“Narkina 5” depicts both the intricacy of totalitarian rule and the fiery rebellion that opposes it with admirable intelligence, continuing to position Andor as a uniquely grown-up and serious contribution to the Star Wars universe.
This Andor season 1, episode 8 recap for the episode titled “Narkina 5” contains spoilers.
“Narkina 5”, the title of this week’s episode of Andor, is the name of the Imperial factory facility that Cassian is shipped off to having been sentenced to six years in prison in Andor episode 7. You’ll recall that despite having helped to fleece an entire Imperial garrison in Episode 6, Cassian was nonetheless sentenced for basically no reason, an example of how the Empire is rounding people up on false charges and deeming them fit for labour so that they can help to grease the wheels of the lumbering totalitarian machine.
Andor season 1, episode 8 recap
And Cassian, still posing as Keef, does not take this well, in various subtle ways. Despite having always denied being a man of action, he has at least had the swarthy charm of an outlaw, someone better suited to the shadows, whether he’s up to something or not. There are no shadows on Narkina 5 – everything is pristine and sterile, looking more like a hospital than a prison. Everyone is kept under constant surveillance by the Empire and indeed each other, thanks to the facility being arranged around constant competition and rivalry. The place keeps itself in order by grouping inmates into tables and rooms, and threats of punitive measures for poor productivity. Some, like Kino (Andy Serkis), are given tokenistic positions of power. But more responsibility equals more potential blame, and thus more fear. So, those in charge are only concerned with assuring those who aren’t work themselves to death. The weakest links in the chain go brittle and snap rather quickly under all the pressure.
And amidst all this are constant reminders of how long is left in one’s sentence, a flurry of numbers that are arbitrary in both how they were settled on in the first place and how readily they’ll be ignored if the Empire deems it necessary. Andor’s depiction of prison labour is horrifying, but mostly in its intelligence; how well thought-out the system is, and how swiftly and efficiently you can imagine it breaking a man. It’s also a metaphor, obviously, for how policing is used as an extension of authoritarianism, though many fans won’t like to acknowledge that as it conflicts with the bizarre idea that a franchise with villains called Stormtroopers is somehow entirely apolitical.
Anywho, Cassian is not a fan of Narkina 5 and his current predicament and displays a level of personal, psychological defeat that we haven’t seen from him until now. Like all prison systems, this one is designed to suspend reality, to keep the inmates living the same day, again and again, removed from the passage of time and, in this case, the development of the plot. So, Episode 8 spends a lot of time away from Cassian in other corners of the galaxy.
This is good news since it allows various subplots to be neatly knitted together around a common theme – Cassian himself. With Dedra now in charge of the quadrant that includes Ferrix, Syril Karn manages to garner her attention, since he has been using his new job to personally search for Cassian. His ambition continues to outweigh his actual responsibilities, but when he lets on that he was forced to sign Blevin’s report without having actually been allowed to read it, Dedra realizes he may have something to offer. Through him pointing out the inconsistencies between the testimony and real events, Dedra is able to put together a report supporting her own theory of rebel activity that has Cassian right in the middle as a person of interest. Hilariously, Syril’s efforts to strongarm her into a more useful position within the ISB fall on deaf ears, his work having apparently been done already.
But this means that the Empire are now actively looking for Cassian. So, too, are Vel and Cinta at the behest of Kleya, to ensure that he never shares what he knows about Luthen’s involvement in the garrison heist. Since the episode ends with a little time jump as we pick up with Cassian further into his sentence, we can only imagine that all of the interested parties are closer than ever before to tracking him down. Assuming he’s able to escape from prison, he might be hopping out of the frying pan and straight into the fire.
But there’s more going on in “Narkina 5”, including a bit more political manoeuvring for Mon Mothma, and the much-anticipated reappearance of Saw Gerrera (Forest Whitaker), whom Luthen meets with on Segra Milo to propose a meeting with a Separatist named Anto Kreegyr. This conversation, like several in the season’s past, essentially gets to the core of both what Andor is about and why it works so well in the context of the Star Wars universe. It’s dripping with a passion, a sincerity, and an intelligence that we’re not used to seeing, the conversation turning to legitimate values and ideologies that are usually just backgrounds cool-looking characters pose in front of. If nothing else, Andor has been able to knit a profound understanding of the inner workings of totalitarian rule, and the fiery spirit of rebellion that opposes it, into the very fabric of its storytelling.