This Star Wars: Andor review contains spoilers.
Star Wars: Andor Episode 4
Before 2016, the character of Mon Mothma was mostly the answer to a trivia question. Although she is ostensibly the leader of the entire Rebel Alliance, Mon Mothma doesn’t even appear until Return of the Jedi, and then, only for one scene, to explain the plan to kill the Emperor and destroy the second Death Star. We don’t see her during the Battle of Endor, and she doesn’t stop by for an Ewok hug in the end, either.
Still, as played by Caroline Blakiston, the character left a big impression, and for hardcore Star Wars fans in the 1990s, Mon Mothma was omnipresent in the various Expanded Universe novels and comic books. Yet, despite her brief appearance in the Prequel Trilogy, as played by Genevieve O’Reilly, it wasn’t until Rogue One that it really felt like Mothma was getting the onscreen respect she deserved. With Andor’s fourth episode, O’Reilly reprises her role brilliantly, revealing new sides to the character we’ve never seen before, and we’re officially in the Mothma renaissance. The only real question is: Why did it take Star Wars so long to get to this point?
As the fourth episode of Andor demonstrates, Mothma is the most important political figure in the entire journey of the Rebel Alliance. And the fact that we’re actually getting her story now, for the first time since 1983, is not only wonderful but not at all what anyone could have expected.
Andor episode 4 takes the series from the extreme realism of poverty on the planet Ferrix to the backroom politics of Coruscant, a planet we should know all about but somehow feels brand new as presented on the show. While a good chunk of this episode finds Cassian dropped into the middle of a special operation with various Rebels, what fans will be talking about is surely our first glimpse of Coruscant in Andor, and what it means for the overall sweep of the series. This means we get to meet Mon Mothma (O’Reilly), a senator from Chandrila who seems to hate her husband and is having secret meetings with Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård), who on Courscant has an entirely separate identity than what we saw in episode 3. Posing as a wealthy antique dealer and a client, Rael and Mon Mothma speak in hushed tones about moving funds around without the Empire knowing about it.
If anyone was worried that Andor wasn’t going to explain the confusing logistics of the Rebel Alliance, episode 4 will disabuse you of that notion big time. Luthen and Mon Mothma are basically already desperate for cash to funnel to the Alliance, and the ever-watchful eye of the Empire is making things tough. The stakes here are pretty clear: How long can these two continue the façade of being upstanding citizens while they’re actually both focal points for terrorists? Mothma can barely stand to have dinner with other senators, which sets up a great ticking time bomb that has to result in her publicly leaving the Senate sometime before A New Hope.
Or does it? The counterpoint to all the Imperial “Big Brother” action in this episode is a clever and realistic amount of bumbling Imperial bureaucracy. After the fallout of Cassian’s escape from the Preox-Morlana Corporate Zone, the Empire takes over direct control of those planets, while Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) is sent packing back to live with his mom on Coruscant.
But, more interestingly, we’re also introduced to a security council of Imperial intelligence supervisors, each in charge of a different area of space. Andor briefly becomes a show about office politics for these scenes, where we see Supervisor Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) getting herself into trouble for an overzealous concern about the merch that Cassian had in episode 3. Basically, Dedra is laying out a pattern of Rebellion activities and her superiors and co-workers are like, “Yeah, whatever, we’ll see.”
This plotline sets up a few possible outcomes. First, it just realistically drives home how the Rebellion was able to get away with so much smuggling and insurgency; the Empire is so tied up in red tape, that they’re kind of disorganized. Second, it seems that the focus on Dedra Meero could indicate there’s more to her than meets the eye. Could she be a deep plant for the Rebellion? And if she is a spy, what’s the end game there?
If there’s one weakness in Andor episode 4, it’s that all the intrigue on Courscant makes Cassian’s induction into this new band of Rebels seem somewhat dull by comparison. Yes, we’re invested in what happens to him, and yes, we want all these folks to succeed at their mission, but in terms of pushing the story forward, most of the Cassian stuff in episode 4 seems to deliver the message that: being in the Rebellion requires lots of camping in the woods. It’s good stuff, but in contrast to the bigger reveals and tantalizing plot clues on Coruscant, Cassian’s story feels on hold right now.
Overall, episode 4 seems to act as a bridge between the tone and setting of the three-episode premiere and the larger scope of the rest of the series. If Andor keeps adding layers like this, it would seem we’re all in for one hell of a ride.