Bursting Space Bubbles: The Expanse, “Intransigence”


So THAT’S Melba’s deal. Well I should have guessed that! I feel so silly now.

This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Intransigence,” continued the dangerous trajectory the Roci started last week. It tied some loose threads together, gave me one of my favorite scenes yet, and set up what I’m guessing will be an absolutely terrifying hour of television next week.

Join me in spoiler territory!

Meanwhile, on the UNN Thomas Prince

Anna! Anna hasn’t come all the way to the ring only to wimp out and go home. she lurks around the Thomas Prince trying to come up with a way to stay, and then latches onto The Expanse’s version of Margaery Tyrell, Miss Fagin. Miss Fagin, who describes herself as an aging socialite, has blackmailed the captain into letting her stay. (Hey, she has to find some way to stay relevant and fascinating at dinner parties.) Anna makes a play to stay with her, and Fagin initially responds by asking her if she’s married. Anna allows herself to be teased, and then goes FULL EARNEST again, saying that it’s the only miracle that’s happened in her lifetime, and she thinks turning her back on it would be wrong. Fagin translates her spirituality into the idea that Anna is being selfish (which is fine) because she wants to be part of something amazing.

Either way, the important thing is, Anna’s staying!

She also finagles a spot for the blowhard priest, obviously thinking he’ll be thrilled. But he collapses, citing the need to go home to his son—which must be especially piercing to Anna—and finally saying, “The only thing I see within that Ring is more darkness and blood at the foot of a false idol. I was wrong before—God is not with us out here.”

Which. OK. First of all, I love that the show is casual about his family! If he’s Catholic (and generally black smock + white collar = Catholic on American TV) they’ve handily shown us that priests can marry and have kids in the future. So, cool. BUT. His statement also gives us a hint of theology? Even a crappy priest is supposed to believe God is literally everywhere (except Hell, maybe, and even that’s debatable) so is his line implying that God isn’t present at The Ring? Or that The Ring isn’t part of Creation? Or that The Ring is so unholy that God won’t help anyone who makes contact with it, no matter their intentions? Or that whatever’s in The Ring is more powerful than God? All of the interpretation, all of these implications are fascinating. This is a great line in the sand for the show to draw.

Of course then comes the reckoning, as Anna sends a message to her wife, assuring her that she’ll be coming back from The Ring.


Meanwhile… MELBA

Melba is Julie Mao’s sister.

I feel like such a moron for not figuring it out.

So she’s dedicated at least the last few months of her life to avenging her dad’s reputation. Her story is woven throughout the episode in flashback format, and we see that she thought Julie was a spoiled brat. She felt like she was in competition with Julie for his attention…and spoiler alert, she actually was. The show does a great job of showing us that this wasn’t just paranoia on Melba’s part, but more interesting I thought is that Julie is seemingly trying to get Melba to accept their Dad’s jerk behavior, and stop looking for his approval—but you could just as easily read it as Julie also being a jerk to her sister. Melba sends Jules-Pierre Mao a message via Ren’s phone, and makes it damn clear that she’s become a terrorist to clear his name, saying that he knew how dangerous the protomolecule was, but the various governments went ahead with experiments anyway. So is she simply unaware of how much worse Jules-Pierre Mao’s work made things? Or is she retconning his narrative?

Gosh I love François Chau.

Gosh i can’t wait for more episodes of The Tick.


Meanwhile, on the Behemoth

Naomi has no idea whether the Roci is OK, whether Holden’s alive, nothing. Drummer says that if they’re dead she’s sorry, but she also needs Naomi to work now, and hate her later. Then Ashford lectures her that her attachment to the Roci is nothing but nostalgia for an old life. Can everyone please stop ‘splaining Naomi’s emotions to her, please? But after mulling for most of the episode, she comes to a decision. Ashford and Drummer agree that the Behemoth should go into The Ring, too, rather than hanging back the way the Inners want them to. This leads to Drummer finally getting her big Captain moment, revving up the Belters, leading them in a chant, and telling them that their fear isn’t fear at all, but sharpness. That Belters are the only ones truly at home in space. That they will face whatever’s inside The Ring because Belters are always the toughest. It’s pretty great, actually, and Ashford leads the crowd in clapping and foot-stomping to back her up. But while Drummer’s, um, drumming, Naomi doesn’t chant, or bark, or stomp. You can see it in her eyes as she breaks away from her people and her old life. Drummer finds her trying to take a pod, not to escape, but to go back to the Roci. And Drummer lets her go, but she’s obviously heartbroken that Naomi is leaving her, and that she didn’t trust her enough to come and say goodbye.

