Andor Encounters More Than Its Fair Share of Fanaticism in “Nobody’s Listening!”

This week contains stalking, death, and quite a bit of torture, so give yourself breathers on this one…

Recap

Dedra Meero is interrogating Bix Caleen, letting her know that Salmaan Paak gave them quite a bit of information on his radio unit and what Bix has been using it for. She demands to know about her rebel contact Axis, and the last time that she saw Cassian Andor, or she will be tortured. Bix knows that Meero won’t believe what she says anyway. She’s handed over to Dr. Gorst (Joshua James), who has developed a form of torture that involves the death knell cry of Dizonite children, which has a severely damaging effect on the nervous system. Cassian and his table are continuing their shifts on Narkina 5, but Ulaf (Christopher Fairbank)—who only has 41 shifts left before release—is having pains in his hands and slowing down. Cassian, Jemboc (Brian Bovell), and Melshi (Duncan Pow) have been keeping tabs on the layout of the facility, communicating with others in their block and elsewhere to get more information; they’re working out the best possible means of escape.

Mon Mothma is giving an address to the Senate, which is met largely with jeering or ignoring from her peers. On her way home, she learns her cousin has come to visit—it’s Vel. They talk quietly of what Vel has been doing for Luthen, but she refuses to say much. Mon pleads with her to play her “party girl” act well on her trip home to Chandrila to keep suspicion off them. Vel promises to do her best and departs. Cassian tries to get Kino to tell him how many guards are on each level of the prison, but Kino won’t help for fear that it will jeopardize his ability to leave in 217 shifts. Cassian insists that no one is listening to anything they say, but Kino rolls over and goes to sleep. The next day they hear rumors that everyone on another level was killed, but they don’t know why. Kino briefly loses his temper; Cassian tells Kino that they need to pretend they’ve heard nothing for now.

Meero gives her report from the interrogation to ISB headquarters, letting them know that she thinks Cassian might be connected to Aldhani. She also lets Partagaz know of her intention to leave Maarva Andor in place in case Cassian tries to contact her again. Syril Karn’s mother guilts him for neglecting her, and he tells her to stop snooping through this room. Syril says he’s been promoted. He waits by ISB headquarters to stop Meero, who he’s been stalking; he thinks that she’s responsible for his promotion, though she insists it’s nothing of the sort. He thanks her for what she’s doing, tells her that the fact that she believes Cassian Andor is dangerous has given him a renewed sense of purpose—she tells him that if he doesn’t leave her alone, or tries to pursue any of this on his own, she’ll have him arrested. At work, Meero is told by her assistant that they’ve captured a rebel pilot, one of Anto Kreegyr’s crew, and she helps devise a plan to release his ship with him dead inside in order to encourage the rebels to go through with the Spellhaus plan.

Andor, season 1, episode 9, Nobody's Listening!

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

Mon meets with Tal, who lets her know that the 400,000 credits she withdrew is going to draw attention soon because of the crackdowns. The only way to fix this problem is to get the money loaned to her so it doesn’t appear to be missing. He recommends using Davo Sculdun, who Mon labels a “thug.” He wants to meet at her apartments to discuss the loan, and Mon agrees, as she has little choice. During the next shift on Narkina 5, Ulaf has an attack of some sort on the floor. Cassian and Kino take him out of the room and a med-tech (Adrian Rawlins) is called. The man informs them that he’s had a stroke and that it’s better to put Ulaf out of his misery since there’s little hope for him—the issue on level two occurred because prisoners learned that the “new man” on the floor had actually just finished his sentence on level four. No one is getting out. Kino and Cassian are ordered to leave while a body bag is grabbed for Ulaf. Cassian asks again how many guards are on each floor: Kino tells him never more than twelve.

 

Commentary

Again with the arc issue on this series—this episode has a lot more going since it’s the middle of the current story and we got less set up. It really would be better to get all the Narkina episodes at once.

Andor, season 1, episode 9, Nobody's Listening!

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

We’ve got two immediate wild cards going forward, the first being Davo Sculdun, clearly a real gem of a guy, who will obviously cause no problems for Mon Mothma whatsoever going forward. The second is Syril Karn, who is determined with every episode to peel back one more thin layer of veneer that’s barely keeping his fanaticism in check.

He loses the pretense utterly in front of Meero and understandably freaks her out with the stalking and “beauty and justice in the galaxy,” which drives another very important point home—the majority of the Empire are nothing like Karn. They are, very pointedly, career fascists going about their everyday jobs, just following orders and trying to screw each other over. Their devotion to “the cause” is a largely unknown factor, person to person. We have no idea why Dedra Meero wants to be involved in the ISB, and there’s arguably not a very interesting reason behind it. Most of the Empire is just like her (only, fortunately, less competent).

