Season 3 / Episode 1 / SyFy
So cold. So dark. So unforgiving. So full of backstabbing Earthers, brutal Martians, and oppressed Belters. Welcome back to The Expanse folks!
Here are the basics: The Protomolecule is on Venus. The crew of the Rocinante is out of options. Naomi gave the last sample of the Protomolecule to Fred “Butcher of Anderson Station” Johnson, a dude who can barely hold on to Tycho Station (Girl WHY?). Prax’s cute daughter Mai is still missing, maybe dead. Avasarala and Bobby are in a pleasure craft being pursued by Errinwright to tie up his loose ends. Earth and Mars are about to get this war thing going. Things are as bad as they ever been.
The UNN Secretary General is in a bad spot. His most trusted ambassador, Chrisjen Avasarala, is missing. He’s stuck in the war room with Sadavir Errinwright manipulating him with all the subtlety of Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings (note, that’s not a lot of subtlety). “Mars is gonna get us, sir! Show no weakness!” We know this is what you wanted Errinwright. The SecGen may be clueless, be we aren’t. WE KNOW!
A Formal Declaration of War. That doesn’t make it better, SecGen.
We join The Rocinante as the crew cleans Protomolecule off the outer hull. Naomi is trying to do her job, giving directions and all, but no one’s listening. Betrayal of trust is a thing, once it happens, all the pieces that held the relationship start to fray. Amos and Alex play out their roles as the two brothers devastated by their mom’s infidelity. Alex wants to patch things up, but Amos…well Amos isn’t that guy. What does Amos think? Naomi just wasn’t the person he thought she was. A simple, and yet profound statement. Is she who *any of us* think she is? Does that mean Amos’ single-minded willingness to follow her directions has come to an end?
Does it matter if they’re in the middle of a war zone?
With all appropriate gravity, Holden erases the ship’s name from the hull and they go dark.
The Pleasure Yacht
Avasarala is doing a painful but serviceable job of saving Cotyar’s life. Which is good. I like Cotyar. I want him to live to snark another day. Draper has to clear the ship of hostiles, which means she leaves Avasarala and Cotyar alone while she goes to find some solutions.
The solution? The poor Junior Electrician who Draper let live last episode and stuffed into a locker. He’s gonna pilot the ship!
All over BastDamned Space
Prax, the Plant Guy, continues being the least dramatic person on the ship. Which is saying a lot considering he’s looking for his lost daughter. He helps Naomi rename the ship: Pinus Contorta.
“In order for them to survive, they have to die with fire.”
That’s some deep shit right there, Prax. You can stay.
Meanwhile, elsewhere in space, Fred Johnson is making nice with the OPA thug, Anderson Dawes, who tried to take over Tycho Station just a little while ago (days? Weeks? whatever.). Johnson tells Dawes that he has the Protomolecule and they can wield it together against both Earth and Mars. Ain’t one cell in either of these dudes trustworthy.
Speaking of not trustworthy, there’s Errinwright again, realizing that Avasarala is still not dead. Cue character assassination, because when regular killing won’t do, killing a person’s reputation is the next best thing. Errinwright talks to the SecGen and pins all of his evil c.o.n.spiracy on Avasarala. With her MIA, her good name goes up in flames.
You’ll recall, back when Dawes and the OPA tried to take over Tycho Station, the injured Johnson’s second in command, the ever-capable Camina Drummer. Now Johnson has to tell Drummer that they have the Protomolecule and they’re going to share it with Dawes. Imagine how happy Drummer is about that—answer: not at all happy.
Oh, but Johnson isn’t done. He proceeds to convince Drummer to go salvage the Mormon ship they tried (and failed) to ram into Eros—the Nauvoo. It’ll be his new, fully operational battle station. Can’t fault his hustle, I guess.
