This week’s episode of The Expanse, “Fallen World,” was all about action and aftermath, with a wonderfully jolting twist toward the end. I thought this was a strong, tense episode, that perfectly sets up next week’s two-episode finale.
We already knew that sudden deceleration does terrible things to you, but this week we get to see that in stark, gory terms. Unlike last week’s suicide subplot, I thought this damage was handled perfectly, with an appropriate amount of horror and grief from the survivors, and while the show explored the grim realities of cleaning up zero G injuries, it didn’t feel like exploitation.
Meanwhile, With The Martian Away Team
In the heart of The Ring, Bobbie figures out what’s happened. She picks a seemingly-dead Holden up, and orders her two remaining crewmates to proceed slowwwwwly back to their ship. They’re both (understandably) ready to kill Holden the rest of the way to avenge their captain, but Bobbie convinces them that they need whatever answers he can give. She shocks him back to life, and most of her arc is spent warning the other two to leave him alone. Along the way they find out that one-third of the Martian crew is dead, and another one-third injured. When Bobbie muses that The Ring was defending itself, her pilot rebukes her, saying “that’s not a defensive measure, that’s a massacre,” which, fair. And then she and Bobbie come to an even worse realization: at the even slower speed they have to maintain now, they won’t get back to the Ring’s entrance for seven months. No one has enough provisions for such a long journey. It’s a great example of how the show uses SPACE ITSELF to ratchet up tension. Just as we’ve gotten used to Space Ghosts and last minute rescues and people being able to get ships to do whatever they need them to, we crash into a big old wall of physics. They can do everything right, they can obey the laws of The Ring, they can investigate the intentions of the proto-molecule, but they still might starve to death before they can get back out.
Meanwhile, On the UN Thomas Prince
OK, this was the bit that was actively hard to watch. Clarissa/Melba made it, but Tilly has a giant spike through her chest. Whether Clarissa put it there, or she got staked during the slowdown, I can’t tell—either way Ms. Mao chooses to leave her fellow former socialite and head off on her own. We cut over to Anna who is exploring the hallways with no idea of what’s just happened. There are bodies and blood droplets floating—she has to push through them to follow the living voices she hears down the hall. It looks like a nightmare. She gets to the med bay and volunteers to help, only to learn that, yes, most of the injuries would normally be treatable, but in zero G people’s blood can’t clot. Anyone with an internal injury is basically doomed. The doctors are trying to make the wounded as comfortable as possible while a space janitor walks through, slowly sucking blood out of the air with a vacuum cleaner. Anna joins the team looking for anyone hurt, and finds Melba nursing a broken arm. While she’s tending to her she gets a call from Tilly.
Sweet! Tilly’s alive!
Anna finds her, and she clearly does not have long. Tilly manages to choke out the truth about Melba, and Anna hold her hand as she dies. She’s crying, but her tears won’t fall in zero G.
Anna races back to the med bay, only to find that Melba has already split. She finds her leaving the ship in a suit, and screams after her that there’s no where for her to run, and that all that’s left for her to do it “beg for mercy.”
I love it when Anna gets hardcore.
Meanwhile, on the Roci
Naomi wakes up in pain, having been crushed into her seat. She seems relatively OK though, compared with everyone else. And then she doe the coolest thing EVER—her control panel catches fire, so she suits up in about a nanosecond and opens her ship’s door to vent the oxygen. Again, excellent use of SPACE! And finally decides to throw caution to the wind and just use her suit to float over to the Roci. It takes her long minutes to find everyone, but there’s Alex, floating in the kitchen, surrounded by pieces of the lasagna he was making. And there’s Amos below, bleeding where one of his wrenches conked him. He opens his eyes long enough to say “You changed your hair,” and then he’s out again. She wrangles them both into the med bay. As they’re healing, and coming into and out of consciousness, Naomi starts trying to get the Roci back online all the way. She notices a disturbance and goes down to check it out, finds a hole in the hull (not good) and then gets jumped by Clarissa (extra not good) whom she obviously has no reason to expect.
Naomi’s missed out on all of this, and has no idea who this is or why she’s being attacked, but she soon learns as Clarissa, in a mecha straight out of Aliens, pins her to the floor and demands to know where Holden is. Naomi’s beaten, but makes a point of saying that even if she knew, she wouldn’t tell.
As usual in these situations I was waiting for someone to come in at the last minute and attack Clarissa—would it be Amos? It’s usually Amos. Or maybe Holden, recovered from his Death-by-Pain-Box?
But no! Someone does zap Clarissa, and she crumples to the floor to reveal: Anna!
Pastor Vengeance suited up, chased Clarissa to the Roci, and apparently packed a space taser.
And of course since this is Anna the second Clarissa’s taken care of her face floods with warmth and concern as she asks Naomi if she’s all right.
Meanwhile, on The Behemoth
And now….the arc that surprised me by being the best one! Drummer and Ashford were just about to scrap when the slowdown hit. Now both of them are tangled in a giant metal harvester—one of the farming machines the Mormons had packed into the ship, in the hope that they would colonize a new, fertile planet. Drummer is wedged in between two parts of it, her leg pinched so tight she can’t move. But that seems to be all that’s holding her blood in, so it’s just as well. Ashford is caught up in the front of the machine, similarly pinched between two parts, but his whole torso is stuck so he only has the use of one arm. If they move the machine enough to free Drummer, Ashford gets smushed, but if they move it to free Ashford, Drummer’s leg is toast, and so is most of her blood supply… so they’re stuck.
