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Who is Luthen Rael? He was one of the most intriguing characters that we met in the three-episode premiere of Andor, the latest Star Wars series currently streaming on Disney+. Played by Stellan Skarsgård, we have no idea whether he can be trusted or not.
In Episode 4, we learn more about him, but mystery persists in clouding his every move. We imagine that’s the point, because we don’t know where anyone on Andor truly stands. That’s true of those who work for the Empire and for those who work against it.
Episode 4 did bring in Mon Mothma, and we know for a fact that we can trust her. That’s some nice relief.
***WARNING: From this point forward, there will be spoilers for Episode 4 of Andor. If you have not watched yet, jump on that speeder bike and zoom away.***
Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) appears in the episode of course, but his storyline almost plays second to the intricate nesting-doll shenanigans happening on Coruscant. Luthen gives him some talk about giving it all for something big (something Cassian will certainly do in the movie Rogue One), and then drops him off with a small rebel cell on the planet Aldhani.
He has told Cassian that he’s important, but he tells the rebel cell leader that he is “disposable.” Cassian (or “Clem” as he must be called for now) is not to mention Luthen at all. Luthen won’t even be on the mission that these rebels are planning.
Who the karkin’ kriff is Luthen, then? We get the feeling that nobody really knows. As he pulls into Coruscant, he puts on a wig and some fancy clothes. The next time we see him, he’s a rich-looking dealer working in a gallery. He smiles, and he laughs. He dresses the part and he plays it so well that no Imperial would bother to look at him twice.
Even if an Imperial did look at him and had a gut instinct, they’d have to go through about a million reams of red tape before they could do anything about it. The episode brings in the Imperial Security Bureau, and the spies in their ranks are told to be more concerned with “quarterly reports” than hunches. The Empire is overseeing the entire galaxy, so the ISB is overloaded. We see them blatantly let bureaucracy get in the way of something that could yield actual results. The arrogance that Luthen spoke of in the premiere is on full display.
Mon Mothma (Genevieve O’Reilly) pays his gallery a visit, and she’s playing a part too. She’s just another rich senator buying a gift for her husband, nothing to see here, look over there. She’s actually there to talk Rebellion business with Luthen, but they barely have any time or privacy to do so.
“I found someone I think can help me,” she tells him. We don’t know who she is talking about yet (she’ll already have the support of Bail Organa at this point), but Luthen needs her for money, not more members of “the circle” that could make them all vulnerable. Mon Mothma is very vulnerable herself, as she says there’s “a new spy every day” in the Senate, and she feels that she is “under siege.”
Her own home feels like a guarded sanitarium, and her oblivious husband’s dinner party plans are helping nothing. She is chafing under the layers of the different roles that she has to play, as is everyone else on the show.
After a life of making a few mistakes playing different roles with different names, Cassian is learning how to do it professionally. Mon Mothma is good at it, but it's exhausting. Luthen is probably the best at going in and out of his various personas, but who knows what side he’s really on?
That’s the real spark of this series. Aside from Cassian and Mon Mothma, the loyalty of any character is up for grabs. The ISB chief (Anton Lesser) could be a double agent. One of the rebels on Aldhani could be a sleeper. Syril Karn’s mother could be Wookiee Rights activist in her spare time; anything is possible. As Tobias Beckett might say, trust no one.
Galactic Points of Interest
-No one has much hope for the mission that Cassian and the small rebel cell on Aldhani are moving forward with. It is described as a “suicide mission” at one point, and for Cassian at least, it will be the first in a career full of them.
-Because of Syril Karn's (Kyle Soller) actions (as well as the incompetence of the Morlana corpos), the corporations are now under the direct control of the Empire. Syril goes to what might be his family apartment, and someone who might be his mother (Kathryn Hunter) slaps him and then hugs him. In that order.
-Planets and systems mentioned in this episode: Mimban (Solo: A Star Wars Story), Ryloth (Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Star Wars: The Bad Batch), Arvala 6 (Arvala 7 features in The Mandalorian), and Scarif (Rogue One). Luthen shows Mon Mothma a “Utapauan monk cudgel” which references the planet Utapau (seen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith), and she speaks of “Chandrillan customs.” Mon Mothma is from the planet Chandrilla, which temporarily becomes the home of the New Republic following the Empire’s defeat.
-We also go to Coruscant, but you probably caught that one.
-The character Sly Moore is on the invite list for the dinner that Mon Mothma’s husband is putting together. She first appeared in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones, and can also be seen in Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith. She is an Umbaran, and a very close advisor to Emperor Palpatine. She has been featured a number of times recently in Star Wars comics, playing notable roles in Darth Vader, War of the Bounty Hunters, and more. You’ve seen her, she’s the pasty white woman who stands next to Palpatine when he’s in the Senate.
-The ISB gets some big live-action representation here. The bureau shows up in books and comics all the time, but they are usually on the edges of the screen when it comes to the movies. Former Admiral Yularen showing up in his white uniform on an episode of Star Wars: Rebels was a notable moment for them, though.
-When Luthen goes to light speed, we see the classic hyperspace lines for the first time on this show. Dank farrik, that felt good!
-TIE Fighters appear, complete with their signature sounds. Another speeder bike shows up, and there’s no mistaking those sounds either.
-One thing that rang very true about Luthen was his connection to something he gives Cassian; a necklace of “blue kyber” crystal which he calls “sky stone.” Blue kyber is not something we are aware of yet (outside of what you can buy at the Galaxy’s Edge theme park) but Luthen having a piece of any kind of kyber is interesting. He may have found it along with some of the other pieces in his gallery, but this feels special. He wants it back. Cassian having it makes us think of Jyn Erso and her mother’s kyber crystal necklace in Rogue One.
-Favorite line of the episode goes to Mon Mothma’s husband, who we do not trust at all: “Must everything be boring and sad?” You've got a real prince on your hands, senator.
Andor streams on Disney+ every Wednesday. Imagine fifty meteor showers all at once.