Plenty of TV shows come and go without ever providing a single scene or line of dialogue worth remembering. But on rare occasions, the very best of them elevate to an even greater height and provide a moment so powerful and so moving you struggle to understand how anyone could put anything that incredible on-screen. And Andor’s tenth episode featured two of them: Kino Loy and Luthen Rael’s monologues. While each of Andor‘s speeches was given by a different man under very different circumstances, they both touched on the same hopeful-yet-heartbreaking idea. More than any other scene in Star Wars history, each character exemplified the burden of true sacrifice. The kind you make wholly for others.
Star Wars is built on hope. But, as all successful rebellions learn, turning hope into a better world requires sacrifice. That’s been true of the franchise since the original trilogy. Countless people gave their lives to fight the Empire. It ended when Darth Vader gave his own life to save his son and the galaxy far, far away. When he did, the former Jedi knew something greater awaited him in the Force. Just as he knew what a future without Palpatine would mean for everyone else. That doesn’t make what he did any less important or meaningful than what others did. But that’s not the type of sacrifice we saw in episode 10 of this Star Wars series. The type of sacrifice Andor explored with its two all-time great speeches is both more gutting and more inspiring.
Kino and Luthen’s sacrifices come with no guarantees of success for a better tomorrow. Neither do they come with the comfort of thinking you might see that tomorrow yourself. Each man gave (or, in Luthen’s case, is always giving) entirely of himself, just for the mere possibility others will benefit from their actions.
For Kino Loy, this moment came when he and Cassian took control of the prison. With one speech, Kino had to convince 5,000 men—most of them completely unaware of their situation—to rise up against their captors. Before he began, though, Kino froze. All he’s ever tried to do in that prison is keep himself and others safe. By keeping their heads down, working hard, and serving their sentence one shift at a time, he believed they’d all earn their freedom one day. But with that hope stolen from him, and Cassian asking him to put everyone in mortal danger, Kino wasn’t sure if he was doing the right thing. He knew many men might die in a fruitless attempt at freedom. (They were on a floating prison, after all.)
Kino more than rose to the occasion, though. He delivered the kind of powerful missive no one in the Empire ever could. Kino urged his men on to fight, but with compassion in their hearts. He told the prisoners to look after those who were lost or confused, to make sure no one was left behind. With one line in an already beautiful speech, Kino encapsulated everything the Rebellion stands for, on Andor and beyond. Everything about that moment represents the best of Star Wars. And yet, we didn’t know the full extent of that speech’s power until later.
“I can’t swim.” In a just galaxy those three words would echo forever. Children would know about them and about Kino Loy when they learned about how people stood against the Empire. Because with that admission, Kino revealed the other reason he briefly froze. Kino worried about risking their lives, but he was taking a moment to contemplate what this speech meant for his own. He had no hope for escape because there was no way out of that prison for him. Not alive, at least. He could either leap to his death or wait for the Empire to find him alone in that jail.
Everything he did in that uprising, he did for others. Everything he gave, he gave for others. Not because he’d gain fame or glory, or even because he’d guaranteed victory over his enemies. Nor because he could take comfort in knowing he’ll become one with the Force. He did it so others would simply have a chance. Kino Loy made the ultimate sacrifice because—and only because—it was the right thing to do.
He made that choice under duress, with little time for thought. And he won’t have to live with his decision long. Those are gifts Luthen Rael has never had and never will. For though he is making the same kind of sacrifice as Kino—one wholly for others and without any hope of personal reward—he must live every day with the unimaginable responsibility he accepted.
ISB Supervisor and Rebel spy Lonni Jung wants out of his double life. He has a child now, and the stress and loneliness of his task is destroying him. But Luthen says Lonni is too valuable to let him leave. Angry over what he perceived as Luthen’s callousness, Lonni wanted to know what the Rebel leader ever sacrifices for the cause. What followed was an answer that fully captures what true sacrifice means. Like a house whose foundation you cannot see, Luthen knows a rebellion of hope also needs the support of people willing to stand in the dirt and darkness. It needs those who will give more than just their lives and happiness. Truly changing the world almost always requires those willing to give over their souls.
What does Luthen give to the cause?
Calm. Kindness. Kinship. Love.
I’ve given up all chance at inner peace. I’ve made my mind a sunless space. I share my dreams with ghosts. I wake up every day to an equation I wrote 15 years ago from which there’s only one conclusion, I’m damned for what I do.
My anger, my ego, my unwillingness to yield, my eagerness to fight, they’ve set me on a path from which there is no escape. I yearned to be a savior against injustice without contemplating the cost and by the time I looked down there was no longer any ground beneath my feet.
What is my sacrifice? I’m condemned to use the tools of my enemy to defeat them. I burn my decency for someone else’s future. I burn my life to make a sunrise that I know I’ll never see. And the ego that started this fight will never have a mirror or an audience or the light of gratitude.
So what do I sacrifice? Everything!
Luthen has paid a cost far worse than just death. He gave up any chance at peace or happiness. That’s why he must put a smile on as though it’s a wig. He’s incapable of feeling actual, meaningful joy. Even worse, though, is that he had to become the very thing he hates to defeat it. He’s about to let 50 men walk into certain death to protect the greater cause. That’s no different than the Empire who will kill anyone it wants to advance its interests. And Luthen does all of this fully aware he will never see the world he is fighting so hard to create. He’s no different from Kino Loy urging others to take a leap he never can.
The galaxy far, far away is filled with legendary heroes and villains. But that’s not what Star Wars is about or why it endures. It’s a story about giving yourself over to something bigger to create a better future for everyone. It’s a story of sacrifice, of being “one” with something that binds us all. And Andor‘s tenth episode captured the full truth—including all the accompanying sadness, pain, and anger—of what ultimate sacrifice means. It’s the kind that asks us to truly give everything of ourselves, even our most basic decency, for the chance someone you’ll never meet will experience a happiness you never could. And sometimes that means damning yourself.
TV shows, even Star Wars series, come and go all the time without ever providing us a single reason to remember them. But in one episode, Andor gave us two special speeches—with incredible performers working with incredible material—to not only remember it by but to remember why we love the franchise in the first place. Because while we need hope to keep us going, without the sacrifice of people who never expect or ask for anything in return, we can’t defeat evil empires in any galaxy. That’s as sad and painful to realize as it is inspiring, which is why it’s so important to remember just how true it is.
Originally published on November 9, 2022.
Mikey Walsh is a staff writer at Nerdist. You can follow him on Twitter at @burgermike. And also anywhere someone is ranking the Targaryen kings.