Of course, once Naomi’s out in the dark, she has to reckon with the fact that the Roci’s comms are out, and there’s no way to tell them she’s coming home…


Meanwhile, in the SPACE BUBBLE

The missiles have slowed and changed trajectory. But they still have no communications because of Cohen’s sabotage, which he insists he didn’t know what it would do. So presumably this was Melba? They watch as a probe blinks out of existence when it touches the edge of the bubble—so they can’t touch the edge. But if they turn around, the MCRN will capture them. So now what? Amos takes the direct approach, holding a knife to Monica’s throat and telling Cohen to ‘fess up. Holden tries to summon Miller like he’s a Spiritualist summering in Lily Dale. (I love how Alex and Amos just kind of accept Miller’s return…) Alex, well, wrinkles his eyebrows and tries to be funny and panicked at once.

Gosh I love Cas Anvar.

Finally Amos spaces the documentary crew, talking them through suiting up and asking them to go to the MCRN ship and explain things. This was Cohen’s fault, after all. But as Alex points out they might not be too enthusiastic about helping the Roci crew, post-spacing. Plus, I’m assuming the deal to help with the legal fees is off now? Holden suggests they surrender: “It’s either that or we die,” he says, while Alex murmurs, “I didn’t think it’d end like this” and Amos looks like he wants to murder EVERYONE. But what other choice do they have?

But then: Miller reappears! And he seems much more solid and present than usual, because “Signal’s pretty good inside the Ring.” And Holden tries to get him to explain his situation, but then glazes over as Miller replies by talking about manifolds and spacetime. (I love how the show injects weird humor at the most inappropriate moments.) Having made his point, Miller goes back to talking about crime scenes, and the next thing you know, Holden’s suited up on the roof of the Roci, looking into the black shape at the heart of the ring.


Tell me you at least left a note.


Random Thoughts floating in the Void of Space

  • Presumably Holden’s note reads: “Off messiah complexing. I’m the only one who can save us, but I’m no hero. I NEVER ASKED FOR THIS! xo, H.”
  • Poor Melba. She’s actually wracked with guilt and sorrow over Ren. Does empathy just skip a generation in the Mao family? Cause it seems like Julie and Melba got all of it.
  • I love love loved seeing young, epatè le Dad Julie Mao.
  • Can we get a whole episode of Miss Fagin and her fabulous space-socialite life? I love anyone who treats going through The Ring like a trip out to East Egg to party with Gatsby.
  • Molly mentioned to me that she wanted more of  moment between Naomi and Drummer and I agree wholeheartedly. I really love their relationship, and I’m glad these last few episodes let us see Naomi doing her job as a separate entity, apart from her Roci fam.
  • Come on Come on it needs to be next week already so we can go into The Ring! I wanna see what’s in the nucleus! I bet it’s gonna be great.
  • GREAT. Not terrifying at all.


Book Notes for Book Nerds

Side note: The most important thing Leah and I learned in the last week—I feel moderately comfortable speaking for Leah here—is of the existence of Twitter’s most perfect hashtag: #murdersnuggles. This, in case it’s unclear, refers to Amos.

Amos is the best.

Anyway, book stuff! Now all The Expanse’s viewers can join us book nerds in understanding the motivations of “Melba Koh,” more accurately known as the other Mao sister. Building that flashback off Tilly’s laugh was delightful, and so was the way that, as Leah notes above, you can’t really tell which sister is being the worst. Is Julie just being a brat, like Miller was originally led to believe, a spoiled little rich girl playing at rebellion? Is her sister just a boring socialite who won’t see the truth of what their father does? Everyone’s complicated, and it works so well. (Though I admit I was a little disappointed in the acting in this scene: Nadine Nicole seems better at Melba’s simmering rage on board the Thomas Prince than she does at convincing sisterly conflict.)

For one second this week I was really worried about Naomi—the second when she’s referred to as the Behemoth’s chief engineer. (Sam! Sniff.) But she’s not, and she never was, really. Watching her be the one to charge off to the rescue just about brought tears to my eyes, though I’m very worried about leaving Drummer with just Ashford for company. Forget you, Ashford! (Wow, that dubbing.)

I wish, I so wish, that she’d gotten to the Roci before Holden went and did something stupid again, but we don’t have time, at the pace the show is moving, for another don’t-go/I-have-to-go argument. Rumor has been that the show will wind up Abaddon’s Gate this season, but I’m starting to get a little skeptical: there are some huge set piece scenes yet to arrive, and stuff that can’t be rushed. Or can it?

At any rate, I am Extremely Nervous about the role Bobbie is about to play in all of this.


Leah Schnelbach wants more of the Fagin and Anna show, and maybe a little less of James Holden: Space Savior. Come talk to her on the other side of The Ring of Twitter!

Molly Templeton is now delightedly waiting for her favorite people on the Thomas Prince and the Roci to meet. And desperately trying to find time to read Nemesis Games.


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