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Aldhani (Andor - S01E04) - Live Action Series

Series: Andor

Title: Aldhani

Season: One

Episode: 4

Original Air Date: September 28th, 2022

Runtime: 47 minutes

Credits: Review & Text: Thomas; Page layout & Design: Chuck Paskovics

Discuss the latest Chapter! (Discussion)

"It's better to live! Better to eat, sleep, do what you want!" SPOILERS.

ISB officer Dedra Meero on her way to work

Andor is back with episode four and while Disney decided to drop the first three episodes, which more or less feel like a complete movie, all at once, we now get single episodes each Wednesday. And I am not sure this approach is what's best for the series. The issue is not, and I can't emphasize this enough, that each individual episode is bad or boring. But showrunner Tony Gilroy has confirmed that season one of Andor will basically consist of four movies or arcs, or chapters if you like, and three episodes form one chapter. The issue with that approach is that any individual episode can feel very incomplete. So on the surface not all that much happens in Aldhani, here it's all about moving on to a new chessboard and moving your pieces across the board until you are ready to strike. Aldhani will leave you curious, it will leave you wanting for more, what it does not provide really is any real tension yet, it's all about introducing new characters and world building.

The series makes heavy use of symmetry on Coruscant

So this is what happens in Aldhani in a nutshell. Cassian is still very, very reluctant and doesn't trust Luthen all that much. Cassian tries to spin this tall tale about how he fought on Mimban as a 16-year-old, fresh out of prison, for two full years. However, Luthen is not only very smart, he's also very well informed and he exposes Cassian's lie, Cassian wasn't a frontline soldier, he was a cook, and he served for 6 months until he ran. Quite a different story.

Wes Anderson would be proud of the camerawork here

This gives Cassian an interesting spin, we all remember what he told Jyn Erso, that he basically fought the Empire (or Galactic Republic) since he was six. How much of that is even true? It seems Cassian is not shying away from painting his life in much more dramatic strokes. He's basically just someone who wants to live, wants to do his own thing. He's no idealist yet, actually, he's still more or less in it for the money. Luthen wants Cassian to take part in a mission on Aldhani where a group of rebels wants to steal the quarterly payroll for an entire sector, a lot of credits. Luthen baits Andor with the promise of 200,000 credits he will receive once he returns. So Cassian reluctantly agrees.

Luthen talks with local leader Vel about the plan to steal the credits

Meanwhile on Coruscant we meet ISB officer Dedra Meero, portrayed by Denise Gough (who also voiced Yennefer in The Witcher 3), for the first time and we get to see an ISB meeting that oozes coldhearted bureaucratic fascism. Dedra is apparently only one of two females or so here. And we quickly learn that the ISB is like any other organization run by fascists. It's about advancing your own career, to protect your own ground, to backstab others, even if not overtly and to make sure you will come out on top. All of this does of course make work so much harder when, in the case of Dedra, you actually want to investigate something that may encroach on someone else's responsibilities. Meanwhile the man in charge of ISB talks about how people opposing the Empire are germs that need to be treated like a disease, the true mindset of a fascist who thinks he's in the very right.

Andor, who now uses the cover name "Clem", joins Vel

Cassian, who takes on the cover name of Clem, eventually joins Vel, the leader of the local rebel cell on Aldhani and he goes on a long walk with her to the camp. The other rebels are less than pleased when they find out that a complete stranger is to join the team three days before they are about to launch their mission. But all of them eventually accept that Cassian is now on board, Vel also vouches for him, which is of course something Luthen very much insisted upon.

Things are not going well for the corporates

Back on Morlana One the Empire has seized control and that means the days of the corporation are more or less over. Syril Karn, his sergeant and the manager are dressed down by one of the ISB officers and they are informed that this is it for them. Syril leaves the headquarters, a broken and defeated man. He has lost everything he worked for... and he returns to his mother who first welcomes him by slapping him in the face, and only then does she give him a hug. Happy times for Deputy Inspector Karn these are not.

Luthen transforms back into the Coruscant antiquity dealer

We also get a small but pretty great scene with Luthen who transforms himself back again to a wealthy antiquity dealer and Stellan Skarsgard gives a great performance here as he practices the mannerisms and jovial smiles of a shop owner. His double life is dangerous and he has to make sure he will let nothing slip. It's a scene that was not necessarily needed maybe, but it very much shows how real the people in Andor are. I loved that subtle moment here.

Syril Karn at one of the Coruscant spaceports, on his way to his mother, two suitcases are all that he has

On Coruscant Luthen is back at his shop and it doesn't take long before he receives an important visitor.

Mon Mothma greets Luthen, pretending to be just a regular customer

It is senator Mon Mothma, who arrives in her very sleek speeder, driven by a chauffeur. They pretend for a bit that Mon Mothma is just a customer looking for a gift for her husband, but then they withdraw to a backroom and we learn that things are not very easy at the moment. The early rebellion needs money and Mon Mothma has more and more problems with securing funds without anyone finding out, there are spies everywhere and even the personnel at the bank is all new. Things are a bit uneasy between Luthen and Mon Mothma when she informs him that she may have found someone who can help her with the funding problem. Luthen is very much against adding someone else to the inner circle, but Mon Mothma insists and reminds Luthen that she is very well aware of the risks here, since she would be the first to take the fall.

