The Expanse continues its run of great episodes this week with “Paradigm Shift”—we go back in time to meet Solomon Epstein, inventor of the Epstein Drive; bounce between proto-molecule shenanigans in the Belt and political machinations on Earth; and check back in with Bobbie Draper, whose mission to Ganymede is not quite what she expected…
I’ve recapped the highlights below!
I’ve gone back and forth on this since last night, but I think I like the structure of this episode. The way the show cut back and forth between the first test flight of the Epstein Drive and the machinations around the proto-molecule worked to highlight the excitement and danger of new technology.
It’s also interesting to see just how quickly everyone fragments.
In another act of trying to affirm the Roci crew as a family rather than just a ragtag bunch of misfits, Naomi and Holden hold a family meeting to explain that they’re, um, involved now. Alex is just annoyed when he learns how long they’ve been together, because he and Amos had a wager about when the shenanigans started, and he lost. Then Holden unleashes his Eyebrows of Concern on Amos, checking to make sure they’ll still cool, bro, and Amos says that Naomi is “like a sister to me… I mean, don’t get me wrong. I’d do her if she’d let me.”
Then he walks away, as Holden keeps his Eyebrows in Concerned Stance, but for an entirely new reason.
I love Amos.
When the Roci crew arrives back at Tycho Station, they’re hailed as heroes, and they see that Diogo has already founded a cult of Miller, and is inventing appropriately iconic last words for him—but he neglects to mention that Miller advised him to get laid. Heh.
But almost immediately:
- Naomi and Holden argue over what to do with that last bit of proto-molecule they stashed away
- Alex gets in a fight over a girl, and Amos rescues him
- Alex is pissed that he needed to be rescued
- Amos is pissed that Alex is resentful
- Holden is pissed that Fred Johnson kept thirty of Earth’s nukes
- Holden lies to Fred Johnson about that secret proto-molecule stash
- Fred Johnson knows that Holden is lying to him, but doesn’t know why
- Holden, Amos, and Alex outvote Naomi, and decide to destroy the stash
- Naomi lies and tells them she’s torpedoed the stash into the sun. She has not.
- Naomi goes behind Holden’s back to unlock the 30 nukes, thus arming Tycho Station
- Diogo dedicates his first sexual experience to Miller
Meanwhile, on Earth, a career politician tells the truth.
What the hell is going on in this show?
Avasarala comes in to visit the UN’s Deputy Director, her smile so huge it has to be fake, and asks him to invite Jules-Pierre Mao in for a meeting. He says he can reach out through Jules-Pierre Mao’s children.
And then Avasarala assures him that if they cannot be convinced to cooperate, she will “rain hellfire down on them all.” She proceeds to outline how she’ll plan to destroy the lives of each and every one of his children, through the generations, making sure that all Earthers know that it was the Mao family who endangered the planet, until their name is ruined and they all die “pariahs.” It’s intense, and really lovely to watch Avasarala unleash her full political power.
Throughout this rollercoaster of an episode, we check in with Solomon Epstein, testing his Drive 137 years in the past. He’s shocked by the success of his experiment, and then shocked by the fact that the high-Gs mean he can’t turn the Drive off, or call for help, or breathe. This plotline goes from being comic to incredibly poignant, as we see the cost of new technology, and see this inventor who has only been a name as a real living human, who loves his wife, wants to start a family, and has no idea that his invention will lead to the triumph and pain of life in the Belt. While not quite as emotionally draining as last week’s meeting of Miller and proto-Julie, this gave the hour some depth that it may have lacked otherwise.
But now lets get to that shocker of an ending! Apparently this is the opening of Book Two of The Expanse, Caliban’s War.
Bobby Draper and her team are deployed to the soybean farms of Ganymede. They’re really annoyed about this detail, since there isn’t much glory in defending a securely biodomed soybean crop. But then, just as her officer’s ship goes out of range, she notices a troop of Earthers who are charging the Martian platoon.
Suddenly there are explosions, a space battle right above them, and Bobbie’s on the ground with a pierced helmet. Her team seems to be dead, and there’s a giant, huffing, monster looming over her. Then she blacks out again, and we cut to credits.
I have questions.
Thoughts Randomly Floating in the Void of Space
- How long does Naomi expect to juggle all these deceptions while sleeping with the main guy she’s deceiving?
- What’s going to happen to Alex next time, when Amos doesn’t protect him?
- I loved the detail that Amos, who grew up in brothels, is now renting a room in one.
- The moment when Epstein talks about how his one last chance is to call his wife, and then he drops the phone, was perfect. I didn’t know that Epstein didn’t live through his first test, so that was the moment that I realized that this entire plot was going to end tragically.
- OK, most of all though: what the hell is that thing attacking Bobbie?
- Is this another newly engineered weapon? Is it a specially bred animal, or a machine?
- I have to say, I understand that the show’s producers wanted to introduce Bobbie sooner, and handhold those of us who haven’t read the books as we saw a Martian perspective on the clash between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. BUT. I think I’d be a lot more invested in Bobbie and her team if this was how I met them. The scenes between her team were so similar to arguments among the Roci crew that they just felt like filler to me, rather than teaching me anything new about Martian society.
So what say you, citizens of the internet? Was anyone else as touched by Dr. Epstein as I was? And did anyone else yell at their screen when that TERRIFYING THING loomed over Bobbie?