Category Archives: The Expanse

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.

The Expanse: “Pyre” isn’t that hot, but it gets the job done

After the major climax of Eros crashing on Venus (ending the Leviathan Wakes part of the show) and the last couple weeks of gear-shifting as we move completely into Caliban’s War territory, “Pyre” is a somewhat strange episode. Last week’s “The Seventh Man” is probably my favorite episode of the show to date, but “Pyre” is possibly the worst episode of season two so far. Appearing in just a single short scene in “The Seventh Man,” Avasarala is completely absent from “Pyre,” as is Bobbie, who is presumably en route to Earth. “Pyre” introduces a new character, Praxidike Meng (Terry Chen), and then spends most of the episode working to connect him to the Rocinante crew. Meanwhile, Fred Johnson faces a major challenge to his authority that threatens to undo his work for the Belt and jeopardizes the safety of Tycho Station itself. At times, The Expanse has done well with these sorts of more focused episodes, but this one just doesn’t quite work the way it ought. It accomplishes what it needs to do, but without the show’s characteristic deftness and panache and not without some frankly awkward moments.

**Spoilers below!**

The episode starts with a flashback/dream sequence that introduces Praxidike Meng and his daughter, Mei, and this is the first weird moment of the hour. First, we see Prax (as yet unnamed) doing something with plants. Then we see overhead shots of the greenhouses on Ganymede, which is a cool (if belated) way of finally giving the viewers an idea of how Ganymede works. Finally, we see Mei as the figure waving her arms at the marines outside on the surface of Ganymede (as seen very briefly and indistinctly in “Paradigm Shift”) just before the orbiting mirror shatters and comes crashing down through the glass roof.

Cut to Prax waking up on a freight ship that has been commandeered for moving refugees from Ganymede to other stations. He’s found there by his friend, Doris, who breaks the news of his daughter’s death—although it, confusingly, turns out that Mei wasn’t in the greenhouse dome with Prax, but at a doctor’s appointment—and offers to take him with her to Mars, where she still has family and suggests they’ll be able to find work in the terraforming project. The grieving Prax rebuffs her but then changes his mind as the Belter crew of the ship prepare, supposedly, to shift any refugees from Earth and Mars to another ship to be taken back to their planets of origin. As the Inners are being herded to an airlock, Prax isn’t allowed on, because obviously the Inners are going to be spaced, which is exactly what happens. Seriously, this is so heavily telegraphed from the moment Doris first says “Mars” that it’s almost comical. It’s also a significant change from the source material, as nothing like this happens in the books (at least in the first two that I’ve read). More importantly, it’s upsetting and problematic on several levels.

First, it’s a monstrous act of hatred on the part of the ship’s Belter crew. Yes, the man who actually does it tells Prax that “Inners wrecked Ganymede,” but that’s a very thin excuse for capriciously and incredibly cruelly murdering an airlock full of people who not only had nothing to do with the destruction of Ganymede but were themselves displaced victims of the attack. This demonizing of Belters has been something of a theme this season, but this is definitely the worst example of the trend so far and it’s not helped by the other events of this episode. It’s genuinely starting to feel like the show’s writers hate Belters as they depict them over and over again committing increasingly senseless acts of destruction and violence. Anderson Dawes and Fred Johnson’s nuanced rivalry makes sense and is deeply compelling, but most of the rest of the Belters we see aren’t complex, just wantonly, cartoonishly evil and stupid.

Second, the way this event is shown on screen is not far short of sadistic. Because it’s so heavily telegraphed, the viewer knows what is coming early on—if not when Doris first mentions Mars than certainly by the time all the Earthers and Martians are being removed from the main group—and yet we’re still forced to watch it happen in excruciating real time as they’re marched to the airlock, shift to zero-g, Prax and Doris touch fingers through the glass, and then the airlock opens. Even after this bit of lovingly crafted torture, we’re not done yet because there’s still time for a long and unnecessarily gruesome shot of poor Doris gasping for breath in space as she slowly asphyxiates and freezes at the same time. It’s deeply unpleasant to watch and only serves to highlight how terrible the practice of “spacing” really is while pointing to the apparent hypocrisy of Belters who fear that fate themselves but are willing to inflict it on others.

Finally, it’s a pretty textbook fridging of a newly introduced female character in service of Prax’s storyline. Or it would be if Doris’s death was treated as truly impactful and important. Instead, while Prax does try to report the crime when he arrives at Tycho, he doesn’t know the name of the ship he was on or the names of the perpetrators, and although he was on a ship full of other refugees I guess none of them are willing to corroborate his story. When the station doctor on Tycho says she can’t help him, this is the last we hear of it, as the show seems to be pivoting straight into the rest of Prax’s Caliban’s War story instead of dealing appropriately with the tragedy that they invented to fill some time in the episode while other things are happening on Tycho before Prax gets there.

On Tycho, we kick off the episode with Alex and Naomi returning on the Rocinante with Diogo in tow. They’re met at the dock by Holden and Fred Johnson, but when Diogo refuses to tell them anything about where Anderson Dawes has taken Cortazar he’s shuffled off quickly to Tycho station jail and not seen or heard from again from the rest of the episode. This is slightly anti-climactic because it happens so quickly, but we quickly move on to Fred, Drummer, Holden, and Naomi working to figure out how Dawes could get away from them without help (he couldn’t, obv). Fortunately, they don’t have long to wait before Dawes calls them up to officially break up with Fred. Dawes accuses Fred of withholding secrets from the rest of the Belt, which is accurate, and confirms that he has Cortazar. This is also when it comes out that Cortazar wasn’t just puttering around in his cell aimlessly; he’d found evidence of more protomolecule, and it was chattering like it had on Eros. There’s more of this stuff out there, but they aren’t sure yet where it is.

Naomi and Drummer head out to physically go to the antenna Cortazar was using for data collection to find out what he’d learned. I suppose there’s some unspoken concern that Cortazar could have been in contact with the sample that Naomi keeps failing to fire off into the sun, but it rather predictably turns out not to be that. Instead, there’s protomolecule on Ganymede. This sends Holden and Naomi to definitely-not-just-space-google former Protogen employees who may have been working on Ganymede at the time of the attack. In about thirty seconds, they discover Dr. Strickland, a suspiciously overqualified pediatrician who has conveniently been recently photographed with Praxidike Meng who is conveniently on Tycho right this instant. It’s the most egregious example of plot convenience theatre I’ve seen in ages, and I literally laughed out loud when Holden was like, “It can’t really be this easy.” No shit, it can’t, but it is, because this is what the show’s writers decided to go with instead of any number of more organic and less profoundly silly ways of getting Prax onto the Rocinante and all of them on the quest to find Mei.

