Connect with us

Tech

‘Andor’ Episodes 1, 2 and 3 Recap: Rebel Dawn of a Star Wars Hero

Avatar

Published

on

Star Wars series Andor came to Disney Plus on Wednesday, with the first three episodes landing together to give us a feature-length opening. The series is set five years before spinoff movie Rogue One, which took place directly before the events of original Star Wars film A New Hope.

It dives into the backstory of the darkly heroic Cassian Andor (Diego Luna), who’ll go on to become a hero of the Rebel Alliance as it faces down the totalitarian Empire. This is a particularly bleak era in the Star Wars universe, with rebel forces scattered around the galaxy as Emperor Palpatine’s forces steadily crush ordinary people in their grip.

Let’s get to know Cassian and company by recapping the major events of this opening trio of episodes — a threecap, if you will. Prepare to enter the Rebel Alliance of SPOILERS.

spoilers-starwars

Tears in the Rain

MORLANA ONE — On this cool-looking sci-fi dystopia of a planet, the series’ extremely Blade Runner opening sets up the emotional stakes, as Cassian tries to find his lost sister in a brothel. This reveals that he’s from the planet Kenari, which we see in flashbacks through these first three episodes.

He doesn’t have any luck finding his sibling, but catches the attention of two corporate security force goons (Corpos) who might as well have “BULLY” labels stuck on their foreheads. They try to shake down the wrong guy in Cassian, and he accidentally kills one and shoots the other as he begs for his life.

Cassian Andor investigates a sci-fi brothel in Andor's opening.

We meet Cassian as he searches for his sister, but a pair of surly security goons ruin his quest.


Lucasfilm

It mirrors our first encounter with Cassian in Rogue One, where he guns down a rebel informant instead of letting him fall into the hands of the Empire. Our hero isn’t part of the Rebel Alliance in Andor, so he kills these dudes to save his own skin rather than for the cause.

This proves to be the show’s inciting incident, since it catches the attention of the one zealous Corpo officer and a rebel recruiter.

Cassian’s nemesis

CORPORATE SECURITY HEADQUARTERS — That Corpo officer turns out to be Syril Karn (Kyle Soller), who’s looking extremely well put together as he presents his report on the killings to his supervisor, Chief Hyne (Rupert Vansittart, whom you might recognize as Game of Thrones’ Lord Yohn Royce).

Hyne immediately recognizes that the two dead Corpo boys were dirtbags who got themselves killed. He reckons the incident should be swept neatly under the rug for all eternity, and offers a lovely cover story.

“I suspect they died rushing to aid someone in distress. Nothing too heroic, we don’t need a parade,” he says. “They died being helpful. Something sad but inspiring in a mundane sort of way.”

I’m mundanely inspired just hearing it. Hyne knows that highlighting Corpo corruption will give the Empire an opening to step in and seize control of the Morlani system. Classic colonialism, in an era when Palpatine’s totalitarian regime is expanding.

Syril Karn gazes a hologram of Cassian Andor in Andor

Syril Karn gazes at the man he’s hunting for.


Lucasfilm

The naive Syril doesn’t consider the bigger picture and is quietly disgusted at the chief’s willingness to look the other way. On the face of it, it’s hard to argue with him — two of his colleagues were murdered. Soon empowered by Hyne’s absence, he gathers an enthusiastic but incompetent security team to hunt Cassian down.

Welcome to Ferrix

FERRIX, MORLANI SYSTEM — The bulk of these first three episodes focus on the drudgery of life on this tough industrial world, and the deliberate pacing shows that Andor is refreshingly patient with its universe building. Characters work ordinary jobs, and the more enterprising ones have side hustles (or multiple side hustles, in our hero’s case).

Bix Caleen looks concerned as she climbs a ladder in Andor

Bix Caleen has a complex relationship with Cassian.


