The Expanse (S02E10) “Cascade”


Cascade is a name for either a process or a series of events, precipitated by a catalyst – so this episode bears paying attention to. Hopefully, by now, you’ve realized that most of the episodes, especially this season, have meanings embedded which apply to more than the obvious circumstances. I like to watch what’s happening and think about what this means for the future, short and LONG term. That’s why Avasarala is one of my favorite characters. In general, she is ALWAYS paying attention to the long-term, the big picture. So, it’s wise to pay attention to what SHE is paying attention to. This show, more than most, also gives you insight into the experience of living under different circumstances. What would it be like living on a future Earth? A space station? A ship destined to travel for 100 years? What are the differences in your life based on being wealthy or indigent? Or, free versus enslaved (metaphorically or actually)? In some respects, big changes are on the horizon, but because we are humans, some shit will be just exactly the same. People can be very predictable.

The reviewcap begins here:

Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi (Dominique Tipper), Amos (Wes Chatham) and Prax (Terry Chen) depart the Arboghast, leaving a grieving Melissa (Valerie Buhagiar). Interestingly, Naomi expresses guilt over getting the husband killed, but Holden says if they accomplish what they came to do, he can live with it, and he notes that the cops were going to kill them anyway. They visit the board which lists the dead and missing. Mei is not dead, and Dr. Strickland is not missing. They backtrack where he might have been and who would know, identifying a lady on Deck 9. They enter the area where Prax used to work and he’s horrified both at the injured people and the devastation to the plants.

Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann), Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) and Avasarala (Shohreh Agdashloo) discuss Bobbie’s testimony. Nguyen asserts she’s crazy, snapping because she’s a Martian Marine who failed, but Avasarala says she sounded perfectly sane to her, and that her definition of crazy after Eros had contracted considerably. They meet with the Martian delegation and Avasarala asks after Bobbie. The Martians also say she’s unbalanced and being looked after. They want to finalize the negotiations. Avasarala asks who the person is accompanying Bobbie, and Korshunov (Jeff Seymour) explains that Martens (Peter Outerbridge) is a friend of the family here to support her. Avasarala notes he didn’t seem like the supportive type.

And, speaking of supportive, Martens arrives in Bobbie’s quarters to ream her out for “fucking up.” But Bobbie (Frankie Adams) insists that she saw something. Martens basically gaslights Bobbie about what she saw, saying she thinks she saw what she did because she needed to and that she’d be taken back to Mars and given the attention she needs. She tells Martens she’d like to see the ocean before she departs. Martens tells her that she can’t because she’s under restriction now, which shocks Gunny, who now thinks she’s a prisoner. He convincingly tells her it’s because she isn’t prepared for it, and to just rest. But Gunny is nothing if not resourceful. She immediately looks for the opportunity to break out of her quarters. Which are not ground level. Using the knife she was given for a meal, Bobbie starts to dig at the window.

Errinwright is reviewing the suit data, trying to confirm Bobbie’s story and fishing for information about what else might have been happening on Ganymede (was there blue goo on her suit?). The tech says that the suit confirms the Martian account. Errinwright asks if there were organics and the tech is confused about his question because Ganymede is a farm.  The tech hears his aggravation and promises to thoroughly review the information. He looks at a graphic of the orbit around Ganymede and it’s like a sea of sharks swimming around it.
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Holden and Naomi query a tech – she hasn’t seen anything which might be glowing due to radiation exposure. She says one dome was destroyed but two are still intact and they are working to restore Ganymede. She didn’t see Strickland. Amos and Prax talk to another tech, who also doesn’t know anything about where Strickland is. Prax is very concerned about what he sees about the plants. They are showing yellowing. He says they have bacteria to prevent that, but the good bacteria has been killed. Something has contaminated the hydroponics. Normally, this imbalance would be handled by the system. As they walk around, Prax sees Basia Merton (Ryan Blakely), who goes wild and attacks Prax, thinking that he abandoned them. After Amos knocks Basia back down, Prax says he’s looking for Mei. Basia says that if they took Mei, Katoa (his son) may be with them, too. Basia says that a guy named Roma might be able to help them. Roma will give access to security footage for food (and in a terrific nod to the book, he prefers canned chicken!).

Avasarala remains fascinated by Bobbie. Errinwright visits Avasarala, looking very dejected. He tells Avasarala that he believes Bobbie was telling the truth and that he was aware they were testing a new technology on Ganymede. He confesses that he was working with Jules-Pierre Mao. He realizes that Avasarala already knew and she says ever since her friend was killed. Defensive, Errinwright says that he didn’t have anything to do with that and when it first started it was supposed to help ensure peace. Guaranteeing the safety of Earth was his priority that he thought Avasarala shared. She points out at what cost, 100,000 people on Eros? He vehemently argues that if he’d have known about Eros, he would have stopped it. (But, Avasarala knows that he gave implicit permission for how JP Mao conducted that research). She says he will have to answer for his part in endangering the Earth. He gives her all the information he has on the Protomolecule.
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Bobbie has been making progress on the window, but breaks the knife she was using. Looking around, she sees the medal she was given and uses that to finally dig out the weather-stripping. She hops out the window, and while watching a seagull, stumbles and falls down several roof levels. (BTS note! Apparently there were pads and the VFX folks were able to remove the pads from the images. The fall was stunning and made me hurt just watching it.) She shakes it off at the bottom and runs off. Martian marines are tough as shit.

