Andor season 1, episode 9 recap – what is Vel’s backstory?

By Jonathon Wilson
Published: November 2, 2022 (Last updated: January 26, 2024)
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Andor season 1, episode 9 recap - what is Vel's backstory?


Andor is as bleak as Star Wars has ever been, showcasing the terror of the Empire from multiple perspectives.

This recap of Andor season 1, episode 9, “Nobody’s Listening”, contains spoilers.

“Nobody’s Listening” has the distinction of being possibly the bleakest piece of Star Wars media ever, and that’s saying a lot considering the show hasn’t exactly shied away from the cruelty of the Empire’s regime until this point. But new, creative depths of depravity are reached this week, as Cassian continues to languish in the Narkina 5 labor prison he was sent to in Andor episode 8, and Bix is interrogated by the ISB.

Andor season 1, episode 9 recap

It’s that interrogation that really shocked me, at least in part because I couldn’t believe that a Disney show would go that far. And unlike most scenes of torture in film and TV, it isn’t brutal, thoughtless body horror, but a subtler, more insidious kind of torment that is terrifying in its context as well as its applications.

So, Dedra is interrogating Bix about her knowledge of Cassian and “The Buyer”, aka Luthen, but to do so she introduces Dr. Gorst, a dorky-looking dude with a s**t-eating grin who takes obvious pleasure in explaining his bespoke method of torture. As it turns out, during the Empire’s colonization efforts, they built a refinery on a planet called Dizon Frey that the natives, the Dizonites, weren’t exactly thrilled about. The local higher-ups were authorized to use any means necessary, and the subsequent Dizonite Massacre was recorded and publicized. But during the massacre, they noticed something interesting – that the screams of the dying drove the Imperial troops mad. Gorst has isolated and layered the screams of the children, especially, and pumps the sound into a pair of headphones that are forced over Bix’s ears. Her own screams are drowned out by the production machinery of Narkina 5, in a scene transition that is brilliant in a grim sense and made me about as uncomfortable as any moment in Star Wars history ever has.

Needless to say, Dedra gets what she needs, and takes it to her superiors as an explicit link between Cassian and the Aldhani heist, which means he’s only going to get even more attention when he eventually finesses a prison break, which he spends the entire episode planning to do with his new compatriot Birnok (Rasaq Kukoyi), especially since Dedra has decided to keep his mother alive and unharmed as bait.

You might be wondering how the Empire is able to get away with all these obvious atrocities, and it’s made clear in a scene that sees Mon Mothma imploring the Senate to push back against Imperial overreach, only to be met by rolled eyes and raised noses. The Empire has been careful to grease the palms of those in power, ensuring that the best interests of the Empire always supersede the best interests of the everyday people. Mon Mothma is fighting a losing battle, politically, so there’s no wonder she has turned to rebellion.

Here in “Nobody’s Listening” we discover that Mon Mothma’s rebellious roots run much deeper than first suspected, since Vel is actually her cousin, a rich woman pampered enough that nobody would suspect her of, say, orchestrating the heist of an Imperial garrison. Vel gets to throw a few good barbs in Perrin’s direction – “All the good ones are taken,” she quips when he suggests she find a husband, much to Mon Mothma’s amusement – but gets little else of note to do beyond having whispered conversations with Mon about what she may or may not have done at Luthen’s behest. But it’s becoming obvious that sacrifices, moral and otherwise, are going to be necessary in the fight against the Empire, which Mon herself has to come to terms with when her financial woes mean she has to meet with a thuggish loan shark on her own turf.

Anyway, back on Narkina 5, we see that Cassian has adapted to his new role as a productive worker and quiet conspirator, though he keeps butting heads with Kino, who is clinging to his position of perceived authority and the relative closeness of his release rather than reckon with what, exactly, he has been complicit in. He wants to just keep his head down and do his time, so he resists any rumor-mongering about what’s happening on Level 2, and refuses to give Cassian any of the information he asks for, including the number of guards on each of the prison’s levels.

But whatever’s happening on Narkina 5 becomes too obvious for even Kino to ignore, and it comes to a head when Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank), the oldest prisoner, suffers a massive stroke ahead of his imminent release. The doctor who tends to him, Rhasiv (Adrian Rawlins), is a fellow prisoner who knows what happened on Level 2. While he euthanizes Ulaf, he explains that the Empire accidentally returned a prisoner who had supposedly been released on the same floor he had been working. Since the administrative error clued all the prisoners into the fact that nobody ever actually leaves Narkina 5, the entire floor got fried. Hearing this and realizing that toeing the line is never going to get him anywhere, Kino tells Andor that there are never more than 12 guards on any of the floors. It looks like that prison escape is coming sooner rather than later.

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