This week’s episode of The Expanse, “The Weeping Somnambulist” continued with the crazy switchback emotional reversals. After packing a rollercoaster of trauma into Meng’s storyline last week: becoming a refugee, losing his daughter, deepening a friendship, watching that friend die, and, finally, discovering that his daughter might still be alive, we now get another tiny micro-tragedy, and the terrible choices that have to be made by Bobbie Draper.
We open on a relief ship, The Weeping Somnambulist, taking supplies to Ganymede. We meet Melissa and Santichai Suputayaporn, a pair of relief workers who balance their altruistic work with a firmly realistic vision of how life works. They know that pirates are going to skim off the top before they can report to the Harbormaster. They know that dealing with those pirates will be dangerous. They’re doing it anyway, because that’s the price of helping people. If 80% of the supplies get to those in need, it will be worth it. I love how this show is taking the time to show us all the sides of a tragedy. Having seem the warm fuzzy vision of Alex welcoming refugees, the reality of life on a refugee ship, and Meng’s aching loss of his daughter, now we see a pair of ordinary people who are doing the thankless work of helping the victims.
When boarded by Martians, it seems at first that it’s just military people being hardasses. Of course it turns out that these aren’t Martians at all, but Holden and Amos, and of course Holden is famous now, so they recognize him when he pulls his helmet off. They’re really not good at being faceless hardass Martians.
The Roci crew explains that they need to use the Somnambulist to make a landing on Ganymede, and no they can’t explain why, but of course they’ll get out of the way so the Suputayaporn’s can make their delivery, because they’re essentially the good guys here. Melissa is pissed about the hijacking; Holden is livid that pirates skim supplies; Santichai tries to keep everyone calm; Amos hangs back and looks at all of them like they’re absurd.
We still don’t know what’s up with Amos, by the way.
Back on the Inner Planets, the trauma of Ganymede and Eros are snaking around each other in interesting ways. Avasarala’s inside man heads to Venus in the hope of confirming his ideas of alien life. And Avasarala herself is part of the Martian hearing, along with UN Deputy Director Errinwright. This was probably my favorite part of this week’s episode because they used the scenes to create a study in contrast. The committee of Earthers and Martian politicians sit in a grand room, filled with sunlight and flowers, and plate after plate of pastry and fruit passed around. Meanwhile the Martian military representatives are in agony: one soldier vomits from the pull of gravity, and all of them are exhausted and stunned by the brightness of the sun.
Bobbie Draper makes a point of not wearing her sunglasses, and slowly opens more and more of her room’s windows in each scene as she acclimates to the light.
The hearing itself is also painful. The politicians throw Richard Travis under the bus, claiming that because he was born on Earth, he opened fire on the UN contingent on Ganymede to prove he was a true Martian. Bobbie, like Holden, is livid at the blatant unfairness at work, but chooses to go along with it in the hope that it prevents open war. She almost cracks once, but only because it’s Avasarala interrogating her, using a mix of warmth and insight that Bobbie was not prepared for. She hops around asking Bobbie about life as a Martian, about her friendship with Travis, and almost gets her to break. Bobbie even mentions the “Man who wasn’t wearing a vac suit” in almost the same panicked voice that she used during her enhanced interrogation—clearly the trauma of what she saw on Ganymede is bubbling up through her façade.
When her commander steps in, Avasarala slaps him back down with, “Whoever the fuck you are, stand down and let her speak” but by then Bobbie has regained her composure, and repeats in a dead voice that Travis did it.
That’s all Avasarala needed though. Now she knows that there are inexplicable, possibly alien, issues throughout the system. This is confirmed by her inside man.
When he reaches Venus, he and the rest of the crew are shocked to see what can only be signs of life blossoming out of the Eros crash site. He snaps a picture and sends it to Avasarala. “Eros changes everything. Just like a soldier on Ganymede without a suit.” She murmurs this to herself in an empty room.
