Andor Episode Eight: Narkina 5 Thoughts

Recently, Tony Gilroy confirmed that “Announcement” was more of a standalone episode, and this episode and the next two are one arc. So Narkina 5 is the first episode of Cassian’s Keef’s new life, which is pretty dim. More than halfway through, I can say it is not my favorite series. In all honesty, it has been a struggle to watch these episodes, but that does not mean I am not enjoying the series. And there is plenty to discuss.

The Narkina 5 Arc and the Limits of a Budget

Is there are specific reason why Narkina 5 consists of all humans? | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Keef gets herded off to an Imperial transport vessel with other prisoners and taken to the labor facility Narkina 5. The guards wear ugly boots and feel confident enough in their tactics that they don’t carry weapons (that might be important later). The warden clarifies why they do not need weapons, giving them a “level one” shock that is painful enough to get the point across.

From there, we see protocol after protocol that drives home how stringent the Empire runs its prisons. There is a guard without his partner because the latter had to move a man off the floor (we will learn later what this means). You sense that more and more people are coming in because of Public Order Resentencing Directive (PORD).

And already, the guards are having a hard time keeping up with the numbers. There are also two fundamental observations that Keef makes: the guards are short-staffed and rely heavily on automation in prison to police, and the prisoners can communicate with each other on different levels through a type of sign language. Keef will likely leave Narkina at the end of this arc; it is just a matter of how and at what cost. But the episode does an excellent job of establishing the challenge it will be getting him out of there.

Narkina 5 is yet another new planet in an unknown location, but it must have some value to the Empire because of its location or resources. One of the prisoners tells Keef to “breathe deep” when they first arrive because it might be the last time they ever taste fresh air.

One of many evil things the Empire does is remove people (even non-prisoners) from nature, and the facility at Narkina 5 is another cold, bland environment that we get to “enjoy.” The ISB officers finally have some company.

For the scale the show has reached thus far, there is a shocking lack of aliens in this show. They are in the background, but it becomes more apparent at the prison, where all prisoners are human. Was that intentional for a story reason or to avoid the budget of throwing in alien creatures in the mix? The answer can be as simple as there are prisons for specific species so that punishment is easier to administrate, although that has never been the case when we have seen prisons in Star Wars.

The Empire’s prejudice against non-humans is touched upon across all mediums, most recently in The Mandalorian, and that prejudice is non-existent so far in Andor. One of many things Star Wars streaming could improve is having more main characters who are of different species and who are not Ahsoka Tano. Otherwise, this could be any spy/thriller series and not unique to the Star Wars universe.

Kino Loy and Self-Policing

Andy Serkis doing his best, worst impression of a motivational manager | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

“He won’t be back. They only come to pick up the dead and bring their replacements.”

Andor Episode Eight: Narkina 5

That is what Kino Loy, played by Supreme Leader Snoke himself, Andy Serkis, tells Keef when he arrives on the labor floor. Loy is the Five-Two-D unit manager (Level 5, Room 2, Dayshift) and a prisoner who has some privilege by supervising the other prisoners through their work shifts. He has less than a year left in his sentence and makes it clear that Keef will not jeopardize that or his standing within the prison structure.

The whole situation is a reminder that the paranoia during this time is so high that the Empire does not need to be ever-present, even in their prisons. They just need to give a few perks to some to keep the machine moving. We do not know what these prisoners are laboring to build. Many people will assume it has something to do with the Death Star. 

It might be mining equipment that would make Narkina 5 or some other planet uninhabitable, like Kenari, Cassian’s true homeworld. It would be rotten luck for Narkina 5, but one more thing to drive Keef to commit to the Rebellion.

Awkward Love Triangles

Cinta and Vel are on two different paths | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

When you get married at 15, things might get a little stale by the time you are middle-aged. This is undoubtedly where Mon Mothma and Perrin find themselves. At another party at Mothma’s apartment, she is hosting Senators to gather support to stall the Emperor’s latest overreach. These parties also allow her to meet with Kolma without suspicion from the wrong people. Two people suspicious of Kolma’s time with Mon Mothma are her daughter and her husband. I will speak more about the former later, but the latter is not entirely clueless about his wife and Kolma’s relationship. And Kolma cannot help but take a jab at Perrin, commenting that “charity begins at home.” Ouch.

I understand why Perrin and Leida would get tired of the constant hosting and take that frustration out on Mothma. And it does seem like Perrin supports her the evening, knowing that she is trying to rally senators against the Emperor. For the viewers, the party is a great way to show current attitudes about the Empire and how that might change throughout the show.

On Ferrix, Vel and Cinta watch Cassian’s old acquaintances in case he returns (we can assume that both now know Clem’s actual name). When Kleya told Vel that Cassian was a loose end, I doubted that she was the assassin type. So it makes sense that Cinta is with her because Cinta IS the type.

That is not the only problem Vel is facing. She is in love with Cinta, and Cinta is in love with the cause. And there is a class difference between the two: Cinta makes a passing comment about Vel being a rich kid. Cinta also seems like someone who would fit in with Saw Gerrera’s faction and, quite frankly, holds the ruthlessness that Cassian displays in Rogue One.

