Can We All Just Agree to Ignore the Biggest Threat in the Universe? The Expanse: “Assured Destruction”

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OK show, I have but one request: can Pastor Anna kick Errinwright in the shins next week?

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Assured Destruction,” gave us the War Room of the UN, the protomolecule labs on Io, and two different hints that Amos has the most interesting backstory of anyone on the show. It also featured two of the Game of Thrones-iest sequences yet. But before I get into that, a quick recap.

Meanwhile, In Space

Avasarala has somehow cheated death again, and is in the Pinus’ sick bay. Bobbie, momentarily happy to be aboard a Martian ship, flies into a rage when she sees that the Martian flag has been defaced. This kicks off a fun dance between Bobbie (full of adrenaline, used to military discipline and hierarchy), Alex (the opposite of that), Amos (amused and probably down to wrestle), and Holden (the captain, technically, whom Bobbie has to obey). Naomi and Prax mostly hang back.

This led to the episode’s best moment, but also its one hiccup. After all of her bluster, Bobbie melts when Chrisjen thanks her for saving her life and offers her hand. It’s a moment of pure joy to see the two of them drop all their protocol and just hold hands for a moment—two women who have rescued each other through canniness and determination. (And a supersuit, but you get my point.) I’ll also step into meta-textual territory for a moment and quietly mention that these are two women of color, one “older” by Hollywood standards, and one not traditionally stick thin and “pretty” who are having a beautiful moment of their own, completely untouched by men or white people. And yet the world didn’t explode!

It’s almost as though we could have this moment in every show without exploding the world!

The one bit of clunkiness on the Pinus for me was when, a few scenes later, Bobbie and Amos are giggling at Chrisjen’s attempt at antigravity boots. The scene is adorable, but isn’t Amos the one who defaced Bobbie’s homeworld flag? It felt like maybe another scene or two had been cut to get to this moment faster, but I didn’t buy that these two were ready to share a laugh. That said, Amos replying: “I didn’t always work in space” when Chrisjen questions his knowledge of walking in pumps was a series highlight for me. I want more of this backstory, show.

But let me make a long plot short: they’re going to Io, Chrisjen might want to nuke it, she’s super pissed that Naomi gave Fred Johnson the protomolecule, Naomi doesn’t much care about Chrisjen’s opinions, the Pinus crew know the whole symbiote plot, and Bobbie was suitably impressed that they killed one of them. They also know all about Errinwright’s treachery. Oh, and Amos and Prax have bonded a little more.

But more on him in a sec.

More Space

Over on Io, Jules-Pierre Mao is possibly maybe having his cold villainous heart melted by a certain precocious Mei Meng. I’m not sure this is believable? But I love how François Chau and Leah Jung play it. I also love how Mao is clearly trying to assert himself and keep Errinwright at bay. My theory is that Mao is going to take the kids and a handful of protomolecule and run, but maybe that’s too simplistic? Is Jules-Pierre actually having a crisis of conscience? Did the loss of his daughter change him? Did seeing poor Katoa become Katoast finally shake him out of his power trip?

Or is he just looking for a way to get full control of the project before Errinwright’s guys show up?

Still In Space…

Cotyar’s alive! My shout of happiness was snuffed almost as fast as Theo’s life when the pair were picked up by the UNS Agatha King. Sorry, Theo. The writers should have just named you Loose Thread and saved us some time.

But here we are at our first Game of Thrones moment! A pair of Admirals question Cotyar, who…tells the truth??? But obviously the truth isn’t exactly believable right now. The party line is that Avasarala is a traitor, and that her faithful #2 Errinwright is a true friend of Earth, holding shit together in the face of her betrayal. When Admiral Souther fakes an electrical failure to question Cotyar alone, Admiral Nguyen takes the ship’s command despite any clear evidence of treachery. Souther, meanwhile, begins what I’m assuming will be a covert plot to clear Avasarala’s name.

If they all live long enough, since they’re heading to proto-molecule junction.

So you have two men of high rank in a pissing contest while a charming spy preens and bluffs his way through multiple interrogations, which all might be meaningless because of the GIANT LOOMING HYPEROBJECT THREAT THAT EVERYONE IS IGNORING.

And Finally, Earth

 

And now we come to Errinwright, with his desperately-waiting-to-be-kicked shins. He wants a preemptive strike. He wants the SecGen to authorize an attack in which Earth’s rail-guns will take out the five Martian first strike capable satellites that could pulverize Earth. The SecGen is going to do it, but after a talk with (perfect, luminous) Pastor Anna, he balks. Then he backtracks, orders the attack, and of course one of the railguns misfires thanks to a technical foul-up caused by the earlier aborted attack. So of course Mars manages to make one strike on Earth, in South America, killing 2,000,000 people. At least.

