The Expanse, ‘IFF’: We Have to Talk about That Chase

Last time! Bobbie, Cotyar and Queen Chrisjen barely escaped Errinwright’s attempted murder, and the crew of The Ship Formerly Known as The Rocinante decided they were going on a rescue mission to find Prax’s daughter, Mei.

We start in a nightmare Mei (Leah Madison Jung) is having as she wakes in her cryosleep chamber in a station on the moon, Io. She’s greeted by the creepy, eeeeeevil Dr Strickland (Ted Atherton, Max Payne). Strickland, you may recall, is the geneticist and secret Protomolecule scientist who was supposedly treating Mei and other children on Ganymede station for various genetic conditions, while also secretly experimenting to turn those same children into Protomolecule Hybrids.

Kick him in the noots, kid!

Mei is confused and scared as any child would be, but Strickland is like the ideal kids’ doctor, disarming and friendly, reminding Mei about the importance of taking her ‘medicine’. Mei is sent off with a nurse to get settled in and as soon as she’s gone, Strickland’s smile falls to a grim countenance. We follow him through the dark, creepy station on Io, a decommissioned helium station as he greets an arriving visitor; none other than the Boss, Julies – Pierre Mau, recently arrived from his failed attempt to literally murder Chrisjen and The Funky Bunch and boy howdy, Mau is maaaaaaad.

‘Somewhere beyond a rock and a hard place is roughly where we’re at’

Somewhere in space, an Erringwright controlled UNN escort ship is scanning a debris field that Bobbie has used to conceal the small racer she and Chrisjen escaped in. Chrisjen is sad-angry to learn Bobbie can’t track the drop ship, and there’s a possibility Cotyar has been killed while escaping. Bobbie offers condolences, only to have them tossed back by Chrisjen, who intends to save her anger for the bastards who (might) have killed him. (I. WILL. RIOT).

It gets worse. The escort ship is scanning, and the Razorback is powered down and too close to escape in the event they’re fired upon. Chrisjen suggests, you know, running for it, but Bobbie explains that firing up the engines will absolutely guarantee they are in fact, fired on. So, they must wait, but not too long, as the Escort ship scans them but appears to be safely moving on to search elsewhere. Chrisjen again suggests doing … something, anything at this point, only to be reminded they’re basically escaping in a Ferrari, not a Tank. They have no weapons, though they could dodge and outpace a direct attack if they had enough distance. Oh and like, an actual pilot — which Bobbie has no shame admitting she is not. She’s a Marine. She explains, awesomely ‘Pilots carry me, to kill things’ and okay. I keep thinking I can’t love her more; then she goes and says that. I mean, come on.

Mood; P.R.E.S.S.E.D

Chrisken is briefly disheartened, so Bobbie runs what scans she can and sees how many ships Errinwright has dotted around, limiting their escape or sanctuary. And then with a suddenness, they’re almost scanned, so Bobbie flips and burns and they accelerate to make their escape. The quick onset of G’s makes Chrisjen almost … well, die, frankly. Bobbie slows down enough that Chrisjen can remain conscious and breathe, but the older women admits she won’t be able to tolerate even that for too long. She asks if Bobbie’s suit can send a message and it can, but you know … only to Mars — from which Bobbie literally defected like, yesterday, and with whom Chrisjen, the VP of Literally Earth, is … a little bit at war with. Chrisjen is still pleased. A Martian prison is better than the UNN murdering them, so Bobbie fires up her suit, leaving their names out of the message.

On the newly named Pinus Contorta, Holden hobbles into the kitchen and learns Prax, helped by Amos, has dismantled the coffee table that doubles as a hydroponics bay, and used the plants to create spare air filters, so theirs don’t run out on the way to Io. It’s … incredibly adorable how Amos is just helping without question, and he and Prax make such cute friends. Holden’s impressed by the work — though clearly grieving the loss of the coffee table. On the bridge, Alex glumly listens to the war report, and Naomi pops up with suggestions to save fuel on their new mission. She appears to have accepted it, but it hurts me to say, it’s hard not to wonder if Alex should be more suspicious. They’re interrupted by the ship’s Martian systems detecting Bobbie’s message, as she asks for assistance. They look troubled, while audiences at home lose their damned minds with excitement.

