I’m Your Venus, I’m Your Fire—The Expanse: “Immolation”

and

The Expanse may have been cancelled, but we still have seven episodes left! And I for one am still hoping that if enough of the audience watches the show live (gasp!) and tweets along, either Syfy itself or a Streaming God will hear our pleas. This week’s episode, “Immolation,” gave us some amazing action, a few resolutions, and—dare I say it?—at least one happy ending.

At least, it’s happy for now.

 

Meanwhile, on Io

Gosh there’s a lot here.

Realizing the jig is up, Jules-Pierre Mao thinks they should pull the plug and surrender, but Strickland decides to take the kids and bolt.

The Pinus Away Team watch helplessly as the hybrid pods launch—but not for long! They charge into the lab, with Holden growling that they’ll find abort codes inside. The take a freight elevator down with no idea what they’ll face when the doors open. So they make weird, nervous conversation about nothing. Holden tells them all that he used to grow watermelons in a box, and they came out square. “Still tasted the same.” Naomi is confused, but Chrisjen diagnoses it correctly: “They’re whistling in the dark.” Bobbie uses her awesome mecha to scan for heat signatures, and is able to warn everyone when the crew has to fight through a group of armed lab technicians. In a horrifying moment, it’s Prax who brushes away the concern that these are scientists, not soldiers. The search for his daughter has seriously cauterized a lot of his old emotions. Bobbie finds heat sigs that suggest children, and then…she locates a hybrid.

Oh, Katoa. We hardly knew ye, but we can assume you deserved better than this.

Bobbie cuts through everyone’s brief moment of panic, reverting to full military as she orders them to get the kids, and bolts away to draw off the monster. It’s thrilling: Bobbie in her suit, leaping and flying, while the blue monster trails her every move. She seems to realize that she doesn’t have enough ammo to kill the hybrid, so she tries to make each move more complicated to slow it down and keep its interest. As worried as I was for her, I was also really pleased that the show was giving her some great hero moments.

Back on the Pinus, Chrisjen tells Alex and Naomi that the hybrids are almost certainly going to Mars as another salvo in this trumped-up war.

The rest of the team find the kids’ old room, and Mei’s file. Holden catches the scientists hustling down a corridor, and anticipates their plan to evacuate with the kids. He also catches a glimpse of Jules-Pierre Mao and makes a snap decision: Amos and Prax will go after the kids, and he’ll take down the guy who caused all these problems in the first place. And for once a plan works? But it takes some heartwrenching moments to get there. Holden realizes that he can’t control the hybrid pods, so Alex leaps into action, taking the Racerback over to the Agatha King to find launch codes. Naomi goes with him, and they soon find not just a crap-ton of protomolecule, but also a wonderuflly deranged Admiral Nguyen, who hurls racial slurs at them while they try to hack into the ship.

Back on Io, Strickland shoves the kids into an airlock (OMG show if you space those children WE HAVE TALKED ABOUT THIS), murders his assistant, and pretends to surrender to Prax, blaming the assistant’s corpse for the whole thing.

Gee, do you think it’ll work?

He tries to talk Prax down, opens the airlock (GIANT SIGH OF RELIEF FROM YOUR HUMBLE REVIEWER) and in an extra cruel twist Mei is hiding behind another child, so it looks like she somehow died or I don’t know got Raptured or something and we were going to find out Jules-Pierre Mao had her what the HELL, but then there she was, running out and hugging Prax. (I paused so I could sigh in relief.) Amos rounds the kids up, and Prax spends a long, long moment in the airlock with Strickland, almost pulling the trigger of his gun. And then there’s Amos, whispering, “You’re not that guy,” and pulling him back to sanity. And then he turns around and announces, “I am that guy,” and Strickland’s brains splatter all over the airlock window. I try not to be a vengeance-oriented person, but holy crap was that fun to watch.

Holden grabs Jules-Pierre Mao, who makes the usual protestations of “We were trying to figure out how to stop it!” etc., etc. This is intercut with Bobbie’s standoff with the hybrid—they grapple, fall many many feet to the surface of Io, and since her suit’s out of juice she’s trapped in its dead weight when the hybrid climbs on her chest.

