Sunday, November 27

‘Andor’ Episode 9 Review: The Empire Is at Its Cruelest in ‘Nobody’s Listening!’

I had chills by the end of this episode, which has to be the darkest installment of Andor we’ve had so far. Nobody’s Listening! shows the Empire at its absolute worst. The Imperial machine is insidious, cruel, and vindictive, showing nothing but contempt for the people it governs, and taking enjoyment from inflicting pain on them.


Andor has been great at showing just how evil the Empire truly is, but this episode really takes the cake. Writer Beau Willimon, who is probably best known for his work on House of Cards and has penned this entire arc, clearly jumped at the chance to show the horrors to which a fascist government like the Empire would sink to keep people in line and maintain order.


It could be easy to ignore that Dedra Meero was working for the bad guys in the early episodes, as you instinctively wished for her to get the upper hand on her self-serving colleagues at the ISB. How foolish that feels now; it’s clear as day that Dedra is nothing but another villain, eager to stamp out rebel activity by any means necessary. There are no redeeming qualities left in her.


She is truly monstrous when interrogating Bix, subjecting her to a horrifying form of torture. Denise Gough even flashes a smile at one point, just to let us know how much she’s enjoying Bix’s terror. Adria Arjona’s performance is incredible as she conveys Bix’s desperate attempts to not show any pain.


Life on Narkina 5 is just as bleak. Cassian Andor spends most of the episode figuring out how to escape from the prison, and while he has some ideas, it’s clear he’ll need to get more people on board to have any chance of succeeding. Throughout the episode, the prisoners notice some increasingly mysterious things going on, and you’re right there with them wondering what the hell is happening. The tension is very real, and the final scene had me aching to see what comes next.


Spoilers ahead…


Kino Loy argues with Cassian Andor


Andy Serkis’ Kino Loy becomes a very important part of this episode. When asked by Cassian how many guards there are on each floor, he initially refuses to answer. He’s been broken in by the Empire, and has clearly bought into the system. He is sticking to his belief that if he serves his sentence for one more year with distinction, then he’ll be free to resume his life. He continues to keep his inmates in order, encouraging them to obey their Imperial jailers.


Cassian desperately tries to convince him that no one is listening, explaining his belief that Imperials are so arrogant that they wouldn’t even bother listening in to lowly people like themselves. That hypothesis is tested when they’re all held on the bridge out from the workstation and rumors spread that something has happened to the inmates on the second floor. It’s only when Kino Loy loudly proclaims that they shouldn’t believe whatever rumors they heard as they’re finally allowed to progress from the bridge. It’s heavily implied that the jailers were in fact listening out for any form of dissent, though of course there’s no way to know for sure.


Kino Loy approaches Cassian Andor's work station


That “Big Brother” quality only makes the Empire more frightening, but by the end of the episode, Kino finally snaps. The older inmate in Cassian’s unit is seen visibly struggling throughout the episode, and Kino states several times that he only has a few more days left on his sentence. He implores the man to hold on, believing that he’ll be free to live his life again soon. But by the end, the elderly man is pushed too far and ends up having a stroke.


Kino is clearly traumatized that a man so close to freedom can have it all taken away from him in the blink of an eye. When the medical technician arrives and gives him an injection to take the pain away while he passes, he also reveals that the prisoners on the second floor recognized the face of a new inmate that had been supposedly “released” from the fourth floor. Once they confirmed it, they rioted… and every single one of them was fried.


This story is key to Kino’s transformation. His belief that he’ll be allowed to leave at the end of his sentence is shattered, realizing that the Empire will just move him to a new block once he’s served his current sentence so they can enjoy endless free labor. He’ll never be allowed to leave. So we end the episode with him telling Cassian just how many guards there are on each floor as he walks away. Kino has clearly decided there’s no point serving the Empire if they’ll never be free, and it seems he’s on board for a prison escape.


