The Expanse (S02E08) “Pyre”

Most people have a very bad habit of classifying large chunks of people in binary terms as either all “bad” or all “good.” But the reality is that there is ALWAYS a mix of good and bad people, as well as good and bad IN people. In The Expanse, many viewers have taken the side of the Belters. Some, because they love certain characters, like Naomi and Miller. Others, because as a class, the Belters are the clear underdogs. Generally, they risk life and limb for rich corporate owners who apparently couldn’t care less about them, either individually or as a group. Fans of Earthers tend to like Holden or, really, Avasarala. They have exposed their imperfections, as well as their attributes. Amos is a fascinating Earther, beloved and feared all at once.  Martian fans like Alex, or more recently, Bobbie. The Mars faction is a little less developed than the Earther or Belter factions in terms of quantities of deep characters or back stories (so far). This episode really digs into the issue of the risk of thinking of a group as all “good” or “bad,” especially if you unequivocally favor Belters.

The recap begins here:

The scene opens on a field and a person who is tending a crop. A little girl waves goodbye to the tender, who is her father. An alert sounds, and the pieces of the destroyed mirror come crashing through the domes protecting the crops from Ganymede’s nonexistent atmosphere. The scientist wakes up among quite a lot of injured people, and immediately he checks on his precious cargo. The injured man is on a Ganymede refugee ship, which is headed to Tycho. A surly Belter hands out supplies, as the man frantically looks for his child, who is not on this ship. Doris (Grace Lynn Kung), another refugee – indistinguishable from any of the OTHER refugees, greets Dr. Praxidike Meng (Terry Chen). It’s clear that Doris saved Prax’s life. Prax is distraught that his daughter, Mei, is not just missing, but feared dead.

On Tycho, Holden (Steven Strait) and Johnson (Chad Coleman) question Diogo (Andrew Rotilio), who clearly views Johnson as non-Belter. Staz (Alden Adair) tries to interfere, but he is held off by Naomi (Dominique Tipper). Diogo says that Johnson should go back to Earth, that Dawes will be the Fist of the Belters. Alex (Cas Anvar) had suggested that Naomi take out someone and Naomi told him that he doesn’t get to decide who she kills. They take Diogo off to a holding cell.

5 - Johnson Holden and DiogoPNG

Drummer (Cara Gee) shows Holden and Johnson system information that shows how Dawes escaped and that someone overrode security. Drummer is in charge of security, so there’s a serious question about what happened. They receive an incoming communication from Dawes (Jared Harris). It’s clear that Dawes was the person who sheltered and sponsored Johnson. Dawes feels that Johnson is acting as an Earther, not a Belter and that they have to take drastic action. He tells Johnson he has stolen his secret and is giving it to the Belt.

Doris and Prax discuss their future and what to do. They note that the Belter crewman doesn’t seem to like to be a good Samaritan. Doris wants Prax to come with her to Mars.

Johnson, Drummer, Naomi and Holden discuss that they have more information than Dawes does, and they disclose that Cortazar was aware that there was more Protomolecule than what was destroyed and it was after Eros was destroyed. Drummer volunteers to help Naomi obtain direct access to the antenna so she can collect and analyze the data Cortazar had obtained. There is a degree of concern over Drummer’s loyalty because she is security (which was breached) and she’s facilitating access to the antenna. Naomi goes to check on the sample that she knows wasn’t destroyed. Holden tells Naomi that he’s sorry he didn’t tell her about the existence of more Protomolecule. She’s frustrated and leaves Holden behind.

Alex catches up with Amos (Wes Chatham), who looks like 5 miles of bad road. Alex asks Amos for help and he says “no,” which shocks Alex.

Dawes’ message is being played to Belters, which incites them.

12 - Dawes message is received by the beltersPNG

On the refugee ship, the crappy Samaritan tells the passengers that all the Inners are being transferred to ships to take them back home. Prax decides to go with them, but the Samaritan says he can’t, it is for Inners only. Doris says she can stay, but Prax encourages her to go. They say goodbye through the airlock window, and to Prax’s (and the entire viewership’s) horror, the Inners are spaced. The Belter Samaritan tells Prax that Inners destroyed Ganymede and that he’s lucky he’s a Belter. One technical note. The Expanse is remarkably faithful to what happens in space. Doris suffocates and freezes, rather than exploding.

17 - DorisPNG

Drummer explains that Fred has always had the Belters’ best interests at heart and Naomi gets Drummer to explain her background. Drummer worked with Dawes and Dawes rescued Johnson from drinking himself to death after the Anderson Station incident. Drummer says Dawes has a unique view of the Belter situation. They get the data and discover that there is Protomolecule on Ganymede Station. (Viewers who have read the books will note that the sequence involving Prax and Ganymede is not the same as it is handled in the book, but it is faithful to the concept of what was covered.)