But this is Bobbie, and when something distracts the hybrid she’s able to blow part of its head off.

Oh man.

 

Meanwhile, on the UNN Agatha King

Admiral Nguyen’s batshit crazy response to mutiny has potentially doomed life as we know it, yayyyy! The protomolecule is having a fabulous blue shindig, but all the human crew seem to be pretty, um, dead. Cotyar wakes up floating in low gravity, still chained to his bed, blood droplets swirling around him. At first I thought Nguyen had him tortured, but I think he just hit his head when the hybrid pod hit the ship? He doesn’t have much time to orient himself before a young crewmember named Larsa comes in, wrestling a much larger man crawling with protomolecule. Cotyar can’t do much, given that he’s chained and all, but he does manage to wrap his legs around the larger guy and choke him enough to help. But then he has to explain the protomolecule to Larsa, who of course is infected.

In a rage she shoots his cuff off so he can try to escape.

We don’t see her again.

I thought this was a good and effective scene—we’re getting the perspective of a soldier who’s just trying to do her job, who suddenly ends up in the middle of a mutiny and then an alien invasion, all without have nay idea what the larger picture is. She’s fighting a deranged fellow crewmember, she thinks she’s OK, she learns she’s already dying—all in the space of a few minutes. I love that they checked in with someone who isn’t a main POV character for a few minutes, to give all of us a sense of perspective.

This scene also allowed for the brief hope that Cotyar, spy and assassin and all-around awesome character, would somehow fix this mess. Alas. The next time we see him, Alex and Naomi are on the Agatha King, trying to abort the hybrid pods, and learn that Cotyar, who is crawling with protomolecule, is setting the ship to self-destruct in a misguided effort to save everyone. He has no idea the protomolecule is on other ships. So once again, someone trying to do the best thing is making the situation worse, because in blowing the ship up, he kills Naomi’s plan to reprogram all the pods. I love that his hero moment is both moving and also kind of hopeless? Also that, even though he doesn’t know it, he’s delivering his last message straight to Avasarala via the ship’s comms. He can’t think of anything pithy to say.

I’m really going to miss him.

 

Meanwhile, on Fred Johnson’s Communicator

These two plots converge when Naomi suggests a new plan after the Agatha King gets blowed up. They could, and she’s just spitballing here…ask Fred Johnson to use his missile cache to blow the hybrid pods out of the sky? Since the pods are going right past Tycho anyway… This time she puts it to a vote, and her crewmates agree it’s the best plan they’ve got. This leads to a thoughtfully scrunched face from Fred Johnson, and it leads to Naomi and Holden having make-up sex.

 

Meanwhile, on Earth

Earth only gets a few minutes of screen time this week, but man, are they good ones. First we get to watch the SecGen squirm and flip out as he realizes there’s a mutiny in space, and that one UNN ship is firing on another. Then we get to watch even more squirming once they find out the protomolecule has been launched. One thing I’ve consistently loved on this show is how they deal with the time differences, so seeing Earth find out about something we’ve known since last week is a great way to underline the time delays, and the ways news would travel.

Speaking of: Pastor Anna. I love her. We’ve discussed this. BUT. Was I the only one screaming “PLEASE TELL ME YOU HAVE A BACKUP PLAN!” when she just showed the SecGen the video proof of Errinwright’s treason? Like, that easily could have gone another way. The SecGen could have decided she’d doctored the video, or simply decided it was easier to keep the weasel than the do-gooder Pastor. That was honestly the most tense moment of the show for me. But then they did something wonderful with it.

Errinwright sees the video, seems annoyed more than anything. He asks how the SecGen got it, and Anna, tucked away in a corner, says, “Let’s call it an Act of God.” Which I loved, because it gives her a moment to gloat. Errinwright is a monster, so it’s especially nice to see a genuinely kind and caring person take him down. (At least for now.) But I loved that the show immediately shifted into showing that Errinwright has a point. He raged against the SecGen, calling him out for his incessant flip-flopping, finally sputtering, “If he talked to a janitor he’d be passionate about mops!” Anna really wants to believe that the SecGen has a soul under there, but of course the second the weasel has been taken away to weasel-jail, the SecGen turns to his old comrade and says the most chilling line of the episode: “My legacy was going to be a catastrophic war with millions dead…that’s all on Errinwright now. Thank you.”

