Never Take Your Plants For Granted. The Expanse: “Cascade”

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Cascade” continued the search for Meng’s daughter, checked in with Bobbie and the Earth/Mars peace talks, and shows us a new side of Earth culture. The attack on Ganymede might have even worse repercussions than expected, somehow. We learn that Meng is now the only other person other than Naomi who can stop Amos once he starts beating someone to death.

And best of all, we get to see what Alex does when he’s alone on the Roci.

Join me for a recap of the highlights, which is obviously full of spoilers.

OK, lets get the boring part out of the way: Errinwright sees the light and goes to Avasarala to confess his secret dealings with Jules-Pierre Mao. This is her surprised face:

Conveniently, he’s too useful right now to pack off to prison. Worryingly, Avasarala is now the only person who knows the truth, which could potentially mean danger for her.

Meanwhile, on Ganymede, Naomi is beating herself up for the disaster on the Weeping Somnambulist, while Holden is surprisingly tough-minded about it. Ganymede has a survivors’ wall set up like a the memorial wall on Tycho Station, so people can look for lost loved ones. They don’t find Mei, but Strickland isn’t listed as missing, which means he’s findable, hopefully. They walk through Meng’s old gardens, and it’s desolate. Holden and Naomi break off to search hospitals for any sign of proto-molecule, while Amos sticks tight to Meng. He only refers to Mei as Meng’s “little girl” and it’s interesting…we know Amos has seen some shit, but for all he keeps talking about Naomi and Holden as being the “good” people who will help Meng, he’s the one completely focused on searching for Mei. I think this mission is stirring up trauma he won’t deal with.

Meng finds an old friend, Bosch, who promptly attacks him and calls him a coward. It seems Bosch has snapped after losing his own child. He tells Meng about a shady guy called Roma, who will look through the security footage to find lost kids—for a price. Apparently he loves canned chicken.

“I didn’t have enough chicken!” Bosch screams, which would almost sound funny if it wasn’t so heartbreaking and cruel.

Meng promises to talk to Roma and look for both of their children. The group goes to Roma, where they find a crying woman rushing out of his house half-naked. This immediately started my Amos-alarms ringing. Sure enough, they talk to him about bartering, Roma mouths off about chicken, and Amos decides to take over the negotiations.

Amos asks politely:

And then reiterates his request with slightly more emphasis:

Meng (barely) stops Amos from killing Roma.

“I find little girl pro bono!” Roma offers. “Thank you,” Amos says, and lets him up.

While Roma searches through the database, Meng and Amos share a quiet conversation. And this, again, is why I love this show. In the midst of the space battles and body-horror and military intrigue, the show consistently makes room for quiet, thoughtful conversations between its characters—conversations that sound like things humans would actually say to each other. Amos doesn’t go into a long, flashback-laden sob story, he simply tells Meng that he grew up around prostitutes, and that bullies like Roma are the ones who force women to work when they’re too young, when they’ve just had kids, when they’re vulnerable. This is his context. He’s afraid for Mei for specific, personal, horrifying reasons, and seeing Roma mistreat the woman in his quarters triggered all of his anger toward pimps and abusers. The way he specifically mentions that those kinds of guys will force the prostitutes’ kids to work too makes me think that this is the key to his backstory. But again, he doesn’t tell Meng anything personal, just recites things he’s seen bullies do.

Meng, for his part, opens up about how inadequate he felt as a father. He couldn’t help Mei. Her disease left her in constant pain, but he couldn’t do anything to stop it, and part of him was relieved when he thought she was dead—at least her pain was over.

“Do you want me to tell you that that’s OK?” Amos asks. “I know that it isn’t,” Meng replies.

Then he explores Ganymede’s hydroponics system, and discovers that they’re using the wrong water. Since Ganymede is a “Simple Complex System” this tiny mistake will cause the plants to fail, but the system is complex enough that no one will be able to predict how the plants are failing fast enough to stop it. This is “the Cascade” and it’s already begun. “This station’s dead already…they just don’t know it yet.”


One good bit of news: Roma’s found footage of Mei!

One bad bit of news: Strickland is leading her into a part of the station beyond the cameras, so they’re going to have to go in blind to pick up the trail.

Meanwhile, back on Earth: Bobbie is in deep shit for blurting out the truth. She’s told she’s under restriction in her quarters, which she takes about at well as you’d expect. She asks if she can see the ocean before she leaves, but her commander snaps that she’s just going home.

As soon as she’s alone she starts prying the sealants from her windows. All of her cutlery is too bendy, but her Medal of Honor does the trick. She pops the window out, rolls down the roof, and runs. We now get to see a very different Earth through her eyes. Where we’ve mostly been with Avasarala in glittering offices and parties, or with Holden’s family on their farm in the country, now we see urban squalor. People gather into camps to share food and supplies. Once people use up their drug allotment their cut off, with predictable results. Bobbie meets a man named Nico who trades information for her pack of Osteo-X. He put himself on the list for med school when he was 17. He’s 52, and he’s still waiting for his slot. At least, this is the story he tells her before he disappears with her meds. But he also tells her how to find the ocean, and more than that, he teaches her to stand with her feet shoulder-width apart, head down, and slowwwwly raise her eyes to the horizon. If she practices that she’ll be walking like an Earther in no time.

She follows the path, and walks through a drainage ditch to the water.

Of course this lovely moment can’t last, and Avasarala finds her.

She shows her the intel on the “man who wasn’t wearing a vac suit” and tells her the Martian government has designed a new weapon. Bobbie’s response? “Fuck you ma’am.” Avasarala, who is probably deciding that Bobbie’s her long-lost daughter right about now, asks her to trust her and team up with her so they can figure this out together. Then she rushes away as the Martians find the drainpipe.

Meanwhile, back on Ganymede, Alex is having a hell of a time, singing along with Hank Williams and playing some sort of zero gravity, one-man, beer pong in which he is both the ping-pong ball and the cup.

But alas, beautiful moments never last in The Expanse. Because now there’s an alerts that Ganymede is a no-fly zone, any vehicles will be shot on sight, which means the Roci crew and Meng are trapped down there.


Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space

  • No one got spaced this episode! I feel like balloons should drop from my ceiling right now.
  • I’m so glad the show is including Meng, and is allowing him to just be good. This show does get pretty grimdark, so having a character who genuinely wants to be a good person is refreshing.
  • …poor Bosch. That really all I have to say about that.
  • So, should we just assume at this point that Amos was a child prostitute, and that that’s part of why everything about him screams PTSD all the time?
  • Also, the moment when Nico teaches Bobbie to look at the horizon was lovely. I was so tense by that point—I know Bobbie can handle herself, but she’s still on a strange planet full of people who hate Martians. It was nice to see that Nico was mostly genuine.
  • Also a fabulous way to show us the dark side of future Earth! Bobbie, with all of her prejudices against Earth’s excess, gets to see that the system still hurts the have-nots, while also learning that there are good Earthers out there. Somebody’s going back to Mars with an open mind.
  • I want a whole episode of Alex just hanging out. Am I alone in this?

So now we have proof that there are multiple bio-weapons out there, Ganymede is dead, which means the System’s breadbasket is empty (which means starvation, riots, and upheaval across Earth, Mars, and the Belt), thanks to the proto-molecule there is life on Venus, but only a few people know about that so far, and there are only a few ragtag, disparate groups trying to make sure humanity gets to continue.

This is fine. Everything’s fine.

Leah Schnelbach wants a prequel series about Alex’s college days. Come to think of it, would Martian universities have “Roman” societies instead of Greek? Come muse with her on Twitter!


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