Andor episode 5 review: "A taut heist setup with an unfocused approach elsewhere"

GamesRadar+ Verdict

An unbalanced episode sees the Aldhani rebels walk through a tension-filled 24 hours before their big heist – but Andor disappoints elsewhere.

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"Are you in all the way?" lead rebel Vel asked Andor in the previous episode. The Star Wars show should have heeded its own advice in ‘The Axe Forgets’, a capable entry that juggles a wonderfully taut heist setup on Aldhani with an unfocused approach elsewhere in the galaxy.

First, though, Andor showcases the merits of an extended 12-episode run. Where a more truncated time frame might have meant a sudden jump into action, the episode instead deals with the method before the madness. Charting the day before the big score, Cassian (still Clem) and his fellow band of rebels slowly cover all bases – from language, plans, and even the formation of soldiers – to help pull off their daring Imperial job.

The more relaxed approach not only ratchets up the tension – could they be discovered early? Is there a spy in their midst? – but also yields some well-earned character moments. We discover Nemik, for instance, is a budding manifesto writer with a penchant for using old, more trustworthy, tech. His search for truth is at odds with the shiftier Skeen, whose actor Ebon Moss-Bachrach delivers a performance that weaves his duelling characteristics of loyalty towards the mission and fear directed at the newcomer. 

Unlike the original trilogy’s catch-all approach to the Rebellion, Andor paints a picture of a multi-faceted, and maybe even duplicitous, rebellion filled with different ambitions, desires, and instincts. Skeen says the phrase the episode’s title is taken from (“The axe forgets, but the tree remembers”) and it shows just how each of them in their own way has been irreversibly marked by the cold and calculating sharp instrument of the Empire. 

That also applies to the cantankerous Taramyn and Lieutenant Gorn, whose backstory and reason to betray the Empire are teased out. The end result? We’re going to care about all of them by the time they cross the threshold into the Imperial armory. In a galaxy filled with disposable characters, it only took an episode-and-a-half for Andor to create a cast of believable, well-rounded people whose fates will mean something. In that sense, it’s a miniature Rogue One – and should pay dividends in the near future.


(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

If the Aldhani scenes have one failing, it’s the decision to inject a dose of drama between Skeen and ‘Clem’, culminating in the latter stealing Andor’s kyber crystal and forcing Diego Luna’s mercenary to come clean about being a paid body. In truth, Cassian has passed every test with flying colors, meaning their collision course feels more like an act of narrative manipulation from writer Dan Gilroy than a truly organic conflict.

Away from Aldhani, the show checks back in with Blevin, Deedra, Mon Mothma, and Syril to mixed results. Syril’s unnerving chat with his browbeating mother over blue milk and cereal – and the mention of an unseen and mysterious ‘Uncle Harlo’ – not only intensifies the episode’s general feeling of unease, but also offers another peek into the disgraced Imperial’s utter obsession with capturing Andor.

The other side of the Empire – Blevin and Dedra – fares less well. Their inclusions amount to little more than just checking in on them, with each simply continuing at their current trajectory. Lieutenant Blevin’s scene with Captain Tigo helping to put together a new base of operations may as well have been left on the cutting room floor with how redundant it is. Dedra’s solitary scene is a slight improvement, with her ambition – and tendency to find patterns where there are none – fuelling her drive to investigate the missing Starpath unit further. It’s something that should at least see her enter Cassian’s orbit soon enough; the same, sadly, cannot be said for Blevin just yet.


(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

The brief time we spend with Mon Mothma, too, gives us precious little new information about the senator other than the arrival of her daughter, Leida. Their frosty conversations at the dinner table, coupled with another venomous spat with her husband, indicate a troubled domestic life for the future Rebellion figurehead, but not much that could not have already be gleaned by the prior episode.

These scenes, then, feel superfluous to the main event on Aldhani. As the downtrodden clutch of rebels march on, the remaining third of the episode pales in comparison with flat and repetitive world-building. It reads as a show doing an unconvincing impression of a traditional TV series – and not being confident enough in the story it should (as Vel might say) have gone all in on, all the way.

The writers’ anxiety that we’ll forget about Andor’s other major players should be shaken off by the next episode. ‘The Axe Forgets’ ends with Luthen’s nervous energy – and literal radio silence – nicely setting up a tense set-piece that has all the makings of one of Star Wars’ very best heists.

New episodes of Andor stream on Disney Plus every Wednesday. For more, check out our guide to all the upcoming Star Wars movies heading your way soon.

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Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.