First things first: our deepest congratulations to the cast and crew of “The Expanse” for their 2017 Hugo nomination (Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form, for “Leviathan Wakes”).
They’re going head-to-head with “Black Mirror’s “San Junipero,” so they’ll need all the good vibes we can send their way — but truly, we are so excited to see them land in the final pool at all. The science fiction community’s support for this wonderful show is so essential, and sometimes the way that support takes form can be a little bewildering — but here, the reasoning’s pretty simple: Undisputed excellence.
Speaking of good vibes, that’s something the “Expanse” solar system is pretty short on these days! The mysterious Dr. Strickland (Ted Atherton) still has Mei (Leah Madison Jung) under his protection and/or in his clutches, Ganymede’s life-support systems are in full cascade, Holden (Steven Strait) is barely holding to his ethical center, there’s a strict no-fly zone in place all around the moon’s orbit… And Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Amos (Wes Chatham) are jumping ship. And all that’s just out near Jupiter!
Back on Earth, the UN Security Council has started making plans to set up Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) as Earth’s near-apocalypse fall guy, in in Mao’s continued absence. Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Coytar (Nick E. Tarabay) are still at loose ends trying to figure out what happened to Sgt. Bobbie’s (Frankie Acosta) team, and the Sarge herself is getting some truly epic dressing-down from patronizing Captain Martens (Peter Outerbridge) … Whenever she’s not confined to locked and guarded quarters, that is.
As for the UN’s science vessel Arboghast and its protomolecule-chasing mission to a Martian-guarded Venus? Well, the suspiciously too-acidic atmosphere has burned through so many of their probes that the straitlaced Colonel Janus (Conrad Pla) is finally open to collaborating with Avasarala’s Aussie spy, Dr. Iturbi (Ted Whittall)… So yes: Things are bad.
Luckily, our heroes are resilient enough that even in all these direst of situations, they can make forward progress — they are heroes, after all. And since it is “The Expanse,” those moments of progress are all either emotionally powerful or fist pump-worthy — or, in the best instances, both.
Let’s start on Earth, where last week we closed with Bobbie’s totally metal escape from her locked quarters to see the ocean for the first time, her wonder at finally reaching it, her distress at learning about Mars’ complicity in her team’s attack, her inspiring loyalty, and her recapture. This week, Martens rants with increasing rabidity about the deplorable softness of Bobbie’s generation — always a red flag — about how peace of mind is a luxury Martians can’t afford, she needs to GROW UP, and how it USED TO BE that Martians knew what it meant to SACRIFICE for your PEOPLE and about how [old_man_yells_at_cloud.jpg] and so on.
Thankfully, Bobbie gets wise to his incoherent extremism once he goes after her service career and future and — after a no-fly order from Avasarala keeps her shuttle back to Mars from touching down — she storms to Martens’ office for answers, and eventually, has no real choice but to beat the martian daylights out of him.
We’d have been plenty happy if she’d done this just for herself, but of course it’s still about her squad — and what Mars had to do with it in the first place. And while the answer to the first is more or less what we already knew — the monster is a weapon developed using the protomolecule — the answer to second, while perfectly logical, is heartbreaking: The attack was a sales demo to the Martian military, who were the ones watching via the drone that Bobbie noticed before it all started.
So Bobbie punches Martens’ lights out, lures his guard in and punches HIM out, then — in another of the show’s signature sequences, all emotional beauty and urgency and deep stylistic glory — races straight across the cement quad between the diplomatic complex’s MCR and UN sides, dropping to her knees the moment she crosses the UN’s deep blue boundary line, asking for political asylum.
“When I asked for your help, I didn’t say create a diplomatic incident!”
“Then you should have been more specific.”
The only thing better than Bobbie Draper or Chrisjen Avasarala is — and we knew this would be true — Bobbie Draper and Chrisjen Avasarala.
