What Do Arvel Skeen's Tattoos Mean In Andor Episode 5?

There will be spoilers for "Andor" Episode 5 – "The Axe Forgets"

As Cassian Andor (Diego Luna) wakes up from a fitful bout of sleep in a hammock on Aldhani, he realizes his roommate, Arvel Skeen (Ebon Moss-Bachrach), is gone — and so are all of his belongings. After confirming he still has the valuable sky kyber crystal necklace he was given as collateral by Luthen Rael (Stellan Skarsgård) gave him in the last episode (you can read about it here), he goes to confront his roommate. We quickly learn that Skeen's body tells a story about him, as he has a number of tattoos that Cassian learns quite a bit of information about them and their shared history, just by looking at them. What exactly do they mean, though? Let's break it down.

Lots of cages

The most prominent tattoo on Skeen's body is on his chest. There's a symbol at the top and, just below it, are two letters in Aurabesh: K and H. Cassian calls this out as "Krayt Head." Below that is a barcode and a string of numbers, marking him as a prisoner of something or another. The other symbol that they speak of, on Skeen's arm, is something Cassian recognizes as "By the Hand."

Now, these two phrases haven't had any use in "Star Wars" in this configuration before, but using context clues from their conversation and the real world inspiration of such tattoos, we can come to a pretty solid understanding of what they mean.

As they talk around their mistrust about each other's backgrounds, they find common ground through the tattoos that the others in the group don't understand.

"See, they don't know," Skeen tells him. "They got no idea."

Then he tests Cassian with the second tattoo. And since Cassian recognizes them both, he asks, "So, where were you?"

"Sipo. Youth center," Cassian replies back.

When Skeen says he never heard of it, he remarks, "They built a lot of cages, huh."

'That's good enough for now'

With these clues, it's easy to look at these tattoos as marks from the various facilities they were held in for their rabble-rousing, either as adults or, in Cassian's case, his misspent youth. The numbers and barcode tattooed on Skeen, combined with the "cages" he talks about seem as though they could draw real world inspiration from the tattooed numbers on real-world survivors of concentration camps.

Like the real world counterparts, the conditions of these places must have been utterly inhumane and horrific, because Cassian assumes Skeen's motivation is to get back at the Empire.

"That's it?" Cassian asks Skeen. "That's why you're here? Revenge?"

"Yeah," Skeen replies. "That's good enough for now."

There's even more driving Skeen's revenge, as we learn later on in this episode. Since we know where this rebellion is heading in the future of "Star Wars" canon, it's good to know that even if Skeen comes to a grisly end during this act of defiance and revenge, ultimately, his sacrifice will have done some good in the battle against the Empire.