The Expanse (S03E03) “Assured Destruction”

Last week saw several of our favorite characters end up together. The crew of the Roci met up with Bobbie and a pretty much half-dead Avasarala. It’ll be interesting to observe the dynamic of several very strong-willed individuals. We also know something HORRIBLE is being done on Io to the children taken by Dr. Strickland and Mao is there to check it out. Finally, just how low can Errinwright go?? (Well, no surprise, pretty damn low). This reviewcap is long, because I had … thoughts!
Spoilers beyond this point.
The opening and interaction went EXACTLY how it should have. Bobbie (Frankie Adams) feels back at home on a Martian warship, but sees the altered symbol Amos (Wes Chatham) devised. She’s not happy, THEY aren’t happy, no one’s happy. Bobbie, aware of the sensitivity of Avasarala’s (Shohreh Aghdashloo) mission, insists they be transported to Earth, but Holden (Steven Strait) insists they go to Io first. Alex (Cas Anvar) tries to be a peacemaker, but since Bobbie won’t disclose the mission, the crew doesn’t think they owe B&A anything. Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Holden are still frosty, in fact, Holden tells her to feel free to go to Tycho alone (on the Razorback) if that’s what she wants. I’m pretty sure Bobbie would have something to say about that. It does raise the question, who is responsible to do what? It’s unfortunate that Naomi used her capital with the crew when she lied about handing over Protomolecule to the OPA, because Naomi, Bobbie and Avasarala are concerned about a much bigger picture than Team Holden, right now.
The UN employs its Watchtower spy satellite to locate two Martian weapons platforms and use crafty math to determine where all five platforms are at any one time. The suggestion is to preemptively strike to prevent Mars from damaging Earth, as well as get a leg up in the war. The irony is that Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) may have a point with his actions, but he is so slimy it’s hard to support him. Plus, the question is whether Mars would really engage in a first strike on Earth? THIS is where Errinwright is manipulative and the move is a risky one. There is an odd bit of logic (“We’re winning” vs. “We had a 5-1 advantage, which is now 3-1”).
un railgun option - The Expanse (S03E03) “Assured Destruction”
Wonder if Cotyar (Nick Tarabay) died? I did. But, NO. His and Theo’s (poor David Tompa) pod is floating in a debris field, intact, although Cotyar’s beginning to look pretty bad again. Theo displays his nervousness and Cotyar, ever the professional, can’t tolerate the risk Theo presents and although it’s clear he feels bad, Cotyar chokes Theo. We are introduced to a new ship, the Agatha King, the flagship of the Jupiter fleet, which has Admiral Souther (Martin Roach) (Avasarala’s old buddy) on it – Souther’s crew is distinctly his – he and Shaffer (Natalie Lisinska) have a common experience (Vesta, but we don’t have a lot of info about what happened at Vesta). They go to pick up Cotyar’s pod. Souther gets a message from Fleet Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann) saying no one is to talk to the passengers until he gets there. There’s not a lot of question about who Nguyen is working with – he’s owned by Mao.
Speaking of Mao, on Io, we see Dr. (hard to call him that) Strickland (Ted Atherton) still experimenting on the kids, while Jules-Pierre Mao (Francois Chau) watches. They see Mei (Leah Jung) and Katoa (Jaeden Noel), who are obviously close. Katoa is quickly developing abnormal strength and balance. We see the clear distinction between Strickland who does NOT see the kids as anything other than “subjects” despite his “charm” with them, and Mao who sees the kids as CHILDREN, not subjects. Strickland has not infected anyone other than Katoa.
You KNOW you’ve wanted to take a staple puller to Prax’s (Terry Chen) head this whole time, right? Right??? Yes. Well, Amos is finally using a gigantic magnifying glass to do this. I’d have thought it was evident where they were, because those were big, honking staples. The two have a very interesting discussion about the book Frankenstein. Amos discusses how he got out of Baltimore by “dying.” Prax gains insight to Amos’ background and motivation. Baltimore was a HARD place to exist.
Alex suggests that they “slave” the Razorback to the Roci instead of dragging it along while it’s hooked up. Naomi agrees and does it, but Alex sees her look longingly at Tycho.
Bobbie is there when Avasarala wakes up, and while Ava is watching the news about the war and the Arboghast, Ava shows that she is feeling down. Holden goes down to finally meet Avasarala (although she’s known about him a lot longer than he’s really known about her – except as this shadowy political person on Earth.) Avasarala confides all she knows in Holden, sure he will help, but to her surprise, he says no – he’s done with other people’s battles. Ava even pulled the “mom” card. But, nope.
