Andor episode 7 review: "The Empire has never felt so real and terrifying"

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Mon Mothma and the Empire take the reins to great effect in a politics-heavy episode that deals with the fallout of Aldhani – at the expense of a few of its ensemble cast.

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"Turning back will be impossible,” Luthen bluntly tells Mon Mothma during ‘Announcement’, an episode that deals with the Empire’s retaliation to the embarrassing raid on Aldhani. What follows is a more subdued hour that slowly teases out the inevitabile collision between rebels and the Empire – all while offering a greater purpose to those who had been left floundering in recent weeks.

Planet-destroying aside, the Empire has never felt so real and terrifying. The Imperial response to the heist on Aldhani is as brutal as it is swift. The only surprise here is that there is no assault or attack. Instead, the rebels – and any planet who would show support – are tarred with the same, mundane brush: tax levies are imposed, and emergency measures are brought in.

The writing in the ISB scenes, especially as the subject matter’s so dry, is smart and tight. Even a namedrop of Palpatine by Colonel Yularen, returning from A New Hope, effectively communicates the gravity of the situation. In a real world peppered with transparent dictatorships and human rights brazenly being squashed in plain sight, it’s a startling and timely reminder of how quickly an authoritarian boot can squeeze around the throat of its people.

Generally, the ISB is given far more time on screen, and every second of that attention is used to good effect. That narrative shift even allows Dedra to properly emerge as another key player as she spars with Blevin – this time, though, it’s Dedra who comes out on top and Blevin, having lost control of his sector, is left to lick his wounds. It’s a short, sharp scene, but one that allows Dedra to finally take full control of her story. Following her strong introduction, she has been a passenger to Andor’s antics. Dedra now feels like a worthy adversary – able to trip up the Empire’s sharpest minds, while also having the full weight of the emergency measures at her back.


(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Speaking of Andor, he gets a much-needed cooldown this week after the high-octane rush of his time on Aldhani. Back on Ferrix, he’s broadly aimless and tinged with equal parts confusion and melancholy. Haunted by memories of his father being hung by stormtroopers in the square, he discovers that Maarva has turned into a firebrand and – a fairly flat scene with old flame Bix aside – he seems to be wrestling with an inner conflict that will eventually explode come the events of Rogue One.

Not that you would immediately know it. Andor later arrives on the planet of Niamos, where the Empire’s inept Shoretroopers patrol the beach and where our protagonist, now ‘Keef’, is drifting listlessly with his new squeeze. Andor’s push-and-pull between living his life as a civilian or as a revolutionary probably should have been explored further, and it’s disappointing it immediately takes a back seat after the scenes on Ferrix.

Andor is soon dragged back into the harsh reality of an ever-changing galaxy, however, by one foot soldier, complete with a darkly comedic K2SO fakeout. Andor is then sentenced to six years in prison for minor misdemeanours. As a cliffhanger, it’s a little clunky. We know he doesn’t spend that much time, if any, behind bars. Still, it’s a harsh reminder of the Empire’s panicked overreach in a galaxy that now feels like it’s dangling on a knife-edge.

Despite the Empire and Andor’s very different paths, it’s Mon Mothma staying the course. Her frosty chat with Luthen in his gallery is a brutal reminder that it’s her – and not those who work in the shadows – who has everything to lose. Her “rock in the hand, knife at the throat” speech to childhood friend Tay – who she’s recruiting for a greater cause – feels like the show finally giving Genevieve O’Reilly’s senator something a little meatier to chew on instead of covert chats and domestic distractions. She’s the MVP of the episode and she’s going to be the one to watch in the coming weeks. So, too, is Vel – who gets a new mission in her brief time on-screen: track down and kill the “loose end” of ‘Clem’, who she now knows as Andor.


(Image credit: Lucasfilm)

Another loose end – in a very different sense – is Syril. Perpetually worn down by his mother, he eventually ends up working at the Bureau of Standards. The irony of a man who is a stickler for laws and rules being trapped in a cold, bland workspace shouldn’t be lost on the one-time Imperial, but it’s one of the episode’s few misjudgments.

While it’s clear that his storyline is heading somewhere, Andor hasn’t quite mastered how to weave every disparate story thread into a satisfying whole just yet. Syril’s scenes, then, drop in like they’re from another show entirely, acting as surreal bookends on what was otherwise a strong hour. Cinta’s brief interlude – a welcome reminder that she is still alive – is also largely redundant given her lack of screen time in the episode. That’s one mystery that should have been left open for another week.

Still, the large majority of what we do get is gold. The Empire and Mon Mothma, on opposite sides of the battle for the galaxy, have real momentum for the first time. The focus on each has allowed Andor’s story to drift slightly, and the series still isn’t sure what to do with some of its wider ensemble cast, but Andor remains a smart, astute character study of those desperate for freedom – in all its forms.

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.