Lucasfilm

We’re also introduced to a bunch of characters in Cassian’s orbit, and it isn’t always direct about who they are. Let’s run through them so we can keep track:

  • Maarva Andor (Fiona Shaw) is Cassian’s adoptive mom. She and her late husband, Clem, saved him from Republic forces on Kenari a few decades ago, during the Clone Wars (as seen in the flashbacks). Maarva isn’t in the best of health, but her defiant reaction to the Corpo raid suggests some of that old fire is still burning.
  • B2EMO — AKA Bee-Two or Bee (Dave Chapman) — is Maarva and Cassian’s extremely good droid. He’s a bit like a lovable old dog; still charming, but maybe not as reliable as he used to be. His boxy design is visually delightful, his color reminds me of the space suits in 2001: A Space Odyssey and that hound is just plain rude for peeing on him.
  • Bix Caleen (Adria Arjona) is Cassian’s loyal friend and former flame. She’s running a busy garage, and acts as a fence to connect stolen goods with buyers. One such buyer happens to be a recruiter for the rebellion.
  • Timm Karlo (James McArdle) is Bix’s employee and current boyfriend, whose jealousy leads him to rat Cassian out to the security forces and ultimately gets him killed. 

Big shoutout to the unnamed guy who strikes the gong/hammers the anvil to get everyone in town moving. He’s credited as the Time Grappler (Neil Bell), and makes everything 100% more atmospheric.

Kassa from Kenari 

KENARI, THE PAST — “Suddenly the Rebellion is real for you. Some of us live it. I’ve been in this fight since I was 6 years old,” Cassian tells Jyn in Rogue One. “You’re not the only one who lost everything. Some of us just decided to do something about it.”

We learn a huge amount about Cassian in these episodes, including the childhood he alluded in Rogue One. Flashbacks reveal his childhood on Kenari in the time when the Galactic Republic ran things rather than the Empire.

Here, our hero goes by Kassa (played by Antonio Viña) and is living as part of a tribe along with his sister, Kerri (Belle Swarc).

Maarva looks thoughtful as she sits next to a window in Andor

We meet an elderly Maarva in the present, and see her adventurous past in the flashbacks.


Lucasfilm

I love that the Kenari flashbacks don’t have subtitles, since it forces you to pay attention to characters’ body language. It’s clear that Cassian was a bit of a sneaky chancer even as a kid, getting into situations where he doesn’t necessarily belong — like joining the group of older kids to check out the ship that crashes.

After one of the children is killed by a trigger-happy officer, Kassa checks out the vessel alone and finds everyone on board was killed by gas (presumably released when the ship sustained the damage that made it crash). It’s likely these people were part of a mining effort, probably strip-mining Kenari’s resources.

He runs into a young Maarva and Clem Andor, along with Bee (back when the droid was shiny and new), who’ve seemingly boarded the downed ship in search of salvage. Knowing the Republic is on the way and will kill Kassa if they find him on board, Maarva decides to take him with them. This is kinda kidnapping; I wonder if it was ever a source of tension between Maarva and Cassian?

The people on the ship have the logo of the Confederacy of Independent Systems (aka the Separatists, led by Count Dooku) on their uniforms, suggesting that they were transporting material for the war against the Republic. In the present, we learn that Kenari was “abandoned after an Imperial mining disaster. Abandoned and considered toxic — Imperial prohibition.” The Empire may have tried to mine the planet after the Clone Wars.

Rebel Dawn

FERRIX — “Insurrection, destruction of Imperial property, assault on Imperial soldier.” Cassian’s rap sheet hints at his anti-Imperial leanings, and his attempt to sell a stolen starpath unit (which looks a lot like Darth Vader’s chest piece and contains Imperial coordinates) puts him on the radar of rebel recruiter Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård).

Luthen Rael and Cassian Andor flee on a speeder in Andor.

Luthen Rael convinces Cassian to escape to a rebellious new life.


Lucasfilm

The show turns extremely intense and awesome when their paths cross. Luthen is impressed with Cassian’s ability to use the Imperials’ arrogance to slip right through their defenses, and pushes the younger man to join the rebels. 

