Episode 8 of Andor (Season 1), titled Narkina 5, tightens the noose around several characters, especially Cassian Andor (Diego Luna). Episode 7 of the show saw him getting arrested during a walk on the beach in Niamos, after which he is sentenced to six years in prison. As if the unfair legislative resentencing by the Empire was not enough, police brutality has now become an everyday reality all over the galaxy. Nobody is safe: even senators like Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) have to be careful about their schemes, while folks like Bix and Maarva struggle daily to survive barely.
However, prison inmates like Cassian have it the worst, as they are idly (and ruthlessly) taken to prison systems across the galaxy and dumped there for the rest of their sentence. Cassian is sent to Narkina 5, a moon that acts as an Imperial prison complex that extends underwater. The Narkina 5 sequences are Star Wars at its grittiest, as it exposes the extent of the Empire’s offhanded cruelty and disdain for those they control. The prison complex is no better than hell, and Cassian is stuck in the innermost rung, unable to escape or even dare to hope.
There are major spoilers ahead for episode 8 of Andor.
Andor (Season 1) Episode 8 Recap And Plot Synopsis
Cassian and his prison mates are shipped off to Narkina 5, and right after they board the ship, they’re asked to discard their shoes. This strikes as an odd thing from the get-go, and there’s a good reason behind it. After they walk into the stark, white facility barefoot, they’re greeted by guards wearing black uniforms and insulated boots. The guards inform them that they’ve been deemed worthy of labor by the Empire and that they will be provided with sanitary living quarters and an unlimited supply of food here. Cassian notices that the guards carry no weapons, and they answer this unasked question by stating that they do not need to.
What exactly is going on here? It is revealed that the prison floors are made of Tungstoid steel, which is generally used to make blast doors. As Tungstoid is a power conductor of electricity, the guards can press a button and fry the inmates at any point if they try to run away. They offer a little demonstration, which leads to Cassian and the others writhing on the floor in agony, their bare feet being the conductors for electric shocks to pass through. Not only is this unbelievably cruel, but this sort of psychologically messed up surveillance would also make any man feel perpetually on edge.
Back on Coruscant, Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) is called in for questioning by Dedra (Denise Gough) about the Ferrix incident involving Cassian Andor. While this appears as a meetup between two ambitious bootlickers, the difference is that Syril is incompetent while Dedra is ruthlessly competent. When Dedra asks Syril to spill details that did not make it in the official report, Syril explains that he cannot, as he does not even know what the official report says. After giving him the opportunity read it, Dedra voices her suggestions to supply the I.S.B. with a list of high-end weaponry and surveillance systems, as she believes that a man dubbed ‘Axis’ is responsible for coordinated rebel attacks. That man is none other than Luthen (Stellan Skarsgard), but Dedra and the Empire do not know that yet.
Being A Rebel Demands A Certain Degree Of Ruthlessness
In the previous episode, we witnessed how cold Kleya was about finding Cassian and killing him so that he could not compromise Luthen’s cover. She continues to put the rebel cause above everything when she receives a distress signal from Bix on Ferrix, who asks about Cassian’s whereabouts. Kleya tells Luthen they cannot risk contact and that he is slipping at this pivotal moment when he should be extra wary now that the rebellion is in the open. After Luthen agrees with her, Kleya shuts the connection down.
Back on Ferrix, Vel (Faye Marsay) and Cinta (Varada Sethu) are finally reunited, as they’re keeping a close eye on Bix and Maarva in case Cassian shows up here. The two have a conversation, and Vel expresses that she wants to spend some time with her, as they clearly have feelings for one another. But Cinta is more focused on the rebellion and prioritizes it first, saying that she will stay back in Ferrix to spy while Vel can leave. When Vel expresses her anguish that they’ve never had a moment of peace, Cinta affirms that she loves her, but the cause will always come first. “This is a fight to the death,” she reminds her before parting ways.
In Segro Milo, Luthen meets Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), with who we are already familiar, courtesy of Rogue One and Star Wars: Jedi Order. Luthen intends to hire Saw for a rebel attack and urges him to work with Anto Kreegyr in exchange for weapons and Imperial hardware. However, Saw Gerrera is not a team player and refuses Luthen outright — he says that he disagrees with Kreegyr’s politics and brands him as a Separatist. Saw’s hatred for Separatists makes sense because he lost his sister fighting them on Onderon in The Clone Wars.
Saw and his men are Partisans and follow a brand of anarchy and ruthlessness that will endanger the rebellion soon. His inability to work together for the common cause is a liability, as alliances constantly shift during such volatile times. This, combined with Saw’s hubris that he is the only one with clarity of purpose, drives a wedge between him and Luthen, and the latter leaves.
Andor Echoes Real-world Systemic Issues
As witnessed throughout several episodes, Mon Mothma is playing a dangerous game, as she constantly needs to be in the public eye and under Imperial surveillance. At yet another party for gathering votes against Palpatine’s new decree, Mon talks to everyone with practiced yet effortless charm, mingling with important folks to gain votes in her favor. During a meaningful conversation with her peers, Mon asks whether Palpatine’s fresh P.O.R.D. (Public Order Resentencing Directive) will help the people at all, and how he’s “frustrating” and “too easily provoked.” This is intended to mirror real-world scenarios where governments oppress their people in the name of discipline and public order.
One of the guests says that one has nothing to worry about if they don’t do anything wrong. Mon retorts that she fears the definition of what’s “wrong” as these moral imperatives disappear within corrupt structures as actions are egged on by problematic prejudice. This is true, as Cassian is arrested for doing absolutely nothing and sentenced unjustly to six years in prison. And now he’s in the dastardly Narkina 5.
Back in Narkina 5, Cassian is introduced to his line manager Kino Loy (Andy Serkis), who is an inmate in a position of power. The workers are not only expected to work daily for 12 years but also outdo one another, which festers contempt and alienation among one another. Cassian is clearly terrified, unable to parse this extremely ruthless environment, where every man is forced to labor for the Empire while competing with other rooms. Productivity is the only indicator of worth, and the system does not care about personal feelings of hopelessness or disillusionment. Even after a man kills himself by jumping onto a charged floor, the inmates are more concerned about the stench rather than one of their own being dead.
Andor (Season 1) Episode 8 Ending, Explained:
The episode ends with several dire implications. The troopers arrest Bix at Dedra’s behest, and she intends to torture and question her about Cassian’s whereabouts. Dedra also rejects Syril’s offer to be an asset to the Empire, which leaves him wounded again. While Syril is a spineless bootlicker, these repeated rejections might spurn him to do something drastic in the coming episodes.
Luthen cannot repeat the success of Aldhani, as the rebellion at this stage is too divided. Everyone has their agenda, despite having a common cause, and now that the Empire is hyper-vigilant, things are more complex than ever. With Mon’s assets being frozen, she cannot fund more rebellions and needs to take cautious steps in the right direction. Meanwhile, the Empire is one step closer to learning more about Luthen and Cassian.
Cassian has it the worst, as he is stuck in a cesspool with no exits and might end up dead at any moment. Despite having access to food, the sustenance lacks flavor or taste, an added benefit granted to only those who are the most productive. Such a soulless, punishment-intensive environment can sap out hope from the most optimistic folks, and Cassian already looks like a shell of a person. There are two choices ahead: to either succumb to the system or break free like the renegade he is.