You feel the slower pace this week as episode four, “Aldhani,” flies solo with Cassian settling into his new life as a Rebel operative. Luthen drops him off on the planet Aldhani where he meets a small group planning to steal payroll from an Imperial facility. The group, led by Vel, doesn’t trust Andor and has to take him at his word. And since we only know Cassian’s ultimate fate, these people probably have reason to worry.
Should Disney Rethink Their Release Strategy?
I will not engage with the show’s “slow and boring” criticism, as I don’t think it is either. But there is something off about the pacing of these episodes that is enhanced now that we are back to a single episode released weekly. The first season will have 12 episodes, so there is plenty of time to pick things up as the story progresses. Episode four begins with a new act and throws our main character into an entirely different situation, and we meet new characters.
The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett work as weekly releases because they act more like Western serials. Each week brings a new mini adventure serving an overall plot. Disney promoted Obi-Wan Kenobi as a six-part event series, so people knew it was five weeks (the first two episodes’ release coincided with Star Wars Celebration)
As such, “Aldhani” is essentially a reset where we need time to learn about the new characters, including their motivations. But Disney Plus’ release strategy is not complimenting this form of storytelling, and “Aldhani” would be better served if we could immediately watch the next episode. This is not fan greed. It is to prevent losing interest.
I barely mentioned Stellan Skarsgård’s Luthen Rael in my last post because he was only a factor in the previous episode, but he did make quite the impression. In this episode, it is clear that he operates within some powerful spaces. First, he has a day job. As he puts on a Palpatine-type wig and changes mannerisms, we learn that the front is a shop that deals in high-end galactic artifacts. The kind one might find one day in Dok Andor’s in Galaxy’s Edge. Like a superhero, he uses this mask to communicate with Senator Mon Mothma, who funds his operations against the Empire.
Most of Luthen’s screentime this week is mitigating risk and assuring people who feel they have too much to lose. First is Vel, who is understandably worried that Luthen has dropped Cassian at their doorstep three days before a planned heist. Luthen tells her that Cassian, introduced as “Clem,” is being paid and that he is trustworthy, and she has to vouch for him to her other concerned cohorts. Luthen and his partner in performance, Clea, have to put on a show for Mon Mothma’s new driver, who may or may not be an Imperial spy.
And Luthen only trusts himself, not wanting Mothma to bring in an additional purse to fund their missions. There is a good chance that ISB will eventually wind up at Luthen’s store, and what happens then will be exciting to watch.
The ISB, the Real Antagonist, and the Exposition Dump
There are many ways to place exposition within a scene: dialogue, title cards, flashbacks, and set design. Star Wars has utilized all of these (brilliantly with the opening crawl, which I miss greatly in these series).
In introducing the Imperial Security Bureau (ISB) in live-action, it is done through a speech by the ISB Major Partagaz when he asks the agents what they do:
“We are healthcare providers. We treat sickness. We identify symptoms. We locate germs whether they arise from within or have come from the outside. The longer we wait to identify a disorder, the harder it is to treat the disease.”Star Wars: Andor, Aldhani
It is in this scene we meet Syril Karn 2.0, Dedra Meero. She is an uptight ISB agent who tries to take over jurisdiction from her fellow agent and gets shut down by her superior. Like Syril, she will likely defy his orders and get involved anyway (or maybe in response to a successful mission on Aldhani?).
And it is such an Imperial scene, pitting two agents against each other. Like in Obi-Wan Kenobi and the Inquisitors, the Empire operates by creating competition within its walls, ultimately to their detriment. However, it helps get Dedra closer to Ferrix to move the story along.
When her fellow agent Blevin (British actor and rapper Ben Bailey Smith aka Doc Brown), tells her she might want to “steady the latter before you start climbing,” it might not bode well for her. More Blevin, please.
Is Cassian Enough?
The first three episodes revolved around the dual storylines of Cassian and Syril. While we spend a lot of time with Cassian in this episode, we barely see any of Syril. Only his firing and returning home to his mother. Will Dedra also find Syril and recruit him? Or will Syril rethink his loyalties? I can see him going either way and because he is a character we have never seen, his arc continues to be the most intriguing.
Again, the more exciting storylines did not involve Cassian as we get to know more about the future figurehead of the Rebellion. Senator Mon Mothma lives in a decadent home in the high level of Coruscant but has to play politician even in her home. Mothma’s husband, Perrin, invites her political enemies to dinner without consulting her and does not care about politics in general. Mothma also mentions the people of Ghorman, which will play a role in Mothma ultimately resigning from the Senate and becoming the leader of the Rebel Alliance. She is on her own path.
Also, that we are just finding out Mon Mothma had a husband is a testament to how woefully underdeveloped her character has been in canon. This character has been around since the original trilogy, and I am glad Lucasfilm is fixing how little we know about her.
But back to Cassian, perhaps when he is more active in his series will, his storylines feel more enjoyable and less of a necessity.
For Cassian and his crew, the mission is to steal the quarterly payroll from an Imperial site on Aldhani. The planet is the perfect hub strategically, per Vel, for the Empire to take over the galaxy. It is a step down from the Death Star plans in Rogue One, but one has to start somewhere. None of Cassian’s new crew are experienced soldiers, and their paranoia about Cassian repeats in every scene to irritation. They do have a great plan to escape undetected: during The Eye of Aldhani, a once every three-year celestial event.
Besides Vel, I don’t really care about any of these people, but Nemik is the one I pinpoint to die during the mission. It would be traditional Star Wars. The idealistic one that believes in you the most is the one to die to inspire the hero to answer the call to action.
“Aldhani” was a calm-before-the-storm episode, and I look forward to seeing the Cassian’s mission play out.