This is all bad enough, right? Errinwright has now been shown to be the strong one, the man who’s actually pulling the strings, and the SecGen looks weaker than ever. But then Errinwright goes to Pastor Anna and tells her the slaughter is her fault for weakening the SecGen’s resolve.

AAAAUUUUGHHHH.

Just typing that makes me want to kick him even more! Don’t listen to him, Pastor Anna! Just kick! And then run back to your beautiful wife and child.

Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space

  • Amos: “Dying’s the only way out of Baltimore.”
    Prax: “So how’d you get out?”
    Amos: “I died.”
  • Jules-Pierre Mao’s dad-ness coming out for Mei was so terrifying and sad. Julie Mao is in every single second of their scenes, and you can see both how much her father loved her, and how much he was willing to destroy her for power.
  • I was waiting for a flare-up between Chrisjen and Amos, but of course it’s Naomi she butts heads with. I love how the show keeps underlining just how devoted to their homes most of these characters are—regrounding us in the provincialism common to most humans, even in the face of planetary alliances and space exploration.
  • OK, also, the Frankenstein/Frankenstein’s monster conversation. Everything Amos did this week was gold, is what I’m saying.
  • I love everything about that confrontation between Chrisjen and Holden. The way Chrisjen pulls the “I visited your mom” card, the way Holden explicitly says he doesn’t want to be anyone’s savior, the way he tries to be tough and she just smirks at him. The whole scene is such a deft way to bring Holden’s issues to the front. He was raised to be a savior, by well-meaning hippy poly parents who set him loose in a world that was too complicated for their ideals. And he does want to be a good man, but there is so much immature anger still flaring up in his eyes that I don’t know if he’ll ever get there. Learn from Chrisjen, Holden. Learn to smirk in people faces, but then go and visit their parents and learn their histories before you make any judgments, because Chrisjen was the only Earther who didn’t buy the idea that you were a terrorist. She’s the only one who would have made that trip to your family farm. And surround yourself with people like Cotyar who can be smooth as hell in interrogations, but still murder people for you
  • To be meta for a second again, I was also pleased the show hung a lampshade on Holden as the Idealistic Earther Savior. They’re doing a good job showing how naïve he can be, but also that he really does mean well
  • This episode needed more Prax! But I guess with roughly eighteen billion characters to move around, we can’t get everything.

Book Nerd Notes with Molly Templeton

I watched this episode alone, which was good, as I had a lot of things to say to the screen about where this story is and where it’s going. And also about truce lasagna! Of course it’s Alex who extends a white flag to Naomi: Poor Alex just lost his actual family all over again, and he can’t let his chosen family fall any further apart.

But that’s neither here nor there, bookishly; what is, is Anna. I wasn’t sure why they were bringing her in so much earlier (though I also wasn’t complaining). But the role she plays here is vital. She’s the counterweight to Errinwright’s slimy machinations and the SecGen’s ego-driven poor choices. How did this man climb to such political heights when all it takes to nudge him into destruction is one appeal to his legacy? Anna balances this: She believes in something other and better than male egos, and she believes there are right choices, right answers … and that her old friend (friend? colleague? professor?) is making the wrong ones.

I have faith in book-Anna, and I trust they won’t render her on the show as simply The One Good Person. But the scenes on Earth would be a lot flatter without her in them; she’s there to be horrified for us. And to let us appreciate Elizabeth Mitchell, of course.

The way the show is compacting some of Caliban’s War‘s plot worked particularly well this episode—cutting out extra stops and plots on the way to Io and getting straight to the point, while also making time to allow Jules-Pierre Mao, of all people, to suddenly become human. (Every time he mentions his daughters, plural, is such a tease.) The conflicts are all there, but compacted and streamlined, and I don’t know about anybody else, but the Agatha King looked nothing like I expected—and yet every scene on that ship was perfect. (Nice cross-Syfy casting there, too, with Killjoys’s Morgan Kelly on board.) We’re all very worried about Cotyar and Souther, right? Right.

As always, if you want to discuss book details that have not yet been covered in the show, please white out your comment text so as not to inadvertently spoil everyone else!

Leah Schnelbach wants Amos: After Dark in her life right now. Come talk to her on Twitter!
Molly Templeton just needs to understand the history between Anna and the SecGen. She’s on Twitter and waiting for your theories.

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