Meanwhile, back on Ganymede, Meng discovers that he can’t even send messages from his room—which is really more of a “prison” than a “room.” When Amos comes to bring him to the deck, he refuses to go until he understands more of what’s going on. When the scene cut, I’ll admit I had a moment of fear at this. I like Meng, he may be the purest character on the show right now, and I was worried that the next scene would find him bloodied and bruised from Amos forcing him to do what he’s told. Instead, he’s on the bridge, and he knows their whole plan because Amos told him. Holden’s pissed (again) but Amos just shrugs it off. Who is he to deny a reasonable request?
So, the Ganymede plan: Everyone but Alex uses the Weeping Somnambulist to go down to the surface. They get out of the way so the Suputayaporns can make their deal and deliver their supplies. They try to find Strickland and Mei, while simultaneously trying not to get caught, or get dead. Alex swoops down and picks them up at meeting point.
Meng considers this.
“Are your plans always so vague?” he asks.
“This one’s about average,” Amos says, annoying Holden even more. I’m kind of assuming that Holden’s just going to have a pent-up-rage aneurysm any episode now.
So they get ready to leave, and Alex presents Amos with a freshly made lasagna and tells him to be careful. “You too,” he says to Meng, because Alex loves everyone, even if he’s barely met them. If it was up to Alex, everyone in the system would be part of the Roci crew, and they all soar around space sharing cornpone witticisms and doing space loop-the-loops.
Alas, we do not live in Alex’s world, so things are about to go very wrong.
The Roci crew + Meng get to Ganymede just fine. Alex hides the Roci so he can monitor the situation and wait. The pirates board the Weeping Somnambulist, but there’s been a change in plan: They’re taking all the cargo, not just the 10% off the top. Melissa argues with them, but what can they do? There are more of them, and they have guns, and space is not a place where justice is allowed to reign.
Holden and Amos burst back onto the ship, guns blazing! They’ve taken out the pirates! It’s just like last week when they saved Fred Johnson! The shipment is OK!
Santichai has been shot. He’s already dead.
Holden tries to speak, to apologize, but there’s nothing he can say. Melissa screams at him to get off her ship, and Holden, Naomi, and Amos back away to continue the mission. We end with Melissa cradling her husband’s body, sobbing.
Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space
- I loved everything about the Martians landing on Earth, particularly the command not to look up. It’s easy to forget that we’re dealing with characters who have never been this close to the sun, never seen a blue sky, never felt Earth’s gravity beneath them, and it’s these tiny little touches that remind you.
- The Martian commander tells his troops not to give the Blues anything to laugh at, and one of his men immediately throws up right in front of a drone.
- Bobbie, who is a BADASS, staggers on Earth, immediately breaks the rule and looks up, and stares in shock at a seagull flying above her.
- I kind of want a spin-off Expanse sitcom about Martians moving to Earth…hear me out, we’ll call it Is There Life on Earth?, and it’ll be a smash hit.
- Avasarala gets the best line, once again! “With all due respect, Madame, where are you going with this?” “Wherever I goddamn liiiike!” She looks like a happy snake in this episode. I love her so much.
- There is also, underneath the happy snakiness, the idea that she genuinely cares about Bobbie’s story, and wants to hear it as a person, not just as a politician.
- Once again Holden the Cowboy has caused more problems than he’s solved. It’s entirely possible that if he had just walked away from the Weeping Somnambulist, the Suputayaporns would have lived. The pirates would have gotten the shipment, sure, but the couple may have kept their lives.
- Meanwhile, Bobbie compromises her idealism and sells out her platoon-mate in order to head off war between Earth and Mars. This is clearly destroying her, but between her training and her own mental fortitude she’s able to compartmentalize in a way that Holden can’t.
- Meng’s message is so heartbreaking. In the midst of his own agony over his daughter, he reaches out to one of Doris’ relatives to try to apologize, and then can’t even send it.
An episode that could have just been a simple case of moving the plot forward was given real emotional resonance. And I’m really enjoying the show’s ongoing commentary on different types of heroics. Is Holden a hero? Is Bobbie? Is it possible for the idea of a hero to even exist in the show’s universe? What did all of you think?