“These days will end, Cassian Andor. The way they laugh, the way they push through a crowd. The sound of that voice telling you to stop, to go, to move. Telling you to die,” he growls, oozing charisma with every syllable. “Don’t you want to fight these bastards for real?”

They flee the Corpo security goons’ effort to track Cassian down, which goes completely off the rails when the people of Ferrix push back against their bullying — the banging on metal is intimidating as heck.

The third episode’s final moments see Cassian fleeing Ferrix with Luthen, while Syril looks shell-shocked that his zeal has ruined his career, Bix mourn’s Timm’s death and Maarva sits with Bee in her cold apartment.


Now playing:
Watch this:

Disney’s Galactic Starcruiser: What It’s Really Like…



29:28

Rogue thoughts, unanswered questions and Easter eggs

  • Where is Cassian’s sister? How and when did she get off Kenari?
  • Clem, Cassian’s adoptive father (Gary Beadle), was hanged by the Imperials, but why?
  • Composer Nicholas Britell (known for his work on Moonlight and Succession) gives this show an awesome synth sci-fi opening theme, especially as it bleeds into the Blade Runner aesthetics of the first scene. It changes slightly in each episode too. 
  • This show takes place “5 BBY,” which stands for “Before Battle of Yavin.” This is the climactic skirmish of A New Hope, where Luke Skywalker blew up the Empire’s first Death Star battle station, and a pivotal moment in the Star Wars universe. It’s when everyone realized that the Rebel Alliance wasn’t just foolin’ around.
  • For prequel context, Andor happens 14 years after the Empire seized control of the galaxy in Revenge of the Sith and four years after Obi-Wan Kenobi’s battle with Darth Vader in the Disney Plus series.
  • It’s unclear when the flashbacks take place — reference books say Cassian was 26 in Rogue One, so he’d be 21 in the present day part of the show. If he’s been fighting since he was 6, that’d place the flashbacks 15 years before that — the period when the Clone Wars were raging throughout the galaxy. Both Kassa and Cassian look older than those ages, I guess he’s lived a hard life.
  • If so, the intense mining operation on Kenari might be linked to the Republic desperately gathering raw materials to sustain the war effort. Thanks to William Devereux, host of the Star Wars-centric Ion Cannon podcast, for helping me organize my timeline thoughts.
  • Cassian’s jacket is extremely cool. Would it be too sci-fi to wear in real life? Maybe Columbia Sportswear or some other fashion brand will release one.
  • “No weapons. No comms. No credit. No nonsense.” The bouncer’s words are ones to live by.
  • Syril is the kind of a character we regularly see in Star Wars novels — a middle manager with an inflated sense of importance and low self-esteem who steadily goes off the deep end, making life hell for the heroes. Kyle Soller performs this role magnificently.
  • Add Timm to the list of boring Star Wars names along with Luke and Ben. At least the extra m gives it a bit of sci-fi flair.
  • This show alludes strongly to sexuality in Bix and Timm’s relationship, as well as the brothel in episode 1. The latter is a familiar sci-fi image, but Star Wars has traditionally been pretty sexless.
  • It’s really cool that Bee is showing his age through a data lag and acknowledging that lying requires more processing power. Classic Star Wars droids R2-D2 and C-3PO are in service for decades, but they’re clearly well cared for. Cassian and Maarva don’t have the money to do so with Bee.
  • Cassian’s papers say he’s from Fest, a snowy world you visit in the non-canon 1995 video game Dark Forces. In the current continuity, it’s only previously been mentioned in By Whatever Sun, a story written by EK Johnston and Ashley Eckstein in 2017 anthology From a Certain Point of View, and some reference books.
  • The one Corpo’s slow clap after Syril’s limp speech is glorious. Ouch.
  • You might be wondering why Cassian’s fellow Rogue One hero Jyn Erso doesn’t have a show. Between that movie and its prequel novels Catalyst and Rebel Rising, her life story has been pretty comprehensively told. Catalyst in particular will make you way more invested in Rogue One’s Erso family and Director Krennic.
  • The shipyard at the start makes me think of the start of 2019 video game Jedi: Fallen Order.
  • The dropships used by the Corpos look like converted Republic Gunships, as first seen in Attack of the Clones.
  • “Rule No. 1: Never carry anything you don’t control.” Luckily, we don’t all carry devices controlled by giant megacorporations in real life. That’d be ridiculous. 
  • Sergeant Linus Mosk (Alex Ferns) says the word “shit” when the Corpo operation starts to go sideways. It’s the first time we’ve heard that word in Star Wars, which normally uses its own selection of sci-fi swears (like “bantha poodoo”). This ain’t your daddy’s galaxy far, far away.
  • Cassian gazes into the sunlight as he leaves Kenari and Ferrix, in beautifully juxtaposed moments. In Rogue One, he opens his eyes as he and Jyn are engulfed in blinding light as their lives end.
  • I got the idea to use the datelines to set the scene from my Centre County Report colleague Erin Carson’s excellent Rings of Power recaps. Imitation is the sincerest form of thievery, Erin, mwahaha.
  • This show will run for two seasons, with 12 episodes planned for both, and run directly into the events of Rogue One. Season 2 is reportedly scheduled to shoot in November.
  • I hope Maarva puts the heat on.

