Oh man this episode of The Expanse was intense. I found myself leaning closer and closer to the screen until I was practically nose-to-nose with Avasarala by the end. Building on all of the last week’s insane machinations, this hour was marked by a pair of terrible betrayals, and strain amongst the Roci crew, only barely lightened by Bobbie’s discovery of tea sandwiches, which apparently still exist in the future. Join me as I recap the highlights, and obviously beware of spoilers!
I honestly don’t even know where to start with this one. On Earth, Avasarala is preparing for her meeting with Mao, while Errinwright prepares to give himself up. He has a touching moment with his son, where he tells the boy to follow his heart….which understandably freaks the kid out. He writes a note to his wife, and gazes lovingly at a canister of poison. Is Errinwright going to suicide? Meanwhile Avasarala has asked Bobbi to come with her to Mao’s ship. Avasarala’s spy, Cotyar, vets her by accusing her of selling out Mars and betraying her people. She doesn’t take his bait, but replies with the thesis statement of the episode:
I have never crossed anyone first. But burn me and mine, and I’ll go through you like a door.
He smiles. “All right then! Let’s go.” I thought these two would get along. Bobbi’s addition immediately helps the dynamic, too, because her presence turns Avasarala and Cotyar into a pair of bickering parents. Avasarala hasn’t left Earth in a long time, so she’s trying not to turn green during lift off, and Bobbi gets to giggle at the two of them like an indulgent teen daughter.
It’s fantastic to see her get to act her age for once. Even better when Jules-Pierre Mao’s aides offer her cucumber sandwiches.
Avasarala is in fine form here, as Jules-Pierre Mao attempts to give her a long, flowery greeting, and she snaps, “Just get to the fucking point.” So they do. They sit, and he asks that she ends the harassment of his family. He mentions particularly that she had his cousin arrested. “He’s a monk.” Jules-Pierre Mao says. He has a few good points, and the two are just about to get into a meaty conversation about political loyalty when everything goes to hell…because we’ve finally hit the plot that matches all of that “Game of Thrones in space” chatter that people threw at The Expanse last season.
While Avasarala is traveling to Jules-Pierre Mao to attempt to solve problems through diplomacy, Errinwright goes full Littlefinger back home. All of those hints of suicidal thoughts and remorse have proven wrong, and he lashes out in a horrifyingly calculated way: he poisons the Martian Defense Minister, makes it look like a heart attack, orders a Martian Black Ops ship blown up outside of Ganymede, and then sends Jules-Pierre Mao a message. His Martian protection is gone. He now works directly for Earth, meaning for Errinwright. And Errinwright’s first order? Kill Avasarala, or he’ll destroy their ship next. How long has he been planning this?
And this is one of my favorite scenes of this entire season. After all of Avasarala’s power games, she’s left somewhat helpless, and you can see both fear and defiance in her face. But Cotyar is up and in front of her, gun drawn, and Bobbi is in front of her, physically holding her back from Mao. The girlishness she revealed a scene before is gone, and she looks like she’s ready to kill Mao with her teeth. It’s a great moment, playing between the high politics of Avasarala and the brute force of her team.
Meanwhile, farther out in space…Holden is being all Holden-y, telling at Alex as they pursue the Caliban. Meng is trying to get a word in edgewise that it might still have some consciousness. He asks for a chance to reason with it. But Holden is too busy barking orders and ignoring Alex’s appeals to reason. He forces Alex to steer the ship into dangerously tight corners in pursuit, and even ignores the idea that the Caliban might be luring them into a trap. These scenes were hard for me to watch, because I hate the trope of “Alpha Male Gets His Way When He Yells the Loudest”, but they work really well as a critique of that trope. Holden will not listen to the other two men. He is obsessed with destroying the Caliban in order to take a little bit more proto-molecule out of the System, but he won’t allow himself to think about strategy, or any sort of long game, he just wants to charge after it. What’s he planning to do if they catch it? Will shooting it actually kill it? Will the proto-molecule simply flee the body and escape? After what happened to Eros you’d think he’s ask these questions, but instead, when Meng tries to suggest more solutions, Holden calls him “plant guy” (which is admittedly hilarious) and growls at Alex about obeying orders—as thought they were all still a military unit. Which they are not. Everyone on Roci is a volunteer, and Holden is only Captain because they’re trusting him to act like one.
