This week’s episode of The Expanse focused on two plotlines, rather than fragmenting into multiple points-of-view—on the one hand, Avasarala and her hunt for the truth; and on the other, Miller, Fred Johnson, and the Rocinante crew try to deal with the proto-molecule on Eros Station. I think this served the storyline well, since it ratcheted the tension up to heights we haven’t seen yet this season. It also left us on a fantastic cliffhanger.
First, the (slightly boring) Earth stuff: Avasarala has begun to figure out the plot! She begins investigating Johnson’s information, works out the connection between Jules Pierre Mao and ProtoGen, and asks her investigator to push a derelict ship fulla corpses into UN space so it will be discovered. This leads to a much bigger investigation, and gives her an excuse to call Jules Pierre Mao in for a meeting to twist the knife, and tells him that all of ProtoGen’s assets have been frozen. Oh, also that the Earth will hold him personally responsible if Mars attacks. If there’s one thing I love, it’s watching Avasarala go into Machiavelli Berserker mode. (Also, I’m always going to use Jules Pierre Mao’s full name, because it’s so cool! Say it out loud. Let it roll off your tongue.) Jules Pierre Mao panics and breaks up with his insider friend, the Deputy Secretary of the UN.
The rest of this episode deals with Miller, Fred Johnson, and the Roci crew trying to figure out how to solve a problem like Eros.
Miller and Johnson have an impromptu meeting with Holden and Naomi. They’ve decided that the only way to guarantee that no tiny piece of proto-molecule lands on an unsuspecting planet, is to use the Nauvoo as a battering ram, knock Eros into the sun, and detonate a ton of surface bombs along the way. This will “cook” the surface, and whatever’s in the station will be taken care of. Johnson reminds them that the proto-molecule is building some sort of weapon, and Miller tells them that only the Roci and her crew can act as a gunship to protect the mission. Holden scrunches his face up and agrees to help.
“The Mormons are gonna be pissed,” Naomi adds, winning Best Line of the Episode.
The Mormons are herded off the ship, and told there’s a radiation leak. Miller tries to soothe them, but the Mormons are understandably super unhappy, and seem unwilling to accept Miller’s assurance that this is “part of God’s plan.”
Naomi has a brief Belter heart-to-heart with Miller, who has decided to lead the demolition team even though he’s never done a spacewalk. Diogo assures him that it’s better than sex, but he has his doubts about Diogo’s romantic history. “Me crush ass to dust!” Diogo claims.
…I’m not entirely sure that’s a good thing?
The Roci gears up to head back to Eros, and Amos proclaims, “I like this plan!” helpfully underlining the crazy. For the rest of the episode, we cut back and forth between Miller and Diogo playing a live action version of Super Bomber Man, and the Roci crew furrowing their brows and making difficult choices.
Spoiler alert: Miller hates the spacewalk exactly as much as he thinks he will, but he does it because he sees Julie leading him on. Diogo calls it “fresh air” and teases his status as a “City Belter.”
The Roci crew listens in on the voices from Eros, and then makes a terrible discovery: a team of humanitarian Doctors Without Space Borders have infiltrated Eros. This…did not go well.
Miller tries to lecture the crazy Belter kid on the merits of cynicism, and everything about the conversation screams “I’m going to go off somewhere to die as soon as we finish this mission.” Obviously this is lost on Diogo. Miller finds a member of the humanitarian crew, reports it back to Roci. The doctors know about the proto-molecule, and could broadcast their knowledge at any moment. Any one of them could be infected. Holden tries his new tactic of YELLING to convince them, but they still try to flee, and he makes the tough choice to blow them up rather than allow them to reach civilization. He does it himself rather than asking anyone else to do it.
This starts a domino effect—debris from the dead ship hits Miller and Diogo, punctures Miller’s suit, and knocks one of the bombs over and triggers it. Diogo has to hold it up to keep it from blowing and setting off all the bombs.
“…so, we dead,” Diogo says.
“We?” Miller asks, and for a split second I thought he was going to space walk his ass out of there, but instead he grabs the bomb and tells Diogo to go back to the ship. “Go get laid, will ya?” And now the show settles in with Miller as he waits to die. Naomi checks in with him, and asks if he’s OK, to which he replies, “You know? I have never been better.”
Huh. He’s really tipped fully over into “I want to follow Julie Mao into the abyss of death” hasn’t he?
The crew tries to come up with solutions, but he waves them away and flips his comm channel over so he only hears the voices from within the station. He sits and watches as Moroni looms toward him. The Roci crew hold their breath. And then the Nauvoo misses.
Except that the Nauvoo didn’t change course…Eros dodged out of the way.
So is the station itself alive? Is Miller now trapped on a sentient station, holding a ticking timebomb?
Random Thoughts Floating in Space
- This episode spends about half its airtime floating untethered in space, threatening that any moment someone might spin away and disappear. I loved/hated this episode.
- I’m really enjoying all the loving shots of the Nauvoo, and the Angel Moroni with his trumpet. Moroni, for those who don’t know, is the angel who revealed the Book of Mormon to Joseph Smith, and his image is found on the roofs of several important Mormon Temples.
- “Yeah, I did. I killed the mad scientist.” Miller, giving Holden some perspective.
- “I know you two have your differences, but I don’t care.” I love you Fred Johnson. If more people told Holden to shut up more often, maybe he’d become the leader his crew deserves.
- And look, I know I’ve been mean to Holden lately, but his whole tactic of screaming at people and thinking that being SUPER EXTRA ANGRY is the way to get people to do what he wants is really starting to grate on me. I’m pleased that the people on the show who have been around the Space Block more than he has are choosing to ignore him and carry on.
- I also loved that the show is carrying through on the plotline of Holden being reluctant to kill people, but finding that he has no other choice.
- This episode comes down hard on its best theme: complicated people sacrificing their own best interests for the good of humanity. Miller goes on the demolition team, knowing that he hates space, and then sends Diogo back, knowing that he’s dooming himself. Holden kills the doctors to keep them away from civilization. Fred Johnson destroys the Nauvoo knowing that this will probably ruin his life at Tycho, and everything he’s worked for with the OPA, because none of that means anything if the proto-molecule reaches more people. Avasarala commits treason against her own planet to try to save all planets. When this show first aired, the comparisons to Game of Thrones flew thick and fast, but I think the differences are what make it more compelling: these people aren’t “good” – most of them have some seriously dark shit in their pasts. But they’re all trying to be better. They put differences aside for the greater good. In this way The Expanse is celebrating a brand of sci-fi that’s closer to the idealism of Star Trek than anything else.
Overall I think this was my favorite episode so far! What say you, denizens of the internet?