Mon Mothma's luxurious apartment

Mon Mothma eventually flies back home where preparations for a party later that day are going on. And we get another of those scenes that may not add all that much to the story (or so it seems), instead we learn that Mon Mothma's marriage is apparently less than happy. There is very palpable friction.

Mon Mothma is not pleased with her husband

We learn that Mon Mothma's husband has invited several guests to the party that Mon Mothma more or less detests and wished weren't invited, she voices her displeasure but ultimately the husband insists. At least he thought of the seating arrangement and he put Mon Mothma on the "boring end" of the table, whereas the people she doesn't like are "fun" and sit next to the husband. I suppose a divorce will be in order in the not too distant future.

The rebels discuss the details of the plan using a makeshift model of the armory

I haven't talked about Cassian all that much here, yet there are plenty of scenes with him, however they are all about getting to know the team, trying to fit in, earning their trust and the tensions within the group about a newcomer no one knows anything about. Cassian is also less than amused when he finds out the team wants to actually attack an Imperial armory, however they will use some local festivity by the natives as a distraction and hope to steal the money and make their escape with an Imperial transport ship before anyone can ring the alarm or even knows what's happening.

The episode was not directed by Wes Anderson, despite the heavy use of symmetry

On Coruscant Dedra has learned about the starpath unit (the box Cassian wanted to sell) and this was stolen from a base in one of her sectors she is responsible for. So she tries to get a foot into the Ferrix investigation, but first the ISB officer responsible for Ferrix shoots her down and ultimately the ISB overlord shoots down Dedra once more. You can tell that more or less polite backstabbing and protecting one's own self-interest are more important at the ISB than actually gathering intelligence. Dedra's own ambitions have been thwarted for now. But she will certainly find a way to be included in the Ferrix investigation. But this is something for another episode.

And that's it. All in all Aldhani was yet another great episode, if you care about character and world building. There is no action here, no real suspense, no tension, other than between certain characters. Apparently Disney hopes that people understand the format of the series after episodes one, two and three. I stil think it's a bad idea to release the quasi movies in piece meal fashion, we will have to wait another two weeks before this arc is concluded and episode 4 was, very much like episode 1, very, very slow and all about getting to know the playing field and moving the pieces about.

However, I really admire the courage of Tony Gilroy and Lucasfilm by deciding to trust the audience, believing the viewer will not lose interest or feel bored because there are no blaster shootouts, dogfights in space or lightsaber duels. Instead we really get to know the people in this universe. Beginning with Cassian's tendency to bend the truth, a lot. Then we have Luthen who apparently is so deep undercover as the rebel (or the antiquity dealer) that he has to literally practice his mannerisms when he switches characters. Luthen is certainly a very compelling character. Mon Mothma also gets much more characterization here than in any movie or series before. We learn more about who she is here than ever before, including her less than happy marriage with some husband who apparently finds other people much more fun than his own wife.

And finally there is the Imperial side of things. I always liked the scenes on the Death Star where the officers discuss the proceedings in the conference room, Andor goes into much more detail here and once again the series tries to portray the ISB officers not as cartoon villains or incompetent, instead the episode exposes the flaws of virtually any fascist regime and its organizations: that people who are part of the machine are usually very career-minded, openly or secretly try to keep the competition at bay and that this takes precedence over doing the best job possible. Another added angle here is the subtle sexism at display. No one talks down on Dedra openly because she's a woman, but she appears to be only one of two or so higher ranked ISB officers in a world of men. The entire Empire is mostly run by men and you certainly know what that means for a character like Dedra. She will have to be twice as impressive as anyone else to even get noticed. That she made it this far says a few things about her character. And what's most dangerous about her is that she believes the things she is doing are right.

A few words about the outstanding set pieces and camerawork for this episode. Many scenes on Coruscant make very heavy use of symmetry to give us this somewhat cold, clinical view of things, it always feels somewhat artificial and it can create a sense of uneasiness. I really appreciate the thought behind this in this episode, whereas the scenes on Aldhani are composed like your shots on your typical Star Wars planet, Coruscant in contrast feels like this cold, somewhat eerie and impersonal place. And it's interesting that the same camera angles were chosen for many of the scenes in Mon Mothma's apartment, making a statement about her personal living space and her relationship with her husband who openly insults her and calls her boring. If only he knew...

So where does that leave things? On its own, seen in isolation, Aldhani is difficult to rate. You will either be patient and find the setup quite intruiging... or you may be bored to tears and hope that someone finally fires a blaster. So much is obvious, Andor is not about flashy entertainment or instant gratification, it requires you to have patience and to use your own mind much more than most other Star Wars movies or series. I have great confidence that the following two episodes will ultimately make for yet another great arc. For now I rate Aldhani four holocrons. Really good. If you appreciate character and world building. In my opinion Andor is in many ways the best Disney+ Star Wars series yet. At least the smartest.

Added: September 28, 2022
Category: Andor
Reviewer: Thomas
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