Cinta is my favorite character to emerge in this season’s middle section, and I am glad we will see more of her. But how did she get off of Aldhani?!

Making the Alliance

Forest Whitaker returns as live-action Saw Gerrera | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

While Mon Mothma is preparing her finances to help Rebel cells, Luthen is trying to bring together former enemies from the Clone Wars. To start, he makes a trip to Segra Milo, the base of Saw Gerrera’s partisan group. Luthen wants Saw to meet with a former Separatist, Anto Kreegyr, and align on a shared cause against the Empire, but Saw refuses to work with a Separatist.

Part of my expectations for Andor was that Saw Gerrera’s backstory would get the attention missing in Rogue One. And part of that backstory comes from The Clone Wars. There is a particular reason that Saw does not want to work with Separatists. Hopefully, that will be revealed during the series instead of continuously portraying Saw as a stubborn extremist without sympathy. Forest Whitaker is not the only version of Saw, but it is the one most people know now, so the Andor team is working backward, same with Cassian. And they should bring the same amount of effort and care.

Yes, Saw is playing gatekeeper. But so are Luthen, Kleya, and Cinta. All these characters have their own ideas of what Rebellion looks like, and none are entirely right or wrong.

I am curious about what role Saw will play in the remaining episodes of the season, but I am glad to see Forest Whitaker come back and get another shot at showing the complexity of this character.

What’s Going on with Leida?

Leida acting very suspicious | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Seriously, something is going on with Mon Mothma’s daughter. I did not think much about Leida excusing herself from the party scene in “Announcement,” but this episode focuses on her shiftiness when Mothma and Kolma speak to her. She comments that Kolma is there quite often, then remarks when she notices her mother drinking squigs that it’s disgusting (and, yes, live worms dehydrating to create a yellow drink is gross). The whole conversation lasts for about 20 seconds, and it is the only time Leida has in this episode, but it is memorable in its awkwardness. And these are not coincidences, so it is another mystery that will probably carry over into the next season.

The True Evil of the Empire

Despite the posturing, Syril has more leverage than Dedra might like to admit | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

Alright, this is the Dedra Meero part of my post as her paths finally cross with other characters in the show. First, it’s Syril, who has a fantastic scene where he gives as good as he gets to Meero. He immediately notes that she is not Blevin, which is interesting, but Syril is the type of guy who would remember the name of the man that derailed his career.

Dedra tells him to stop filing reports on Cassian Andor and wasting the Empire’s time, yet asks him to fill in some blanks from Blevin’s report, something that Syril also notes. He tells her he never got to read the report even though he signed it, having no choice. Smart. Syril gets to read the report and tells her what’s missing. He then makes it clear that he was good at his job, he tracked down Cassian in two days, and even though he was aggressive, it comes with the territory in the Empire.

Dedra still brushes Syril off, but he made an impression on her. Syril smiles as she leaves because he has gotten just as much information from Dedra as she has from him (maybe even more). And Dedra is being as dismissive of Syril as Blevin was dismissive of her. Funny how that tends to happen.

Dedra eventually finds her way to Ferrix at the right time. Bix and Brasso are looking after Maarva, whose health is deteriorating as she tries to help out the Rebellion that she believes is organized. But we find out more information about Ferrix. There is a secret tunnel under the hotel the Empire commandeered, and Maarva is a past president and member of a group called The Daughters of Ferrix. Unfortunately, the best idea that Bix has is to try and send a message to Luthen to get ahold of Cassian and let him know his mother is sick. Kleya wisely shuts down that line and convinces Luthen despite the potential for a lead to Cassian’s whereabouts.

Even though Cassian is gone, Bix and Brasso still look after his mother | credit Lucasfilm ltd.

This communication attempt earns Bix a ticket to the Imperial headquarters on Ferrix and Dedra’s attention. The Imperials take Paak, the owner of the communication device Bix uses, and torture him. Then they use him as a prop for Bix to see when she is brought in for questioning. None of this is good for anyone in Cassian’s orbit.

But this is another evil of the Empire, perhaps the greatest evil. They are breaking down a community that genuinely cares about each other through violence and oppression, first through contractors like Pre-Mor and then directly. How things are going, Ferrix could be a significant recruiting planet for the Rebellion. That secret tunnel might come in handy.

The most we hear from Keef is in the beginning when he is still trying to plead his case to Shoretroopers, who could not care less. From the moment he sets foot in Narkina, the number of words he speaks decreases with each scene, and it is all a facial performance from Diego Luna. In the first three episodes, I said that the actor who plays young Kassa shined with facial expressions, and Luna does the young actor justice in this episode. Keef looks terrified in the beginning and slowly eases into prison life after a small time jump (30 shifts, so assuming 30 days).

One of his prison buddies is a man named Ruescott Melshi, who made his first appearance in Rogue One and has appeared in other sister content like Rebel Rising. It is the first significant connection for Keef/Cassian between Andor and Rogue One. And it shows that there are easter eggs in the series, but they will revolve mainly around the Rogue One part of Star Wars.