On Earth at the UN building, riot police attack people protesting outside, and Reverend Dr Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell, Lost) rescues one young man from a crunchy beating, taking an elbow to the face for her trouble. She chastises the riot cop, and dispatches him to escort the patient to safety, displaying several levels of badassery in such quick succession, that my head is spinning. Inside, we learn she’s old friends of the President, as he introduces her to Errinwright (booo!), and they’re such good friends that Errinwright is politely excused so they can talk. As he leaves, he gets a message that Chrisjen is nearly dealt with, but he’s too smart to look relieved just yet.

In the office, Anna is angrily asking why she’s there when she has a church full of people to minister to; Prez still wants her to help write a speech — essentially justifying the war, and getting the God Botherer support by endorsing him — as a woman of faith. Anna … would prefer not to. HA! His face. Anna speaks of the new free clinic her Church opened, and how they deal with drug dealers just to get medicine. If the President wants her support, he can support the people she saves. He agrees and Anna will be staying in the building rooms for the foreseeable future.

‘No more space heroics! I’m Farmer Holden now!’

On the Contorta Alex plays the message for the others but Holden is in no mood to run around helping everybody. Alex points out how they got where they are because Holden logged and responded to a similar distress call — which, arguably bro, is great reason to ignore this one. Don’t, obviously, but it’s just true. Alex reminds them he was a Martian Navy Pilot once, and he swore an oath to protect his own. The argument might be made for them when Naomi reveals the ship is registered to none other than Julie Mao, the woman who sent the distress call Holden responded to in the first place. Which … you know, sort of a big deal. Holden is set on saving Mei though, no distractions allowed, and he drags Prax into the thing by invoking his promise to save the girl. Prax doesn’t look entirely like he’s okay with Holden’s decision, but he doesn’t speak up when he can, and Alex glowers.

On Io, Mau is with Strickland. He’s generally pissed at Errinwright, and appears to be having some minor second thoughts about how dangerous the Hybrids actually are. Strickland assures him that’s an extreme scenario, and Mau looks on as a Hybrid is stored in a cryopod.

On the Razorback, Chrisjen is dangerously close to having a stroke, so Bobbie is offering advice to keep her from dying. Bobbie could survive at much higher speeds, so Chrisjen orders her to stay alive and make sure the truth comes out. As they agree they’re on the same side of whatever the fight is becoming, Chrisjen blacks out and Bobbie has to slow down to save her life. Naturally, the damned UNN ship immediately locks on them and fires. Bobbie says shit about eleventy-thousand times, as her screen glows with detected missiles, and she has no choice but to race as fast as she can to get them away. Terrified, Chrisjen tries to whistle but she passes out under the strain.

Out in the emptiness of space, the barrage of missiles … suddenly falls apart, all but two of the torpedoes drifting off into space. The remaining two pass by them and explode without hitting anything, and Bobbie and Chrisjen are baffled. The remaining torpedoes suddenly take up formation around the racer ship.

We cut to AAAW YISSS, The Contorta, where Naomi triumphantly reports she killed the two exploded missiles and now controls the ones protecting Bobbie and Chrisjen. Prax looks anxious until Amos reminds him that he broke the tie, he’s why they came to save the day, and Prax simply shrugs that the ship called for help, he had to respond. Amos asks, and it’s a genuine question because; Amos, why would Prax would set aside saving his kid for some Martian he doesn’t even know? Prax has another simple answer; everyone has given up so much for Prax, he has to return the favour.

Man, if the show twists the story and hurts Mei I will literally die.

On Earth, Anna is messaging her wife who is delighted about the funding for the clinic, and trying to help Anna work through her anxiety and frustration, and Esteban’s request. She’s angry and can’t bring herself to forgive the President for his asks and actions. Anna is also anxious to be away from her wife and their beautiful daughter, but for the childs sake, she’s managing to hide it a bit better. Anna adorably hugs a pillow and tells the family it’s them, and when the message ends, it’s clear how much being away from them hurts her.

In spaaaaaaaaaace, the Razorback and Contorta flee in formation as the UNN ship chases and keeps firing. We get the season’s first glance of what an absolutely spectacular ship our team cruise in, as Alex expertly flips the ship around, and Holden takes out torpedoes with the Martian warship’s deadly rail guns. On the bridge, Alex doesn’t want to engage more than that, since firing on the actual ship itself will draw their ire. Holden has A Plan. Whelp.


