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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.

11 Nonsensical Things We’re Supposed to Believe About Davos and Melisandre

Spoilers abound, clearly. Though I didn’t include the Night’s Watch, Jon Snow, Wildlings, or other key parts of this storyline in the headline, they are all discussed herein.

This list appears as well in my full recap and review of last night’s episode, but it got so lengthy and it’s so ridiculous that I felt it deserved its own post. Although Jon Snow’s resurrection was so heavily telegraphed and obviously had to happen in order for the show’s story to continue, the way that it was accomplished last night was hands down the biggest mess of poor writing so far this season, in terms of inconsistent characterization and totally absurd leaps of logic.

  1. Davos has basically forgotten entirely about Stannis. I’d have to watch both of these first couple episodes a third time each to be totally certain, but I don’t think Davos has even said Stannis’s name this season, much less expressed any grief or sense of loss over the king he loved. I don’t even have to rewatch the episodes to be sure that Davos hasn’t mentioned Shireen Baratheon at all.
  2. Davos has become deeply embroiled in the affairs of the Night’s Watch, and in just a few days since Stannis’s death has become a strong partisan of Jon Snow in spite of the fact that they barely knew each other previous to this.
  3. Both the loyal-to-Jon members of the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings under Tormund defer to Davos’s judgment and are willing to stand with and fight for him unto death in order to I guess protect Jon’s legacy or something?
  4. Although almost everyone at Castle Black must have now had at least some first- or second-hand experience with a zombie by this point and at least one man of the Night’s Watch has come back as a wight within the very walls of the castle and it’s customary for both the Night’s Watch and the Wildlings to burn their dead as soon as possible after death, Jon Snow’s body has been kept, and not even under watch or guard.
  5. Even when Tormund finally says he’s going to go get things ready to burn the body, early in this episode, no one actually does it, which gives Davos plenty of time to go and convince Melisandre to try and resurrect Jon somehow.
  6. Davos knows that there is at least an outside chance that Melisandre can resurrect someone, even though at no point in the show has he been exposed to this information. Melisandre’s side trip in which she met Beric and Thoros, which is where she would have gotten the idea if it was truly something she didn’t already know was possible, was a journey she took alone, and we’ve never seen her speak about it to anyone, much less Davos, who has never had any love for the red priestess.
  7. Davos, though not a devout man, has for some reason decided to put his faith in Melisandre, even though he has long been a critic of what he considers dark and evil magic that she performs and skeptical of her religious claims. If anything, recent events seem like they would make him more distrustful of her, not less.
  8. We are also to believe that Davos holds no ill will towards Melisandre over the deaths of Stannis, Shireen, and thousands of men—a fate which Melisandre only escaped by fleeing on her own right as shit hit the fan. While it’s possible that Davos doesn’t know any of the particulars of how things went down, especially about Shireen’s death by burning, Davos’s previous mistrust and dislike for Melisandre would more naturally and believably lead him to feel resentment towards her for leading Stannis to his death and failing to protect Shireen.
  9. Davos, a man who is not devout and who is not highly educated (was actually illiterate until very recently) is capable of making impassioned theological arguments to a priestess and suggests magical solutions to problems that Melisandre was unable to think of on her own.
  10. Everyone is totally okay with a mysterious foreign priestess of a god they have likely never heard of prior to meeting Melisandre perform magic rituals over the dead body of their beloved Lord Commander in order to try and raise him from the dead. Even though most men of the Night’s Watch follow the Faith of the Seven, which would consider Melisandre’s magic heretical, and the Wildlings are almost exclusively believers in the Old Gods of the North and are distrustful of more organized religions. And foreigners. And women. Also, the only experience that the Watch and the Wildlings have had with risen dead so far has been with terrifying zombies that try to murder them all. But they are completely cool with Melisandre raising Jon Snow from the dead.
  11. Because Jon Snow is so popular and well-liked and effective as Lord Commander that the Night’s Watch, now inexplicably led by Davos, Edd, and Tormund, just don’t feel like they can do without him, even though Jon has not achieved anything of note during his time as Lord Commander and opinions on his decisions have been polarizing enough to motivate an assassination.

Is there anything I missed? I’m sure their must be. Let me know in the comments.

If you’ve somehow managed to make sense out of this, let me know that, too. I promise to be impressed.

Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 2 “Home”

Another week, another episode of Game of Thrones that proves both that the show really is capable of doing some things right and that the show’s writers have no clue what those things are or how to replicate their successes in any kind of consistent fashion. It’s the great moments—albeit few and far between—that keep me coming back to this show even though I know that, objectively, it’s the worst kind of trash programming, made even more offensively bad by the fact that they’re spending like $10 million and episode to make it happen. That said, most of “Home” isn’t extraordinarily bad or good; it’s simply boring, and nothing happens that isn’t expected, either because its demanded by the (ridiculous) narrative that the show’s writers have created, or because it’s so obviously exactly the sort of nonsense that we know the show for that one can’t possibly be truly surprised by it.

Spoilers, obviously, under the cut. Continue reading Game of Thrones Recap/Review: Season 6, Episode 2 “Home”