Interstellar Ring Cycle — The Expanse: “Delta V”

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Delta V,” shook up its usual storytelling style to jolt us into a new plotline. I think it worked well, although it did take me a few minutes to catch up—I’m guessing those of you who have read the books were on firmer footing.

But we got some fantastic shake up, a gruesome special effects setpiece, and a couple of my favorite Amos scenes so far.

So what did everyone think? The Ring is freaking terrifying. I’m so excited.

I should also note, The Expanse still isn’t quite saved yet, so keep up your enthusiasm on various platforms, and hopefully I’ll be able to report good news soon!

We begin with a prologue that I honestly thought might be a dream for a few minutes. It’s been a little more than six months since Pastor Anna exposed treason and Holden captured Jules-Pierre Mao. Errinwright and the SecGen are both out of the way, and Avasarala, reinstated in her office with her usual amazing clothes and gloriously chunky earrings, is welcoming everyone into a peaceful, unified future…of potentially fighting a terrifying alien threat.

But seriously I’ll take the protomolecule over Errinwright.

And speaking of the protomolecule: It burst up out of the surface of Venus, reached out into space, coiled around, and formed a ring just beyond Uranus. It’s just, um, sitting there. It’s not moving, it’s not in orbit, it’s just hanging out, being ominous.

Yay.

We mostly moved between four plots this week, with a brief dip into a fifth. I think three three of them worked quite well, but the other two were a bit shaky.

 

Meanwhile, in Space

First, and most successful for me, was a weird, hyperemotional interlude watching a young Belter, Maneo Jung-Espinoza, attempt to run the ring of Saturn. If you recall from Season One, a popular extreme sport is taking a racerback around Saturn at great speed, and then, if you live, coming home to much acclaim. The green-haired gentleman we’re introduced to is attempting just such a run in order to impress his girlfriend, and he makes it! And once he wakes up (he’s passed out and bleeding from the pressure of the run) he flips on his comms, expecting to see himself celebrated. Instead, it’s all news of The Ring.

The Other One.

And there’s a heroic shot of James Holden who is apparently en route to explore it. There’s also a message from his girl in which she explains that she’s leaving him.

He looks at the shot of Holden, he looks at The Ring. He changes course and sends a new message.

OH, this isn’t going to end well.

 

Meanwhile, on the Roci, which I guess I’ll just be calling the Roci again, dammit

Speaking of things that can’t possibly end well: a two-person documentary crew is tagging along with the Roci! Apparently the crew are in a bit of an argument with, um, Mars, concerning who the Roci actually belongs to. The documentary producers are willing to put up the legal fees so that Holden, Alex, and Amos can keep their makeshift home, which means these cool little flying cameras are zipping around everyone, shooting footage, and being controlled by a cameraman who seems to be controlling them in much the same way you’d play a theremin. I am a fan of Future Camera.

Whither Naomi, you ask? She’ll be in the next thread.

The documentary goes exactly as well as you might expect. Holden tries to be humble and drops his eyes to the floor, looks up at the camera through those lashes—and the director calls him on it, repeatedly. Sometimes it seems like she’s just pushing him to get a dramatic response, and others it seems that she genuinely thinks he’s bullshitting her. She keeps coming back to Naomi, delightedly poking all of his wounds. Finally, in their last encounter she up the ante, saying, “I think you’re liars. You say you’re not special, but it’s obvious that you are. And I think you like that you are.” Holden replies that she’s just trying to get a rise out of him, and leaves to take a shower.

Alex, of course, wants nothing more than to perform, throw a bunch of aw shucks folksiness at the camera, and be loved without actually having to do any work. They cut away from him repeatedly because he’s trying too hard, and only spend real time asking invasive questions about his family back on Mars. Worse yet, they secretly film him having a video chat with Bobbie (reinstated into the Martian Marines and glowing with happiness) where he allows himself to be much more vulnerable, thinking he’s talking privately with a friend. They also seem to be looking for a romantic connection between Alex and Bobbie—can’t wait until the fallout from that.

Best/worst of all: Amos! First they pry into his past, asking questions about where he’s from and how he ended up in space. He says he came up through the lottery, that allowed him to jump straight into a mechanic’s gig on a ship rather than working under a sponsor. Then they mention another “Amos Burton” who was a mob boss in Baltimore. At which point Amos calmly breaks the shit out of their camera. Rather than accepting that as the end of the interview, the director backs him into a corner to say “I bet you’re one of those tough guys who get chatty and sentimental after sex.” He nuzzles her neck, and replies, “I don’t shit where I eat.”

Ha!

But this isn’t even the best Amos scene. A few beats later, the cameraman comes down into the galley to try his luck. He promises there’s no camera, and Amos allows him to come in. He’s tending to the plants, which the cameraman seems to identify by smell. Amos calls them “Prax panels” and mentions Prax, calling him “good company” and “my best friend in the whole world.”

My heart.

The cameraman immediately clocks this, and asks where Prax is (Ganymede, rebuilding) and why Amos isn’t there with him (he’s not so good with rebuilding) and obviously this is leading into the moment the cameraman comes on to Amos. He repeats his line, but with more hesitation, and the cameraman points out that Amos lives on a spaceship. Thus, not shitting where you eat becomes much more difficult. Amos still turns him down, but he’s clearly mulling.