The other major plot this week isn’t much less absurd than this, and it continues the aforementioned trend of mass Belter character assassination. After it’s pretty well confirmed that Drummer is not the traitor on Fred Johnson’s team, we learn that it’s been one of the other people working on the Tycho control room all along, a man named Edin, who has an unspecified technical job that gives him access to a lot of controls on the station. He’s in league with the OPA faction leader, Staz, and they’ve got a genius plan to take over the station, steal all Fred Johnson’s nukes, and fire them at Earth because what could possibly go wrong? They manage to take over the station’s control room, kill a couple of hostages, and shoot Drummer while trying to get the launch codes for the nukes, but they’re easily defeated when Holden finds out and sends Amos outside the station to cut off the air supply to the control room. Once everyone has passed out, Holden, Naomi and Alex show up and rescue Fred and Drummer.

None of this would be even remotely acceptable—because it’s a hilariously badly conceived plot from start to finish—if it wasn’t for a couple of saving graces. First, I love that when Staz shoots the first hostage Fred basically just shrugs and is like “I’ve seen plenty of death in my time.” Fred Johnson is a consistently well-drawn character, and this coolness under pressure is exactly what I’d expect from him. Second, after the rescue, when Alex is trying to help Drummer stand so she can go get medical attention, she grab’s Alex’s gun and puts bullets in the heads of both Edin and Staz before she limps off on her own. After an episode full of Belter’s being wantonly evil and/or stupid, it’s nice to see a Belter get the chance to do the sensible (albeit brutal) thing, and it further proves that Drummer is a badass.

The episode ends with the Rocinante crew leaving Tycho to investigate Ganymede and search for the protomolecule and Mei Meng, but not without one last fraught exchange between Holden and Fred. In the book it was much more clear that Fred Johnson wanted the Roci crew to stay in his exclusive employ to protect and advance his interests in the Belt, but here the reason for this little break-up is somewhat muddled. Fred and Holden had seemed to be of one mind on most issues over the last couple of episodes, and this week they worked well together and seemed as friendly as they’ve ever been, so Holden’s antipathy towards Fred feels sudden and unearned. On a second, closer, viewing of the episode, this feeling wasn’t as pronounced, but their dynamic still doesn’t quite make sense either.

In the end, I’m not sure it really matters, though. This episode felt oddly cobbled together from disparate parts, as if the writers were working with a checklist of things that needed to happen rather than telling a harmoniously balanced and truly well-conceived story. At the same time, much of the episode felt like filler used to flesh out material that is much less meaty on screen than it seemed in the novel. It’s probably the farthest from the source material the show has ever strayed, and though it remains mostly true to it in spirit, it’s still not an encouraging example of what happens when the writers have to solve adaptational problems. Here, my guess is that they didn’t want the Bobbie and Avasarala plots to get ahead of this one, or perhaps they thought the episode might be overstuffed if they tried to give each plot some time. Either way, coming up with some nonsensical melodrama to fill space and time was the wrong answer and speaks to an unfortunate laziness that I hope we don’t see more of in the future.

On the bright side, next week Bobbie and Chrisjen are back and hopefully in a major way. Thank goodness.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Love Mei’s backpack. It’s a nice touch with the hologram characters, though I’m now wildly curious about the economics of that kind of disposable consumer good being sent to someplace as far as Ganymede.
  • Holden accusing Drummer of being a traitor made me want to punch him right in the throat more than I usually want to punch Holden in the throat. Peak asshole Holden, for sure.
  • I’m still not loving this Amos subplot, though I felt this week like I had a better idea of where the show is going with it (something something tragic backstory, probably). The whole thing feels almost like an afterthought and understanding what the point of it is requires a pretty significant attention to detail.

The Expanse: “The Seventh Man” is a perfect balance of personal and political

This week, The Expanse shifted gears again in “The Seventh Man.” After last week’s fast-paced mix of exposition and set-up, capped off with a decided feeling of consequence by the Ganymede incident, this episode takes the time to do a couple of hugely important things. On a Martian ship, Bobbie Draper is recovering from her injuries and trying to make sense of her jumbled memories, while on Tycho station there’s a struggle for control as Anderson Dawes and Fred Johnson compete with each other for the opportunity to determine the future of the Belt. It’s an episode that’s light on action but heavy on talking and politics and full of some of the show’s best writing to date.

Spoilers ahead!

There’s only one scene on Earth this week, but it’s a good one. When the news comes in about Ganymede, Avasarala and Errinwright are watching with the Secretary-General and they have to make a quick decision about what to do about it. Errinwright pushes for attacking a Martian target, but Chrisjen advises caution and calls for a peace conference on Earth, where she argues that Earth would have the advantage. The Secretary-General is convinced, so that’s happening, probably next week. It’s interesting to see how the balance of power has shifted in Chrisjen’s favor since Eros, but it’s also obvious that she’s still wary of Errinwright, with whom she’s increasingly at odds.

At Tycho Station, refugees from Ganymede are flowing in, and the Rocinante crew is helping to get people settled on the station. Meanwhile, Anderson Dawes has also arrived on the station, where he’s inviting refugees to Ceres as well as rallying Belters on Tycho. We soon find out why: Having wrangled Ceres, Dawes is on Tycho to make a decisive play to wrest control from Fred Johnson. We get to see Dawes publicly debate Johnson over what the OPA’s next steps should be, and it’s riveting stuff. The real ideological differences that have previously been implied or inferred are made explicit when the two men have to stand in front of a parliament-esque gathering of OPA faction leaders and make their cases. Later, as Dawes schmoozes his way around the station trying to ingratiate himself with Holden and Naomi, then Drummer, then Diogo, pumping them for information, we get a real sense both of how deep the divisions go and how different Dawes and Johnson’s tactics are.