Cassian Andor talks to inmate


Back on Ferrix, Dedra subjects Bix to a truly horrific torture scene. As if the overly enthusiastic torturer Gorst wasn’t scary enough, his chosen form of torture is worse. Gorst’s character was clearly inspired by those scientists who are a bit too passionate about their science and lacking in empathy for their subjects. He’s frightening as he explains what he’s going to do with a smile on his face.


He puts a headset on Bix, explaining that she’ll be listening to the screams of children from an alien race that the Empire exterminated on a planet in the Outer Rim after they resisted their rule. The implication is that those screams must be extremely high-pitched and deafening, excruciatingly painful to listen to, and likely with the volume cranked up. He tells her the story behind the screams for added emotional anguish. Adria Arjona’s performance is incredible here as we get a close up on her face; it’s extremely unpleasant to watch as we are forced to imagine just what those screams must sound like.


Syril Karn and Dedra Meero have an encounter


Dedra is clearly enjoying the freedom she’s been offered by Major Partagaz. She knows now that if she presents him with strong evidence, he will authorize whatever she needs. Her flash of a smile as she leaves her latest meeting with him tells you all you need to know about how pleased she is with herself right now.


She also seems to have deduced that Cassian Andor was involved in the Aldhani raid, noting that the timing works and that his appearance is similar to what was reported by the surviving garrison members. I thought it would take an alliance with Syril to make that connection, but she appears to have done it on her own.


Syril meets Dedra


Syril, for his part, is increasingly unhinged. He’s a strange man, stalking Dedra and waiting outside the ISB to thank her for his promotion. There’s something else behind his eyes too; it would seem that his admiration for her work ethic and passion is more than platonic. He’s intoxicated by her, gripping on to the feeling that he’s a found a woman who shares his own beliefs and understands him, unlike his mother. Dedra sternly admonishes him, but there does seem to be some kind of intense chemistry there.


Syril’s mother does seem to have done a number on him. We get another scene with the two of them, and after an endless tirade of verbal abuse designed to undermine his confidence, she’s over the moon when he announces that he was promoted. It’s clear she sees her son as a vehicle to increasing her own standing within society, and as messed up as Syril appears to be, you can’t help but feel for him in this dynamic.


Meanwhile, Mon Mothma gets two visitors this week — one expected, the other a surprise. We learn that Vel is actually Mon Mothma’s cousin, who stops by to chat with Mon and bestow a gift on her daughter Leida. I do wonder if Luthen is also related to both of them, but it’s unclear as neither of them mention him for fear of being overheard. I had wondered whether Vel could be related to him, but this reveal was a nice surprise. Well played, Tony Gilroy.


Mon Mothma and Vel speak


Mon is clearly uncomfortable with how dark her and Luthen’s movement is getting… while her official attempts to get the senate to listen are falling on deaf ears. Her concerns are compounded when Tay recommends getting a loan from a shady businessman. She’s distressed by the idea of dealing with people that have loose morals, but Andor seems to be trying to tell us that this is how rebellions are formed. It seems she’ll need to wise up sooner or later.


Mon Mothma is presented as a paragon of light and virtue in later stories, so I do wonder if she’ll find a new way to fund the Rebellion on her own terms, or if Andor will show us that her secrets are as dark as anyone else’s. Her personal life is no less complicated. It seems Perrin has been telling their daughter that Tay is an old flame of Mon’s, which is grossly irresponsible parenting and an obvious attempt to poison Leida against her mother. She’s being assaulted on all sides here, and it’ll be interesting to see how she’ll get through it.


The next episode of Andor should be a big one. We’re probably getting a prison break, and I imagine Cinta will end up rescuing Bix from the Empire, so there should be plenty of action at the end of this three-episode arc. The stakes have been raised spectacularly so far, so next week should be one hell of a spectacle.


For more Andor spoiler discussion, The Resistance Broadcast will be live tonight to discuss episode 9 in full detail at 9pm EST on our YouTube channel.


Josh is a huge Star Wars fan, who has spent far too much time wondering if any Star Wars character could defeat Thanos with all the Infinity Stones.