Bobbie’s official defection is not the only boon Avasarala has dropped in her lap this week. For one, Errinwright continues to bring her useful intel on the Protogen network in his bid to atone for his treasonous past, and even accepts the news of the Security Council’s plan to hang him by his own petard with brave moral certainty. Beyond that, though, Mao himself (François Chau) emerges from his long absence, sending Avasarala a video message claiming to want to negotiate terms for his surrender/cooperation, which, aside from provoking one of Avasarala’s most gloriously cosmic eyerolls yet, results in her acceptance. Mars might still have the upper hand, but between Bobbie and Mao, Avasarala may just have daggers enough now to pin it in place.
Out near Jupiter, Alex (Cas Anvar) is stuck talking himself through an increasingly fantastic series of maneuvers to get the Rocinante through to Ganymede despite the no-fly lockdown, while Holden and crew are exploring the tunnels Chicken Boy pointed them to last week. In the dark closeness of their slow trek past the audibly failing support systems, we get several revelations: First, Amos’ direct surprise at Holden’s willingness to let him beat someone’s brains in forces Holden to be just as direct in concluding that he has reached the point where he’s fine with some bad people’s heads getting bashed in when it’s for the greater good. And second, when Prax (Terry Chen) is on his last frayed nerve about Mei, Naomi reveals to him to him that she, too, had a kid — a baby boy, whom she lost and spent too much time and sanity searching for.
NAOMI. This is a lot! Our hearts are so sore for you (while simultaneously our brains are on overdrive trying to fit together pieces of your story from episodes past).
The import of this news is lost on Prax, though: He barely knows her, and of course he’s so laser-focused on Mei that he can’t think straight. And the danger of that — when they reach the tunnel’s last door and Prax asks for a gun — is lost on Amos, as he judges other people’s abilities and motivations through a very different intellectual lens than someone more emotionally intuitive like Naomi or Holden might, and so spends little time debating the matter before handing one over.
Naturally, nothing about this ends well. The team does find the scientists they were looking for — although no Strickland or Mei — but Prax sees Mei’s backpack and starts shooting before Holden can accomplish anything more diplomatic, and everyone who doesn’t die, escapes.
Left alone, they find a pod with a protomolecule-tubed body inside, but it’s not Mei, and Holden locks the cell and incinerates it before the team can have a democratic discussion about next steps, or how it might be used to help their investigation. They even come back across the blond woman who’d clearly been the leader of the scientists Prax started shooting at (and featured in the flashbacks to Mei’s trip through the tunnels with Dr. Strickland) when they barely escape a grenade attack (even shot through the shoulder, Amos is too fast for death) — but she was hit by shrapnel from the blast and is bleeding through the throat. Holden, in no mood to help anyone complicit with the protomolecule, much less with experimenting on kids, eventually just watches her bleed to death.
Alex, in the episode’s other showpiece sequence, slingshots the Roci around the gravity wells of Jupiter’s many moons, bringing her invisibly in and under the no-fly zone. By the time Holden is gearing the team up to join him, Naomi announces that she’s staying behind: If the protomolecule is here, it might as well be everywhere — as far as she is concerned, their mission to stay ahead of it is DOA.
“We have to do good when we can, where we can,” she tells Holden, as he respects her enough to listen to her explanation. But really, she’s reminding him of his own guiding principles, not that long ago — both of them knowing that he is being guided by something darker now. He doesn’t stop her, but he doesn’t go with her either — he sends Amos along with her, to work with the Somnabulist’s remaining pilot and evacuate the moon. And almost immediately, the remaining crew (Prax, Holden, Alex) spot one of Bobbie’s blue monsters out on the surface, and head out for a hunt.
Naomi and Holden are bound to be (space)ships in the literal night, their moral compasses pointing to different norths — but we absolutely cannot believe they’ll never see each other again. Here’s hoping it’s sooner rather than later.
“The Expanse” airs on SyFy on Wednesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT. Two episodes remain in Season 2.