The Tycho sequences are (except for a weird Amos segment) by far the strongest parts of “The Seventh Man,” and they’ve got several things going for them. The dialogue is smartly written. The speeches are entertaining to watch and effectively communicate complex arguments. The increasing tension between Holden and Naomi is well-conveyed as their relationship frays at the edges. Dawes’s connection with Drummer is clearly depicted, with enough on-screen information to intrigue the viewer but without telling us the whole story all at once. Dawes’s encounter with Diogo is pitch perfect and a great/chilling example of the ease with which young people can be manipulated by those they admire. The final short action sequence as Dawes abducts Cortazar is a much-needed break from talking scenes and gives Fred Johnson a clear goal going into the next few episodes. In short, it’s a balanced, cleverly plotted, and well-thought-out storyline that admirably holds up its half of the episode.

If there’s any major criticism I have of the Tycho story this week it’s that Holden’s “character development” doesn’t feel particularly earned. The foreshadowing of having Dawes compare Holden directly to Miller didn’t quite work because there’s not any actual evidence before this episode that Holden has evolved into anything at all, much less into a new Miller. To be fair, I suppose Holden has become more circumspect this season about shouting sensitive and inflammatory information to the whole solar system willy-nilly, but he’s still pretty much the same old frustratingly naïve and self-righteous Holden we’ve come to barely tolerate over a season and a half of the show. His late-night attempted attempt on Cortazar’s life was genuinely unexpected, and not in a good way. That said, his decision to shout over Belters to support Fred Johnson (and his dipshit defense of his actions to Naomi) was exactly what I would expect of him.

The part of the episode I was most excited to see was the Bobbie Draper stuff, which was both just what I predicted it would be and much better than I thought it would be, primarily due to Frankie Adams’ strong acting as she works through Bobbie’s trauma and confusion after the Ganymede incident. After being rescued from her damaged exo suit, Bobbie is taken to the Scirocco for treatment for her injuries and multiple rounds of questioning about what happened on Ganymede. It’s during this questioning that we get some of the blanks from last week filled in, which is pretty much how I suspected things were going to go. I thought we’d see more flashes of the seventh “man” that gives the episode its title, but the Ganymede monster is kept deliberately mysterious and Bobbie is told to not speak of it when she finds out at the end of the episode that she’ll be going to Earth to testify at the UN.

“The Seventh Man” (and The Expanse in general, if we’re honest) is, ultimately, a story about storytelling, but it’s also a story about the personal nature of politics. Powerful people vie to shape narratives to their own purposes, both selfishly and not. Avasarala has an almost preternatural ability to read situations and come up with creatively constructive sources of action to prevent all-out war. We see that she has counterparts among the Martians as well, people with cooler heads than the common soldiery who are working hard to keep the peace as well, even if that means making up a plausible story to cover up an implausible event. Fred Johnson and Anderson Dawes both have stories to tell this week, and both of them are true in their ways—humanity is stronger if they can live peacefully together, and the Belt and Outer Planets need to be self-governing and united against those who don’t have their best interests at heart.

Identity figures largely into all these storylines this week. Avasarala is still working to assert herself in her stronger position following the destruction of Eros; she sees herself as an iconoclastic champion of Earth, and perhaps her greatest pressures come from her own expectations of what she should be achieving. Bobbie Draper has lost her unit in a tragedy that she doesn’t yet understand, which has left her unmoored, and now she’s being sent to Earth, but not as a conqueror or even as a warrior; her navigation of this unfamiliar territory is going to be fascinating in weeks to come. Anderson Dawes sees himself as the true leader capable of uniting the OPA under his control, and his work for the Belt and Outer Planets is confirmed to be real and sincere. However, he also seems burdened with something like self-hatred—a sort of archetypal man-willing-to-do-bad-things-for-good-reasons who knows how to fight, but not how to achieve and maintain peace. Fred Johnson, on the other hand, dreams of real and lasting peace, but his history and status as an Earther makes him an eternal outsider in the Belt. They may respect and appreciate him, but they won’t follow him like they’ll follow Anderson Dawes.

All these various takes on identity are at work with Naomi and Holden. We saw last week that Naomi is identifying more and more strongly with her Belter roots, and this episode continues that trend. She is fully invested in the suffering of those she sees as her people, and she’s deeply admiring of and moved by Anderson Dawes. She’s definitely struggling with some feelings of guilt over deceiving Holden about the hidden protomolecule sample, but her feelings of resentment towards him for his lack of understanding of her are even stronger than guilt. In some ways, Holden’s motivations mirror Fred Johnson’s—he wants to do what he can to help people in the Belt, but he also wants peace in the solar system—but Holden has heroic aspirations as well and is (we learn) at least open to the idea of modelling himself more after his friend Miller. Holden’s arc here isn’t as well-defined as Naomi’s, and it’s certainly not as relatable or likeable, but it does fit within the general thematic neighborhood of what’s going on with everyone else.

The Expanse is always good, but this episode and last week’s “Paradigm Shift” have been truly superb. The show’s characteristically high production values, powerful writing, excellent casting choices and solid acting have worked together to create a deeply affecting new direction for things now that we’re past the relatively weak Leviathan Wakes source material. The deeper we delve into Caliban’s War territory, the better things are getting, and that’s an awesome achievement for a show that was already the best thing on television.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • The blood snowflakes in the opening scene were beautifully gruesome and make for a great image, but that is not how blood works.
  • I didn’t really “get” the Amos stuff. This wasn’t quite a flashback, there wasn’t enough information given about Amos’s past to make sense of his actions, and things are left basically unresolved after he has the conversation with Cortazar about the “procedure.”
  • Jared Harris is perfectly cast as Anderson Dawes. Absolutely magnetic and probably my favorite character to watch aside from Shohreh Aghdashloo as Avasarala.
  • Not enough Alex this week, and I did not like how he talked to Naomi.
  • I feel like Naomi and Holden’s relationship is quickly headed for Greek tragedy territory, but they were still going strong at the end of Caliban’s War, so I’m very interested to see how that shapes up over the rest of this season.

The Expanse: “Paradigm Shift” is great start to a new chapter in the show’s story

I’m sure I’ve said it before, but season two of The Expanse is goddamned fantastic. After last week’s wrap-up of the last of the Leviathan Wakes storyline, I expected this week’s episode to be something of a bridge between two distinct parts of the season. “Paradigm Shift” is that, to some degree, but it feels even more like a whole new season premiere in structure and tone, with some humor (welcome, after a largely serious couple of weeks), some thematically relevant exposition, some set-up for future plots, great character work and a flashy (if slightly confusing) cliffhanger to leave us wanting more. In a season already full of great episodes, this one might be my favorite yet.