But every once in a while, you come across a guy like Syril, and wish you hadn’t. It doesn’t seem that he has very compelling reasons for his extremism either, and that’s part of what makes him frightening—very often, people turn to horrific ideologies because they feel empty, and that’s clearly what Syril Karn has done. There’s an almost QAnon or Proud Boy-like radicalism about his vantage point that feels very deliberate in this day and age. Every time we get a peek into his psyche, we find that well inside him goes even deeper than we were previously shown, to the point where he believes that he is somehow now fated to be of use to Meero now. I’m very interested to see where that’s going.

Andor, season 1, episode 9, Nobody's Listening!

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

As of this episode, I’m loving Diego Luna’s choices in how he plays Cassian; the last episode saw him entirely reactive to his new situation, and we weren’t getting a window into his thoughts or feelings—but the script hadn’t done a great job in indicating whether or not that was intentional. By this episode, he’s adapted to his environment and already planted himself in the groups that are looking to escape. He’s figured out his place and automatically inserted himself into the dynamics of his peers pretty damn seamlessly.

Between this and Aldhani, we get a much clearer picture of how Cassian operates within teams of people, how he sets himself up as a dark horse when presenting his skills and usefulness in those settings. He doesn’t automatically push himself to the front as a leader, but he’s a consummate second-in-command; observant, thoughtful, adept at reading people, great with organization and efficiency. He refuses to take credit on purpose, telling Kino that their table job shuffling was Jemboc’s idea, and letting him take the praise for it. He has no desire to be star pupil; he just wants to get the job done. If Luthen Rael somehow managed to recognize these qualities in Cassian from afar, it’s no wonder that he’d want to make him part of their operation.

But the wrenching thing about this episode is actually quite subtle to my mind: What it took to get Kino on board with the rest of the prisoners. He has no interest in hearing about what other floors are doing, helping them plan a prison break, and all because he thinks he’s on his way out. Only 217 shifts left and he’s free. It’s only after he learns that the shifts were a pretense, that there’s no way he’s leaving this place, that he decides to join forces with Cassian and the others.

Andor, season 1, episode 9, Nobody's Listening!

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

It’s heartening to watch people see the lie for what it is, but this is a question that runs through our entire society, our whole species, at bone-deep levels: How much safety and relative comfort do you have, and would you be willing to give it up to do right by your fellow human beings? Because Kino’s answer is ultimately “no” until he learns that comfort was a pretense. Most people aren’t willing to give up what safety they have on the theory that they might be useful to others—this is a large part of the reason why the class system exists at all. It’s only in removing that pretend-safety, in people believing that they’ve got nothing to lose, that the playing field suddenly becomes an equal thing.

While it’s difficult to blame anyone for not doing something that goes against basic living instinct (self-preservation is nigh-impossible to overcome in most circumstances), it’s moments like this that show just how insurmountable these tasks often are, and how astonishing it is when they get done. Kino just wanted to keep his head down and get out… which forces you to think about all the ways we’re all keeping our own heads down, just trying to muddle through in a world where injustices are too numerous to recount and stacked up on all sides to the point of suffocation.

 

Bits and Asides:

  • I missed it last week because he looks so different in the Narkina prison uniforms, but Melshi is one of Cassian’s buddies in Rogue One, so we know at the very least that he’s making it out of this alive.
Andor, season 1, episode 9, Nobody's Listening!

Screenshot: Lucasfilm

  • It seems important to point out that what Dr. Gorst is doing is not only horrific, but also entirely unnecessary—the Empire has access to truth serum drugs, which they frequently use on captives. (We see Leia about to be injected with them in A New Hope.) There’s no reason why they shouldn’t use the tried methods they already have at their disposal unless they have good reason to believe the people on Ferrix would be resistant, which they likely wouldn’t. So this method is cruel for cruelty’s sake, much in the vein of Nazi doctors experimenting on their prisoners.
  • I’m still skeptical that the human prisoners are cheaper and easier to replace than droids at this facility, but more importantly, I want to know why this prison only has humans. That’s relevant, given the Empire’s propensity toward enslaving non-humans and the xenophobia of their ranks.

 

See you next week for the jail break…

citation

Back to the top of the page

25 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Comments must first be approved and published by the moderators before they appear on the site. If your comment does not eventually appear please review our Moderation Policy carefully before posting again.

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!

Our Privacy Notice has been updated to explain how we use cookies, which you accept by continuing to use this website. To withdraw your consent, see Your Choices.