This episode of The Expanse had the most anxiety-producing final 10 minutes of any episode so far! And, the welcome return of a character SOME of us have been waiting for quite a while now. A continuing theme is loyalty in the face of extreme unknown and threatening circumstances.
Thoughts on the episode: We covered a huge amount of terrain in this episode! Errinwright’s angry diatribe 100% validates what Avasarala has been saying about “Bobblehead Gillis.” I actually now feel sorry for Errinwright, even though he is DESPICABLE. This reflects brilliant character development and writing. I rarely actually cry, but Cotyar’s farewell speech got to me, and I’m sad to see him go. I’m also sad to see the end of Katoa, Basia’s son. It’s hard to imagine much worse than experimentation on children, so it was very rewarding to see the end of Dr. Strickland. The eruption of the blue material on Venus portends a big shift in the show, and I’m really looking forward to that.
UPDATE: After the airing of this episode, it was announced that Syfy unfortunately will not be airing future seasons of The Expanse, if indeed they are made. This shocking announcement has sparked a fire in the fandom, and we are advised that Alcon Entertainment is working feverishly to restore the loss of funding from Syfy. Please see this post for actions you, the fan, can take to help save The Expanse. Thoughts on this episode: In a word, SHOCKING. I didn’t foresee Souther and all his crew being killed in a mutiny, nor did I foresee the launch of the hybrids. (It’s been a while since I read this novel, and I don’t remember how this all happened in the book – although I DO remember what is coming up NEXT episode. You won’t want to miss it!). It’s interesting to see Amos’s reaction to the hardening of Prax, and yet, although disturbed, Amos completely has Prax’s back. Holden was shocked and saddened that Naomi lived with her sadness at the loss of her son, Filip and that she never shared this circumstance with him. This show had a very interesting mix of military attitudes – loyalty, blind loyalty and responsibility for resisting illegal or unethical orders.
Thoughts on the episode: This episode did an excellent job of the pacing required for a complex story. I credit both the writing (by Robin Veith (although Cas Anvar mentioned he thought this episode was written by either Ty and Daniel)) or the direction by Thor Freudenthal. You did not feel unnecessarily jerked about, although quite a lot was happening. A stand-out scene for me was Bobbie addressing Loftis (Kelly McCormack) who was scared and infuriated and wanted revenge. Bobbie was clearly empathetic and I think she got through, at least to Sinopoli, that bigger forces were at play. There was a lovely scene of the Razorback moving in tandem with the Roci – another reminder of the exceptional VFX. Any time I can watch the Nauvoo, I rejoice.
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. http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse/videos/science-of-the-expanse-space-warfare 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.
Thoughts on this episode: As usual, a huge amount of material is crammed into this episode. I definitely had to watch more than once to get some of the subtle details. If you miss them, you can misinterpret what is happening, but the good news is that it becomes clear in any case. This episode introduced a compelling new character, Anna Volovodov. She brings at least a teeny bit of restraint, but it’s unclear that this can stop the speeding train wreck that Errinwright is responsible for. It’s lovely to see Bobbie and Avasarala meet up with the Roci crew, which now includes Prax. There is some real potential for sparks with these combinations. I was happy to see that there were some residual effects of Holden’s crushed leg – to be honest, I was surprised at his recovery speed in the last episode. The complexity and beauty of the Roci’s and Razorback’s space moves was breathtaking. The manipulation of the children by Strickland is stomach turning. One hopes he gets his in some future episode.
Warning, this review is a recap, with commentary; therefore, it is ONE GIANT SPOILER if you haven't seen the episode. The Expanse is BACK! Seems like forever, doesn’t it? But, we take up right where we left off. There is a news report about the disintegration of the Arboghast over Venus, and the march to war. Things are escalating. There are actual battles being fought.
In my last reviewcap, I actually didn't recap. But, I've decided to return to that format. In this episode, the moral is beware what you create. Errinwright was useful to Avasarala her entire career, until he wasn't. She was right that he was a powerful, determined man, but she seems to have underestimated his willingness to go the full distance, including murdering his Russian UN counterpart and arranging to kill his mentor! Naomi has carried the guilt of leaving the Eros survivors behind and is finally compelled to take action to help clear her conscience. She's also pretty determined. Holden continued to demonstrate his single-minded determination to eliminate the living hybrid protomolecule, although others around him are becoming aware there has to be more of this stuff. We see the true spirit of the Belters in the decisions necessary to evacuate from Ganymede. This episode marked the forging and severing of relationships. Errinwright and Avasarala are clearly done, after all, he implicitly orders her death, and in his eyes, she has betrayed both him AND Earth. Naomi and Melissa bond, with Melissa overcoming her original outrage (even though in my opinion, Melissa's husband was dead either way, the Roci crew just actually saved her and the Somnambulist). A particularly tender moment was the moment when the Belters were left behind, and were exceptionally civilized. This reminded me of the airlock scene with the FIRST group of Belters evacuated from Ganymede. Pretty stark contrast in behavior, but the emotion was equally wrenching. We witnessed the cementing of Bobbicotsarala, and I thoroughly enjoyed their interactions throughout the show. These actors clearly like each other.