Spoilers below, natch.

There’s no pre-credits scene this week, and the first scene of the episode starts with a look at Mars from space that segues into a flashback to the Mars of 137 years ago, where we meet Solomon Epstein (guest star Sam Huntington), inventor of the Epstein drives that power the ships used in the solar system of The Expanse. Apparently, Epstein was simply trying to get a minor increase to fuel efficiency when he accidentally built the drive that was fast enough and fuel efficiency enough to change the course of human history in the solar system. The Epstein drive is the technology that allowed Mars to gain independence from Earth and enabled the colonization of the Belt and the Outer Planets, but this has also led to the complicated political and military situation between Earth, Mars, and the OPA that fuels the show. It’s an interesting bit of worldbuilding exposition that is spooled out in short pieces over the course of the episode, but it also serves as a thesis statement for the episode and, perhaps, for the rest of this season: the benefits of technological advancement never come without costs. If the protomolecule is, as Colonel Janus tells Avasarala in the U.N. situation room, “the greatest technological leap since the Epstein drive,” what will it mean for humanity?

Things on Earth are relatively quiet this week starting with the abovementioned situation room scene, which primarily works to establish that the Earth government doesn’t know what’s going on yet. They don’t know what happened on Eros, they’re no longer in contact with James Holden or Fred Johnson, and they’re missing some thirty nuclear missiles. They are going to mount a mission to Venus, however, to find out what they can about Eros. Because what could possibly go wrong? Avasarala is even going to send her ex-boyfriend, one Dr. Michael Iturbi (played by the very handsome Ted Whittall), to be her eyes and ears on Venus.

The standout Earth scene of the episode, however, doesn’t come until late in the episode when Chrisjen approaches Errinwright to talk about Jules-Pierre Mao. In short, Avasarala advises Errinwright to use whatever influence he has with the Mao family to get Jules-Pierre to turn himself in, and she gives a compelling speech about what the consequences will be if he doesn’t. Chrisjen Avasarala has been an iconic character since day one, but her rage-filled speech to Errinwright here is certainly her most iconic moment yet. Shohreh Aghdashloo is always glorious in this role, but she’s in rare form throughout the scene, full of arch looks and knowing smirks that shift to barely restrained fury as she makes clear to Errinwright both that she knows about him and Mao and that she has the power and will to destroy them both. Her small hair toss as she walks out the door at the end is a nice little visual punctuation for what just happened.

The Rocinante makes it back to Tycho Station, where they’re greeted as heroes, something that they aren’t all comfortable with. Amos and Alex head off into the station, while Holden and Naomi head straight to Fred Johnson to make their report, where they find out that Fred Johnson has the missing missiles from Earth. Holden is self-righteously pissed off about this, because of course he is, but not everyone on the Roci agrees with him. There’s a pretty obviously impending break between Holden and Fred Johnson, but we also see the seeds of a significant potential break between Holden and Naomi as well. While Holden might believe there shouldn’t be any “sides” he doesn’t seem to be at all aware of the ways in which his own indecision and lack of conviction are pushing Naomi to choose one on her own.

Identity is at the core of the dynamic between the members of the Roci crew. Holden imagines them as a family, and he might think that they’re above the factions and infighting in the solar system, but he is also still very much shaped by his birth and upbringing on Earth. Alex, even as a Martian expat, still retains some of the Martian nationalism that he was raised with, which we see when he suggests that they turn their hidden protomolecule specimen over to Martian scientists. Amos is practical and has a tendency to be a bit of a follower, and it seems that he’s at least partly transferred his loyalties to Holden, leaving Naomi as the only Belter on the Rocinante now that Miller’s gone. Her Belter identity is important to her, as evidenced by her easy connection and bonding with other Belter characters, and we can already see her chafing at being outvoted by the others on the Roci. She craves the company and camaraderie that comes from shared experience, especially when faced with a situation where she disagrees with Holden so profoundly, and it’s easy to see why she pursues a friendship with Samara and aligns herself with the OPA. What’s less easy to see is how this is going to work out; the current state of affairs is definitely not sustainable for either Holden and Naomi’s relationship or for the Roci crew as a whole. Something’s got to give.

The episode ends on Ganymede, where Bobbie Draper and her unit of Martian marines are stationed and complaining loudly of being stuck guarding farms. Things get interesting pretty quickly, though, when they’re attacked by unknown forces that destroy the Martian ship in the sky and leave Bobbie seemingly the only survivor on the ground. The problem is, it’s difficult to understand exactly what’s happening in the final few shots of the episode. The battle in the sky is visible to the marines down on the surface of Ganymede, and we know that the Martian ship is destroyed and Sutton is killed, but it’s not clear who’s firing on who in the air (though I think we’re meant to understand that it’s Mao’s stealth ships doing most of the shooting). Down on the ground, we see more of what Bobbie sees, so we can see that the U.N. soldiers that she thinks are charging her group are in fact being chased by a seventh figure behind them. It’s also clear enough at the end that the other three members of Bobbie’s team are dead, with their suits slashed open and helmets smashed. The final shot of the episode as well is clear enough, as Bobbie looks up to see a glowing protomolecule blue figure looming over her.

