Star Wars’ Best Episode of Television Made Everything Else Look Underwhelming
Star Wars woke up... then went back to sleep.
Everyone knew Andor was going to be special. Tony Gilroy’s prequel-to-the-prequel following Cassian Andor in the years leading up to Rogue One was met with critical acclaim, and it was just as popular with fans despite the fact there wasn’t a single lightsaber — and only a handful of familiar characters — in sight.
But while Andor had cemented its place as 2023’s best Star Wars TV show, one episode pushed it into contention for the best show of the year. It proved what Star Wars television could be... and made the franchise’s other efforts look lousy in comparison.
“One Way Out,” the series’ 10th episode, is the culmination of Andor’s prison break arc, which swapped the lush on-location settings of the previous storyline for the cold, sterile panopticon of Narkina 5. While imprisoned, Cassian builds mysterious pieces of machinery day in and day out, while vicious guards and electrified floors stand between him and freedom.
We know Cassian will somehow escape, become a key figure in the Rebellion, and sacrifice his life to kick off the events of the Original Trilogy, but that doesn’t make his slow, methodical plan to escape any less exciting. It’s like watching The Spaceshank Redemption.
In the storyline’s previous episodes, Cassian’s biggest hurdle was Kino Loy, a prisoner who holds the knowledge necessary to escape but has been broken to the point of hopelessness. Once a believer in quietly serving his time and leaving without fuss, Kino comes around to Cassian’s view that action is necessary. So they act.
Cassian and Kino use the transfer of a new prisoner as the catalyst for their takeover, and it’s satisfying to see how seemingly unrelated pieces of the plan — two prisoners starting a fight, Cassian breaking a pipe in the bathroom — come together and let the prisoners emerge triumphant.
The episode hits its peak when Cassian and Kino reach the control room. Kino makes a speech to the whole prison, urging them to rebel. “We will never have a better chance than this, and I would rather die trying to take them down than giving them what they want,” he says.
The full statement is powerful, and sums up Cassian’s journey. Once only self-interested, he’s had his eyes opened to the cruelty of the Empire, and he realizes he’d rather go down fighting than live under the thumb of tyranny. Fans know he’s destined to eventually make that sacrifice, which makes the moment even more powerful.
“One Way Out” is the perfect distillation of what made Andor amazing. The scope is tiny, but it’s a microcosm of the entire galaxy, and the writing and acting is superb (Andy Serkis being a particular highlight). Every choice pays off, right down to a tragic yet darkly humorous ending for Kino Loy that wraps up his story perfectly. His acts weren’t about escaping prison; they were about reclaiming his humanity.
Before Andor, Star Wars TV focused on big-budget special effects and the space opera tone of the classic trilogy. “One Way Out” didn’t need all of that. A claustrophobic prison about as stark as the world of George Lucas’ THX 1138 was all Andor required to tell the best story in Star Wars television history.
In the wake of The Mandalorian’s meandering third season and Ahsoka’s decision to drown viewers in lore and references, Andor proved its story-first approach is the best way for Star Wars to operate. There are another 12 episodes on the way and, if “One Way Out” is any indication, it will leave every other Star Wars show in the dust. Let’s hope they learn something from Andor as it speeds by.