Back on Earth, Anna’s dinner with the President has turned into Anna Angrily Eats While President Takes A War Council In The Corner. Anna gets a message from Colin the protester and laughs at it so loudly, she draws the attention of a young aide. He shows her a clip of a younger, passionate Esteban giving a powerful speech in front of cheering crowds, with a younger Anna standing behind them. The speech is taught at universities, and Anna doesn’t seem to know how to feel about the praise. Prez and Erringwright come back to the table, explaining they’ve lost ships around Saturn. Errinwright is … bitchy, and asks if Anna thinks the strange dismantling of the Arboghast, the science ship we saw being broken down to molecules in the season opener, is a sign from God? Oh my; will he ‘Mmm’Lady’ her next?

Anna is prepared and finds a very polite way to call him a cliche, and then the gathered aides make ugly, racist jokes about Belters finding Mau, who remains a fugitive. Errinwright pretends not to be Mau’s super bestie, and the the Secretary General/President calmly says that if Mau won’t turn himself in, they’ll just go after his surviving children. Anna is appalled and reminds them that collective punishment remains an actual war crime. Esteban patronises the absolute hell out of her, and it’s a testament to Anna’s patience that she doesn’t smash the wine bottle over his block head.

‘Honestly, I feel FINE, why do you ask?’

In Spaaaaace, Chrisjen is in terrible condition but thinks she’s getting better at handling the Gs. She’s rather dismayed to learn Bobbie is just flying way, way slower, and Chrisjen is still suffering. Ah heh. Oh.

On the Contorta, Amos is talking Prax down from hyperventilating under the intense Gs and stress, but they’re endangered when an equipment locker Prax was meant to secure, pops open, and spills pointy objects just all over the damned place. At the speed they’re travelling, a Jaw Breaker could go through a person like a hot knife through butter,  so the drill bits and screwdrivers tumbling all over the deck present particular danger to the crew. More so when Alex flips the ship and the tools go scattering all over the place, leaving the pair at constant risk of being completely horribly impaled at any given time. They anxiously dodge and duck the pieces, but one manages to dislodge the pipe pumping oxygen to Prax’s suit, and he begins to wheeze.

On Io, Mau wants to shut down the Hybrid programme for fear the result can’t be controlled. Strickland reports that Mei, and five other children share the same immune deficiency, and their condition can be used to control the Protomolecule — perhaps even stop whatever is happening on Venus. Mau’s eyes brighten. In their shared room, Mei is reunited with a friend from Ganymede, who believes Strickland’s every lie, thinks they’re special, and will be ‘cured’ of their disease when they finally leave. He shows Mei his arm, the skin of which flickers and glows with the familiar light of the Protomolecule. In the observation room, Mau is back on board

On the Contorta, Prax is about to suffocate so Amos gets out of his chair and tries to get across to save him. He’s trying to crawl around in zero-G, at insane speeds; it’s not the easiest task, but Amos is the ultimate badass and so makes it across, and reconnects Prax’s tube. And then, for good measure, he saves Prax from the drill as it flies point-forwards toward his face. While Prax looks like he’s filled his suit with some other waste besides carbon dioxide, Amos gets back to his seat.

It’s not a chase with the gang unless Amos gets out of his chair to bounce around like a super-ball, and save the day.On the Razorback, Chrisjen is nearing her limit, as Bobbie desperately tries to keep them from getting blown up. Alex and Amos unleash their plan, which involves a distracting explosion and a hairpin turn that shouldn’t be possible in space, but after all, this is Alex.  They fire two well-targeted shots and kill the UNN ship’s engines without hurting anybody, but their celebration is brief. Holden grimly points out they just fired on a UN ship. They declared war with Earth.

I mean … you did, a little.