Johnson, Holden, Naomi and Drummer discuss what it means that the Protomolecule exists on Ganymede. It was aware when hostilities broke out between Earth and Mars, and it learns.

Prax’s refugee ship arrives, and a crewman advises they will be ID checked and cleared, and he indicates on his handheld that an algorithm is being bypassed.

Prax desperately tries to convince a medic of what happened on the refugee ship, but he doesn’t know the name of the ship. She tells him she knows it was wrong but, without further info, she can’t do anything, to be glad he survived and maybe he’ll know some other refugee.

Holden and Naomi try to figure out who on Ganymede was involved with Protomolecule. They narrow the list of people who were on Ganymede and have the appropriate qualifications and Strickland (Ted Atherton) is identified. They query who was connected to him, and Prax and Mei show up, because Mei (Leah Jung) was a patient of Strickland. Prax is on the station, but Mei’s whereabouts are unknown.

There are a huge amount of people on Tycho, and it’s straining the station. A group of Belters, led by Staz, invade the command room, intent upon deploying the nukes to Earth.

Prax adds Mei’s picture to the wall of the missing. Holden and Naomi see and grab Prax. Prax panics, thinking that they think he knows about the spacing, but they, of course, think that he is involved with Protomolecule. Naomi (FOOLISHLY!!) opens up his container, but it’s just a soy bean.

The Belters who invaded the command deck, kill a crew member and then shoot Drummer, because they won’t give them the launch codes.

Amos is using the system to search for Lydia Maalouf. This is the lady he mentioned when he spoke with Cortazar about his guilt. Alex catches up with Amos and is trying to figure out what his problem is. He says Amos only cares about himself (Amos amusingly notes isn’t that everyone’s problem if we’re being honest?) Alex provokes Amos, and Amos attacks Alex, coming close to killing him, and Alex openly wonders what happened to him! They both notice that the nukes are being accessed.

Prax tells Naomi and Holden about Mei and her health needs. Naomi and Holden figure out the Strickland nexus is really Mei. Naomi notes that Prax should have access to Mei’s monitor feed, and answers “no” when asked if she had any children. Prax accesses the feed on her handheld and sees that Strickland took Mei out of the clinic before the attack. They know that Strickland knew the battle was coming and went to get Mei. Alex calls Holden to tell him about the nuke problem.

Fred tells Staz that Earth will shoot down the missiles and then destroy Tycho. Staz is fine with that because then Tycho will be fuel for the revolution. Amos, suited up, heads outside the station. Holden tells Amos that Naomi has almost overridden the air controls. Amos is there to remotely access the air system. He cuts the oxygen and although Staz tries to kill Fred and Drummer, Fred knocks the gun away and they all pass out.

Alex and Holden burst in to help the folks in the control room. Fred says “Drummer first,” because they are besties. Alex helps Drummer out and as they go by Staz, she yanks Alex’s gun and shoots Staz and the other turncoat crewman right between the eyes, and then stumps off. She’s the very definition of badass.

27 - bye stazPNG

Amos settles Prax into his quarters and ensures he has mag boots. He explains that Prax is a guide, not a guest. And, he says that looking for Prax’s daughter is a good thing. His encounter with Amos leaves Alex to think about his family and what he has done for them.

Naomi asks Jim why he went to Cortazar’s quarters and Jim says he went to kill him. Naomi says that isn’t who Jim is. Jim says he needs Naomi to help him to get himself back when this is all done, and they kiss. Jim has to go to get Fred Johnson’s permission to leave. Fred wants any Protomolecule sample brought back to him, but Jim refuses. Fred says if they don’t, then don’t come back – no free anything. Jim is not sure Fred will still be in charge when he gets back. Fair point. Jim says Fred’s not a part of it anymore, and Fred releases them.

30 - Jim and NaomiPNG

Grade: A

This was a completely packed episode. Although they were always evident, the fault lines between the Belters and the Earthers have deepened to an unsustainable level. It’s provoking the very worst behavior, and every time people do their worst, it just causes terrible repercussions. This episode made quite a few Belters look extremely bad. The Belter on the refugee ship spacing completely innocent people, and the Belters who are willing to send nuclear missiles to blast Earth (despite the fact that there are BILLIONS of innocent people there, as well) honestly represent the worst of humanity. Personalizing the impact of awful actions makes everyone realize the consequences, but it doesn’t seem to be enough to stop people from behaving dreadfully. This episode had room for personal development, as well, as we see Amos still working through his issues resulting from interacting with kids and just how close he is to being out of control. The episode ratcheted up the tension by continuing to provide so many indicators that Drummer was the traitor, only to have her satisfyingly vindicated.

The effects continue to be stunning, as even the lowly refugee ship looks gorgeous. The handhelds are entirely believable and all the displays look crisp and clean. It’s such a pleasure to see such attention to detail, up to and including the poor dying and dead spaced Inners.

Next episode: “The Weeping Somnambulist” airs on Wednesday, March 22 at 10 pm on Syfy.

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