You know what this means: it’s time for an Intensive Therapy Session! In the time honored dramatic tradition, the two characters are trapped in a situation where they have to talk. (Hey guys, at least it isn’t a freezer or a storage space in an ’80s sitcom.) But this worked for me, because both actors dove in, and never let me forget that they were in intense pain while they were working through their shit. First they have to cooperate to try to get a handheld comm that’s floating through the air near them, but the machine’s claw is too large and breaks the delicate tech. Then the two swap near-death stories, and Drummer cracks Ashford up by saying her worst experience was at Hyperion—not the moon, but a bar on Ceres where she nearly drank herself to death. Ashford gets a big speech that actually completely worked for me, saying that the Belters have to adopt a shared uniform and become a symbol for a while, so the Inners will accept them. That this is the only way to allow the next generation to build a better future. Drummer, having been chipped away by Naomi’s love for her Roci crew, and seeing, finally, that Ashford wants what’s best for his people, listens to him, and then breaks into a Belter song. They sing together, and I love it! But holy crap are they dooooomed. You know it’s all over when the two former enemies break into song—wait, ugh, no, Drummer’s making a sacrifice play! She ignores Ashford’s arguments, reasoning that her crew needs an experience captain to guide them, and allows the machine to crush her as it frees her old enemy.
But then Ashford springs into action, calls for backup, and it looks like all is not lost! It occurs to him that if the spin the drum, the giant heart of the ship that was meant to keep the Mormons comfortable during their long journey, they can restore enough gravity that the injured crew will be able to heal. Of course, it might also tear the ship apart, but does anyone have a better option? Drummer is strapped to a space gurney and taken away. Ashford heads to the deck and bellows out for them to SPIN THE DRUM, and it works! And then he takes it the step further: as the crew look on in horror, he opens comms and makes an announcement: all ships are invited to bring their wounded to the Behemoth, where they will heal in normal gravity. “The Belters will welcome you.”
And thus Belter ingenuity saves the day, and maybe, possibly, ushers in a new age of respect between the people of the system.
Oh, But Wait! We’re Back With Holden!
OK, did I say saves the day? Cause Holden just woke up, and he’s working full Disney-esque Holden eyes, and he tearfully tells Bobbie he’s “seen the end of everything.”
That can’t be good.
Random Thoughts Floating in the Void of Space
- Having said that, the tears not falling was maybe my favorite effect on the entire show so far.
- That blood vacuum was amazing. Such a perfect detail of practical life in space.
- I have to admit I’m getting a little tired of the inevitable “Martian who wants to kill Holden before anyone can question him.”
- The use of floating lasagna and floating, bloodied wrenches to show us Alex and Amos were injured??? *chef’s fingertip kiss*
- Amos’ reactions to Naomi, and Naomi’s reactions to those reactions, were all perfect.
- Am I the only one who noticed that they cranked up some sort of wailing 2001 Monolith music in the background when Holden said they were all doomed?
Book Notes for Book Nerds
I’ve been worried about Drummer since before we knew what her name was, y’all—worried because she seemed so very Samara Rosenberg, and things on the Behemoth just don’t go so well for poor Sam. But now that she survived that drawn-out scene with Ashford (it ended well, but could’ve been half as long), I think maybe she’s not just serving the roles of both Sam and Michio Pa—she’s maybe a little bit also Bull. Look, whatever it takes to keep her alive, ok? I would really miss Cara Gee’s intensity. (Ten points to whoever did her makeup: the way the black started to fade and pale as she sweated was spot-on.)
I’ve been frustrated by the pacing and focus of the last couple of episodes, and am glad to find it’s not just me being a book nerd—it’s not really been fully working for Leah, either. For the most part, I’ve loved how this show has adapted the books, but I don’t think it’s been doing as well with Abaddon’s Gate. It’s lost some of the sense of mystery, and scale (which I harped on last week and will not do again except to note that the seven-months bit was really needed), and somehow despite the blood and the extremely affecting tear effect, it’s felt like the emotional punches don’t land. The show feels constrained, and like it can’t quite figure out how to show us how much is at stake. We didn’t get enough of Tilly (RIP), or anyone aboard the Thomas Prince; the Behemoth is finally giving the impression that it’s as big as it is (did it look like you guys imagined?) after spending most of the season only on the control deck; having Bobbie around feels like a distraction; cutting straight from Anna yelling at Clarissa to her appearing on the Roci undermines what a HUGE thing this generally Earth-bound pastor just did, suiting up and blasting off into the void.
There is real feeling between Drummer and Ashford, and I’m definitely on board with his moral complexity; watching him make that vital choice while probably bleeding to death internally was rough, though also infuriating: he let Drummer think he was less injured than he is, and she nearly sacrificed herself because of it. That fraught moment with Amos and Naomi was perfect. But it still all feels a little bit like it’s lost some of the meaning. I need a little more awe, more terror, more grasping at understanding. I’ve got my fingers crossed for the finale, though!
Molly Templeton will resist the urge to walk around with her hands neatly folded behind her back in honor of Drummer. Talk to her about books and stuff on Twitter.