This scene is fascinating to me. Amos matches the cameraman’s calmer demeanor, never getting as snotty and aggressive as he did with the director. He also directly recites the line Prax said to his daughter, sounding almost robotic as he says it: “He’s my best friend in the whole world.” Does Amos believe this? Is he sounding it out to see how it feels? Does he think this is a thing humans say about each other, and he desperately wants to pass as a ‘regular’ human?

As the doc crew leave, they discuss their footage and agree they’ve gotten enough. I’m wondering if Amos was being recorded…

 

Meanwhile: Naomi (And Drummer)

Naomi is now Drummer’s #1! The two of them are heading up the salvage of the Nauvoo. This was, I have to say, my least favorite plotline. I love Drummer, and I love that Naomi’s allowing her full Belter accent to come out, and I love seeing her just be her badass self instead of having to watch her and Holden make moon eyes at each other. (I also love love love her purple hair.) The drama here is that one of Dawes’ henchmen, Klaes Ashford, comes aboard to help the project. Fred Johnson and Dawes have teamed up to rebrand The Belt as an equal partner in the System, and Dawes still has one of the scientists who worked on the protomolecule last season.

I really wanted to love this arc, but it felt too much like the show was revisiting a lot of the same Belter tensions we’ve already seen. I also have such an instantaneous hatred of Dawes that I bristled every time his assistant did anything, so I might be judging a bit harshly. The surface plot was that people were dealing “pixie dust” among the crew, which leads to someone blacking out and nearly crashing a capsule into the hull of the Nauvoo. Naomi confesses to Drummer that she knows who dealing the contraband, and Drummer takes the guy and is planning to space him in front of the crew—typical Belter justice. Naomi tries to stop her, and then Klaes tells her that since the Inners think the Belters are “animals” the Belters have to “act with greatness.” She amends her decision, and leaves the airlock’s inner door open telling her crew that they have one day to place all contraband there, with no repercussions. After that day, though—and then Klaes jumps back in, saying anyone disobeying the captain will be put in the brig. On the one hand, he’s right. On the other, he’s just undermined her in front of her crew, for all his half-assed attempt to act like he was simply repeating her order.

So is he actually trying to help her, or is there other nefarious stuff going on?

I’m going to go ahead and assume the latter.

 

Meanwhile, in a Gunpowder Plot

A civilian crew of three are doing maintenance on the UNN Seung Un. Ren and Stan, the two older men, are used to working in the far reaches of space, joking around. The new girl, Melba, seems exhausted and freaked out, so they try to be nice to her. This backfires when it turns out she’s planting a bomb on the ship. When Ren discovers the bomb, Melba bites down on some sort of capsule hidden in her mouth, becomes super strong, and attacks him. Was it some sort of protomolecule-based energy tablet?

Meanwhile, on the UN Ship Hammurabi

The fifth mini-thread involves Pastor Anna… and I hate having to say this about my beloved, but this was my least favorite of the threads. It wasn’t her fault! There was a lot of exposition to get through! The show has to catch everyone up, and obviously that sort of background info is easier to manage in a novel. Here, unfortunately, we needed Anna to ask mind-numbingly dumb questions about The Ring, with a scientist finally telling her “pray that it’s inert,” and then we had to see a somewhat histrionic video call from her wife, who misses her after six months. (I mean, I missed her after a week, so I can only imagine, but this call still felt stilted to me.) But hopefully now that we’re caught up we can kick back into high gear next week.

Which, well, the wraparound plot thread certainly hints at that. Remember our hapless green-haired Belter? We check back in with him, now with quite a bit of beard growth, as he zooms up toward The Ring. The Hammurabi tries to warn him off, but he ignores them and blasts forward, messaging his girlfriend as he flies.

And this leads into one of the most visually striking moments in the show so far: as the ship hits The Ring his head flies off (and possibly explodes?) and it looks as though all of his blood tries to leave his body at once, resulting in giant blood stalagmites leaping through his skin. If you like horrific imagery, it’s gorgeous. If you’re here for technologically-based SF and sociopolitical intrigue, you may feel a bit queasy. (I’m a Fannibal, so you can imagine my joyous reaction.)

But now at least we know what happens when you try to fly through The Ring?

 

Meanwhile, in the Tortured Mind of James Holden, Hero

Wait did you think we were done? ‘Cause I did. But then we cut back to Holden, coming out of the shower, and finding freaking Miller sitting on his bed mumbling to himself!!!

Is he a ghost? A vision? A Hallucination? An extension of the protomolecule?

AAAAAAHHHHHHHH!

 

Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space

  • MILLER!!!
  • AAAAHHHHHHHHHH!
  • Who is Melba, and what does she want? Other than to blow stuff up, I mean.
  • I will never not love it when people call Holden on his shit.
  • I’m amused that reality TV is just as annoying in the future as it is now.
  • Animals, hmmm? Interesting choice of words there, Expanse.

  • Amos tending Prax’s plants almost made me cry.
  • If you’ve been reading these recaps you know how much I hate when people are spaced—but I really want Drummer to space Klaes.
  • How awesome is that zippy little flying camera?
  • MILLER!!!!!!!!!!!!

Book Notes for Book Nerds!

Will return next week, as Molly Templeton is on a much-deserved vacation.

Leah Schnelbach kind of want to poke The Ring, just to see what it does.

 

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