Andy Serkis finally has made his triumphant return to the Star Wars universe thanks to the latest episode of Andor. The famed mo-cap actor shows up with no CGI adornment in episode 8, “Narkina 5,” as the floor manager at Cassian’s factory-prison, where he gets to play a far more interesting and menacing character than his sequel trilogy character, Supreme Leader Snoke, ever was.
Serkis’ character in Andor episode 8 is named Kino Loy. Despite being a prisoner of the Empire himself, Kino makes it clear which side he’s on. The Imperial guards have given him authority over the prisoners on his factory floor, and he runs that floor with ironclad efficiency and seemingly genuine passion for the cruel work of overseeing the various manufacturing assembly lines and making sure that no one is slacking off for even a second — lest he have to use the facility’s electric torture floors.
Kino’s yet another clear-eyed example of one of Andor’s driving ideas: The way the Empire wins is by turning its enemies against each other. In another life, Kino could have been one of the Rebellion’s most ardent defenders and generals. He’s smart, efficient, calculating, and clearly willing to accomplish his goals in spite of any cost — plus, thanks to Serkis, he’s absolutely jacked. All of these are traits that the Rebels prize and we know their effort desperately needs. But instead, Kino works a few dozen prisoners to the bone on one of Narkina 5’s hundred floors of nameless factories that produce the tiny cogs that make the Empire’s galaxy-crushing regime function. It’s all just another lever of control for the Empire.
But as much as Kino’s character is a microcosm of some of Andor’s best and smartest ideas, it’s also a perfect contrast to its quality versus Disney’s sequel trilogy, where Serkis ostensibly played the main villain.
Almost three years after the release of Rise of Skywalker and nearly seven after the release of The Force Awakens, we’re far enough away to admit that the sequel trilogy was a bit of a disaster. Without relitigating all the specifics of what worked and what didn’t — a conversation that deserved to die after Skywalker’s release — it seems fair to say that Supreme Leader Snoke was bad all around.
Despite Serkis’ best efforts in performance capture and voice for the character, Snoke still looks and feels like an addition to the Star Wars expanded universe directly out of a mid-2000s novel of middle-grade fiction. He’s a bland, overly humanoid alien with no menacing setup at all, other than a very tall hologram, and a boring motivationless puppet, even before he’s revealed as an actual motivationless puppet.
But for all the problems Snoke brought to the sequel trilogy’s plot, it’s kind of Andor to point out that the character was also a disservice to the kind of seething menace that Serkis can deliver all on his own. Thankfully, Star Wars’ best entry in years is here to give Serkis the second chance he deserves.