Come back for more Easter eggs and observations next Wednesday, Sept. 28, when episode 4 of Andor hits Disney Plus.

Tech

China bots flood Twitter with porn spam to drown protest news

Avatar

Published

on

China bots flood Twitter with porn spam to drown out protest messages

Widespread protests erupted in China this weekend, marking “the largest opposition demonstration against the ruling Communist Party in decades.” AP News reports. Many protesters attempted to live-document the events to raise awareness and show solidarity on Twitter. The demonstrations were so strong that the Chinese authorities actually appeared to relent, appeasing some of the protesters’ demands by easing the tight lockdown restrictions that had sparked the protests.

This could have been a moment that showed that under Elon Musk, Twitter is still a relevant source for breaking news, still a place for free speech demonstrations to reach the masses, and therefore still the only place to see escalating protests how to track this. Instead of this, The Washington Post reported that a barrage of “useless tweets” effectively buried live footage of protests. This prevented users from easily following protest messages, while Twitter appeared to do nothing to stop what researchers called an apparent Chinese influence operation.

For hours, those tweets dropped Chinese city names where protests took place in posts mostly promoting pornography and adult escort services. And it worked, preventing users trying to search city names in Chinese from easily seeing updates on the protests. Researchers told the Post that the tweets were posted by a number of Chinese-language accounts that haven’t been used in months or even years. The tweets appeared early Sunday, shortly after protesters began calling for the resignation of Communist Party leaders.

Examples of tweets can be seen here.

researchers quickly Took note of the alleged Chinese influence operation very early on Sunday. Some took to Twitter directly. Eventually, an outside researcher was able to reach a current Twitter employee who confirmed that Twitter was working to resolve the issue. However, experts told the post that Twitter’s solution appeared to only reduce the problem, not solve it entirely. Alex Stamos, director of the Stanford Internet Observatory, told the Post his team continued to study the scope and impact of the operation.

Stamos did not immediately respond to Ars’ request for comment. Twitter reportedly does not have a communications team.

A former Twitter employee told The Post that what Stamos’ team observed was a common tactic used by authoritarian regimes to restrict access to news. Normally, Twitter’s anti-propaganda team would have manually deleted the accounts, the former employee said. But like many other teams hit by Twitter layoffs, layoffs and resignations, this team has been severely reduced.

“All China influence operations and analysts at Twitter have all resigned,” the former Twitter staffer told The Post.

Verification of automatic content removal is increasing

In reducing content moderation teams, Musk appears to be relying primarily on automated content removal to detect violations that previous employees had manually monitored. It has become an issue that extends beyond China. Also this weekend French regulators said they had become dubious about Twitter The spread of misinformation was skillfully stopped and the New Zealand government had to step in and contact Twitter directly when this was the case Twitter failed to identify banned footage of the Christchurch terrorist attack.