However, while it’s easy enough to understand what has happened if you think about it—or if you just rewatch it several times like I did—I think they could have shown a bit more of the actual action without giving it away entirely. Having read Caliban’s War, I expect that more of this stuff is going to be metered out through flashbacks in future episodes as Bobbie tries to get to the bottom of what happened, but I think that without that outside knowledge I might have been totally lost as to what I’d just watched. Not to mention even more frustrated than I already am at having to wait another full week for resolution to the cliffhanger ending.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • I loved the Epstein scenes, but I didn’t love the choice to have him narrate it himself if he dies like that. That said, I don’t know how else the show could have communicated the information we get from Epstein’s narration, there’s no other character who would have been an appropriate narrator, and what we see on screen wouldn’t have made a lick of sense without narration. So. I guess they kind of had to do it like this.
  • That said, I expect the Epstein scenes are going to be divisive among show watchers. I really liked them and felt they were a smart way of giving us some history of the world while working up to an explicit statement of a thematic thesis. My partner, however, hated the Epstein stuff with a passion and found it unnecessary and jarring. I’m sure he isn’t the only one with that opinion, even if it is totally incorrect.
  • Avasarala’s costumes this week were stunning, as usual, but I loved that soft, flowy black gown she wore to talk with Errinwright best. It’s perfectly, artfully chosen to be restrained and unthreatening, very comfortable-looking and with relatively plain make-up and no jewels. It’s about as laid-back as we’ve ever seen Chrisjen looking, and then she pounces.
  • Holden’s message home was cute, but I think Naomi shouldn’t have to work so hard at managing Holden’s feelings. Yeah, he’s the captain of the ship, but why if he doesn’t want to be and there are at least a couple more people on the Roci who are almost certainly more capable?
  • The martyrdom of Miller and his elevation as a folk hero is predictable, as is Diogo’s almost religious fervor about spreading the news. I like this small detail, though, and it will be interesting to see how that movement develops over the next few weeks.
  • I ship Naomi and Samara so hard.
  • I wish that Bobbie’s exo suit was bigger and tougher looking, but I love the heads up display on it, which was used really smartly in this episode.

The Expanse: “Home” is a one way trip to total emotional devastation

I know I complained a little last week that this week’s material wasn’t covered in that episode, but after watching “Home” I have to take most of that complaining back. This content deserved its own episode, and the execution of it—shifting between point of views, building tension, and ending with a pivotal shared moment—is truly marvelous. “Home” does a brilliant (and beautiful) job of examining the complexity of a single event, and it’s completely emotionally devastating. Well-constructed, perfectly paced, and thematically coherent and powerful, this is hands down the best episode of the show to date.

**Spoilers below!**

Every episode this season has made good use of its pre-credits scenes, but this one is my favorite. Last week’s episode ended with the Nauvoo missing Eros, and this one picks up right at that moment again, with a pre-credits montage of everyone basically trying to figure out what happens that sets the tone for most of the rest of the episode. On Eros, Miller is still busy holding down a button to keep a bomb from exploding. At the UN, Avasarala is being briefed on what is known about Eros so far, which isn’t much. And on the Rocinante, the crew is scrambling to figure out what happened and what to do next, as Eros is on a collision course straight for Earth. It’s a dramatic and effective introduction to the holding pattern that defines the episode. Earth, the Rocinante, and later Fred Johnson are made desperate and helpless by their inability to stop Eros as it becomes clear that the protomolecule won’t allow itself to be destroyed, so the episode is split between their increasingly futile actions and Miller, who goes on a journey that allows him to finally finish his quest for Julie Mao.

The UN Security Council is in disarray as they work to do something to prevent the impending apocalypse that would be caused by Eros—an asteroid three times the size of the one that killed the dinosaurs—striking the planet. The two-pronged solution is to evacuate as many people as possible while launching half of Earth’s nukes at the asteroid in the hope of destroying it before it reaches the planet. In short scenes, we see the initial chaos and disagreement slowly shift to grudging consensus, though not true unity of purpose. The divisions in Earth’s government run deep, and Errinwright will have a lot to answer for when his conspiracy with Jules-Pierre Mao eventually comes out.

In the end, however, we’re reminded that the Earth material really is Chrisjen’s story, and it’s her reactions and her emotional arc that we’re meant to follow here. Shohreh Aghdashloo has an incredible, room-filling presence, and in all the scenes in the UN situation room there’s always a sense that it’s Chrisjen who is in charge. It’s her solo scenes, however, that hold most of the power this week. Though it was her conversation with her husband, Arjun, that brought tears to my eyes (that time delay was absolutely gutting), it’s her quiet strength in choosing to stay on Earth—the classic heroism of any captain going down with their ship—that made me really cry. It’s a role and responsibility seldom given to women in fiction and perhaps never depicted with such craft. The production values and cinematography on this show have always been excellent, but the set for Avasarala’s office, her beautiful costume, the lighting, and the framing of the shot all work together to create an iconic moment for the character.

On the Rocinante, the crew starts the episode scrambling to figure out a way to rescue Miller before they’re commandeered to help target the Earth missiles that have been sent to destroy Eros. I love that the show has made Holden and Naomi into more nearly equal partners than they ever were in Leviathan Wakes, and it’s great to see the whole crew working so well together in this episode as they chase Eros sunwards. The building sense of drama works surprisingly well as the ship speeds up to keep pace with the asteroid and the crew is forced to turn to a drug cocktail that will allow them to withstand the high-G force. I do wish that more time had been dedicated to Holden working out his differences with Miller; that all has seemed somewhat glossed over in the last couple of episodes. That said, by making Naomi a better developed character and having her connect with Miller, it’s not entirely necessary for Holden and Miller to have some kind of big hug-it-out scene about things. It’s enough that Holden cares because he’s a decent guy when Naomi cares because of a genuine bond of friendship with the other Belter, and allowing these characters to share the emotional weight of dealing with this stuff is a big improvement over the way it was handled in the source material, where the whole first book was told from just Holden and Miller’s points of view.

While everyone else is trying without success to find a way to stop Eros from crashing into Earth, Miller must travel through the insides of Eros to find the heart of the protomolecule infection. The show smartly limits the other characters all to, essentially, single rooms from which to work while emphasizing Miller’s arduous physical journey, which has elements of dreamlike wonderland mixed with eldritch horror. The on-screen journey parallels what has become, for Miller, and almost spiritual journey, and the moment when he realizes that the center of the protomolecule infection is at the Blue Falcon where they found Julie in season one is only surpassed by his awestruck explanation to Holden and Naomi about what he’s seeing. The juxtaposition of Miller’s travels through Eros with the relative stillness of the rest of the cast is a perfect way of heightening the sense of epicness, and I must reiterate that I’m so glad this portion of the story was given a full hour so it has plenty of time to breathe and build up to the final scenes.

