Editor’s Note: The following contains spoilers for Episodes 1-11 of Andor.Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) is no stranger to death. He has seen his comrades die in the course of a heist, a prison break, and, sooner than he knows, will witness more in the rebellion that he’ll throw himself into. However, up until the riveting most recent episode of Andor, he had yet to lose anyone that he was truly close to. Even as tragedy was all around him in the constant terror being inflicted on people by the Empire, in both the present and his own painful past, Cassian had yet to know true loss as an adult in the way that those around him had. That has now changed with the loss of the woman who was essentially his mother, Fiona Shaw‘s Maarva, who he had hoped to get back to after escaping from his confinement on Narkina 5. Though he was successful in liberating himself and his fellow prisoners, he was too late to even say goodbye as she passed before he could make it back home to Ferrix.
The episode, simply yet fittingly titled “Daughter of Ferrix,” was a more reflective one than the ones prior though it was no less enthralling. Central to this is how this devastating loss for Cassian was one that he is unable to even properly grieve as he receives the news worlds away. Unbeknownst to him, a trap is being laid by Dedra Meero (Denise Gough) and the forces of the Empire at her disposal. This ensures that the crushing anguish Cassian is feeling is made all the worse by the dread that his return home to pay his respects could only bring more death.
We know that he still likely will as Maarva was one of the sole people he cared about and who cared about him. She also represented what it was that was worth fighting for. She was one of the reasons he had been driven to risk everything to escape the prison. She was the person who embraced the hope for a rebellion only to tragically die before she could see it come to fruition. When the world was full of darkness, she was a source of light that shined through. From the humblest of places, Maarva provided hope. Though we don’t see her dead, save for when she is under a funeral shroud as part of one final procession through the streets she dreamed of being able to walk through freely, her loss hangs over everything.
Maarva’s Death Carries a Great Weight
Even as there are plenty of other moving parts that foretell more destruction, Maarva is what gives it all meaning. She was one person amongst a galaxy of millions, but it is in the lives of those like her that this story finds its purpose. While most other Star Wars stories have narrowly centered around one particular family and largely ignored everything else, Andor shows the vibrancy of the corners of humanity that would otherwise go overlooked. Maarva’s death carries a great weight precisely because of how ordinary she was. Though she was not destined to restore balance to the force or take on the Empire alone, her life was meaningful to the other similar misfits that knew her. She was one of the many kind souls who give a story like this a life that feels far more profound than anything the series has ever done.
It recalls when the late writer Mary Anne Evans, writing under the pen name George Eliot, wrote “the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” Though Star Wars can be a silly space opera full of space battles and intergalactic wizards, losing a character like Maarva serves as a reminder of how it can be much more than that. She was an unseen force in a world hellbent on snuffing out her light.
Maarva’s Life Was a Unique One for Star Wars
This is the key to understanding why Maarva’s death was so tragic for the story and Cassian especially. It was not flashy or spectacular. Though she was unwell, she needn’t have died like this. A lifetime of living in tough conditions and inadequate medical care were all contributing factors. While the Empire did not directly kill her, they created all the necessary factors to ensure she met her demise. Losing her is Cassian losing an immense part of himself and the last sliver of faith he had in the world as it is. While never an idealist, he had mostly clung to the hope that if he kept his head down, everything would be okay for himself and those around him. Just don’t stick your neck out, and you might be able to get by.
With the loss of Maarva, he has now lost that already fragile sense of false stability. We watched it gradually erode with each loss and every moment of casual cruelty the Empire inflicted on him. Still, none was as overwhelming as this. When Cassian makes the call home, the hope in his voice of getting communication through to her manages to cut through his fear. He is willing to risk everything to pass along a simple message to Maarva. “Tell her I’m thinking about her. She’d be proud of me.” It is emotionally obliterating to hear his hushed yet excited proclamation about how he’d begun fighting back that we know she will now never get to hear.
When Cassian then discovers that she has died, it cuts back to him alone by the beach with no words as the loss washes over him just like the nearby waves crash on the sand. When he then tells his fellow escapee that everything is okay, we can hear his voice break ever so slightly and see him look away so as not to give away what he is feeling. The two then go their separate ways with the intention of sharing with the world what happened, but Cassian lingers for a moment longer. Alone with his thoughts and what he has lost, he looks out on the vast horizon. Even as it is rather dark and overcast, a small glimmer of sunlight cuts through the clouds. This is a bittersweet moment as it seems to bring no comfort to a quietly distraught Cassian as he quickly looks away and back to the life he is now facing without Maarva. This loss has given him yet another reason to fight, but it has still come at a heavy cost. The weight he now carries on his shoulders is one he will have to bear by himself as he is now more alone than he has ever been in his entire life. The fight that will consume him is no longer just for himself, but for the memory of the person whose life was taken far too soon.