I’m just starting to worry about this little makeshift family, is all.
Meanwhile, back on Ganymede, we have our second betrayal. At least, that’s how I think it’s going to play out, and I’m really, really worried about this one. Naomi barges onto the Weeping Somnambulist and bullies Melissa into letting her help, which is good, because Naomi’s the only one who can fix the wiring on this poor battered ship. The problem is—they’ve got at least a hundred people outside begging for transport. They’ve asked on large Belter (helpfully nicknamed ‘Big Guy’) to keep order for them until they can open the hatch. After they’ve kept everyone waiting, they discover that the oxygen supply has been damaged, and at best they only have enough air for 52 people. Melissa makes the tough choice that they’ll just go, and live with abandoning them rather than causing a riot by only taking a fraction of the refugees. Naomi wants to go out and reason with them, but Amos for once uses his strength against her and holds her. He’s afraid they’ll tear her apart if she goes out there. But then she makes a tough choice of her own. She sticks him with another dose of tranquilizer, then a second, until he’s too weak to hold her and flops into a chair. The look of shock in his eyes is terrible. She goes out and Big Guy grabs her by the throat and pins her to the wall. “Help me save 52 people,” she asks him. She offers him her place on the ship as payment for his help.
So he answers the call, and shifts immediately into that Inspiring Belter Speech these guys seem to have locked and loaded at all times. The refugees organize themselves into groups, send the kids and youngest men and women to the front, and file onboard. Children have to leave their parents, a couple is separated—but Naomi only has one place to give up, so she can’t save them all. In the end Big Guy pushes her onto the ship, and they make the “I Love You” gesture to each other through the window. It hasn’t been another Eros—they’ve saved 52 Belters by working together instead of panicking.
But then of course that has to go to hell, too, because all the Earther and Martian ships waiting above Ganymede are ordering them to go back. This is still a no-fly zone, and they don’t care that the Weeping Somnambulist is a neutral ship on a mission of mercy. We cut over to Alex on the Roci, who overhears the orders to shoot the Somnambulist, and he appeals to Holden. Can they end this absurd Caliban hunt now, and go help their family? Is Holden going to listen to reason, finally?
Everyone on the Somanmbulist braces themselves for the torpedo that locks onto the ship. I love how willing this show is to put a bunch of crying children in danger to show you the realities of war, and highlight the stupidity of the pissing match between Earth and Mars. But then a wild Roci appears! Alex locks each of their missiles on a different ship, and Holden finally puts his Angry Alpha Male Voice to good use. He’s introduces himself as the captain of the Warship Rocinante, and he promises them that if they fire all of them will be destroyed, and “we’ll all die together.”
Alex worries that they’ll test him, but Holden, finally using his normal voice, says no. “Nah. Not today. They’re saving their bullets for each other.” He’s right, no one fires, and they get away with no trouble. “When’d you get so wise, Cap?” Alex asks, and Holden says he’ll take it, hopefully filing away the knowledge that when he treats his crew like a team, they all work better. They fly away, but there are more problems on the horizon.
While Naomi and Melissa are happy they were able to rescue people, Amos sits, still drugged, staring into the middle distance. What’s going to happen when he comes back to his senses and deals with Naomi tranquing him? Even worse, there’s the Caliban, riding all Max Cady style on the underside of the Rocinante.
I’m sure that won’t cause any problems.
Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space
- Errinwright’s son is Ender. That’s not just me, right? That’s freaking Ender.
- I’m loving peak Avasarala here, and I’m worried that we might have just passed peak, since she’s now in mortal danger.
- Maybe she and Jules-Pierre Mao can just draw a big line down the middle of his ship, and each stay on their own side?
- How adorable was Bobbie stuffing her mouth with cucumber sandwiches? Here, look at this:
- I mean, is that not the best moment this season? I just hope they’ve fortified her enough to defend Avasarala.
- I love that the show made me feel for Errinwright for the first time all season, only to yank my empathy rug out from under me.
- Meng advocating for the Caliban startled me. I’m pleased that he’s trying to have a conversation, even if it may be a misguided one.
- And speaking of scientists tampering in various domains, where are Dawes and Cortazar?
What did you think? Is Avasarala doomed? Is Errinwright going to get away with this? Is Caliban just hitching a ride to the nearest mall so he can hang with his friends? Am I the only one who wants high tea? How are they going to wrap all these plotlines up next week?