When Miller finally reaches Julie herself, she’s unconscious, covered in the protomolecule and dreaming of flying her racing ship back to Earth. He’s able to gently her, but she’s confused and disoriented, and it’s heartbreaking how all she wants is to go home. It’s melodramatic, but it’s a kind of melodrama that I love and when Miller tells her that she can’t go home anymore I about lost it completely. There’s a part of me that feels as if I ought to hate this story, and I didn’t love it in the book if I’m perfectly honest. However, Thomas Jane’s Miller is much, much better than Miller ever was in the books, and his desire to find and help Julie has always felt sweet rather than creepy. This meeting at the Blue Falcon is the final test of the show’s ability to really make this story work, and it does. Miller’s gentleness with Julie is beautiful and represents a real character development on his part, and even the way he kisses her and lays his head on her chest as they head off to eventually crash into Venus feels like a kindness that stems from feelings of true and selfless love. The moment felt truly earned by the time it had arrived, and I found that I mostly just felt glad that Julie wasn’t alone any longer.

The episode ends with a short montage of characters watching Eros make its way to Venus, and it’s a wonderfully low-key way to wind things down after the tension and stress of the preceding hour. Miller’s protégé Diogo is getting OPA tattoos, which hopefully bodes well for his continued presence on the show. Avasarala is lying on her rooftop watching the night sky, a lovely callback to a similar scene in season one but also a great image in its own right; she was willing to die with the planet she loves, and now she can relax knowing that it’s safe, at least momentarily. Fred Johnson watches the last leg of Eros’s journey on the news feed on Tycho while the Rocinante crew watches the same coverage on their ship. Finally, as Eros silently crashes on Venus, the Rocinante crew has a drink and toasts Miller’s empty chair. The quietness and stillness of all these moments, free of dialogue as they are, is exactly the right way to have ended an episode that was split between frantic activity and a fraught journey. There’s a sense of the momentousness of it, but also the sense that life keeps going on even after such a major crisis. As a way of wrapping up the material from the first book in the series, “Home” couldn’t have been much better.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • Errinwright’s panicked, furious call to Jules-Pierre Mao is a great scene. Errinwright can be a bit of an opaque character at times, and this is probably the most emotion he’s shown about anything so far on the show.
  • Fred Johnson doesn’t get a ton of screen time this week, but he makes the most of what he gets, planting the seeds of a fragile accord with Earth, or at least with Chrisjen Avasarala. His “And so it goes” brought a tear to my eye, as all Vonnegut allusions, even much cheerier ones than this, are like to do.
  • I love Chrisjen’s conversation with Arjun, but it would have been even more heartbreaking if we’d seen even a little bit more of him in the preceding four episodes. One can easily believe the love between these two characters as portrayed by two skilled actors, but a little more showing of their relationship would not have been amiss.
  • We don’t see any Mars action, though we do hear about the Martian government. It makes me almost wish for some Mars POV analogous to Avasarala, but I must admit that it would only make the show bloated. Still, Mars is such a big part of things that it’s too bad we don’t get to see and root for them the way we do with Earth and the Belters.
  • A+ use of music this week. This show always does a great job in this department, but this episode was superb.

The Expanse: “Godspeed” doesn’t go as fast or as far as I hoped it would

After all last week’s great setup, I rather expected “Godspeed” to be a more action-packed episode and to move at a faster clip through the remainder of the story from Leviathan Wakes. Instead, this episode focuses a lot more on some compelling emotional beats and then stops just short of a major climax that I was really looking forward to seeing. So, in a way, “Godspeed” was something of a letdown. At the same time, however, the episode flows nicely for the most part; there’s some necessary character development, especially for Holden; and the CGI team really brought their A-game in bringing the space action to life. This wasn’t the episode I wanted or expected it to be, but it’s not bad, and the preview for next week’s episode looks promising enough that I’m glad that this last bit of Leviathan Wakes material is being given more room to breathe.

Book and show spoilers below.

“Godspeed” opens with Avasarala and Cotyar investigating the derelict stealth ship that Fred Johnson directed them towards last week. They’re having the wreckage explored, and the place is just dripping with evidence—an expensive warship with one of the stolen drives from the Bush shipyards, full of dead crew all of whom are found to have last worked at Protogen, which ties this all clearly to Jules-Pierre Mao and to the destruction of Phoebe. It’s not long before Avasarala has put together a significant portion of the plot between Mao and Errinwright, and she soon has both men in a room together to straighten things out. After this conversation, Mao is spooked, but Errinwright is still in denial about what Avasarala knows, which leads Mao to terminate their association. Still, plots are afoot, and Avasarala doesn’t have the full picture just yet, even if she is much cleverer than Errinwright gives her credit for being.

Sadly, though, most of this still feels like buildup to future events. I love Chrisjen Avasarala. I could watch just ten straight hours a year of her being the smartest person in every room, and the costumes, hair and makeup for this character are always exquisite. But none of what happened this week felt urgent, and none of it resolved anything. This season began Avasarala’s story with a dramatic attempt on her life, which was good. It gave us some real action on Earth and raised the personal stakes for the character, which led to her discovery of Errinwright’s plotting against her. That was good, entertaining stuff. Now, it feels as if the show is trying to send Avasarala down the rabbit hole to see how deep things go, but without much support. Mao and Errinwright might be worthy opponents for our Chrisjen, but they haven’t gotten much screen time before now, and watching the unraveling of their plans isn’t the best way to make them feel threatening. Cotyar is inscrutable, and he doesn’t seem in danger of getting a big shot of character development any time soon. Even Avasarala herself seems somewhat flat and one note so far this season, in spite of Shohreh Aghdashloo’s formidable acting chops.

Having read Caliban’s War, I expect that this is simply because there’s not a whole lot for her to do until Bobbie Draper shows up in a couple more episodes. It’s just unfortunate that in the meantime, the politicking on Earth feels less and less consequential with each scene we see. Much of what Avasarala is uncovering now is stuff that took her halfway through Caliban’s War to figure out (and then only with Bobbie’s help), which makes my concern now that by the time Bobbie Draper gets to Earth and Chrisjen meets her, they won’t have much to do together. This might make sense if somehow the show is hoping to squeeze the rest of Caliban’s War into the back half of this season, but that would make for either a lot of rushing things or a lot of cut book material. With the show being so true to the books up to this point, that seems unlikely, which could suggest invented material for the show, as with the pre-Ganymede scenes for Bobbie and her unit, but that’s been a mixed success at best. I guess we’ll find out in a couple of weeks once Bobbie gets to Ganymede and the Eros stuff is behind us.

