Season 3 / Episode 3 / Syfy
The cold war between Earth and Mars has finally gone hot in The Expanse, and episode 3 expands on the cost that people all over the system have to pay because of it. True to the name, lots of things get destroyed in this episode: canons, cities, relationships, expectations. It’s low on action for many of the key players, but sets up plenty of work for future episodes. Let’s see what we’ve got.
The Razorback and The Roci
These two ships are docked together, floating through space. The two crews, however, aren’t getting along. At. All. Bobbie initially feels at ease on the Martian ship but becomes offended once she realizes that the crew of the Roci have made some…changes. She comes out verbally swinging, and you know that real swinging ain’t far behind. She’s ready/willing/able to take the ship back. Her and Amos throwing hands would be the fight I’ve been waiting way too long to see.
It is a war of words as Holden enters the conversation and lays it out for Bobbie — he’s not going to alter course from Io for her, Avasarala, or anyone else. Naomi continues to try to play mom, but Holden gives, even here, the “you can go now” line. Ain’t nobody staying on the Roci if they aren’t on Holden’s side.
Earth, UNN Security Room
Errinwright is on his warmonger shit. He’s talking the SecGen into blowing up 5 Martian first strike platforms that are aimed at Earth, with enough punch to kill billions. The SecGen displays the kind of utterly flaky decision making that makes people love him. He doesn’t want to blow up the platforms because of the casualties. Errinwright keeps talking—killing Martians will end the war by killing more Martians? Yep. That solid cold war logic, for sure.
UNS Agatha King, Flagship of the Jupiter Fleet
This guy should look familiar. He’s Admiral Souther, played by Martin Roach. Souther was in one of the initial UNN Security Room conversations. Disagreeing with Errinwright got him demoted and sent out to the Jupiter Fleet. He’s flying around in the sturdy, but aging, Agatha King. The King is sent to intercept Cotyar and the Jr. Engineer who are still floating in the drop ship. Yay, Cotyar’s not dead!
Admiral Nguyen, played by Byron Mann, drops a tightbeam message to Souther that No One, capital N capital O, is to speak to anyone on the dropship. He’s on his way. That isn’t suspicious or anything. Gotta love how this show keeps its inclusiveness rating up. They added Pastor Anna last ep, a white woman, so they bring in two more non-white men to keep it balanced.
Cotyar and the Jr. Engineer are on the dropship waiting to get picked up. Jr. Engineer goes 100% panic mode, again, on Cotyar, all but begging Cotyar to give him a cover story. But it quickly becomes clear that Jr. Engineer wouldn’t stick to a cover story long enough for them to make it to the brig. Only one choice for Cotyar if he’s going to survive this: ain’t gotta keep your stories straight if there ain’t but one of you. Bye bye Jr. Engineer.
Dr. Strickland, the latest motherfucker in a show FULL of motherfuckers, is experimenting on children, while Jules-Pierre Mao supervises. But all is not well. It is clear that Mao has gotten attached to Mei and generally feels some kind of way about all of the children. He has kids of his own, after all, and recently lost his daughter Julie to all this blue madness. So as Strickland talks about cortisol levels and protomolecule uptake, Mao is talking about children, and happiness, and feeling all his feels all over the lab. This is like many other parent to non-parent conversations, it can be hard to hear each other.
Mei meanwhile, is hanging with her friend Katoa. (Aka Obfusco from Odd Squad — I KNEW HE LOOKED FAMILIAR! Odd Squad is…nevermind. Like I said, sometimes parent to non-parent conversations don’t go so well.) Katoa has gone full super soldier now that he’s fused with the protomolecule. He’s free climbing walls and feeling strong. How long till the side effects hit?
Prax and his bestie Amos are having a heart to heart in the lab as Amos pulls Prax’s stitches. Amos continues his direct advice: look Plant Guy, folks die every day, but you gotta have faith that Mei is alive, because someone’s gotta believe.
Naomi gets the Razerback on track, and clearly considers Holden’s offer/threat, to take the ship and go to Tycho. Will she go?
Avasarala comes to, and she and Bobbie re-affirm that they are besties. Avasarala and Holden have their first heart to heart talk. She starts right off sweet talking him, calling him a hero. She then drops all the truth Holden can handle, while asking him to abandon the Io plan and take her somewhere she can communicate with the UNN. Holden ain’t having it. He’s out of the hero business. If he just pretends the war isn’t happening, a war he can’t do anything about anyway, then maybe they can all just slip by.
Honestly, this isn’t bad reasoning. Everything Holden has done up until this point has lead to now. How’s he supposed to know that any act will improve the situation? Wouldn’t it be easy to feel responsible for all this?
Avasarala needs to call Souther on the Agatha King. This is significant. Keep track.
UNS Agatha King
Admiral Nguyen is here. Souther has identified Cotyar as Avasarala’s spy. Souther is as suspicious as they come at this point. He goes with Nguyen to question Cotyar. Cotyar feeds them a combination of lies and truths, but he does give them enough to feed Souther’s questions. Proving, once again, that not only is Avasarala exceptionally smart, she hires exceptionally smart people.
