This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Reload,” was another connective tissue episode. There were a few spikes of pure action, but for the most part this episode was about the ever-cascading consequences of “IFF.”
Plus, spoiler alert: Errinwright still hasn’t been kicked in the shins. What the heck, show? Hurry up and kick that jerk already.
Meanwhile, in Space
Let’s begin with the Pinus. They come across the remains of a Martian fleet, and stop to scavenge enough fuel to make it to Io. Alex and Bobbie are very unhappy about this—but just wait, the situation’s going to get much worse. Meanwhile Avasarala is still trying to get holden to let her open a channel so she can shiv that weasel Errinwright. Avasarala thinks she can talk him into it, but Bobbie has her doubts.
Of course they find survivors on the Martian ship. And of course they take the survivors in and put them in the med bay. And of course when their new passengers wake up they think the Pinus crew are all just more Martians, and only gradually understand that this is a ragtag crew of misfits, and that they’re, um, skeletonizing Martian corpses like a party full of hungry piranha. So the poor dopes beat Alex up and attempt a coup with the grand plan of giving the Pinus back to Mars.
Between Holden and Bobbie their plan is thwarted, but not before he also gets the crap kicked out of him and Naomi’s taken hostage, and they all lock into a classic stand off. The best thing about this scene is how resolutely Naomi and Holden try to use nonviolent tactics to solve the situation. Holden even says that the Martians have “between now and whenever my mechanic gets here” to stand down—he knows Amos will simply walk in and kill them all, no questions asked, no mercy given. But he really wants everyone to live. Even Bobbie has obviously been learning from Avasarala—she uses the big hole in her face to talk the most aggressive Martian down, gently explaining that she’s not an enemy, and that she loves Mars. It works. The Martians, grieving and terrified, give up on their coup, and then Amos walks in, saying “Aww, did I miss it?”
It’s another example of the show taking a step back from grimdark—SF and fantasy are so saturated in violence now that I’ve become used to the beats of the big fight, and I was just waiting for each shoe to drop until Amos showed up like an inevitable force. But the show refused that outcome. It reminded us that these are human beings trying to hold a moral line in a time of war. It showed us that the Martians, utter strangers to our crew, are just scared young soldiers who want to do the right thing. I was so grateful that they took this path, and for once allowed reason and gentleness to work, even if it’s only for a few hours in the lives of their characters.
The other threads came together with Holden allowing Avasarala to send the message specifically to … Pastor Anna! Avasarala knows her as a genuinely decent person, and doesn’t know that she now has a personal reason to go after Errinwright. The Pinus crew also creates an unlikely backup plan by asking one of the Martians to deliver a copy of the message to Admiral Souther, the guy from last week who is maybe kinda trying to be an ally to Cotyar. So if he gets the message, he’ll have solid proof that Errinwright is a weasel, but he’s also reporting directly to a guy in the weasel’s pocket, so who knows how much that’s going to help him.
I’ve been dancing around him, but it’s time to talk about The Expanse’s Most Punchable Character! Pastor Anna writes a speech about unity, and he turns it into an anti-Martian screed. She remains resolutely seated while the others give the speech a standing ovation. Errinwright thanks her for her help. So she does what Pastor Anna does: tells the SecGen to his face that he’ll never become the good man she thought he could be, trapped under all his bullshit, and she’s out. Errinwright tries to butt in but she stops him with “You don’t talk to me—not ever again” and he subsides. And then she has a heartfelt conversation about love and humility with her wife (“You think God has caused a system wide war to humble you?”) and then she says she’s coming home and they’re both trying not to curse cause their daughter’s sleeping and they keep saying how much they love each other oh man. And then? She gets Chrisjen’s message.
Ohhhh Pastor Anna, you have so many decisions to make.
Wait! More Space!
But wait! Back on Io, Katoa isn’t katoast after all! He’s communicating with the protomolecule, so sometimes he sounds like himself and sometimes he sounds like Johnny 5. And speaking of Johnny 5 … it turns out he sort of disassembled his nurse. Ick.
Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space
- Avasarala refers to donning a Martian suit as “wearing the skin of my enemy.” Shit.
- The ship they scavenge is named the Kittur Chennamma. Kittur Chennamma was the Rani of Kittur, a region in India. She led an ultimately unsuccessful revolution against the British East India Company in the early 19th Century. She’s now a folk hero and symbol of independence in India.
- Prax didn’t do much this episode, but he did help Amos during the scavenging run, and shoved a Martian body out of the way like it was a sack of mulch. This earned a respectful look from Amos. Don’t toughen up too much, Prax—my heart can’t take it.
- Holden’s broken nose looked uncomfortably realistic.
- Holden and Naomi shared their first somewhat loving moment since her betrayal! And seriously the longing look between the two of them felt more real than all of their sex scenes.
- Naomi also tried a hamfisted reconciliation with Amos, but he’s not having it.
- How sweet is Bobbie’s bonding moment with Alex? And how adorable is her reaction to Naomi’s red kibble?
- This show is so good with food, and it’s such a great specific detail! Naturally people in the far reaches of space will be concerned with food pretty much constantly. It’s a perfect reminder of just how tenuous the concept of “home” is once you get out into the void.
- “Thank you for being the man your mother believes you are.” Shit.
Molly’s Book Nerd Notes!
Almost nothing in this episode comes from the book, and I love it. At this point in Caliban’s War, there’s a lot of message-sending and fleet-hovering and threats, and The Expanse has the unenviable job of turning all of this maneuvering into a visual story that we can still follow—without seeing the various fleets in full. (Fleets, presumably, are expensive to put on screen.) What results is to my mind a masterclass in adaptation: how to use extensive narrative change to move the story in exactly the right directions.
Rather than just having Avasarala send a message, The Expanse sends people: the Martians the Roci crew found on the destroyed ship. As Leah pointed out, this humanizes the Martians, who Sorrento-Gillis just dehumanized in his nasty speech. The thing about this war is that very few people actually want it to happen. What happens on the Roci demonstrates that so well, between Bobbie talking down the young Martian (more Killjoys actors!), and the crew trying so hard to a) not get killed and b) treat the Martians like people, not like enemies.
All the messages that do get sent, whether via technology or people, tie all the plot threads more closely together, more effectively: Anna’s now connected to the Roci, and the choices she makes now will tighten that connection. The Roci is now connected to the Martian fleet, who may be inclined to be friendlier to the salvaged ship’s crew when they find out how things went down for their three almost-dead young soldiers. And the Martians, if they can get that message past Nguyen, will be connected to the UNN fleet—and presumably, when they watch the message they’ve been asked to pass along, they’ll be aware that this war is built on lies.
It’s all a very clever way of putting us on track for Abaddon’s Gate, and of underscoring the very small part of Sorrento-Gillis’s speech that wasn’t garbage: the part about all of humanity being on the same team.
And then there’s one important thing: The Nauvoo! Wow, had I not thought about the imagery in that ship—how strange it is, how different from the warships, how it was meant for something else. That entire sequence of Drummer leading the salvage had such grand scale that it seems like a different story from everything else going on. Well, maybe because it is. But we’re getting there.
Molly Templeton needs a gif of Anna telling off Errinwright. For reasons.