A spokesman for New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said The Guardian that “Twitter’s automated reporting feature did not identify the content as harmful.” Apparently, the entire Twitter team that New Zealand wanted to work with to block such extremism-related content was fired.

Now Ardern’s office says “only time will tell” if Twitter is truly committed to removing harmful content, and other governments around the world seem to agree. Just today, French regulator of communications Arcom said Reuters that “Twitter has demonstrated a lack of transparency in its fight against misinformation” by releasing a report that specifically notes how “inaccurate” the company has been about how its automated tools combat misinformation.

Corresponding European Union data verified by AP, Twitter had already become lazy about removing hate speech and misinformation over the past year, even before Musk took over. But it’s Musk who must face up to governments scrambling to ensure Twitter’s content moderation actually works to prevent extremism and disinformation campaigns from spreading online and causing real harm.

By mid-2023, Musk will feel more pressure to respond to concerns from countries in the EU, which will soon enact stricter rules to protect online safety. If he doesn’t, he risks fines of up to 6 percent of Twitter’s global revenue. AP reports.

Right now, however, Musk is basically doing the opposite of what online security experts want, according to the AP. While Musk is granting “amnesty” to suspended Twitter accounts, experts told AP they predict misinformation and hate speech will only increase on the platform.

Those experts included members of Twitter’s Trust and Safety Council, who confirmed that the group has not met since Musk acquired it and appears unsure if a scheduled meeting for mid-December will take place. So far, Musk seems to favor Twitter polls over trusting expert opinion when making decisions about restoring suspended accounts. One council member, University of Virginia cyber civil rights expert Danielle Citron, told the AP that “the whole point of the permanent suspension is that these people were so bad, they were bad for business.”

Ars couldn’t immediately reach Citron for comment, but she told AP that — like rumors Twitter could crack at any moment — Musk’s amnesty for suspended accounts is another “disaster to come.”

Continue Reading

Tech

BlockFi Files for Bankruptcy as FTX Fallout Spreads

Avatar

Published

on

BlockFi, a cryptocurrency lender catering to ordinary investors craving a slice of crypto-mania, filed for bankruptcy Monday, brought down by its financial connections FTXthe embattled exchange whose recent demise has shaken the crypto industry to the core.

Based in Jersey City, NJ, BlockFi marketed primarily to retail investors, offering them cryptocurrency-backed loans and accounts paying high interest on crypto deposits in minutes with no credit checks. Last year, the lender said it had more than 450,000 retail customers.

On Monday, 2017-founded BlockFi filed for Chapter 11 protection in New Jersey. Its implosion is the latest example of an industry on shaky foundations, with companies so intertwined that a single wobble can unleash financial chaos.

BlockFi isn’t the first crypto lender to file for bankruptcy. In July, two of its competitors, Celsius Network and Voyager Digital, collapsed within a week. They struggled to find their feet after a spring market panic when the value of many high-profile cryptocurrencies plummeted. Bitcoin alone fell 20 percent in a week.

BlockFi had faltered ever since. In June, to stabilize itself, the lender struck a deal with FTX, which was then seen as a safety net given the exchange’s credibility and dominance in the crypto industry. FTX agreed provide The company has a $400 million line of credit — essentially a loan that BlockFi can draw on as needed.

Announcing the funding, BlockFi CEO Zac Prince said, said it would “give access to capital that further strengthens our balance sheet.” The deal also gave FTX an option to buy BlockFi.

BlockFi then borrowed $275 million from a subsidiary of FTX, according to its bankruptcy filings. This financial entanglement meant that when FTX plummeted and was forced to file for bankruptcy amid revelations Corporate missteps and suspicious managementBlockFi also began to struggle.

A few days after the stock market crash, BlockFi said Clients who were unable to withdraw their deposits because they had “significant exposure” to FTX, including additional funds the company had hoped to receive under the agreement and other assets held on the FTX platform.

