Season 2 / Episode 11 /SyFy Channel
Confession time: I’m not a Holden fan. Moody broody dudes just don’t do it for me. And they are *all over* science fiction as a genre. The whole body of work is full of better looking than average white dudes who are conflicted about saving the universe but compelled by some higher morality to do so anyway. And despite this conflict, they are imminently qualified and damn fucking good at universe saving. How do you doubt something you’re so good at? I mean, I get Impostor syndrome and all that, but if Bast called me to save the ‘verse you better fucking believe i wouldn’t spend half the time second guessing her, that’s all I’m saying. That aside, everyone else in the episode continues to get more interesting in complicated and unexpected ways.
If you’re not watching The Expanse, you’re missing some of the best writing on TV. And I’m not the only one who thinks so! They were nominated for a Hugo for best drama short on Television. (You can review all the competition for the award on The Hugo Awards website.) I knew I was right. But getting into the episode…Here There Be Dragons…
The Rocinate crew (Jim, Amos, Naomi, and local guy Prax) is in the tunnels under Ganymede station now, following the evil doctor Strickland and his unsuspecting patient Mai, along with an evil lab assistant. They have all the hallmarks of evil: white lab coats, condescending distraction of Mai’s concerns, talk of timelines and acceptable losses. The evil science in this show is so mundane, so easily ignored, until you realize that the “acceptable losses” are people, and the data they’re looking for are infection and kill ratios. Humans abstracted as statistics.
Naomi,ever trying to be one step ahead of the men around her, for everyone’s own good, pulls Prax aside to have the “Look, your daughter may not come out of this alive” chat, for reality’s sake. But what comes out of that conversation is way more about Naomi than about Prax —
SHE’S A MOM? SHE LOST HER SON? WHA/WHO/WHEN/WHERE/WHY? I want the deets, I want all of the deets! These mother fuckers are gonna make me buy this book, aren’t they.
Now let’s just hope that Naomi’s maternity doesn’t suddenly become her driving motivation. She’s clearly had her own agenda all along, if she starts making dumb decisions in the name of the children, I’ll be pissed.
Earth, Mars Consulate
Bobbi “I use weapons as weapons” Draper is having it out with the Chaplain. “You lied to me!” she says, all heart broken. Well yes they did. You’re a gunny, gunny. Everyone lies to you. Then the Chaplain goes full “I’m a Baby Boomer and you Millennials don’t know how good you got it” on Bobbi and finally tells her what we already know, there ain’t nothing on Mars for her but a court martial and red dust. Well, that settles that, don’t it!
We watch science guys do science stuff over Venus, just so you don’t forget that there’s free floating protomolecule colonizing a planet right over there. File that in the useful for later file and move on.
Earth, UN Headquarters
Avasarala tells Errinwright that he’s going to have to face his consequences for aiding Mao and the Evil Science gang. She’s not going to protect him when the inquiry into Eros comes. Because really, why should she?
Space near Jupiter
While the rest of the Rocinate crew is mucking about, Alex is flying solo, listening to Johnny Cash, drinking beer, and missing his (ex) wife — aka a country song all on his own. He realizes that he’s going to have to run the blockade to get his hombres or amigos or whatever TexMex people call friends off Ganymede, so here comes some razzle-dazzle science (all factually accurate if what I’ve heard is true). The series has already introduced The Slingshot as an extreme sport where people ride the gravity wells of objects and use their momentum to hop from planet to planet, traveling great distances with little propulsion. Well, what does a lonely country music pilot do with a super smart AI and a destination? He plots a course:
This is a beautiful sequence, really showing Alex in his element as a pilot, not as the slightly awkward other guy in the crew. The actor, Cas Anvar, plays it well, giving his one-sided conversation with the ship’s AI a good level of emotion. The sequence is long enough to carry weight but not so long that it gets boring. It just fits.
Earth, Mars Consulate
Bobbi requests an audience with the Chaplain, going in for round 2. And I don’t mean that metaphorically, as in a verbal sparring match. I mean round 2: FIGHT. She hits that Chaplain with the throat chop, the wrist lock, and then the punches to the face until he submits with one single question on her mind: What happened to my team?
The Chaplain caves and hands over his cool transparent data thingy, revealing the name of the Mars sponsored protomolecule driven killing machine: Caliban. (Shakespeare, always more Shakespeare.) She then knocks the door guard’s head against the cinderblock like she’s playing handball and makes a break for it, running out of the consulate, across the DMZ and into UN territory, demanding political asylum and to speak to, you know it, Chrisjen Avasarala.
It is so refreshing to see a woman trained soldier who actually fights and fights to win, not to mess around and impress anyone. The whole exchange is strong with the tension growing from the minute she lays hands on the Chaplain till she hits her knees on the UN side. Bobbi’s been the obedient soldier, but she’s no fool.
Following the evil scientist eventually entails finding the evil scientists, and what are they doing? Eating pizza. Like I said, mundane science fucks. Our team shoots up that pizza party, but Amos catches a bullet with his arm saving Prax. Entailing the Amos quote of the show:
In a totally unsurprising development, Evil Corporate CEO Jules-Pierre Mao invites Avasarala to a tete-a-tete (I had to go French there, his name is Jules-Pierre. The actor’s real name is Francois Chao, also French). She accepts. Because it has become clear that her real weakness is curiosity. Here’s hoping she takes the criminally sexy Cotyar with her as a bodyguard/spy, just for my entertainment.
Our team of heroes search the room and figure out that Strickland, conveniently absent from the pizza party, has been collecting kids like Mai with compromised immune systems and infecting them with the protomolecule with the goal of — you guessed it — growing super soldiers, like the one that flattened Bobbi and her squad without a vac suit. Before they can sort anything else out, the remainders of the science squad throw a grenade at them, which they toss back, killing everyone over there. They follow the grenade and finally get some answers out of the slowly dying evil scientist’s assistant, who indicates that there are plenty of super soldiers to go around, and that one of them has used the chaos of the grenade to go on a walkabout on the surface of Ganymede. Just as they’re turning to follow the protomolecule super soldier, Alex lands the Rocinate (insert your odd country western metaphor here), takes one look at Amos and says:
Those two, bros to the end.
Holden is about to run off across the moon, but Naomi isn’t here for that, bringing about my favorite kiss — the good-bye kiss. Naomi is just too practical for all this saving the universe shit. She’s going back to The Weeping Somnambulist to try to evacuate survivors, if Jim wants to, he can have at. And with that, she’s out, taking the wounded Amos with her.
While this has implications for you Naomi/Holden shippers out there, it also splinters the plot back into 3 followable threads, so the complication level goes up just as the season is wrapping. Very clever. Next week: