and demand that he give me the money anyway, even after joining his cause.) As Cassian and Rael get the hell out of Ferrix, the intercutting resumes once more with a brief shot of Maarva ushering an unconscious mini-Cassian off of Kenari giving way to Maarva in her home, chilling with B2, knowing that Cassian has left them behind. Other denizens of Ferrix get similar treatment as Cassian and Rael fly away with one final bit of parallel cutting between Cassians young and old on starships facing, yes, a new dawn.
This maybe gets a little heavy-handed about characters we’ve not spent much actual time with, particularly Maarva. You could even argue that this three-episode arc forms its own prequel to the prequel to the prequel, spending a feature-length amount of time on five or ten minutes’ worth of backstory. But by spending a little more time on the scrap heap that Cassian calls home, Andor has taken on a surprising heft.
• RIP Timm: You didn’t even have a cool Star Wars name. Bix finds out that her boyfriend ratted Cassian out; he tries to redeem himself by rushing to her side when the rent-a-cops have injured her, but his plan of hoping they aren’t serious about shooting him does not come to fruition.
• Given the way this three-episode introduction seems to be wrapping up in favor of whatever happens next, I actually thought Syril Karn might get abruptly bumped off — all the better to avoid imitating the still-recent Obi-Wan Kenobi story line of “obsessive functionary goes beyond the wishes of his superiors in mad pursuit of our good guy.” Presuming Syril Karn sticks around for future episodes, hopefully they’ll find a new direction for his character, whose combination of true-believer zeal and youthful incompetence makes him one of the more intriguing individual figures on a show that has derived most of its power so far from implications about collective action.
• I hope this isn’t the last we see of Kenari, either. Ferrix seems like it’s served its function pretty well, but an Empire-quarantined mining planet where children have been fending for themselves has a lot of potential.
Update: an earlier version of this recap misnamed the character of Syril Karn.