As Admiral Nguyen boards, he informs a disbelieving Souther that the Sec-Gen has issued an order to apprehend Avasarala, who’s working with Mao. Nguyen interviews Cotyar, who (aside from Theo and that Ava is still alive) tells the exact truth, that Errinwright is working with Mao and that a UN ship destroyed the Guanshiyin and that Bobbie took the Razorback. Souther is thoughtful.
Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) briefs SecGen Sorrento-Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker) on her in speech progress, which emphasizes that the situation on Venus involves people facing the unknown. But Gillis says that maybe the focus should be defying fear. Anna understands he’s talking about sacrifice, but she’s not on board with destroying people in the name of sacred losses. Anna tells Gillis that the answer to how many people are acceptable to sacrifice is “as little as possible.”
Mao encounters Mei. And, we hear that Mao has more than one daughter. I’d stick that in your memory banks. Mei tells Mao she’s excited to be like Katoa, but Mao understands what that truly means – and, Mei is charming.
Alex gets a pretty much deserved message back from his ex-wife, saying they don’t need or want him anymore. Brutal.
At UN, Errinwright tells SecGen that they have fired up the rail guns and have an 82% shot at taking out all five Martian platforms, and soft pedals the potential death toll if missiles are launched from a missed platform. SecGen says that percentage is not acceptable and orders them powered down. Anna has had some effect on him.
Back on the Roci – Amos is coaching Ava to use the gravity boots. He tells her it’s like walking in pumps. He says he didn’t always work in space to her obvious question. (It was funny watching Wes Chatham try to maintain a straight face during that scene.) Alex talks to Naomi, trying to repair their relationship. “Wish I had your strength.” Talissa’s message had an impact on Alex.
Avasarala and Bobbie take another run at trying to convince the team to help with the Protomolecule problem. Holden shares footage of the Roci crew fighting blue goo man. Bobbie is shocked they won. They explain the full reason for going to Io. Ava asks what they intend to do with the OTHER stuff they find. Amos is practical (kill the scientists and nuke Io), but Ava thinks they’d give the stuff to the Belt. Holden tells her they’ve already given the Protomolecule to Fred Johnson. Ava goes off on the group, but eventually reminds them they want the same thing, to stop the spread or use of the Protomolecule.
Speaking of taking another run – Errinwright approaches SecGen and says that uniting humanity in the face of First Contact is what could really be his legacy rather than a speech. (It would be nice if I thought Errinwright was sincere.)
On the Agatha, the crew arranges for a power failure lasting just long enough to allow Souther to meet with Cotyar to find out WHAT is going on. Nguyen order the Agatha to go to Io and Nguyen figures out what Souther might be up to. Cotyar tells Souther that Mao was going to turn “state’s evidence” against Errinwright. Cotyar says Ava got off the ship, but he doesn’t know where she is, but that she has concrete evidence. Although he didn’t actually SEE Souther and Cotyar together, Nguyen relieves Souther of command, but not duty.
Back at the UN, the rail guns are fired back up and targeted and SecGen gives the order. Catastrophically, there is a delay in launching the 5th rail. This allows the Martian platform to launch before it is destroyed, and its payload is not fully intercepted. SecGen will have to live with the deaths of 2 million people in South America. Errinwright looks sick. But, it’s mostly on him. And, it’s cold comfort, they believe they’ve eliminated first strike capability. But, at what cost?
nuke - The Expanse (S03E03) “Assured Destruction”
On Io, Katoa experiences a seizure in front of the other children and Mao. After this, Mao’s resolve to shut the program down hardens and he orders a livid Dr. Strickland to stop the program.
Ava encounters Naomi in the mess hall. Naomi is convinced that Ava only wants to go to Io to get a sample to give to Earth. They aren’t going to see eye to eye anytime soon.
And, in a final scene that honestly made my skin crawl and my blood boil, Errinwright tells Anna that the SecGen is to blame for the failure that cost all those lives. When Errinwright said this, I originally thought he was lying, but actually he was technically telling the truth (see the link below for more information on this). Because HE was really the one who maneuvered SecGen into the risky move in the first place AND because it is manipulative, it still made me really angry. Shawn Doyle does an amazing job of evoking great anger!
Thoughts on the episode: This was one of those quiet but really powerful episodes. Masterful, really. All of the characters were so faithful to how they have been developed. This video produced by Syfy discusses both the Roci maneuver is E03S02 and gives background on the Railgun action in this episode. I’m still unhappy with Mao, but he did display basic humanity. Too bad he didn’t EARLIER! It’s a darn good thing Souther is on Avasarala’s side and believes Cotyar.
Grade: A
The Expanse airs on Wednesdays on Syfy at 9/8c. The next episode airs May 2, 2018.