The Expanse: “The Weeping Somnambulist” has some great scenes but also some dead weight (**cough**Holden**cough**)

“The Weeping Somnambulist” is only a middling episode of a great show, but it covers a good amount of storytelling ground and marks the very welcome return of Chrisjen Avasarala after several episodes in which she had minimal presence. The scenes on Earth are excellent, there’s some surprisingly good character work for Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams), and the Rocinante is off on a new mission which wasn’t that interesting this week but seems likely to improve in the next episode or so. After a couple weeks of main characters mostly reacting to events that have happened to or around them, this episode feels much more proactive and forward-moving, even if it’s not always riveting stuff.

**Spoilers below!**

The episode opens with an irritating fake-out. A Ganymede relief ship called The Weeping Somnambulist is boarded by a couple of gun-wielding men wearing the livery of the Martian navy, but it turns out it’s just Holden and Amos in disguise. Apparently the Rocinante is too recognizable to take to Ganymede, so they’re going to commandeer the Somnambulist to get them the rest of the way there. The husband and wife team flying the Somnambulist don’t get any characterization aside from “pissed off at Holden,” so the eventual tragedy they experience isn’t particularly impactful. It doesn’t even work as something that should deeply affect the Roci crew, since they can’t reasonably be held responsible for the Ganymede dock workers’ initial attack on the Somnambulist and it’s similarly unfair to blame them for escalating a situation that had already escalated to guns to heads. Sure, Holden and company might feel guilty for having failed to rescue the couple, but it’s an unreasonable guilt and therefore hard to take seriously. I mean, okay, Holden and company had to get to Ganymede somehow, but it was truly, deeply unnecessary to spend so much time on this boring and trivial plot when there was so much more interesting stuff going on elsewhere in the episode. It dragged the whole episode down into mediocrity, and that’s a shame because the rest of the hour was very good.

On the bright side, Bobbie made it to Earth this week, and the brilliance of execution in this storyline almost makes up for the Roci crew stuff being so dull. When we first see Bobbie this week, Martens is helping her prepare for Earth with necessary drugs and supplements to minimize her discomfort on the planet’s surface. It’s a smart bit of worldbuilding exposition that also works nicely as a character beat, showing us more of Bobbie’s feelings about Earth. These early Bobbie scenes also work as a really wonderfully composed and acted bit of speculative fiction, even out of context, offering the viewer some insight into what it might be like for a human to be setting foot on Earth for the first time ever. Frankie Adams perfectly conveys Bobbie’s complicated feelings of curiosity, awe, pride in her own planet, resentment towards Earth and something a little like nostalgia, and Bobbie’s reactions to her first glimpses of Earth are truly moving stuff.

The peace conference at the UN is predictably unpleasant for pretty much all involved, though it’s highly entertaining for the viewer. The petty one-up-manship is passive aggression hovers somewhere between hilarious and too real as the delegations from both Earth and Mars take calculated swipes at each other before getting down to business. Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen is always delightful to watch, but it’s again Frankie Adams who steals the show in these scenes. Her frustration and anger at being asked to throw her fellow marine under the bus is palpable, and Chrisjen easily picks up on the lies Mars is telling to try and smooth things over. Even though things are being smoothed over in a way that heavily favors Earth (and at the Martians’ considerable expense), Chrisjen’s priority is ferreting out the truth about what happened on Ganymede. Her second interview with Bobbie is illuminating, but I can’t wait to see these two characters alone together.

The third storyline of the episode concerns Colonel Janus, Dr. Iturbi and their journey to Venus to see firsthand what has happened to Eros. I wasn’t expecting this material, which is either invented for the show or is drawn from the books in the series that I haven’t read yet, but it’s good stuff. The personality conflict between these guys is engaging, though perhaps a little on the nose with their sniping at each other about which one has the corner on Real Science™. As much as I liked these scenes, the only truly important one comes near the end of the episode when they finally get a look at the crater left by Eros and see that there’s some kind of biological material floating around the hole. Iturbi streams the information to Avasarala back on Earth. Learning what Chrisjen will make of this, seeing how she’s already making a connection between Eros and Ganymede and the rest of the generally strange events that have been happening in the solar system, is the other thing I can’t wait for next week.

“The Weeping Somnambulist” is a frustrating episode to watch without another one to follow it with, and this is mostly owing to its very abrupt and, frankly, anticlimactic ending. Bobbie’s emotional distress felt real and her clamming up under orders was a nicely final ending to the peace conference, and the revelation of the Eros crater information felt significant and game-changing, but the ending of the Roci storyline was too slight to compare and not consequential enough to qualify as a cliffhanger. Still, though this whole episode felt somewhat disjointed, inconveniently punctuated as it was by all the boring stuff Holden was doing, I expect the next couple of episodes to have some big narrative payoffs, exciting moments and the thematic coherence that this one lacked.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • I was happy that Doris wasn’t completely forgotten, even if Prax didn’t get to actually send his message of condolences to her family on Mars. It’s still a pretty textbook fridging, though.
  • While the Roci and Somnambulist stuff was boring, Amos and Alex both managed to have individually compelling moments.
  • That necklace that Avasarala wears is a gorgeous piece.
  • I already miss Fred Johnson and Drummer, and there’s no telling when we’ll get to see them again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s