Anna’s face twists as she realizes that on this point, at least, Errinwright saw the truth that she missed. The SecGen is truly as weak and slimy as Errinwright thought.

Oh, Anna. I love your hope, but it sucks to see it crushed.

 

Meanwhile, on Venus

Venus and the Protomolecule on The Expanse

Hey! do you remember last week, when Katoa could still speak, and he kept bellowing about a project? Well, I think we’ve gotten our first look at it!

I hate to say it, but the human species is also katoast.

 

Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space

  • What distracted the hybrid?
  • Is that important?
  • What the heck would distract a creature like that?
  • I wish Amos hadn’t said “I am that guy.” It would have been so much harsher if he’d just waited for Prax and the kids to be clear, and then shot Strickland without a word.
  • Seeing Jules-Pierre Mao kneel to Avasarala was even better than I hoped!
  • Better than that, though? PRAX AND MEI HUG OMG. I was so relieved I kept waiting for the whole thing to be a dream! But fortunately we’re in SPAAAACE, not Westeros, so joy and hope are allowed to win every once in a while.
  • I tend not to be a person who ’ships too many pairings, but I suddenly realize that I’d watch a billion seasons of a My Two Dads reboot with Amos and Prax raising Mei together and making doe eyes at each other.
  • In space, obviously.
  • STILL not into Naomi and Holden (Nolden? Ho-aomi?) but I do find it interesting that they agree she’s leaving again soon. I’m glad the show gave them a chance to reconcile so at least they part ways still loving each other.
  • I really hope some wonderful distributor sees what a quality work of SF this is, and keeps it alive for us.
  • Unlike the human species, which is DOOOOOOMED.

 

Book Notes for Book Nerds

Cotyar on The Expanse
WELL. I was part right and part wrong last week: the Agatha King did wind up being Cotyar’s last stand. RIP, Cotyar, you were unexpectedly the best.

But wow, did they change that part from the book. I suspect some of it might’ve been budget constraints: people fighting their way through a ship full of blue zombies would’ve been a LOT on top of everything else going on. Narratively, though, it made sense on several fronts: Trimming that section made room for Errinwright’s downfall (and the SecGen’s continued shittiness—oh, Anna, you tried!). And it was perfect to give the trip to the blued-up Agatha King to Alex (and Naomi), who is very, very concerned about the pods landing on Mars and—though he never says it—turning his adorable son into a protozombie. (Also, we didn’t really need another grand heroic gesture from Holden.)

Cutting that whole bit short meant my enthusiasm for Larson was entirely misplaced—she was barely a factor—and also that we didn’t get Holden shooting Nguyen (whose motivations, beyond that one space battle his underling mentioned last episode, we will never know). But I’ll happily trade that for all the little character moments that were jammed into this action-packed episode: Avasarala needing someone to make the computer work for her; Amos clearly transferring his Naomi-worship to Prax; Bobbie’s need to take out a hybrid herself (though I kind of missed the grodiness of it trying to probe her suit).

One question, though, fellow book nerds: Doesn’t Fred Johnson make the choice to nuke the pods his own dang self, in the book, as a demonstration of the Belt’s power? Naomi thinks of this in the show for the same reason, but it’s intriguing that they gave that idea to her. It’s to demonstrate that she can choose for the Belt and work with her crew at the same time, but giving her that tactical decision is very, very interesting in terms of what it might mean for her character.

Still no [redacted]. I can wait one more week. Barely.

Leah Schnelbach wants more of The Expanse! Tweet and petition and fix this, dammit! What would Cotyar do?

Molly Templeton is on vacation for the next two Wednesdays so may be FREAKING OUT all by herself, without sharing said freakouts with the internet. We’ll see.

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