Prison labor in Andor shows Star Wars at its most dehumanizing

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Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Andor Episodes 1-8.Over an ever-growing number of shows and movies, we’ve seen many terrifying corners of the star wars universe. From huge creatures that can swallow you whole to a clone of a space wizard that can fire lightning from his fingers, there’s a lot to fear in this world. However, all of this pales in comparison to what we saw in the latest episode of Andor which remains the best entry the series has seen in a long time.


Titled “Narkina 5”, which refers to the planet where much of the episode takes place, we follow Cassian (Diego Luna) who was sentenced to six years in prison on false charges. It’s all sweltering from the brief but dark trip until he gets there where one of his fellow inmates says “take a deep breath bro, this might be the last fresh air we taste” before they are not all taken to the windowless establishment. When we make them all take off their shoes, none seem to understand why. That is, until one of the guards gave a sickening speech before sending jolts of pain through their entire body. Essentially, the entire floor of the facility is a weapon that can kill anyone held there in the blink of an eye. The message is clear: step out of line for even a second and it will be the last decision you make.

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As we go deeper into the austere setup, everything gets darker and darker. There are no jokes or moments of levity as the situation is captured by emphasizing the coldness of it all. The guards will inflict punishment without a moment’s hesitation and there is nothing that can be done to prevent it. What’s even more terrifying is that they don’t even have to be present and just “pick up the dead and bring the replacements”. It’s one of the first things Cassian hears when he arrives at the floor where he will spend most of his days. It is told to him by the gruff Kino Loy, embodied by a discreet Andy Serkis in a surprise role, who is a manager but also a prisoner himself who thinks he will be out in 249 days. It gives Cassian insight into how the inmates are all competing against each other as he is competing against all the other rooms. He closes this quick but grim introduction with a haunting final line: “Lose hope, your mind, keep it to yourself. Never slow down my line.

RELATED: Andor Episode 8 Review: Cassian Faces the Horrors of Working in the Imperial Prison


Prison not only punishes inmates, but turns them against each other

We are then left with the roar of the machines, an occasional message from a robotic voice and the desperate discussions between workers that punctuate the room. They were all pitted against each other because falling behind is being punished with pain and climbing to the top is getting a little flavor reward in food. It’s psychological warfare on top of physical punishment that’s presented with virtually no sense of hope to cling to. We don’t see the punishment Cassian and his new team receive, though we can witness it in the horror on their faces as they then walk through a tunnel. It is made all the more gruesome when we peek out the window where countless other prisoners are subjected to this same existence of suffering. They have all been turned into cogs in a machine where they will work to the bone in grueling 12-hour shifts and then be cast aside without a second thought. There is a countdown of the number of days left in Cassian, though this is only a formality as another prisoner rightly informs him that they will stay as long as those in power keep them. Their work is valuable even if their humanity is not.

It was a devastating episode that showed how, with death a stone’s throw away even when you sleep, some will kill themselves rather than choose to continue suffering. It showed how prison as an institution will always dehumanize and demoralize those who live there until there is virtually nothing left of who you were when you entered. They are even brought to face more punishments and more severe sanctions within the framework of the The revealing repression of the Empire on everything within reach. It’s all built in the small details, from the fleeting conversation lines to the dark way Cassian, living under an assumed name again, is forced to adapt to his new state of existence in order to survive.

There is never a moment of relief as the series completely immerses us in the most terrifying aspect of the world the series has been willing to tackle with to date. The banality of it only makes it all the more menacing as we can feel the stifling force of being trapped in the stark white halls and the toll it takes on all who are there. confined. Every moment they focus on work, there’s the endless feeling that they’re all about to fall apart. No one will ever be strong enough to endure such crushing confinement and come out unscathed.

Although this is a fictional facility with its own tools of control, it is only a reflection of how prisons are built on the complete and utter destruction of those held there. . It’s a work of science fiction that, even with all its fantastical technology, proves painfully and surprisingly adept at portraying all-too-familiar terror. star wars has been no stranger to political observations, but my goodness this season was the sharpest the show has ever been. The way he explores how power crushes those feet strikes more fear than even the greatest creature in the galaxy due to the reality of it all. Even knowing that Cassian will eventually escape, most of those held there with him might not be so lucky. Of course, we began to see cracks and vulnerabilities as well as hints of a potential rebellion occurring within the confines of the prison. However, there is no escaping how a place like this can snatch your life away. The last shot of the episode where the camera pulls back to see Cassian and the prisoners working tirelessly to beat the others is subtle but overwhelming. It shows how, even with small sighs of hope, there will always be a perpetual and often losing battle to keep it from being snuffed out.

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