Rev. Anna is trying to give the SecGen good advice, about holding off the war. The SecGen flip-flops back to warmonger and asks Rev. Anna to help him justify the war, to sanctify the war. She goes full minister:
“Sacrifice literally means to make sacred. Are you making something sacred? How many lives will it take to make it sacred? Turn to your neighbor, and say ‘Neighbor! Is this holy? No! Says the Neighbor. No it is not.'”
She drops a pretty good sermon for a non-baptist.
“How many of us? How many of them? How many will you sacrifice? And there is a right answer. And you know what it is.”
Damn Rev. Anna, way to read the SecGen. It won’t stop him, but at least you spoke the truth.
Back in the Security Room, Errinwright tries to get the killing on, but the SecGen turns up, suddenly talking about his “sacred duty.” Bast almighty, this guy just repeats back to you whatever the last person said to him! No wonder Avasarala liked him so much, no wonder Errinwright keeps him around. But it becomes more clear to Errinwright that because the SecGen changes his song as fast and as easy as Bey changes costumes at Beychella, Errinwright has to be the only one playing the music. Otherwise, he’s not in control of what the SecGen does. And control is everything.
I don’t know if you remember, but Alex sent a message to his wife. Well, his wife writes back. That goes exactly as well as you’d expect. I don’t know what Alex thought was going to happen. I mean, if my partner left me, called me years later and said: “Hey, I love you, but I found something I love more. I hope that’s okay!” My answer would start with “Fuck.” and end with “you” and/or “off.” repeatedly. Alex’s wife says neither of those things. She’s a class act in my book.
In medical, Amos, the hardest working man in space, fits Avasarala with mag boots so she can walk around the ship. This leads to this episode’s most revealing, and funny, conversation.
Amos: It is just like walking in pumps.
Avasarala: How do you know what it’s like to walk in pumps?
Amos: I didn’t always work in space.
For me as a person who hasn’t read the books, Amos’ past just gets more and more interesting each episode. The fluidity with which the character embodies masculinity, while hinting at a past that is stereotypically non-masculine, is *fascinating*. I almost don’t want to know the whole story. I just want the hints to keep coming.
Naomi and Alex have a detente in the kitchen over lasagne. Which is pleasant and predictable.
[avasarala and holden]
Avasarala goes to the whole crew with her story, in an attempt to press Holden’s hand. But she’s not as full of secrets as she thinks she is. As she’s been on Earth observing, this crew has been out here living the story she’s read about. With all the news out in the open, Avasarala joins team “Nuke Io”, but the change of plans is too quick for Naomi’s liking.
UNS Agatha King
Souther arranges an electrical failure to get alone with Cotyar. Nguyen directs the ship to Io. You know what we say around here about coincidence…
UNN Security Room
With Errinwright now back in charge of the SecGen’s decision making, they start blowing up the Martian first-strike capability, shooting the missile platforms with railguns. The Expanse gets a lot of credit for its realistic portrayal of space combat. This is a perfect exampl—in the time it takes for the railgun charge to reach the missile platform, the platform fires on Earth, blowing a crater in South America like the one that killed the dinosaurs.
Whos’ to blame for the 2 million dead? The Rev. Doc. OF COURSE. She’s the one who made the SecGen hesitate—the SecGen is never responsible for his own decisions, the show treats him like a pampered overage teen. Errinwright has to neutralize the Rev. Dr. Or he’s going to have to kill her. He can’t have her messing about with his plans for domination.
Mei turns the cute-kid-reminding-you-of-your-dead-daughter look on Mao.
Katoa’s side effect kicks in and boy-o hits the ground seizing and vomiting.
Mao cracks like the daddy he is and ends the experimentation. I’d feel bad for him, but really, isn’t it a little late? Strickland, motherfucker #2, has the same look on his face looking at Mao that Errinwright has looking at the SecGen. So much killing is going to go down!
Earth vs. the Belt
Avasarala and Naomi face down in the kitchen over the plans, the protomolecule, Avasarala’s secret plan, Naomi’s intentions, alladat. As much as I like Naomi, and I really like Naomi, she’s out of her league with Avasarala. While neither of them has much pull with the crew, Avasarala has done a decent job of appearing to come clean to them and ally with their interests. Naomi has done everything in her power to demonstrate that she is always lying and not on their side.
The deciding factor here is Holden, who, by the end of S2 was a whining, undisciplined child. He’s keeping it together and being a captain now. But can he chart a course between these two women? Will he go the way of the SecGen, changing his mind depending on which woman he talked to last? Will he go the way of Mao, letting his guilt overcome him and direct his decisions? Will Bobbie and Amos become the drinking buddies of my dreams, after she kicks his ass that is? Will Cotyar continue smirking his way through death and destruction? Will Alex find more folksy Texan metaphors that are utterly out of context in space? As usual, so many questions!
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