Episode six is everything Andor built up to. This is the big heist, the fight, and the plan that has been shaped since the beginning. What makes the moment so masterful is Andor’s patience and ability to flesh out characters and plot. Between episodes five and six, viewers learn about and love a former stormtrooper, a man who lost a brother and orchard to the Empire, a young boy with ideals ahead of his time and a manifesto on the way, and two women fighting against the Empire as much as they’re fighting for each other. In episode six, viewers lost nearly all of those they came to care about. Despite the win, there are three empty seats. This is the sting of a small rebellion Star Wars had yet to show.
The Complexity of Trust
This episode of Andor picks right back up where it left off. Vel (Faye Marsay) and Cinta (Varada Sethu) are off while the boys pose as Empire soldiers, all in order to steal the payroll in the vault. Using the Dhani pilgrimage as a diversion, Cassian (Diego Luna) and this crew make their way toward another new antagonist, Commandant Jayhold (Stanley Townsend). We see a huge difference between the commandant and the Dhani, who scrape to get by. The Dhani trade goat hides with the Empire as an excuse for them to take occupation of their land. The Dhani travel to see the Eye of Aldhani, which is “fifty meteor showers all at once”, is a perfect distraction for Cassian and his crew to begin the heist.
In the previous episode, it felt as if Cassian earned the trust of the others, especially through his acts of honesty. But there is miscommunication between the four and hesitation on Vel’s part that shrouds the success of the mission in uncertainty.
The Grayness Between Good and Bad
There is high praise for this episode of Andor because of how well-written the tension is. Not a single moment slacked. As Cinta and Vel reunite with the boys, a hostage situation, heist, and power outage all simultaneously occur. What sets this entire sequence apart is how dark and different the approach is.
This is not Luke Skywalker refusing to kill his father, Darth Vader. This is not Rey choosing to try to save Kylo Ren from the dark side. These are rebels, hardened by the front lines, who take a family and young child hostage and kill a man who tries to negotiate the boy’s safety. Cassian and the others take several unarmed soldiers by surprise and use their labor driven by fear to load the credits onto their ship. Outside soldiers make their way into the vault, which results in a shootout and several deaths.
As Mon Mothma makes her speech to the council, news that eighty million credits were stolen from the Empire circulates. The Galactic Senate Chamber is strikingly vacant. There is a realization that the all-powerful Empire, made of unbending steel, can be punctured. The rebels succeeded.
The pacing of the heist is tuned to perfection. The effects used to create the image of the Eye are gorgeous. The juxtaposition between the Dhani’s emotional celebration and the rebels’ painstaking efforts highlight the multifaceted plays at work in episode six. Nicholas Britell’s stunning score, Tony Gilmore’s compelling dialogue, and the incredible acting altogether make this one of the best Star Wars episodes on screen.
Characterization and Representation
Cinta and Vel’s relationship gets a small spotlight in this episode. In episode five, there were insinuations that the two were together romantically. This episode expanded on it. This is what the Rise of Skywalker failed to achieve. We know Vel and Cinta individually. Vel leads the small group of rebels in the mountains and drives the mission in episode six. She is the heartbeat behind the operation. Cinta is a healer, the only survivor of her family, and keeps a calm mind even amid the chaos. More dialogue between the two would have been nice to see, but their unarticulated teamwork also shows how well they operate as a duo. They are complex characters separately, but they fall back on each other when they need to.
There was a fear that the couple would be killed right after their introduction during this dangerous burglary, but though separated, they survived. In fact, they were the only ones from the original squad to do so.
The win is clouded in tragedy. The rebels escape, but there is a need to mourn. During the shootout, ex-stormtrooper Taramyn Barcona (Gershwyn Eustache Jnr) is shot and killed after Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) fails to cover for him. During the frantic take-off, thoughtful and passionate Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther) is crushed by a large stack of credits. As he lies dying, he helps Cassian navigate through the colorful asteroids and away from the chasing TIE Fighters. It’s a chase among the best in media, and one that will be remembered for a long time.
Skeen convinces Vel to land and bring Nemik to a doctor in an attempt to save the boy’s life. As Cassian and Skeen wait outside, Skeen instead proposes the two ditch Vel and Nemik and split the eighty million credits between the two of them. Cassian, who lost his own sister to the Empire, discovers Skeen had lied about losing a brother to the Empire. Skeen has no motive but money.
At the start of episode six, Nemik and Cassian talked about mercenaries and the absence of motive and moral boundaries. Nemik concluded that because the Empire has no morals, why should the rebels care about people as tools? He called it adaptation, yet Cassian disagreed.
Cassian shoots and kills Skeen for his proposition. Cassian before had claimed he was only helping the rebellion for the money. Yet as Cassian checks on Nemik and instead discovers his body, Vel gives Cassian Nemik’s manifesto, and he accepts. Cassian leaves Vel alone.
The last we see of Cinta is alone with the Dhani and remaining Imperial soldiers. Stranded on Aldhani and away from the hostages she was set to monitor, it is unclear if she, too, crossed that line of morality and killed the family the rebels kept captive.
Andor is driven by a clear, fervid vision. Star Wars is about Jedi waving swords of light and armored men with blasters, but it’s also about the cruelty of greed, the strength of morals, and those left on the front lines. As Nemik noted, Andor is the role of mercenaries in the galactic struggle for freedom. If there’s room for our traditional Star Wars, there’s room for stories like Andor, too.