Andor Episode 5 review: Star Wars writing has never been this good

Cassian in Andor Episode 5Disney+

Andor Episode 5 solidifies the show’s best qualities: its methodical pace; its conscious, affecting writing; and a palpable atmosphere of dread and hope, swirling together.

My eyes and ears have grown attuned to the search for Easter eggs, cameos, and fan-pleasing teasing. But with each installment, Andor feels like its own quiet rebellion against the Star Wars content machine.

There’s no traditional hero figure. Don’t go looking for a Poe Dameron or Finn among the Rebels. Even the villains are more self-aware than their sniveling predecessors. For once, it feels like we’re expanding the galaxy far, far away in a meaningful, authentic way.

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Episode 5 is brave, if only for how it refuses to hop, skip, and jump to the nearest perilous escapade after the action-packed highs of Episode 3.

Spoilers for Andor Episode 5 to follow…

Andor Episode 5: Syril’s bitterness grows at home

The episode begins with Syril Karn (Kyle Soller) at home with his mum Eedy (Kathryn Hunter), lost in the blue void of his bowl of cereal. I implore you to look around the set in this scene. The production design is superb; the subtle blinking lights, the mustard seating on the off-white paneling.

The pair bicker about Syril’s lack of communication and “future prospects”, and she decides to call Uncle Harlo to find him work. This is a man cast aside by force he pledged his allegiance to, and his wistful anger screams from his constant grimace.

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He eventually seeks solitude in his room, glancing out as the Empire blocks the sun, and staring into Cassian’s (Diego Luna) holograph.

Andor Episode 5: Rebels with a cause

Meanwhile, back at the Rebel camp, Cassian wakes up to find somebody has taken his gear from his bedside. He catches Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach) inspecting it on the instruction of Val, and he notes his small inventory. “You left in a hurry,” he says.

They speak about their experiences in war. “The axe forgets but the tree remembers. Now it’s our turn to do the chopping,” Skeen says – it’s a line so good it makes you forget you’re watching Star Wars.

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If you were expecting the squad to carry out their pincer movement, fool on you. Episode 5 is all about getting to know the people behind the rebellion, whether it’s Skeen’s tragic reasons for hating the Empire – which fuel his distrust of Andor, especially when he finds his Sky Kyber – or Nemik’s (Alex Lawther) ambitions to write a manifesto.

Cassian and Nemik in Andor Episode 5Disney+

With the latter, it’s a minute-long stretch of incisive, political musings far beyond the usual dose of under-the-Empire-thumb complaints. “The pace of repressions outstrips our ability to understand it,” Nemik says. It’s hard to overstate Tony Gilroy’s mature influence on the series.

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Cassian begins to peel back the group’s half-baked training. They walk like soldiers, but don’t carry their guns correctly. They know how to get to the freighter, but they don’t know how to fly it out. Then there’s the threat from the skies, with a TIE Fighter bringing its deafening wail along the valley. “Surprise from above is never as shocking as one from below,” Nemik quips.

Andor Episode 5: Luthen and Mon Mothma take a backseat

We catch brief scenes of Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) and Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly). The former is only seen towards the end, attentively and nervously listening to a radio in his shop on the eve of the mission. His absence is felt, but not so much that it encumbers the episode.

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Our moments with Mon Mothma are a bit miserable. This time, we see how her passive-aggressive dynamic with her husband has infested her daughter, who’s uninterested in any of her mum’s political engagements or efforts to include her.

We also touch base with Dedra Meero (Denise Gough), who’s still trying to remove the stones from Luthen’s trail. While clearly the main antagonist of Andor, she’s not angsty or hysterical in her goal to catch them – she even praises them, saying: “If it were me, this is how I’d do it.”

Andor Episode 5: The Rebellion reframed for a new saga

In past Star Wars shows and movies, the Empire’s malevolence has bordered on pantomimic, never afraid to exert its force but still overtly wicked.

Here, their impact is woven into the fabric of society, from the ever-changing infrastructure to families who’ve lost brothers and sisters to the despair of their rule. “Everyone has their own rebellion,” Vel tells Cassian. Already, Andor is operating in a different emotional league.

Andor Episode 6 will be available to stream on October 12. You can sign up for Disney+ here.