How Skeen Helps Cassian Become a True Rebel in ‘Andor’ Episode 6
This post contains major spoilers for Andor Episode 6, “The Eye.“
We’re halfway through the first season of Andor, the prequel to Rogue One: a Star Wars Story that tells the origin story of Diego Luna’s Cassian Andor, and we finally got to see the payroll heist that Cassian has been prepping for ever since Luthen (Stellan Skarsgård) recruited him for the burgeoning rebellion. The heist comes with a pretty high body count, though, and one of those bodies belongs to Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), who makes a lethal miscalculation about Cassian. But why does Skeen want to betray the rebels? How does his betrayal nudge Cassian closer to fully committing to the rebellion?
Against all odds, Vel (Faye Marsay)’s group of rebels manages to pull of their heist, lifting about 80 million credits from the Imperial base on Aldhani. During their escape, Nemik (Alex Lawther) is badly injured when he’s crushed by some of the cargo during the ship’s acceleration, and Skeen insists that they make a detour to get him to a doctor.
However, the pit stop plays into a plan that Skeen’s been hatching on the side. While Dr. Quadpaw is working on Nemik, Skeen tells Cassian that he doesn’t really believe in the rebellion. He wants to steal the 80 million from the rebels, and he needs Cassian to fly the ship. He offers to split the money 50/50, and admits that he lied about having a brother in order to infiltrate the rebel group. “You’re just like me,” he tells Cassian. “We were born in the hole, and all we know is climbing over somebody else to get out.”
Skeen doesn’t get far in his plan, because Cassian shoots him. On the surface, killing Skeen makes sense, seeing as Skeen would probably kill Cassian to keep him from telling the rebels about his plan. But there’s a deeper significance to Cassian’s actions—and Skeen’s reasons for wanting to betray the rebels in the first place.
Skeen, the cynic
Andor, which takes place before the rebellion is fully formed, is a story about the idealism of the rebels versus the cynicism that fuels and enables the Empire. Skeen’s betrayal is a microcosm of that struggle.
The series is full of idealists on both sides of the fence. Vel’s rebel group believes in their mission, even knowing that they may not survive. Mon Mothma throws herself into trying to change things through the senate while secretly funding the rebels. Even Syril believes in his job enough to risk everything for it. However, everyone in the series struggles against the brute strength of forces that seek only to make life easier for those in power. Take the Imperial troops on Aldhani, for example: they don’t have anything personal against the Indigenous population, but it’s just so easy to grind them down so that the Empire can profit from their land.
Why does Skeen betray the rebels? Maybe because, as we find out, he’s internalized the cynicism of the very forces he’s running from. The rebels believe a better world is possible, but all Skeen can see is a quick and easy way to enrich himself within the world he knows. He’s content to be part of the system by smashing and grabbing what he wants, then quietly stealing away to live in comfort. Unlike the rebels, he can’t imagine anything else.
Knowing Cassian is a mercenary, Skeen sees him as a kindred spirit. Instead, though, Skeen proves to be a major turning point in Cassian’s journey.
What does Skeen’s betrayal mean for Cassian?
Sure, Cassian kills Skeen in order to save his own life. However, Cassian is undeniably furious when he shoots Skeen. You can see it in his whole body: Cassian is absolutely disgusted by Skeen’s betrayal.
At first, it looks like Cassian’s going to take his cut and walk away from the rebels. But then, when Vel tells him that Nemik wanted him to have the manifesto that he was writing, Cassian reluctantly accepts it, paving the way to become the rebel operative that we’ll eventually meet in Rogue One.
Maybe Skeen’s betrayal helps Cassian understand that as long as there’s no justice in the galaxy, and the only way to survive is to step on everyone less powerful than you, then no one will ever escape the Empire’s patterns of cynicism, violence, and greed. Nemik’s manifesto will definitely push him further down the path of rebellion, but it might be his encounter with Skeen that really sets the wheels in motion.
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