Andor has never been shy about focusing its action on the smallest possible elements. A single town on Ferrix, a man moving into his mom’s apartment on Coruscant, even the toilet in a prison camp. Nothing is too mundane for Andor to make into a major plot point.
In Episode 11, we see a supporting character exhibit behavior that may seem ordinary or at the very most odd, but it actually represents a major theme across all of Star Wars and even foreshadows the themes of The Last Jedi.
While Mon Mothma is well known within Star Wars canon, her headstrong daughter Leida is entirely new. In Episode 10, Mon Mothma was faced with an impossible choice — whether or not to secure a major financial backer for the Rebellion by possibly arranging her daughter’s marriage, a Chandrilan custom she disapproved of.
It seemed like that would be something that would ruin Leida’s relationship with her mom forever, but in Episode 11 we find out that’s not really the problem. While Mon Mothma and Vel look on, Leida gathers with her friends to recite what appears to be a Chandrilan text: “Yielding in acceptance, safe in the braid of the old ways, true and steady and braided in trust, tethered in permanence, in the knot, in the binding."
It’s unclear exactly what these words mean, but it’s clear they’re remnants of Chandrilan culture that Mon Mothma doesn’t believe in anymore — just like the arranged marriage practice. It’s all about bondage, but the comfort in bondage. When people are under the same order, there’s comfort in being knotted together. When your mom is a senator and you’re far away from your homeworld, it’s easy to see why this would be tempting.
“She loves it. And her friends. It's the only thing she shows up on time for, it's mad,” Mon Mothma says to her cousin Vel. She’s experiencing the thing every liberal-minded parent fears — a rebelliously conservative child. On the one hand, she wants to give her daughter the freedom to make her own decisions, but on the other hand, she knows just how powerful “the old ways” can be. In this case, it means arranged marriages. She doesn’t need to explain to Vel why this is so scary to her — her own daughter is unwittingly becoming a rebel against the Rebels, embracing disquieting past traditions her mother kept her from without knowing the true dangers.
But this is just a smaller version of a much bigger problem, something we’ve seen over and over in the Star Wars universe: how those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
Even in the prequels, Anakin’s ignorance of the Sith is what ultimately drives him toward them. But this is especially evident in The Last Jedi, a movie that seems to revolve entirely around how unchecked power ultimately leads to fascism. Even though the Empire is conquered, the First Order is able to rise in its absence because there’s something inherently comforting about order and security, regardless of how fascist it is. Leida is using her teen years to look for that order, and because Mon Mothma is too distracted looking to overthrow the Empire, she doesn’t realize her own daughter is seeking out the control she recognizes from her own childhood.
Sure, Leida isn’t planning on taking over the galaxy, but that’s how fascism starts, not with a landslide, but with gentle backsliding. Students learn a revisionist history or embrace reductive views. The Last Jedi started to show this on a smaller scale than universe-wide politics, and Andor is just refining the message.
Leida’s attraction to old-world Chandrilan customs shows how rejection of progress can be found anywhere— even in one of the first Rebel’s homes. Now, when Star Wars fans ask the question, “why did people support the Empire?” this could be the perfect answer: when you’re raised in fascism, it’s hard to recognize.
Andor is now streaming on Disney+.