This review contains full spoilers for episode twelve of Andor, now available to view on Disney+. To remind yourself of where we left off, check out our Andor episode 11 review..
The closing chapter of Andor’s first season is thrilling from its first moment to last, never pulling any punches when delivering heavy hits of both action and emotional weight. It’s the fulfillment of showrunner Tony Gilroy’s vision as it achieves everything it set out to from the series’ opening moments and is a masterfully orchestrated episode that balances satisfyingly tying up loose ends while leaving others tantalisingly leading into the future.
Andor's season finale opens with a display of delicate engineering that the show itself has displayed throughout up until this point. It's symbolic of the fusing together of what makes Star Wars great, with a modern, more politically charged energy. It's the creation of a bomb that has not only been threatening to explode since the start of the episode but whose ticking could be heard echoing from its very first; the sound of a reckoning that is ready to explode from the shadows.
The shape of this chapter mirrors the series' third episode, but the tables have been turned. Ferrix is now home to an increased Imperial presence and Cassian is playing the Karn role – the newcomer in town unaware of the ambush that awaits in its streets. It's a classic Western setup with the hero strolling back into once familiar surroundings to take it back from the evil that presides there. Dedra Meero has proved over the course of the series to be a worthy and ruthless avatar of that evil, and now one who possesses the resources to act on it. She's up against a counterpart capable of equally questionable means in the shape of Luthen, however. With Cassian caught in the sights of both, it makes for a thrilling 45 minutes that packs in more high-stakes tension than most feature-length thrillers. It's once again a shining example of Gilroy's masterful control of the plot combined with the vision of director Benjamin Caron to pull it off, and as layered a thriller you could dream of watching since he steered his eyes away from the original Bourne trilogy.
Every word of the script holds weight, meaning characters have to be extra careful when uttering them around others – a lesson learned slightly too late for Mon Mothma it appears – as Andor proves itself to have more moles than The Departed. Infernal affairs are taking place throughout the galaxy at this point, as displayed by the fact that 30 dead rebels in an attack garners nothing more than a brief couple of lines dedicated to it. This is truly a representation of the Empire that is darker than we've ever seen before in Star Wars, with retribution the first and only course of action for any threat to their power.
The conversation is frequently so engaging that not even a passing mention of the cursed Canto Bight threatens to derail it. The episode smartly utilises flashbacks to aid in multiplying the emotions conveyed through the cast. Whether they be the rousing passages of the manifesto spoken by Nemik or Cassian touching the cold stone of what remains of his family as it's the closest he'll ever be to feeling the warmth of their skin again. These ghosts from the past excel in accentuating the events of the present and fuel the motivations of Andor's future.
The town-wide laying of one of those ghosts to rest is a spectacle to behold. Maarva is remembered in a stunning display of unity as the beautiful music and colourful clothes of the mourners clash with the cold, black-and-white nature of the Empire and their swarm of troopers. Maarva's projection gives us the farewell that both she and Fiona Shaw deserved as her wise and rousing words rumble through Ferrix. It's a standout moment in a series that has already given us so many, and it couldn't help but elicit an emotional response as her words and the strong-as-ever score washed over me. That beauty is swiftly disrupted with a sharp moment of violence, however, as you're suddenly reminded of the harsh world Maarva has left behind.
Pavlov's bomb eventually goes off and we're back into thriller mode. It's fast, frantic, yet clinical in its execution – never once losing track of any of the vast cast of characters at play. The cinematography is crisp and clear, even when navigating through heavy smoke, always keeping you dialed in on the action. The opening of fire on civilians is a stark and sad mirroring of many inciting events of our own history's revolutions, such as the Bloody Sunday massacre of 1905 St Petersburg, and a further damning reflection of humanity in Andor – a peaceful public event turned into an expression of violence by regimes who know no other language. For a show set in a galaxy far away, it is consistently at its very best when tackling very human emotions and flaws in our nature.
The funeral march may have laid Maarva to rest, but in turn ushers in a rebirth for Cassian. In a show so rooted in showing us the murky grey areas of this world for much of its runtime, it ultimately relies on the good to shine through as everyday people – the beating heart of any rebellion – to help Cassian. His desire to rescue Bix only elevates his hero status, a role he once would have reluctantly accepted. It brings a fantastic first season to a close as we've witnessed the creation of a rebel, from the way he holds himself more confidently around others to the way he speaks more ferociously about the Empire than ever. It's not only what a reckoning sounds like, but what it looks like too, and it's absolutely glorious.