He doesn't know it's part of a wider rebellion being led by Senator Mon Mothma (Genevieve O'Reilly) on galactic capital Coruscant. Working with recruiter Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), she's trying to avoid detection as she covertly gathers resources for the nascent Rebel Alliance against Empire, but spies are watching her every move.
Cassian also drew the attention of the Empire by stealing from them, and Imperial Security Bureau Supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) suspects there's a wider rebel movement at work.
The show takes place five years before Rogue One, which revealed the events leading into original Star Wars film A New Hope, in an era when Imperial forces expand their totalitarian grip over the galaxy. Beware, SPOILERS lie ahead.
ALDHANI -- Much of this episode is spent with our extremely tense rebel heroes as they prepare for their operation at the Imperial garrison. They don't trust the squirrelly Cassian -- who's still using his late adoptive father Clem's name as his alias -- since he was added to the crew at the last minute.
However, it's also clear that they need his professional mercenary skills. He has a much better sense of how to use the Empire's equipment and the vibe they need to blend in as they infiltrate the garrison in Imperial uniforms.
The mistrust boils over when Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) puts a blade to Cassian's throat and finds the valuable kyber crystal Luthen gave him as down payment. Cassian admits that he isn't a true believer in the rebel cause, but manages to convince them he'll get the job done.
There's a real sense of danger in this scene, like this crew could open fire. The only character we know survives is Cassian; any of the others could be killed at any moment.
It's also revealed that Skeen's brother took his own life after an Imperial prefect seized his pepper tree farm (and thus his livelihood). It's a somber moment between Skeen and Cassian, and highlights the everyday horrors the Empire has inflicted.
Before their confrontation, Skeen and Cassian also bond over them both having spent time in prison. Cassian was in a "youth center" from age 13 to 16, which seems like a polite term for a juvenile prison.
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Cassian recognizes Skeen's tattoos as Krayt Head and By the Hand -- these are most likely gangs he ran with in prison. You may recognize Krayt dragons as a kind of beastie Mando battled on Tatooine in the first episode of Mandalorian season 2; it's so badass that it makes sense to adopt its name for your gang.
As Cassian gets to know his allies, the thoughtful Karis Nemik (Alex Lawther) talks about the untitled political manifesto he's working on to document the Empire's increasing hold on the galaxy.
"So much going wrong, so much to say, all of it happening so quickly -- the pace of repression outstrips our ability to understand it," he tells our hero. "And that is the real trick of the Imperial thought machine. It's easier to hide behind 40 atrocities than a single incident."
He reckons that's still not enough to rob people of their awareness of their fundamental rights. It's pretty engaging stuff and applicable to real-life totalitarianism, but Cassian doesn't reveal his own beliefs because he doesn't really have any. We'll presumably see those ideals form through Andor's two seasons.
Nemik should call it "The Star Wars" or something like that.
Moving back home
CORUSCANT -- Disgraced former Corpo officer Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) is back at home with his overbearing mom Eedy (Kathryn Hunter), who quietly berates her son over his sudden lack of career prospects and his posture. The poor guy seems pretty traumatized by the experience, and she isn't exactly being a source of comfort.
She's gotten in touch with Syril's unseen Uncle Harlo about getting him a new job. It's unclear where he works, but my mind immediately went to the Empire.
However, Cyril hasn't given up on the hunt for Cassian, as evidenced by him sitting in his room gazing at a hologram of his target. It's likely this will bring him into contact with Dedra Meero, the Imperial Security Bureau supervisor who's gathering evidence to prove her theory that the rebel effort is becoming more organized.
Back at the beautiful home of Mon Mothma, we get another awkward breakfast scene as we're introduced to her daughter Leida (Bronte Carmichael). Both Leida and her dad Perrin (Alastair Mackenzie) seem bothered by Mon's apparent self-centeredness.
Except we know she's anything but self-centered -- Mon's secretiveness as she quietly plans the rebellion probably makes her seem distant to her family, like a superhero leading a double life.
It's the first time we've seen Leida, but the character was likely inspired by the noncanon Dark Empire Sourcebook (for the '90s role-playing game) and the comic story Entrenched, which is available in the 2005 graphic novel Star Wars: Visionaries. In the latter tale, Mon's daughter is called "Lieda" and her son Jobin was killed by Darth Vader.
In a later scene with Perrin, Mon mentions that he wouldn't be interested in a foundation she's working on because it's charity. This could well be a secret rebel fund of some kind, she's throwing her husband off the scent.
Mon's family is conspicuously absent when she shows up later in the timeline (in Rebels, Rogue One and Return of the Jedi). It's possible they're killed, disown her or go into hiding after she declares open rebellion around three years after this point.
Rogue thoughts, unanswered questions and Easter eggs
We briefly check in on Luthen in the episode's final moments. He's nervous because he brought Cassian in the rebel operation too late, and he checks the radio for updates. Go to bed dude.
Visible on the shelf behind him are the Sankara Stones from Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
It sure seems like rebel team leader Vel Sartha (Faye Marsay) and Cinta Kaz (Varada Sethu) are a couple. They aren't part of the main garrison infiltration plan, and go off on their own -- hopefully they both make it out of this.
I wonder what Drey milk tastes like? Cassian was a bit rude to dump his; be polite and knock it back at least once.
We learn that Imperial Lt. Gorn (Sule Rimi) lost his loyalty to the Empire after falling in love with a local woman, losing a promotion and then her. I hope we dive deeper into his backstory.
The Imperials stationed on Aldhani are eager to see the celestial event, and Gorn uses it as a way to clear the base for his rebel allies.
The TIE fighter buzzing the Aldhani locals feels like bullying. Classic Empire.
We only get a brief glance at Ferrix, but the Empire is taking over a hotel to use as its headquarters.
It's a little sad to see the rebels burning their lovely model of the garrison.
Cyril seems to have collectible clone trooper statues in his room, which is simultaneously awesome and highlights his love for rigid authority.
Dedra knocks back some meds as she settles in to work late. Hope she isn't in too much pain (and that she stops working for the horrible totalitarian regime).