S3 / Ep 11, “Fallen World” / Syfy
Welcome back, Beltas, Earthers, Dusters, and unaligned system dwellers. We’re on Episode 11 of 13, which means the mad dash to the season’s climax is upon us. Last week’s episode, Dandelion Sky, while it had some quiet moments, ended with everyone hanging on by the thinnest of tethers. Now that Holden, and the Martians, have had contact with the Nucleus, everything inside the Ring has come to a screeching halt. Obeying the laws of physics, squishy human bodies don’t do well when their tin can space ships go from tens of thousands of kilometers per hour to NONE. There’s a lot of blood in this episode and not a whole lot of gravity, which means it all gets very very messy in the next 45 minutes of television.
New Speed Limit
Holden met the end of the last episode laying on his side in a semi-conscious state. The remaining Martian Marines, Bobbi and the other two, have no idea what’s going on and aren’t quite sure what to do about it. What they do have are their orders. Just as they’re about to rocket back to their drop ship, Bobbi notices the floating bullets…the speed limit’s changed. Now anything moving faster than 28 m/s will be stopped in place. It is a slow float back to the drop ship.
Naomi comes to with a horrible pain in her chest from having slammed into her harness. She notices the new speed limit too. Before she can do anything about it, her ship console catches fire, driving her out into the black in her vac suit.
Holden remains comatose for the episode, so I don’t get to rant about him this recap.
Bobbi and friends think through the situation. The Nucleus stops things as a self-defense measure. But when “stopping” a ship kills a third of the crew, because inertia is a thing everywhere, it isn’t as benign as it sounds.
On board the OPA Behemoth, Drummer and Ashford find themselves in a classic trap. They are both being crushed by the large farm machine that they were rigging to use as a drone. They cannot see each other, so they’re unaware of how wounded the other is. What they do know is if they move the machine forward, it will crush Drummer. If they move it back, it will crush Ashford. What to do?
Bleeding in Zero G
On the U.S.S. Thomas Prince, Melba comes to, realizes she’s broken her arm and killed Tilly the Debutante. This is a sequence where the producers show off their money. The zero-gravity effect is hauntingly beautiful as it cuts to Rev. Anna, waking up in her bunk. She walks through the halls, between the floating corpses and individual droplets of blood. This is what it looks like when you slam bodies against steel walls. She makes her way to the make-shift medical ward and volunteers to help — she was a nurse in a past career it seems. The doctor fills her in: with no gravity, wounds won’t drain, blood just puddles. Anyone with even the smallest amount of internal bleeding will be dead soon. All they can do is ease the suffering.
Rev. Anna finds Melba, not knowing at this point that she is a murderous heiress. They talk through the situation. Melba determines that Holden and crew are floating, just like the Earther ship is, which means she can get to it. If she hurries. Rev Anna gets a call from Tilly, off elsewhere in the ship. Anna goes to find her friend, and Melba takes advantage of the moment to ghost the med bay. One thing I can say for Melba, she’s determined.
Belter ingenuity kicks in back in OPA-land, as they fiddle with the machinery, but no luck. Neither of them kept hold of their hand terminals. They see one floating just out of reach. Working together in the kind of display that tells you everything you need to know about Belter life, Drummer guides while Ashford controls a mechanical arm to grab a floating hand terminal out of the air. Together they manage to get it, but just as Drummer’s about to put her hands on it, the mechanical arm breaks the terminal. Ingenuity and hopelessness go together for Belters it seems.
Holden is still out. Bobbi and the mouthy, panicky Marine have a heated debate over his still warm if non-moving body. Bobbi maintains that Holden doesn’t know any more about this mess than they do. The other Marine isn’t really believing that — and would you? Seriously? The other Marine offers to put a bullet in Holden. Out of revenge for the death of their lieutenant? Out of mercy for not wanting to put Holden through the interrogation and “due process” he’ll face when they get home? Little column A, little column B. Bobbi maintains that no one’s catching a bullet on her watch. I’d have at least taken the gun from the Marine. There’s no telling who else he wants to silence.
