Andor compellingly answers a question that no other Star Wars entry has explored: how did the Rebel Alliance get money, and how did it start? When we first meet the rebels, the heroes of the Star Wars universe, in Star Wars: A New Hope, the movement is steady on its feet with fleets, bases, and a princess high in the ranks. This rebellion, it seems, started with Luthen Rael, played by Stellan Skarsgård.
By day, Luthen is a bombastic antiques dealer based with coiffed hair and luxe jewel-toned garments. By night (or other days), he’s the menacing but convincing leader of a start-up rebellion meant to slowly but surely take down the fascist Galactic Empire, with short blonde hair and dark cloaks with silhouettes similar to Darth Vader’s. Through Luthen, (and his small, scrappy network) the lines between good and evil are blurred. The rebels are the good guys, of course, but in order to get to a future where taking down the Empire is possible, moral compromises are necessary.
In the season’s tenth episode, Luthen meets with a double agent, Lonni, who works for the Empire. He wants out, but Luthen will not let that happen. “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,” he says. Skarsgård delivers his dialogue rhythmically and makes it sound and feel as elegant as Shakespeare (Tony Gilroy might be the modern equivalent of Shakespeare), with a terrifying undercurrent: this man will do anything to get what he wants. Lonni leaves the meeting stuck as a double agent.
In the penultimate episode, Luthen calmly and coolly escapes an Imperial inspection. Trapped in a, I don’t know, thing that traps ships, Luthen casually uses the many features on his seemingly below-average ship to escape. The scene is cleverly choreographed, more so than most scenes involving spaceships in space, but it’s Skarsgård’s performance that sells it. Luthen is always calm and stoic, but as his little rebellion gets louder and consequently gets more attention from the Empire, he’s panicking. Luthen’s unraveling is subtle, but Skarsgård shows it: he carries his body heavy as if he has more weight on his shoulders and his eyes show glimmers of hope and impending doom at the same time.
Thanks to Stellan Skarsgård’s committed performance as a man who has sacrificed everything to improve life for others and will sacrifice anyone (or anything) along the way, Luthen is already more iconic than any new Star Wars character since the Disney acquisition, all respect to Kylo Ren and BB-8. Skarsgård could have easily phoned in this performance, but instead, he’s giving the performance of his life. In return, he deserves an Emmy.