In general, I have very few complaints about the adaptation of the novels to the TV show. There is one scene from the prior episode where I would have wished that it was closer to the book, and that was when Gunny sees the Protomolecule on Ganymede. In the book, Protomolecule Man picks Gunny up and in the process of this interaction, it hurls her a large distance, which simultaneously seriously injures her, but actually saves her, too. It reinforces her memory of Protomolecule Man, as well. In the show, in the small snippet of the battle, Gunny sees the UN team FIRING BACKWARDS, but she is prevented from elaborating on this during her questioning by Martens or her testimony to the Earth and Martian diplomats. This might mean that many viewers didn't completely catch that either. However, I fully trust that the writing and production team will integrate this information into the ongoing story. As usual, a rewatch is invaluable. Watching once gives the broad strokes, but this show is full of subtlety, easily missed, particularly if viewers live tweet. My recommendation is to watch twice. At a minimum, make sure you watch this show carefully at least once. This episode was all about people being short-sighted. Errinwright and Sorrento-Gillis don't fully grasp what is going on, and Janus doesn't understand what is happening on Venus. People's limited views have really significant impact and this is setting up the continuing storyline. In the meantime, large swaths of people are impacted by events which have been set in motion. I'm looking forward to seeing what action Avasarala will take in reaction to her clear disbelief in Bobbie's story AND her concern over what is being observed on Venus. Also, what will the crew find out on Ganymede?
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. 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. 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.
This week's The Expanse begins the next major story arc, in earnest. The focus shifts to Ganymede where Episode 6, "Paradigm Shift" ended, with Bobbie Draper lying on the Ganymede ground, and everyone wondering, what happened? And, who started it? Earth, Mars and the Belt all believe it is someone else who is responsible. Ganymede is the farm planet, responsible for feeding colonists, in particular. So, the destruction of the mirror is critical. Plus, this damaged facilities on the largest moon of Jupiter. This episode is intriguing, but very subtle and it's possible some viewers may miss clues being left as to what is happening on Ganymede. They also should wonder what Mars is doing with the information taken from Bobbie while she was enhanced. It should seem clear that she is not lying, but they don't seem to want to pay attention. Or, are they? What does Dawes want with Cortazar. That was an interesting move to spirit Cortazar away. Where's Amos? Amos is fascinated by Cortazar and his lack of emotion. It seems he's conflicted over the possibility of getting rid of feelings of guilt. Amos doesn't seem to trust his sense of people. Dawes is very clever in determining that Holden (and by extension Naomi) and Johnson have something that they are not sharing or willing to use against the Earth. It raises a question. Did Drummer tell Dawes about Cortazar? If so, that's a very deep betrayal of Johnson. The special effects are just stunning. The blood flakes were an amazing touch and so very unique. The chase of the ship from the station was exciting and realistic.
How do you follow a episode that could have been a season finale based on its strength? You begin, in earnest, to pursue the story arc of the next book that your series is based upon. And, you throw in the origin story of the space engine drive that makes this intrastellar travel possible (and opened up the possibility of generational interstellar travel). Some have called this episode a filler episode, but that is a function of handling the emotions of "Home" and the unexpected loss of a major character. This episode features one of the best take-downs of an arrogant politician ever scripted and delivered. An unsung episode, with some great action and information, it will be appreciated later. We find out about how the Epstein Drive was developed but also about how it was a paradigm shift in the relationship between Earth and Mars. This highlights the current apparent paradigm shift which is happening, but not everyone is aware of it. The episode illustrates just how tribal human beings are, and how little it takes for even a close team to devolve back into factions. We get great insight into Avasarala's ability to discern the big picture, her fear AND her righteous anger at people who would sacrifice humanity for the sake of profit. We see cracks appear in close relationships. And, some decisions being made which will have profound consequences for future events. And, grab your hats, the Ganymede storyline is great. Have a slug of ProtoGin on me.
The amazing and pitch-perfect pace continues. This episode should, and I imagine WILL, win technical awards for the absolutely stunning FX. A great deal of the ability to immerse yourself in a show is dependent on excellent, clean direction and believable special effects. The entire complement of people making this show are completely dedicated professionals. The actors have true fidelity to their characters. This show is based on a series of books with enormous scope and it is evident in the rich tapestry of relationships, politics and technical believability woven into the episodes. Whether you have read the books or not, you are immersed in a very similar experience, likely due to the deep involvement of the creators of the books, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (writing under James SA Corey). It's hard to believe we are only four episodes into the second season. An additional aspect to the show that I love is the parallels in character motivation. In this episode, we saw Avasarala make a decision about releasing information, which parallels Holden's original decision. We see Holden make a decision to destroy the Marasmus, and innocent people, for the greater good, which parallel's Miller's decision to kill Dresden (not for revenge, but to protect people). It adds layers to the show for people who pay close attention.
I want to give a little tip of the hat to Miller, because in the book - if I recall correctly, it's actually Miller who figures out that the bloo goo on Eros is sentient. Hmm, I hear a book reread calling my name. As I've said for three reviewcaps now, these episodes are covering a LOT of ground with little to no significant loss of fidelity to the books. As usual, the visuals were really stunning. I loved the interior shots of the Mormon recruiting location/chapel. Very impressive to watch the chapel turn into a simulation and watch IT convert into farm/sunlit area. Miller has done such a good job of camouflaging himself as "Earther" when he's clearly Belter, that the scenes of Miller with Naomi and Diogo, bonding, were quite notable. The peek into Amos' background is intriguing. All the people on the Roci, including Miller, are damaged but talented people. They run the ship on a very minimal crew but effectively. However, will this come at a cost? Diogo was adorable. The direction was excellent and the music, subtle with occasional callbacks to the show theme is wonderful.
Things are moving very rapidly this season. There is not one moment of lag, and that is amazing considering the effort required to portray all of these space locations AND future Earth. None of the characters are perfect! They have tempers and commit heinous crimes. The reveal at the end of what Dresden was doing is especially chilling if you listen to the utterly calm and rational way that he justifies the "rounding error" of the Eros experiment. Everyone has a different idea about what should be done, but Miller acts swiftly, not allowing anyone to respond to the siren song. I loved the callback to Diogo, and Andrew Rotilio nails the exuberance of knowing you are living on "extra" time, because you should have died.