The Expanse: As its title suggests, “Windmills” is mostly just spinning its wheels

“Windmills” is probably the most thematically coherent hour of The Expanse to date, and we’re finally seeing all of the show’s disparate story lines begin to converge on one place: Eros. This is a frustrating episode in some ways, as very little actually happens, but I have high hopes that this is the final bit of stalling for the series before things get really interesting over the next couple of weeks.

The Rocinante is well into its journey this week, on the way to rendezvous with the mysterious Lionel Polanski, but they’ve also got Avasarala’s spy in tow and Martian inspectors trying to board the ship. Unfortunately, these attempts to liven up the Rocinante’s traveling time fall a little flat, acting more as filler to give the crew something to do for an episode while Miller and Avasarala’s plots catch up to where the Roci is. Still, there is some interesting character work in the Rocinante segments of the episode, and dealing with Kenzo Gabriel and the Martians does provide a good framework for both showing what makes the Roci crew tick and exploring how their recent experiences are affecting them.

These scenes also highlight a pretty significant (and kind of fascinating) change from the source material. By this point in Leviathan Wakes, Holden was pretty well-cemented as the captain of the ship, but his position is much more ambiguous and precarious on the show. This makes all of the Roci crew’s dynamics much more compelling, though I did feel this week that they weren’t particularly fun to watch. The conflict between Holden and Amos was nicely done, but Holden ultimately offloads that whole responsibility to Naomi, which is wildly unfair and, frankly, irresponsible. Naomi continues to prove, however, that she’s the smartest and most capable person in every room she’s in by basically saving the day by hacking the Roci’s systems and heroically managing not to punch Holden right in the face. The only character on the crew who still seems somewhat flat is Alex, although I kind of love how much he’s just having a great time flying this badass spaceship.

Meanwhile, Avasarala is back in a pretty big way this week, as she travels personally and alone alone to the farming collective in Montana where Holden was raised so she can speak with his birth mother, Alice. From a kind of objective standpoint, this may be the weakest part of this episode, but it’s one of my favorite sequences so far on the show. First, it’s some of the most perfectly beautiful scenery we’ve seen so far, and it appears to be a real place with only the wind turbines composited in during post-production. Second, Avasarala’s costume for this is glorious. Everything this woman wears is amazing, but this red number, and the way she strides confidently across the pristine Montana snow, is like something out of a fairy tale. Finally, the conversation between Avasarala and Alice Holden shows us yet another new side of Chrisjen. I can’t remember the last time I saw this kind of woman-to-woman real talk, and I found it riveting.

My only complaint about this whole sequence is that I still don’t quite understand James Holden’s origins and the political and economic climate that created this place and these people. There’s a lot that can be inferred about their collectivist lifestyle, the intimation that they are potentially armed and dangerous radicals, and the knowledge of how they groomed Holden to be a part of their political scheming, but there were a lot of missed opportunities here. One way that this could have been improved upon would be to have Chrisjen interview all (or even just several) of Holden’s parents separately, which would have offered us a bigger picture of how this all works and created more and better ways in which to work in some more exposition about the state of Earth and how Holden and his family fit into it. Instead, Avasarala only really speaks with Alice, and most of their talk consists of them bonding over their shared experiences of motherhood, which feels a little simplistic and almost defeats the purpose, in my opinion, of even introducing the idea of this sort of family arrangement. Why bother if it’s not going to be explored when the chance appears?

On Ceres, Miller is left reeling after losing his job with Star Helix, and he spends most of this episode revisiting the places on the station that have figured most prominently in his story so far. He confronts a smug Anderson Dawes in a bar, breaks into Julie Mao’s place, and then returns to his own apartment, where he gathers his few things of value, leaves his hat hanging on the hook, and goes to pawn everything so he can buy a ticket on the next ship to Eros.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • “Donkey balls” is not nearly as funny a phrase as the show’s writers seem to think it is.
  • Apparently Miller also sent out some disturbing goodbye messages to his few friends. This was actually moderately amusing to me.
  • I know Octavia is sad now, but someday she will appreciate dodging the bullet that is Miller.
  • As much as I hate Miller’s hat, his greasy hair might actually be worse to look at.
  • There were a lot of wonderful set details this week, but the house in Montana was stunning. I just wish we’d gotten to see a little more of it.

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