Prax explains that Basia’s son, Katoa, might have the same genetic disorder as Mei does. They come across someone eating the plants and Naomi notes that a bunch of relief cargo ships have arrived, but the supplies have been stolen. Prax says the plants are air scrubbers with no nutritional value. They track Roma down, a naked woman is leaving his quarters clutching cans. They say they have come to barter for information. Roma makes it clear no chicken, no help. Amos, who has explained that they are trying to find Prax’s sick daughter goes wild and bashes Roma when he declines. Prax grabs him and asks if he’s insane?

Bobbie is trying to find the ocean and somewhat disoriented. To be fair, Martens did kind of warn about this. She finds folks living under a bridge. (Note: Ty Franck explained on Twitter that people on Basic get food, water and basic levels of medicine, but that ‘unregistered’ folks (voluntarily and involuntarily) don’t. So, some people waiting on the list for opportunities come out to help these indigent folk.) Bobbie is astounded at the people she encounters. It’s clear that while she’s heard stories, she didn’t realize what the Earther’s reality was. Cotyar (Nick Tarabay) tells Avasarala there’s a lot of activity around Bobbie’s quarters, because she’s no longer in them. They wonder why she would run and Avasarala is really interested in this news. She tells Cotyar to find her, quietly. She tells him to have the Martians hunting her stopped as frequently as possible to verify their identities. Cotyar asks about Errinwright and why she has not turned him in yet. She says he’s more useful outside a jail cell. He warns her that she is very much in danger because she’s the only one who knows the truth about Errinwright and Mao. She says she can tell something has changed about Errinwright. Cotyar laughs and says he forgot how it felt to be working for the good guys and he likes it.

Bobbie is fatigued (and probably sore). And, she’s having balance trouble. She asks another individual who freaks out. She meets Nico (Milton Barnes), a volunteer, who recognizes her for a Martian because of how she’s walking. He asks her for osteoX, saying that he can trade it for medication to save people. Bobbie is horrified. The guy says that he put himself on a vocational list at 17. He’s 52 and still waiting. She hands over her supply. He tells her that what they’ve heard about Martians isn’t likely true. He gives her directions and then gives her advice on how to safely orient herself to train her inner ear. He has her practice and when she opens her eyes back up, Nico has disappeared.
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Roma is seeking information on Mei and Katoa. Holden quietly tells Naomi that he would have stopped the Amos incident before it went farther. Naomi says “Every shitty thing we do makes the next one that much easier” illustrating how easy it is to do worse and worse things, thinking they are justified (like Errinwright). Amos explains why this guy enrages him and describes him as a bully, and the outcome of the child and sex slave trade. He says some people deserve to be punished. It’s likely this formed a part of Amos’ childhood. Prax explains his guilt about how he actually almost felt relieved that Mei might have been dead, because he couldn’t help her, but Amos isn’t wired to forgive him for that or tell him it’s OK. Prax goes to look at the hydroponics data. He sees that they are using distilled water for the plants, which is killing them, and if they die, the air scrubbers die and all the systems reliant on them will die. He says that in an artificial system, there’s little, if any, leeway, and closed systems are vulnerable to complete failure, as the cascade of problems gets ever larger. Amos understands it’s not the thing that kills you that you have to watch out for. Prax agrees it could be any number of things and you never know which thing it might be. Amos says surely as Ganymede is the most important food station, they wouldn’t let it die. Prax says it’s dead already, they just don’t know it.

On the Rocinante, Alex, all by himself, is dealing with the loneliness in his fashion. He might be dealing with his guilt over his family. He performs a really cool maneuver to catch beer droplets after doing a somersault (this made me question my ability to be in space, as just watching made me feel ill ;-}). He hears an announcement that the space around Ganymede is now a no-fly zone, and even somewhat drunk, recognizes this is bad.

Roma has found footage of Mei and Dr. Strickland. They were well away from where the mirror landed. He says that they may be OK. They are is in the oldest part of the station and it has no cameras.

Bobbie finds the tunnel to the beach. She steps out, astonished at the sheer expanse of the ocean. Avasarala and Cotyar approach her. Avasarala notes she can’t remember the last time she went to the ocean and Bobbie says they take it for granted. Avasarala tells her they know she was telling the truth and show her a picture of the thing. Avasarala says that it was the Martian government who was testing the protomolecule. Bobbie has trouble believing they were sacrifices. Bobbie says that Avasarala is the enemy and this is a mind game, and Avasarala says they can’t afford to be enemies any more. Cotyar practically drags Avasarala away (because he’s seen the tracking drone). Shortly thereafter, Martians arrive to take Bobbie back.

Grade: A

What I love about the book series is the wheels within wheels, and Cascade is the perfect metaphor for this. While we see a microcosm of failure, people who are alert will see that this is a stand in for a bigger series of events. If mankind dies off, what will be the trigger? Do countries know when one single action taken is the catalyst of their destruction? If one cell changes in a body, do we know that this marks the beginning of the end of life as we know it? This episode, more than any single episode, marks the awareness of the bigger story going in the series. We get to enjoy the evolution of complicated, imperfect characters making imperfect choices as we watch the story unfold. The graphics and visual effects are amazing. It’s really not at all difficult to believe in the locations and events taking place either on Earth, Mars, a moon, an asteroid or on a spaceship. In my last reviewcap, I pointed out that one theme of “The Weeping Somnambulist” was having lost before they even knew what they were fighting. This theme continues.

Next episode: “Here There Be Dragons” airs Wednesday, April 5, 2017 at 10 p.m. on Syfy