Season 3 / Episode 2 / Syfy
Season 3 of The Expanse is off to a solid start, with plenty of intrigue and danger to get lost in. The crew of the ship formerly known as the Rocinante is splintered. Well, just two splinters: Naomi, and everyone else. They’re headed to Io to look for Plant Guy Prax’s daughter, Mei. Bobbie and Avasarala are strapped into a Razorback racing ship, trying to evade the UNN ship that Errinwright sent after them (the Razorback is from Jules-Pierre Mao’s ship, which becomes important later). Cotyar and the Jr. Electrician are off who-knows-where. This episode puts a finer point on the science schemes at the core of what’s going on, introduces a possibly fascinating new character, and features an epic space chase. Let’s get to it.
A beautiful scene interrupted by screaming? Yeah, it’s an evil scientist’s lab for sure. Mei wakes up from her cryotube to Dr. Strickland’s face. Strickland is one of those doctors who has perfected talking to kids in the most soothing way possible, while any adult can see immediately he’s no good. Not one bit of good. You only get to call a child a “big girl” so many times before my predator bells go off. Then Strickland gets a call…Mao is here!
Bobbie is hiding in the debris field while Avasarala sits behind her, cursing and feeling helpless. Bobbie’s not a pilot, but she does a pretty decent job of sophomore-level evasion. Unfortunately, the situation calls for senior-level evasion — a speed that Avasarala can’t tolerate. She’s a diplomat unsuited for high-Gs, so they can’t outrun the missiles. Time to send a distress call on Bobbie’s Martian suit. Better a Martian prison than death in space.
Bobbie and Avasarala spend the entire episode in the Razorback. These two women act their asses off by maintaining witty banter and high tension with lots of ‘fucks’ — most of the time while unable to make eye contact. It is a great series of scenes, and oh yeah; two women of color passing the Bechdel-Wallace test and the Angry Black Woman/Johnson test on top of that? Perfect.
The Ship Formerly Known as The Rocinante
Prax and Amos are busy being besties, planting plants and whatnot. It’s cute seeing how they connect: Amos looking for someone to follow, Prax looking to do something with his hands.
Into this happy family comes the signal from the Razorback. The IFF (Identify Friend or Foe) tags it as coming from a Martian Marine, a friend. Alex, being a good Martian, wants to go save the marine. Holden ain’t having it, and Amos? Well, Amos just wants something to do that isn’t killing people. Oh, but wait! There’s more: The ship’s registered to Julie Mao, the person at the start of the series! This is too good of a coincidence for it to be a coincidence. Mostly because it isn’t one. Full. Circle. What to do now?
There’s a protest going down!
Introducing Reverend Doctor Anna Volovodov. She takes charge immediately: saving a protester from a real beatdown at the hands of the police, using her connects to see to the protester’s arm, and earning herself a cut on the head in the process. Right away we know what kind of person Anna is, but what’s she doing here?
She’s an old friend of SecGen Gillis! Ain’t that something. Almost immediately she comes into conflict that Errinwright (that motherfucker). You see, Rev. Doc. Anna is a pastor of a church. The SecGen needs her personal touch to help him sell the war to the people of earth.
SecGen: I want the people to feel like God is on our side.
Rev. Anna: Abraham Lincoln hoped that he was on God’s side.
SecGen: Yeah, that’s what I meant. You staying or no?
She sets a nice fat price for selling out and gets to work being SecGen’s conscience on call.
That’s the thing about being a rich white guy, you don’t have to have your own conscience. You can just hire one.
More about the Reverend Doctor
We get to meet Anna’s family. Her partner is a Black woman, and together they have a daughter. Through further conversations with Anna, we’re given a character who has deep religious convictions. Often in science fiction such a character is a joke: treated as unintelligent by the other characters, written as overly naive by the writer, or revealed to be a hypocrite by the plot. Not so here. Anna’s beliefs are treated with respect. Her perspective is rational and well-expressed. It’s another way that The Expanse brings unique characters to the screen. A queer woman who’s also a leader of a church? This show just keeps serving up the representation we want.
Avasarala is probably having a stroke. I don’t mean that figuratively, I mean a literal stroke. The Gs are too much. Witty banter aside, she’s gonna die. Or not. The Razorback is being pursued by a grip of torpedoes. Now there are more coming at them from…The Roci!
It is a tense space battle, with some additional complications thrown in by Prax’s inexperience onboard a zero-g ship. He leaves a cabinet unlocked, littering the inside of the ship with tools. Tools that become weapons, zipping around the area where Prax and Amos are seated. Watch the clip, y’all. It had my heart pounding.
It’s now extremely dangerous inside and outside the ship. Amos uses his physical strength and experience to save himself and Prax. Meanwhile, with some A+ strategy from Holden and great flying from Alex, the Roci proceeds to save the Razorback; and disable the UNN ship. That’s what’s up!
After the fight, Amos and Prax continue their heart-to-heart. Seems that some of Amos’ protective instincts and penchant for saying deep things in the most effective way possible have transferred from Naomi to Prax. Let’s see how this relationship continues to develop. I’m sure other fans are already shipping Amos/Prax all over Tumblr.
Setting up the new good-natured person for Errinwright to be a motherfucker to, Rev. Anna meets the SecGen’s speechwriting crew. They are a crop of cynical, cold-hearted bastards. But Rev. Anna doesn’t cower. She faces down the whole lot of them with considerate, direct communication. It is actually the SecGen’s condescending tone that is the most infuriating.
Mad Scientist Strickland is doing exactly what you suspected: injecting Mei and kids like her with protomolecule in an attempt to…make super soldiers? Control the protomolecule? Just be a mad scientist? At least Mei is still alive — though for how long and in what shape, we don’t yet know.
The crew of the ship formerly known as the Roci finally meets Bobbie D. and Avasarala. This is great, except that Avasarala is more dead than alive. We know the crew saves her, but now there’s a new center of power on the Roci. One that doesn’t give a shit about the politics of the crew, but is trying to save the whole solar system. How does Holden stand up to Avasarala? How will the rest of the crew react?