There was, incidentally, no sign of the Martians this week, as aside from the brief scenes of Avasarala, Mao and Errinwright the rest of the episode followed through on Miller’s suggestion to Fred Johnson last week that they use the Nauvoo to ram Eros and the protomolecule into the sun. There was some great character work in these segments, especially from Chad L. Coleman as Fred Johnson and Steven Strait as Holden, two characters who had to deal with making major decisions in this episode. There’s also a great deal of fantastic CGI space action, with the launch of the Nauvoo a particular highlight and the boarding of Eros another. From a technical standpoint, the show absolutely nailed the things it needed to nail this week. When it comes to maintaining a cohesive narrative and thematic arc, “Godspeed” is somewhat less successful.

Things start out well enough on the Tycho with a pre-credits introductory scene in which Miller and Fred Johnson bring Holden and Naomi in on their plan for the Nauvoo and Eros. Holden, self-righteous as ever, is still sore about Miller killing Dresden, but he quickly sees the necessity of dealing with Eros as soon as possible and agrees to help with relatively little fuss. The scene is good, but the sudden end of Holden’s antipathy towards Miller after this final short display of it is too abrupt and feels unearned. It’s only Naomi who is willing to talk to Miller before they go back to Eros, but later in the episode when Miller is in danger, Holden seems to have forgotten their disagreement entirely. Any kind of short interaction between Holden and Miller to resolve their argument would have made a difference here, and we surely could have given up a few seconds of CGI spaceship porn to make room for it.

The standout scenes of the episode showed the commandeering and launch of the Nauvoo, but here the sheer CGI gorgeousness of it almost overshadowed the rest of what was happening. The scenes of the Mormons being evacuated from the Nauvoo, which also serves as their temple, are heart wrenching, but again this is material that feels somewhat rushed over. Jeff Clarke is perfectly cast as Elder McCann and imbues the Mormon leader with a humane earnestness that makes him a surprisingly likable minor character, and he deserved a little more consideration than he got. On the other hand, the final scene of Fred Johnson ordering the launch is perfectly executed, and Chad L. Coleman makes the most of his own limited on screen time to effectively convey Fred’s conflicted feelings about what they’re doing.

When Holden and company reach Eros, they find a small ship docked with the station full of doctors on a humanitarian mission to help the people trapped inside. Deciding how to deal with this might be the hardest thing Holden has had to do to date, and it’s certainly Holden at his most compelling so far. When the doctors on the Marasmus mistake the Rocinante for Martian ship, Holden plays along, hoping to scare them away from Eros without violence, but before the Marasmus can make their escape it’s discovered that they have already been inside the station and in contact with the protomolecule. The captain of the Marasmus intends to broadcast their Eros findings to the rest of the solar system, which could only add to the chaos and misinformation that has been fueling many of the events that have taken place since Holden’s own ill-advised broadcast about the destruction of the Canterbury. Holden has been through a lot since then, and circumstances have continually forced him to compromise his ideals and adapt to unfamiliar situations, which has made him far more circumspect about spreading information. In the end, Holden is forced to destroy the Marasmus, a symbolic killing of his own old self that should have interesting repercussions for the character down the road.

The pacing of the episode is strange throughout the hour, and the ending feels both sudden and anticlimactic. It’s not that it’s particularly telegraphed earlier on or anything, but the news that it’s Eros that is changing course and heading towards Earth just isn’t at all surprising when it happens. The voices coming from the station all this time have been a clear hint that something there might be sentient, and it prevents the ending of “Godspeed” from functioning as a proper cliffhanger, especially since we already know that Naomi can remotely disable the detonator that Miller has his finger on. It’s pretty obvious where this is going, and I just wish it would hurry up and get there so it can move on to whatever comes next.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • “The Mormons are gonna be pissed.”
  • I loved the quick scene of Mao watching the news and finding out that his assets are frozen. François Chau has these amazing subtle facial expressions that make him perfect for this role and highly entertaining to watch. I’ll never not get a kick out of seeing wealthy business tycoon villains get the wind taken out of their sails.
  • Andrew Rotilio continues to be all charm as Diogo.
  • Not enough Alex and Amos, to be honest.
  • Even a weak episode of The Expanse has a lot of things going for it.

The Expanse: “Static” is a solid set-up for major events coming next week

After last week’s action-packed season premiere, “Static” is a fairly quiet interlude that splits its time between character development moments—as various people deal with fallout from last week’s events—and exposition and set up for another major event (or two) next week that should wrap up the end of Leviathan Wakes material and put us into Caliban’s War in episode five. The Expanse has always laid out its episodes in this sort of cyclical pattern, alternating between action and exposition, punctuating the flow of its overall story with periods of calm and excitement, but with mixed success. The show’s quieter episodes have had a tendency to feel like wheel-spinning, and there’s some of that here, but there’s also copious evidence that the show’s writers have taken some of the common criticisms of season one to heart and found a much better balance between exposition and events. To be sure, there are a few clunky moments in “Static,” but it was never boring, and there’s plenty going on the keep viewers excited for next week’s episode.

Spoilers below for the episode and books.

“Static” starts with an event leftover from last week, the destruction of Deimos by the Earth navy, which comes even before the opening credits. The opening shot of Earth’s missiles zooming towards Deimos quickly cuts to Bobbie Draper and her squad of Martian marines watching the news, which details the tiny moon’s complete obliteration and the deaths of all seventeen of its residents. We then get a short scene of Avasarala and Errinwright discussing the possible war with Mars, which turns to a voiceover on top of scenes of the Martian marines training. It’s a smart use of a couple of minutes that further sets up the rivalry between the Avasarala and Errinwright philosophies and highlights the seriousness of the situation. This whole opening sequence also resonates thematically with the rest of the episode (and, I expect, much of this season of the show), which deals heavily with ideas about the value of human life, whose lives matter, and the ease and difficulty with which different characters treat different lives as disposable. Sadly, Chrisjen doesn’t get much to do the rest of the episode, though her “What the fuck is that?” when she finally gets a message back from Fred Johnson near the end of the hour promises that she’ll have plenty to do in the next episode or two.