In its Monday filing, BlockFi said it had about $257 million in cash on hand to support its business through bankruptcy. The company said in court filings it had more than 100,000 creditors and $10 billion in assets and liabilities. It also said it would significantly reduce costs, including labor costs. Last year it employed 850 people.

BlockFi also said it will focus on collecting all obligations to the company, including those from FTX. However, it warned of delays in recovering assets from FTX amid the exchange’s bankruptcy.

John J. Ray III, FTX’s new chief executive officer, who previously ran Enron during its bankruptcy, has called corporate dysfunction at FTX “unprecedented.” Legal experts say it could take years to wind down and recover assets.

Regulators had already scrutinized BlockFi. In February, the Securities and Exchange Commission obtained a $100 million settlement with the company’s credit department for offering loans without registering them as securities and for not registering as an investment company. The SEC also found that BlockFi made false and misleading statements about the level of risk in its loan portfolio and its lending operations.

BlockFi still owes the SEC $30 million according to its bankruptcy filing, making the country’s top securities cop its fourth-largest creditor. It owes $275 million to West Realm Shires, the parent company of US exchange FTX and BlockFi’s second-largest creditor. Its largest creditor is the Ankura Trust Company, which specializes in administering loans to distressed companies, at around US$729 million.

“BlockFi has worked from the beginning to positively shape the cryptocurrency industry and move the sector forward,” said Mark Renzi of Berkeley Research Group, a financial advisor to the company. “BlockFi looks forward to a transparent process that achieves the best outcome for all customers and other stakeholders.”

BlockFi’s other bankruptcy advisors include law firm Haynes and Boone, investment bank Moelis & Company and strategic advisor C Street Advisory Group.

Continue Reading

Tech

The 10 best games of 2022, according to Time

Avatar

Published

on

Editorial opinion: Another year is almost in the record books, and that’s reason enough for Time to share its top 10 video games of 2022. These kinds of lists usually disappoint, but it seems the release got it right for the most part this time.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came in 10th place: Shredder’s revenge, a co-op brawler from Dotemu featuring side-scrolling action, a pixelated art style and voice acting from the original cartoon actors. Shredder’s Revenge launched digitally on most major platforms, and Limited Run did Collector’s Edition that should be delivered in early 2023.

Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga and Resident Evil Village: Shadows of Rose take 9th and 8th place respectively. Lego and Star Wars are two of the hottest brands out there, and the newly launched Resident Evil DLC adds even more content to an already great game.

martial arts game Sifu is Time’s seventh favorite game, just behind The Last of Us Part 1. The former released in February for PS4, PS5 and Windows (and earlier this month for Switch) and puts players in control of the child of a martial arts school master who seeks revenge for her father’s death. The Last of Us needs no introduction – Part 1 is a remake of the original 2013 game, improving the overall formula for the PS5.

cat simulator Stray took fifth place, but it’s more than just performing basic cat activities. The game challenges players to use their skills to survive their environment, solve puzzles and unravel mysteries.

Fourth finisher elden ring got off to a flying start, selling over 12 million copies in less than a month (and over 17.5 million in October). Interactive horror drama The Quarry, the spiritual successor to Until Dawn, took third place after its launch in mid-2022. I’m a bit surprised it finished ahead of some of the other heavyweights on the list, but maybe it’s worthy.

Horizon: Forbidden West and God of War: Ragnarok Second and first, and nobody feels out of place here. Horizon Forbidden West currently has a Metacritic Score of 88 and God of War: Ragnarok is ranked even higher at 94.

Here is a brief summary of the time list:

  • 10. TMNT: Shredder’s Revenge
  • 9. Lego Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga
  • 8. Resident Evil Village: Shadow of the Rose
  • 7. Sifu
  • 6. The Last of Us Part 1
  • 5. Stray
  • 4. Elden Ring
  • 3. The quarry
  • 2. Horizon Forbidden West
  • 1. God of War: Ragnarok

Do you think time has mostly got it right? Are there any glaring omissions? Do let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.

Continue Reading

featured