Pinus Contorta (this is not a fun name)
Naomi, still pariah on her own ship, tries to talk sense to the crew, who have about as much use for any advice coming out of her mouth as you’d expect. Naomi advises that they should hole up at Tycho. After all, Johnson now owes them a favor. Amos looks her all in her face and says “No.” Perhaps the first time all series he says that to her. She has to know everything’s changed now.
Honestly, I’m not mad on either side. She has to rep The Belt, and that’s what she did by giving Johnson the Protomolecule. Time and again, Naomi’s proven that she’s a Belter first and foremost. About time they all remember that the tattoo on her neck isn’t just for show. At the same time, everyone else is justifiably hotter than hell about it.
In the midst of all this arguing, there’s an ominous camera pan. Where’s the camera going? Through the deck, past some pipes and ducts and what-ever-you-call-stuff-inside-walls, deeper, deeper…BLUE GOO! In all the wall busting, some Protomolecule has splashed its way deep into the ship. Everyone’s living on borrowed time now.
Even as much as everyone hates Naomi, she’s right. They should go to Tycho. Johnson is the devil they know, and he owes them big.
Prax gets to being Prax all over Holden, who now that he isn’t sleeping with Naomi is in desperate need of someone to whine to. The dialog here does a good job of laying down some Don Quixote metaphors (they are on the Rocinante after all) and of displaying why Prax is exactly the guy the crew needs right now. He’s got just enough philosophy, about hope and growth and change, to counter the cynicism and exhaustion everyone else is being crushed by. They’ve lost their drive to help someone, anyone, and just want to go ride out the war.
In the deep character dive category, we get some insight into Alex’s past in this episode. *sniff* Good job, Space Cowboy.
The Pleasure Yacht
Avasarala and team storm the control room, where the pilots make Cotyar come out of his pain-filled haze long enough to shoot them both. Why folks always gotta choose the hard way out?
The pleasure yacht is being fired upon, by the way, because Errinwright is a thorough motherfucker. They can’t pilot the ship fast enough to outrun the missiles. In the panic, Avasarala is still the smartest person in the room and realizes they shouldn’t leave the control room until she has all the communications records—records that will prove that Errinwright and Mao were in the conspiracy together. Poor overworked, underpaid Jr. Electrician takes some convincing, but once again he falls for the “time to be a hero” line and gets to finding it.
With the evidence in hand, they head for the racing ship that is docked in the hangar. Uh Ohs! The bay is locked. What follows is some extreme sci-fi fun with Bobby Draper solving problems her way—with her arm cannon and her reflexes. She is the best.
Bobby has to pilot the ship because Jr. Electrician is a mess and Cotyar still has a bullet wound that will splatter all over the inside of the fancy Razorback racing ship. Avasarala isn’t happy about it, but really, what’s her option? She already hates space flight, so it ain’t getting any better.
Where To Now?
Just as the crew formerly of the Rocinante is getting themselves together to go to Tycho Station, Holden proves why they let him be in charge. He finds a Protomolecule energy spike on Io, and where on Io? Just happens to be coming from an old Mao science lab. Io is just a jump from Ganymede. Chances are that if Prax’s daughter is still alive, that’s where she’ll be. Saving her was a promise they made to get Prax’s cooperation, now they actually intend to do it.
With a new mission, the crew jumps to. Well, they don’t all jump too. Naomi has fully embraced her Belter life and doesn’t want anything to do with continuing to risk her life for other people. For better or worse, she no longer gets a vote. These are people who need someone to save. Holing up on Tycho was never going to make anyone happy. Off to Io we go!
Cotyar and Jr. Electrician board the drop ship and hope that Errinwright’s people don’t blow them up before they check for Avasarala. Bobby and Avasarala white-knuckle it out of the ship’s shadow, top speed to a secure spot where they can broadcast out. Where that may be, who can say?
Our plot lines are getting closer together. Rumors are that plenty of new characters are added this season, so here’s hoping that we’ll start seeing them in Episode 2, IFF, out on April 18th.
Cover Image: Courtesy of Syfy. Pictured: (l-r) Wes Chatham as Amos Burton, Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal— (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)