Cants, Cans, and Don’ts: The Expanse “CQB”

All right, Expanse, you have my attention. Having ended last episode as an unidentified ship was hurtling towards the last of the Cant crew, who are currently the prisoners of Mars, and with poor [REDACTED FOR SPOILERS] pinned to a wall, this week they drop us right back into the action…in a morgue?

Huh. Miller goes to the morgue to check out a body he found, which he believes was one of the guy’s on Juliet Mao’s space-Tinder. The mortician, who is hilarious, informs him that “The average life expectancy on Earth is 123 years. Higher on Mars. On Ceres? It’s 68.” Is this his subtle way of telling Miller to cut back on the booze? But seriously, what is Miller hoping to learn from Mao’s missed connection?

Meanwhile, in SPACE, Holden is on the bridge of the Martian ship, watching as the crew casually blasts torpedoes back at the Mystery ship. It’s a stunning contrast to the high emotion and drama of the Cant crew, and the straight up desperation of Holden’s people. (I hesitate to call them his “crew” since they’ve rejected his authority… I don’t know. Squad?) Holden is clearly freaked the hell out as he watches the screens, but the Martians don’t care. His interrogator takes this moment to lecture him on the differences between Earthers and Martians (don’t forget, Holden’s an Earther who has chosen to live in the Belt) and it mirrors Degraaf’s monologue about Mars from last week. While Martians have to scratch every bit of life from their planet, Earthers have all the air and water they could eve want, for free. They are innately selfish, and can’t understand what it means to “claw life out of nothing.”

Miller

Meanwhile, back on Ceres, Miller is trying to piece together the life of the corpse he found. He keeps trying to call Havelock, but assumes he’s having some R&R time when he doesn’t get an answer. Which, technically he is, but it’s that sort of forever-style R&R. Dammit. Why did I have to go and like Havelock??? Sorry. Miller ends up in the only scene that’s completely confused me so far. I was cool with the Belter patois, and I love the Martian interropill, but this? Miller goes to the dead man’s apartment, and walks into what seems to be a frat party/gambling den. When he tells the guests that their friend (?) is dead, they point to the vidscreen and Miller realizes that that’s his corpse, seemingly alive, and doing some sort of space-extreme-sport that involves slingshotting around Saturn? But apparently he dies doing that? Which leads to Miller realizing he’s a clone, so fair enough, but what the hell is this game? Are they betting on it? Does anyone ever survive it? It threw me out of the episode for a few minutes because I had so many questions about something that’s clearly a throwaway moment.

But we’re not even to the most intense scene yet. Obviously, the Martian attack on Mystery Ship didn’t work. Narratively speaking that was a given. But rather than focusing on the battle, the show continues to make me happy by giving us a bunch of small moments that allow the characters to reveal themselves in the context of battle. When a direct hit rocks the bridge, one of the officers falls and his gun goes flying. Holden notices the gun, and the Martian notices Holden noticing it. We track all that, and then Holden is kneeling on the floor, trying to help the injured crewmember and ignoring the gun. The Martian notices that, too. We cut back to Naomi, Alex, Amos, and Shed the (Fake) Medic, who are trapped in their holding pen as the ship starts getting hit. They strap into seats, which give them a little stability, but Alex is having a panic attack. Shed the (Fake) Medic talks him through it, and reaches out to give him some Space Valium, when Alex’s face suddenly freezes into a mask of horror. The camera cuts around, and we see that a direct hit has blown a hole in the wall, and the vacuum of space beyond the wall has torn Shed the (Fake) Medic’s head off.

Blood behaves differently in zero G.

Now we see the remaining Cants turn into Cans. They all spring into action, working together to patch the two holes that were blown in the walls, while resolutely not looking a Shed the (Dead) (Fake) Medic. They’re going to run out of oxygen soon, and don’t hold out much hope that anyone in the Martian crew is going to remember to come get them. So Alex reluctantly volunteers to be tranqued so he’ll use less oxygen, and Amos agrees to carry him out if anyone comes for them. And then Amos and Naomi sit together, holding hands, waiting for death. He thanks her for helping him all those times, and we get a tiny glimpse of the friendship they have when no one else is watching them. Amos’ hands are covered in Shed’s blood.

Meanwhile, in the SPACE HALLWAY: The captain has realized that her ship and crew are doomed. She orders Holden to leave with the information that Mars did not, in fact, blow up the Cant, as well as the tiny amount of data they have on Mystery Ship. Hopefully war will be averted, and Earth and Mars can work together against this new threat? But Holden keeps insisting he’s not leaving without his people. So as soon as they’re all out in the hall, and some Mystery Shipmates begin to board, Holden darts away to find the holding pen.

The Martian interrogator is furious, but finally allows it. He’s now seen Holden act to help someone rather than attempt escape, and he’s seen his intense loyalty to his crew. Perhaps he’ll have more respect for Earthers now? Holden gets Naomi and Amos out just in time, and Amos does in fact sling Alex over his shoulder like a sack of space potatoes. They dart out toward the docking bay, and of course they have to run over a terrifying Catwalk of Certain Doom. The Martian gets hit, but keeps going. Amos gets Alex into the escape shuttle, and Holden hooks Naomi to him with a bungee cord so she can’t float away in zero G. Everyone makes it, but the Martian may not have much time left. Holden slaps Alex awake enough to fly, but then another odd moment comes. Alex straps himself into the pilot’s seat and murmurs, “Dear sweet God be gentle with me, it’s my first time”—but he claimed to be a Martian pilot? And the Martians corroborated this? Does he just mean this type of shuttle, or are we dealing with another layer of deceit?

They get away just as the Martian captain self-destruct the ship to take Mystery Ship down. Again we end on a giant explosion, and the sense that the terrorists are clearly winning this new war. There is one bright spot though:

HavelockPinned

This wasn’t lethal! Havelock is alive! At least for now. He wakes up while a woman is pickpocketing him, who then quickly pivots to calling for help, so hopefully my favorite character will make it to another episode? Or, crap, wait, I never said that. He’s not my favorite. I don’t have any favorites. No, I didn’t already like Shed the (Dead) (Fake) Medic a whole lot, what are you talking about? I like no one.

How about you, um, Expansives? (Um, Expanders? What are fans of The Expanse calling themselves?) Do you have any favorites you’re too afraid to name? And how about that scene with Shed the (Dead) (Fake) Medic? (R.I.P.)

Leah Schnelbach already misses that Not-Medic! But YAYYYY Havelock! Not that she, um, likes either of them or anything. Come tell her who you don’t-like on Twitter!

16 Comments

Subscribe to this thread

Post a Comment

All comments must meet the community standards outlined in Tor.com's Moderation Policy or be subject to moderation. Thank you for keeping the discussion, and our community, civil and respectful.

Hate the CAPTCHA? Tor.com members can edit comments, skip the preview, and never have to prove they're not robots. Join now!