The Marine pilot reveals the really bad news: their mother ship is being pulled to the station, along with all other ships in the space. So they’re headed for the Ring, a flight of 7 months at their current crawl of a pace. Assuming that’s true for everyone in the space, very few people are making it out of the Ring alive.
That’s What You Get For Trying To Help
Rev Anna finds Tilly, impaled on some ductwork where Melba slammed her at the moment the ship decelerated. Tilly is gasping for breath, obviously on the edge of death. She blames the Rev for encouraging her to help Melba, not Clarissa, in the first place. Tilly, a wonderful gossip to the end, tells it all. And then she starts to cry. You know, tears don’t fall in zero-G. It is an arresting moment.
The good Reverend almost catches Melba as she shoots out of an airlock. There’s a point of obsession where even a sensible reverend can’t stop you.
Ashford meanwhile is singing, a rambling pain-addled song that sounds half Irish lullaby, half Scottish drinking song, all mixed up with his Belter accent. As people do in television shows, they two trade old stories of their closest calls with death. They talk uniforms, the OPA, how to bring together a people. As they talk, Drummer realizes that Ashford isn’t the follower of Dawes she thought he was. Her individual freedoms and his unification drive for the people of the Belt aren’t quite as opposed as they at first seemed.
The song, by the way, is a Belter version of The Ballad of Captain Kidd. It is a pirate song, for sure, and one of mourning and death. Never let it be said you don’t learn something from my recaps, beratnas. I got facts.
Finally, silently, Naomi reaches the Roci. After a frantic search of the ship, she finds Alex and Amos both floating, banged about the head by whatever they were holding when the ship stopped. She drags them to the Med Bay and patches them up. Amos opens his eyes and asks:
“You back? Back to help, back to stay?”
“Stay,” she says. “I guess it took me being away for me to understand that you’re my family.”
He seems barely able to believe that she’s there at all. He turns away, with his characteristic Amos stonyness. It is all churn, my friends. All Churn.
Nigh to Death
Drummer and Ashford are suffering. The ship needs a captain, so one of them has to get out and make the necessary decisions to save lives. In Belter fashion, Drummer sacrifices herself so that Ashford can go and save the crew.
This ship, the Behemoth, is equipped with all the Mormons wanted so they could pretend they hadn’t left Earth. A lightbar of daylight quality light, timed for day and night cycles. And a rotating drum so they could simulate gravity without thrust. Ashford, knowing what every Belter knows, decides to spin up that drum to generate some gravity and create a place for those who are wounded to get help.
Melba, not knowing where James Holden is, makes it to the Roci and breaks in, coming face to face with Naomi. It is a tense fight, but we know Naomi is no fighter, so we have to believe that a little divine intervention will save our girl. And it does. Rev Anna comes through the cargo bay doors, having pursued Melba from the Thomas Prince, and drops a taser baton on the back of Melba’s head.
The Factions Evolve
Ashford announces to all in the void that they can bring their wounded to the Behemoth, to have a space to heal. It is as stirring a moment as Drummer’s from the previous episode. While Drummer spoke to the Belters and their unity; Ashford speaks to the other factions as an equal. Part of the reason I like the Belters so much is this — they are aging as a group in this series, changing into something else. They don’t want to be a “nation” or anything too Earther, but they need each other, and the rest of the system, to survive. This show is in many ways about that journey. The Belters are a character in the show like any other and their arc is fascinating.
There are many ways in which the crew of the Rocinante has become their own faction in The Expanse, separate from their origins or allegiances. They are consistently the only people who act for the good of the system, as they understand it. Some of it is luck. Sometimes they are the tools of more powerful forces. But usually, they are making the calls that put them in harm’s way for some other purpose. Other people who share that feeling seem to come to the ship, do the work, then leave it, but always the crew remains.
At the end of this episode, while Holden is in Martian custody, we know that won’t last long. Naomi is back on the Roci and with her it feels like the center of — dare I say — gravity is back too. Now they just need to get Holden, save everyone, and get out of the Ring. Easy, right?
Watching The Expanse? Find BNP’s other recaps of the series here.