Downstairs, Amos and Prax emerge from Engineering to see Prax’s makeshift organic air filters have been pretty much entirely wrecked by all the flipping and high Gs. As they clean up, Amos picks now (because again; Amos) to ask why Prax is really stalling his own mission for this one. Prax admits he’s afraid they’ll get to Io and it will be too late to save Mei. He’s stalling so he doesn’t have to face that possible reality. Amos thinks that’s just stupid, since if time is a priority, they are actively wasting it. I love his brutally pragmatic thinking. And, it’s a genuine question, again, folks. Amos is a good person, but he honestly doesn’t understand Prax’s decision, and it’s part of why he’s such a fascinating character. Amos asserts that kids need at least one person who never gives up on them. Prax, who at least on the show might be the only one with an inkling of how abusive Amos’ childhood was, quietly asks if Amos had someone like that, and the big Earther gets in his face to remind Prax this isn’t about Amos. If Prax gives up, what does Mei have left, or indeed … Prax? Amos, who has been incredibly intense two episodes in, leaves Prax to think. The ships are finally linking up, though it’s still not clear if Chrisjen will live to see who she’s been rescued by. From Chrisjen’s dazed and hazy point of view, Bobbie carries her through to the airlock to the waiting crew and asks them to help. As Naomi and Alex rush forwards, Holden gets a look at their passengers, and realises just what he’s waded into.

You know, I’ve read somewhere in a science book, written by scientific humans (real ones, with credentials!) that watching The Expanse raises your heart rate enough to constitute exercise. You actually burn calories watching! This is science, and you don’t need to look it up.

Fans of the book will be excited to get our first look at Anna, and hopefully won’t mind the changes to her story. I actually like having her introduced with such direct contact with Errinwright and the Prez, as it could mean some interesting things down the line, but to say too much would be a spoiler. Lets just say the mention of what happened on Venus was not just Errinwright picking fights.

Elsewhere, the quiet terror in the scenes on Io was the perfect balance to the high-speed pursuit taking place elsewhere. I loved how dark and dingy the station was, and appreciated the change that’s come over Mau, as he starts to crack under the weight of what’s happening around him. He looked tied and drawn, and his perpetual sense of smug has faded away, replaced with something else more sinister. There was a creepy and well managed sense of dread in all the Io scenes, not least of all because Mei’s roommate is already halfway a hybrid.

I really loved Prax and Amos’ scenes this week. Amos being so on board with the hydroponic filters made me genuinely giggle, and I love how their friendship is developing over time. Amos gives Prax the space to be pretty brutally honest about himself and his feelings, without actually judging the botanist. In return, I think Amos is getting a chance to be the one giving the advice, explaining the way of the world, and how to navigate a very specific type of pain and anger. This comes at a perfect time, as Amos had first wanted and now perhaps needs, to break away from Naomi and be his own person. I love watching Chatham and Chen together. They both err towards a subtle restraint that makes their emotional moments really land, and I can’t wait for more of their scenes together.

The Expanse does chase episodes like nobody’s business, and this week was no exception. Briefly setting aside that Chrisjen and Bobby have met up with the Get-Along Gang at long frigging last, we just have to talk about that chase. While Bobbie handled her shit, it was neat to see her slightly out of her depth and having to admit as much, as she piloted the luxury racer. She seems to have more of knack for it than thinks, but if she needs to, maybe she can get lessons from a certain fellow Martian?

It was less comfortable watching Chrisjen struggle. She is so often presented as a godly force of nature, but this week we were reminded starkly that she is, like everyone on the show, mortal. She has never been shown so frail and weakened before, and it’s discomforting to see our Queen so shaken. It will be curious to see how, if at all, she is affected by her near-death experience as they go forwards.

Speaking of going forwards; y’all, Chrisjen and Bobbie are onboard the Tachi/Roci/Contorta, and I am losing my mind. I wished on the Twitters for Chrisjen and Amos to get scenes together, maybe have a little chat about their pragmatism and flexible morals, or just discuss Earth weather, I don’t care. I just want them to get scenes. I hope somebody listened.

Whether you read the books or not, who are you most excited to see onscreen together? Answers in the comments!

The Expanse returns to SyFy next week and to Oohlo soon after!

Nadine Morgan

Nadine Morgan is really terrible at the ‘About You’ part of life. Nadine developed her reviewer skills writing epic facebook rants about the details script supervisors forget and trying to explain why Carol on The Walking Dead broke Lizzie by accident. Nadine loves TV, film and books but she wishes someone would pay her to be the continuity editor. She can be found on Facebook and in her forest garden and if she’s not yelling at her TV she’s trying to convince a cat to be an Instagram model and refusing to let 90's fashion die.

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