Similarly, Bobbie and the rest of the Martian marines are subjected to a somewhat boring and, frankly, redundant subplot this week. We get to see the way that the three native-born Martians single out and pick on the Earth born Private Travis, which was already touched upon in the first episode of the season. In the end, this relatively minor personnel issue is resolved and Bobbie and company are sent on to Ganymede, which book readers will recognize as the place where we first meet Bobbie in Caliban’s War. I suspect that all this time spent with Bobbie’s team is meant to help viewers connect with her and them before the Ganymede incident, but all these characters struggle with likability—probably because they spend so much time on petty bickering. It’s an interesting adaptational dilemma, though, if you think about it. On the one hand, I’m glad that the show didn’t work too hard to paint Bobbie and her team as overly soft and lovable. Bobbie’s not, in general, a super likable character, and the show is portraying her pretty much how she appeared in the book. On the other hand, they’re going to a lot of trouble to try and make the viewer care about this team of people and it’s, one, not working very well and, two, strongly telegraphing that this group of characters is marked for tragedy. The ominous way that Sutton pronounces “Ganymede” is a dead giveaway.

Most of “Static” takes place at Tycho Station, to which the Rocinante and Fred Johnson have returned with prisoners from Thoth. While the crippled ship is being repaired, its crew is fractured. After shooting Dresden last week, Miller is out, banished from the Rocinante by a furious, self-righteous Holden and from Tycho by Fred Johnson, who is himself struggling to figure out next steps in how to deal with Eros and the conflict between Earth and Mars that is sure to spill over into the Belt and Outer Planets. Holden and Naomi have a disagreement about Miller and Dresden, which sends Naomi off the Rocinante for some girl time with Fred Johnson’s assistant, Samara, and leads Holden to focus on interrogating their most important prisoner, a scientist named Paolo Cortazar. Amos starts the episode by having a commiserating drink with Miller but turns out to be instrumental in getting Cortazar to talk. Meanwhile, Alex is eaten up with guilt over the deaths of the twenty-five Belters on the second boarding pod at Thoth, and he spends the whole episode running and rerunning simulations of the fight in order to figure out a way that he could have saved them. All of this works together to produce a strange effect that is probably not quite exactly what the writers hoped for. The idea of breaking up the crew and then putting them back together at the end of the episode is a solid one, and it ought to be enough to fuel an episode, but the truth is that not all the conflicts here really work. There aren’t always clear consequences for characters’ actions, and the interpersonal stakes feel low when compared to the major events happening in the story.

This is probably most glaring in Miller’s storyline this week. In his first appearance of the episode, Miller is assaulted and berated by Holden, who is outraged at Miller’s extrajudicial killing of the unarmed Dresden. Fred is more quietly angry at Miller, perhaps angry less at Miller’s action and more at Miller’s usurping of Fred’s authority in the situation, perhaps for some other complex reason. It’s not always easy to tell with Fred Johnson, who is still a somewhat mysterious character in the show. In any case, Fred orders Miller off Tycho ASAP and sends Miller off to, presumably, find a ship to take him off. However, this isn’t what Miller does at all. It turns out that almost no one is actually that upset with Miller. In fact, some of the Belters on Tycho seem almost to hero worship the ex-cop, and Miller loafs around the station for somewhere between a day or so and a couple of weeks. The timeline is confusing. He has a drink with Amos, then goes to the Mormon temple on Tycho and lets some poor nice Mormon waste time giving Miller the whole spiel about the generation ship, the Nauvoo, parked outside Tycho. Miller is also having visions of Julie Mao, who seems to be beckoning him back to Eros, so he decides Eros needs to be destroyed and goes back to Fred Johnson to suggest that they use the Nauvoo to do it, and Fred agrees with no real argument. It’s a weird storyline because it feels important and somewhat dramatic during the watching, but its internal logic doesn’t actually hold up to much scrutiny. It’s Fred’s easy agreement at the end that really killed my suspension of disbelief, but this plot overall relies a little too heavily on the ability of viewers to fill in blanks and imagine character motivations and rationalizations that aren’t adequately supported by what is shown on screen.

The disagreement between Holden and Naomi is an obvious one. Holden, self-righteous prig that he is, hates that Miller shot Dresden, who was unarmed and not obviously presenting any imminent threat to the people who were in the room with him on Thoth. Naomi, however, sees the wisdom of Miller’s decision, though she isn’t entirely approving of it being so unilaterally decided and carried out, and she urges Holden towards forgiveness and clemency or at least pragmatism. This argument sends the two apart for most of the remainder of the episode, with Holden working with Fred and Amos to get information out of the scientist, Cortazar, while Naomi drinks and plays and dances with her new friend Samara. Before the end of the episode, Holden and Naomi have one more conversation where they reconcile, and this puts them right with each other in time for whatever comes next for them. The thing is, this is the first test of their relationship, but it never feels truly consequential. When they aren’t in the same room, it’s as if the two characters don’t even exist to each other, and their reconciliation feels too easily accomplished at the end after such a significant philosophical disagreement.

Still, “Static” is a good episode that does a lot of necessary ground laying for next week’s major events. The Nauvoo exposition was nice and not too clunky, the use of the Eros noises as a soundtrack was mostly well-done, and while quieter than the first two episodes of the season, this one didn’t feel slower or less interesting. I’m happy to see that we’re on track to finish Leviathan Wakes by the end of episode four, though. I cannot wait to get deeper into Caliban’s War material. The back half of this season should be awesome for female characters, and that is definitely relevant to my interests.

Miscellaneous Thoughts:

  • I love Errinwright’s line at the end of the opening sequence, where he turns Avasarala’s own words against her: “It’s like you always said; Earth must come first.” This is a great way of pointing out Chrisjen’s own hypocrisy in using rhetoric that can be easily interpreted in ways she doesn’t intend but probably should have been able to foresee.
  • I noticed that “Nauvoo” doesn’t set off spellcheck, so I googled it and learned an interesting bit of Mormon history that I was previously unaware of, so that was neat.
  • It’s interesting how Amos is used this week to relate to both Miller and Cortazar. One man has a rough exterior but an excess of empathy, while the other has been altered to feel none, yet Amos connects with both of them. I’m not always sure that the writers are sure what they want Amos to be.
  • I would have loved to see Alex’s story given more time this week, as well as some more interaction with other characters. He felt very alone and adrift in his pain, but it seemed as if this mini-storyline was almost an afterthought.
  • I genuinely hated the short EDM montage with the music made from the Eros recording. I’m not big on montages in general, but this one in particular was egregiously bad. It communicated nothing that hadn’t already been conveyed in the previous scenes, and it was heavy handed way of making a thematic connection between disparate storylines.