Rebel With a Cause

Star Wars theory finally answers Andor's most bizarre mystery

If you break their spirits, they won’t rebel.

There are plenty of mysteries surrounding Andor’s depiction of the Star Wars galaxy amid the rise of the Rebellion, but the one fans are most curious about seems like it should be one of the most trivial. In the latest storyline of the Disney+ series, Cassian Andor has found himself sentenced to six years in prison, manufacturing cog-like machinery day in and day out to avoid being punished by brutal shocks.

But just what are those parts they’re making? The answer may make this prison even more sinister than you realize.

Fans have all sorts of theories for just what these parts could be. Some say they’re making probe droids, ironically providing more security for the Empire. Others say they’re obviously making the infrastructure of a certain Imperial superweapon, which means Cassian is assembling the very machine that will soon end his life. Some fans even argue that the parts belong to AT-AT walkers.

Could the fast-paced manufacturing Andor is forced to do actually be for naught?Lucasfilm

But the Breaking Canon Podcast has a different idea. When discussing Episode 8, “Narkina 5,” a new theory came to light. What if these parts are assembled, then immediately disassembled on the floor below? The work is just a distraction.

At first glance, this seems like a big waste. Why leave all this free labor unused when prisoners are “cheaper than droids”? If this theory is true, it’s not a matter of efficacy, but psychological warfare. If the Empire can break the spirits of their prisoners and keep them docile, their incarceration becomes a self-sufficient process. When prisoners on these hypothetical lower floors see work being undone, it reiterates how useless the Empire wants them to feel.

Naturally, to support this theory we have to talk about philosophy. Many fans have taken to calling Narkina 5 a panopticon, a term developed in the 18th century to describe a circular prison structure with a watch tower in the middle where prisoners would always feel observed.

A 1928 Illinois prison following the Panopticon structure.Underwood Archives/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The idea of the panopticon was explored by French philosopher Michel Foucault, who wrote in his book Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison that a well-established prison can manipulate their workers into regulating themselves, eliminating the need for discipline:

“He who is subjected to a field of visibility, and who knows it, assumes responsibility for the constraints of power; he makes them play spontaneously upon himself; he inscribes in himself the power relation in which he simultaneously plays both roles; he becomes the principle of his own subjection.”

Notably, Andor’s group is controlled by a fellow inmate, Kino Loy, who’s been made responsible for keeping his cohort well-behaved. These groups are isolated from each other, never really knowing when they’re watched and by who, and ultimately are psychologically tortured by the conditions they’re in — all hallmarks of a panopticon.

Narkina 5, at least if this theory is correct, isn’t a manufacturing plant. It’s being used to break spirits and souls. Cassian Andor will presumably prove to be the exception, and break out with an even stronger hatred for the Empire.

Andor is now streaming on Disney+.