We’re closing in on the final episodes of the latest live-action Star Wars series, Andor. Various plots have been building over the last several weeks and episode 10 brings many of those things to a head. Aside from Cassian’s harrowing escape from Narkina 5, another “revelation” in the episode feels equally important. One that forces viewers to confront the core themes of Star Wars and gives us an idea where things might go.
This pivotal scene comes at the tail end of the episode, when Luthen Rael meets with Lonni Jung, who—surprise, surprise—turns out to be a deep undercover rebel agent. Tension and subtext fill the meeting itself, but it’s Luthen’s monologue, detailing his sacrifices, that makes the biggest impact.
Luthen and Lonni’s conversation exudes the same feeling of watching a climatic action scene. It’s an impressive feat for just watching two people talk to leave you breathless; yet, Andor does it effortlessly. More importantly, however, Luthen’s words bring stark clarity to his motivations and scheming, all while highlighting Star Wars’ most crucial element: the battle of good vs. evil.
“Aren’t you tired of fighting with people who agree with you?”
In the original films, this concept is relatively black and white. There’s literally a light side and a dark side. There wasn’t much room for gray area as the eternal struggle between the forces of good and evil remained at the forefront. Andor shows the early, disparate, days of the rebellion and we see things are a bit more muddled.
The show does an incredible job showing the oppression of the Empire through the lens of everyday citizens of the galaxy. It makes clear the threat of fascist regimes and the price of complacency. There’s no gray area in that regard; the Empire are still very much the bad guys.
Seeing the early rebels grappling with how to fight back without crossing certain lines, however, makes for engaging television. The rebels are split into a multitude of various factions at the moment (Sectorists, the Ghorman Front, Partisan Alliance, etc.). All of them are doing things their own way. Despite ostensibly having the same goal, they don’t want to work with each other.
There is no Rebel Alliance yet. Instead the rebellion is more of a shared idea. In order to succeed, they’re going to have to come together. Even as Luthen admits this (at one point trying to convince Saw of the need to work together), he keeps everyone at arm’s length.
During the conversation with Lonni, his willingness to sacrifice Kreegyr and his 50 men feels distinctly counter to the idea of bringing everyone together. Lonni balks at the idea of knowingly sending men to their death to maintain a ruse. It’s only through coercion and some couched threats to his new child that Lonni concedes. Between a rock and a hard place, there’s only one way forward: doing what Luthen says.
Gray Areas of Morality
Luthen understands the threat the Empire poses and has decided to do whatever it takes to bring them down. This includes some not so great things. Luthen says, “I use the tools of my enemy” and acknowledges the moral gray area he inhabits. This is a slippery slope, however, and puts him in a precarious spot; one that mimics his enemy’s mindset as well.
We’ve seen hints of this in how he manages the rebellion’s splinter factions. He plays coy with Saw about who was behind the Aldhani attack, refusing to implicate himself in the affair. Even Mon Mothma, who was there at the beginning, is in the dark about much of Luthen’s overall plans.
After the conversation with Lonni, it’s clear Luthen centers himself among the rebel factions. Using his wealth and abundance of supplies, he influences missions and crucial decisions. He subtly guides the rebels to what he thinks they should be doing.
By holding the reins of the rebel factions, literally choosing who lives and dies, Luthen has placed himself into a dangerous position of power. This position that doesn’t allow for dissent or alternate ideas. Luthen reminds everyone of the “vow” they’ve taken to keep people on track when he feels they’re veering off the course he’s set. Luthen’s heart is in the right place, but it’s becoming more and more obvious his mindset has shifted from liberation to winning. The difference is all in the execution.
The Mothma Factor
Mon Mothma has been a central figure in Andor for several episodes now. Up to this point, however, Mothma’s story has largely existed without any overt connections to everything else going on. The more we learn about Luthen, the more it becomes clear he’s central to Mothma’s arc rather than Cassian’s. We know Mon Mothma ends up as the leader of the Rebel Alliance, becoming its guiding light and eventually running the New Republic. How Mothma gets to that point seems to be where her and Luthen’s paths are heading in this series.
Mothma’s style of leadership is fairly consistent. She seeks to do things in an honorable way, even as she recognizes the need for direct action. She is always looking for—and open to—other ideas to accomplish her goals, but isn’t afraid to make those tough calls when all other options have been exhausted. For her, it’s vital the rebellion is victorious without compromising their values.
This seems diametrically opposed to Luthen’s approach. He’s consumed by the idea of winning, akin to one being obsessed with revenge. He’s already squared away the deeds he’s committed (and prepared to commit), knowing he’s sacrificing his soul in the process. This isn’t to say Luthen is a bad guy, or evil. He genuinely believes he’s doing everything for the right reasons, but this has blinded him to the cost of his methods. For him, the ends will always justify the means.
Fighting fascism isn’t going to be done easily, or without compromise, but everyone has to decide where their line is. At what point do your actions no longer reflect the ideals you’re trying to uphold?
Keeping the Heart
A reckoning between the two seems inevitable. A conflict that will culminate in a battle for the soul of the rebellion itself. By establishing these different facets, even ideals, within the leaders of the rebellion, Andor sets the stage for both characters and viewers to be confronted with the moral cost. It’s an aspect that allows the series to tread new ground, while still keeping with the core themes in Star Wars as a whole.
The guiding theme of Star Wars is showcasing how compassion and selflessness are the keys to ultimately triumphing against evil. In Rogue One, a central part of Cassian’s character arc is him realizing he doesn’t want to do certain things anymore, even for the Rebellion. By taking a harder look at himself and those choices, he understands the need to trust (and hope), and helps Jyn do the right thing… at the cost of their lives.
By focusing on the differences between Mothma and Luthen’s ideals, Andor sets the stage for a compelling showdown. One that not only showcases the nitty gritty aspects of rebelling, but also highlights the heart and hopeful nature of Star Wars in general.