Director: Kenneth Fink
Writers: based on the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey), written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham written for television by Robin Veith
Starring: Frankie Adams, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Shohreh Aghdashlo, Nick E. Tarabay, Shawn Doyle, Chad L. Coleman, Andrew Rotilio, Elias Toufexis, Athena Karkanis, Paulo Costanzo, François Chau, and more
Episode length: 42 minutes
Beyond being a great outer space adventure, action, suspense, and mystery series, as this episode reminds us, The Expanse is also a heartbreaking tragedy.
I would like to take moment to express my appreciation for this series. When it began last year I had no idea what to expect except that it was another science fiction series taking place in outer space. The fact that it takes place in outer space was enough to raise my expectations and hopes for something special given the recent trend of more grounded productions designed to avoid the cost of depicting spaceships and events in outer space.
This series has gone beyond my expectations ever since it began, with an engaging narrative and characters that are satisfying and compelling enough to be in a good book, and not one disappointing episode since its launch, along with top notch production quality.This weeks episode was a grim reminder that besides all of its enjoyable aspects of being a grand adventure, with mystery and a satisfying amount of action it is also slowly taking shape as an epic tragedy.
The sort of heartbreaking tragedy that humans are capable of creating when they give in to the sort of nationalistic and tribal instincts that lead to war and the silly preoccupation with all the little differences that can serve to divide us instead of focusing on the similarities we all share that make us uniquely human. In a nutshell it is the history of humanity all over again.
This week’s episode had a more narrow scope than some, it did not visit Earth or Mars but saved its time to focus on events on and surrounding Tycho. The spotlight was on some of the supporting roles this week which was shift that served as a refreshing break from spending all of its time on the usual suspects, proving the cast has enough depth for the supporting cast to provide us with a great episode as well.
Here’s a recap, with some comments (*warning, spoilers follow*)
We are treated to the battle above Ganymede again, but this time from the different perspective of one of the botanists that was working there when the mirror above the colony was shattered. It provided a fresh look at what a chilling and frightening experience it would be seen from that perspective, along with the shock and disbelief accompanying the rescue and subsequent journey away from the catastrophic event.
The show puts a face on all this by introducing us to Meng (Terry Chen) a botanist who lost a young daughter in the attack. The episode sends a lot of time with him and it proves to be an effective means of showing how much it it affected him. He is sadness incarnate, disoriented and numb to his surroundings for the most part, he spends the entire episode displaying the classic symptoms of the sort of shock we can only imagine must be the result of going through something like that.
He has the fortune of meeting up with a fellow botanist on the rescue ship, Doris (Grace Lynn Kung) a woman who also experienced the horrifying events on Ganymede. She tries to console him without success, but is pragmatic enough to inquire what he has planned to do next. She makes him an offer to go with her back to Mars to start over again and he shuns her attempts to get him to consider the future initially, but when its announced that those leaving for Earth or Mars should disembark, he follows to go with her. She displays being pleasantly surprised at this decision and when they are separated at the air lock she is grinning with pure happiness at the prospect of their future life together.
They are leaving together but as they approach the airlock the Belter in charge tells him he cannot go saying “Inners only” in the belter lang for anyone from Earth or Mars. they are looking at each othethrough the airlock doors when suddenly the outer doors open and she along with evyone else is sucked outside into the hard vacuum of space. The Belters in charge of the ship decided to kill off anyone who they decide is an outsider. Meng’s glimmer of hope and happiness is gone as quickly as it arrived and he is crushed by this turn of events. He arrives at Tyco and still in shock at what he has gone through , still tries to report the crime without success, He doesn’t even know the name of the ship he arrived on.
The show manages to portray all of this in a way that is heartbreaking without it ever seeming melodramatic or over played it simply is the way things happen and this treatment made it all the more tragically plaintive.
Meanwhile we join Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman), and Holden (Steven Strait) as they go to greet the retiring Roci with Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Alex (Cas Anvar) with Diogo (Andrew Rotilio) in tow. Diogo is talking a lot, bragging about fooling everyone for Dawes (Jarred Harris), and he seems to think he’s a Belter hero. he’s too stupid to realize he’s just been used and left to take the rap, but he seems to have the sympathy of some fellow Belters as he’s hauled off to the brig.
This is followed by some discussion about what to do next about the presence of the protoculuture that is now obviously still around and played a role in the events of Ganymede. Holden and Johnson have a fundamental disagreement about who to do next. Meanwhile Johnson gets a message from Dawes which he foolishly shares with the everyone, proving he is not very smart politically giving his opponent a public forum to speak in and fire up his supporters.
The Belters were scheming to take over the station anyway and that was all it took to push them over the edge enough to do it, and they have people inside Johnson’s staff that make it easy for them to take over the control deck and they have plans for the nukes Johnson kept from the Eros debacle. They plan to send them back to Earth. When he refuses to give them the codes to use them they shoot his chief of staff Drummer. Drummer suddenly emerges as an interesting character in the show. This time around highlights her as a person, emotionless, and efficient to the point of almost seeming robotic. Her face shows she is tough as nails and she remains passionately loyal to Johnson.
When the Belters try to access the nukes, Alex and Amos (Wes Chatham) are notified on the Roci, and they devise a way to cut off the air to the control deck by Amos going outside the massive station, cutting through some plating and shutting off a valve. This causes everyone on the deck to pass out and the uprising comes to a screeching halt. Drummer grabs a nearby gun on the way to being taken to the doctor and shoots the belter leader and the inside man that made the take-over possible without losing a step.
Amos is an odd bird, when he and Alex almost fight again he says he doesn’t want to because who would fly the ship? Alex gives him the appropriate look you would give someone who is not playing with a full deck. There is something fundamentally wrong with Amos and that has been apparent all along but it just got more so. Maybe he’s a robot, that would explain a lot.
Holden and Naomi, after interrogating Meng in connection to a Doctor Strickland back on Ganymede, who they think was involved with the protomolecule . That they should go back there. They discover Meng’s daughter may not be dead after all, and Meng insists on going along.The romance between Holden and Naomi seems likes its still going strong and for the first time i remember hearing it they both said I love you to the other out loud.
Holden makes Naomi promise no more secrets going forward, but of course the major secret surrounding the torpedo she didn’t destroy remains like a ticking time bomb just waiting to explode. She is shown toying with the idea of shooting the thing into the sun as originally agreed, but leaves it where it is.
This marks the end of the fragile relationship between the crew of the Roci and Johnson who says if they go they will not be welcomed back with the same benefits they have enjoyed since they first arrived..
So, assuming we will be following the Roci and her crew back to Ganymede next week in the continuing pursuit of the mystery of the protomolocule. SNAFU, and i am looking forward to what the series has in store for us next.