How are we already five weeks into this season? How did that happen, can anyone explain? I know the episodes have been fast paced but this is ridiculous!
Previously on The Expanse; Katoa dismantled his nurse, Nguyen took command of Souther’s ship, Errinwright has the ear of the king, but Anna has Errinwright’s number.
Naomi is winning back some of the trust she lost with some of her crew, though not Amos, who is too busy worrying about Prax’s ongoing emotional decline. Meanwhile, Chrisjen has tasked a Martian engineer with getting an all-important message to Admiral Souther, a mission I’m sure will go off without even a single hitch.
We’re on board the Contorta, which the show still calls the Roci, so I will be doing the same, still en route to Io. The crew are looking at a readout full of glowing red dots between them and the moon. Each red dot is a Martian or UNN ship, and while the planets are warring with each other, it’s safe to say they’d both happily blast the Roci and its entire crew into space dust, given half a chance. Alex and Bobbie explain that the MCRN and UNN ships are heading for Calisto, an MCRN shipyard, and their mutual diversion leaves a path open for our gang to haul ass to Io and with a bit of luck, do so unseen by the many many MANY warships. This gives the Roci the advantage of surprise but that’s all they have going for them right now. They have no idea what they might face on Io, which means they might face Hybrids and are going to have to land, make a hundred yard dash across the moon’s surface and just sort of … hope for the best. Easy peasy!
The Martian survivors from last week are safely aboard a Martian ship, the Hammurabi, and Sinopoli is confronted with the difficulty of his mission as he spots some decidedly anti-Earth, anti-Chrisjen graffiti. On the bridge of the ship the Martian troops are deeply concerned about being moments from battle while not having much in the way of firepower, but they’re interrupted by Sinopoli’s arrival on the bridge. They’re glad he and his team rejoined the fight but are curio-suspicious about how they managed that feat at all, given the total destruction of their ship. Sinopoli admits to the Holden help, Bobbie’s presence and of course, Chrisjen’s, though it’s a hard pill for the Martians to swallow. Sinopoli shows his hand, the Errinwright message around which this whole war hinges and while the Martian’s aren’t entirely on board, they learn Souther and the King are on their way to Io and divert to intercept. Ooops.
On the King, eeeeevil Nguyen is refusing to tell anyone why they are going to Io, and his shadiness is enough to raise eyebrows amongst the crew who remain quietly loyal to Souther. Do I smell a brewing mutiny? I hope so. I love a good mutiny.
On the Roci, Chrisjen and Holden bond over coffee, as she admits Naomi is right in thinking Chrisjen wants her own sample of the Protomolecule. She doesn’t want to use it as a weapon but to try and understand it, maybe stop it . Holden thinks she’s just as bad as the rest of the warmongers out there. Realistically though, she has a point — it’s alien tech and it needs to be understood, even if it’s just how to neutralise it, or turn it off, or whatever the solution is. Chrisjen owns up to her own terrible acts to try to save Earth, but points out that this is the entire system, now. They need a sample for the good of all humanity. She asks Holden to stop being so childish, and leaves him to consider his options.
On the bridge, Alex is still recovering from his crunchy beating, and turns on comms for a final systems check before their last, silent run to Io. He finds another video response from his ex-wife and braces for the worst, but when he watches the video, it’s his beautiful adorable son, sneaking his dad a loving message about being proud of his father ,and not at all mad. Alex cries, I cry, but we all needed that. On the engineering deck, Amos is teaching Prax to shoot and is once again disturbed by Prax’s cold affect, and calm assertion that if they can’t save Mei, they can at least get revenge for her death. Amos, who is Team-Mei-Is-Alive, looks sad.
In his quarters, Souther’s (awesome) crew turn up to admit they’re monitoring Nguyen’s comms, and everyone thinks Nguyen is shady as all get out — including commanders on other ships. So, how about that mutiny? Before Souther can commit, Nguyen’s first officer calls him away. First Officer Evil sticks around to tell a story of Nguyen surviving a historical battle, which hardened his hatred of Mars in a way that sounds permanent. The crew looks chastened, but only slightly. Thing about a mutiny is, once you’ve said the word, you can’t take it back. Nguynen’s history may be tragic, but that doesn’t mean shit today.
On the Roci Alex and Bobbie are trying to ready her suit, but don’t have enough of the right kind of fuel to get her to full Beast Mode. Alex figures the low G on Io will give Bobbie an advantage, and she just gets him talking on how they crew killed their own Hybrid. It turns out the Roci is carrying very little that Bobbie can use, and it becomes clear she’s willing to die for the mission if she has to.
On Io, Katoa has grown, now a nine feet tall hybrid, only barely a person anymore. He’s restrained in a bed, and while some semblance of personality remains, Mau wants to ask if his little … art project, with his nurse’s guts and entrails, was about the Arboghast and the strange events on Venus. Katoa thinks so, and Mau asks for more information. Katoa struggles to explain about parts being put together, and Mau is trying to basically speak to the Protomolecule and ask what it wants, what it was for. Katoa stutters ‘Find the pieces … for the work’, then gasps that ‘the work’ can’t be stopped. Mau wants Strickland to slow down the transition to keep some part of the Katoa Molecule conscious and responsive. Strickland inserts a device into the brain stem of the thing that used to be a little boy, and claims it’s all under control. He sounds as convinced as Mau looks.
On the King, the loyal crew are once again using the power failures and ‘old ship’ issues to cover for their mutinous behaviour. They’ve gotten a message for Souther from a Martian ship, and have to sneak around to show it to Souther. When he finally sees it, he’s naturally cautious about wanting to confirm the message is even real; in the meantime he gives his crew the go ahead to at least be ready for the pending mutiny. Souther goes off to speak with Cotyar, snarling a young Marine out of his way to enter Cotyar’s medbay and demand answers.
Without showing him the message, Souther questions Cotyar and it’s clear his answers confirm everything for Souther. But, before they can speak more, Nguyen’s crew turn up and haul Souther off to speak to the boss.
After an absolutely stunning shot of the Roci and Razorback racing for Io, Naomi finds Holden in the weapon bay to report the diversions of a few ships towards Io. Holden still isn’t receptive to her but Naomi wants to talk, and explains Holden doesn’t really know her. Holden admits she was right about Earth, Chrisjen, and the sample and it sort of feels like he’s coming around to accepting her original betrayal, too. Naomi needs to talk. She speaks of her younger days, running with the OPA and her partner at the time being an idealist, a fighter … a man with whom she had a son. She cries at the boy’s name, Philip and admits her lover took her son away because Naomi refused to do what the man wanted. Holden’s eyes are full of tears as she admits she just stopped letting herself feel, and signed up on their old hauler, the Cant to escape. She was afraid to say anything but then all the terrible things happened and Holden came along and cared so much. It woke her back up. She is sorry for what she did, and accepts she should have told them; mostly, Holden. Holden tells her he’ll never like what she did. But, he can’t hate her for doing what she thought was right.
It’s still too soon for them to say, kiss or even hug, apparently, but it’s a huge step for them both. At long last!
On Io, Katoa is stable again and Mau wants more answers, though all Katoa can say is ‘Soon … work … finish’. He easily breaks his restraints, and out of the pod he’s trapped in, and the older men flee the room to safety before turning on the implant to knock him out. Mau wants Katoa to be kept talking until they know what the Protomolecule’s purpose is, but after this last episode, Katoa is too far gone. Mau demands another child be mutated, and even when learning that child will be Mei, he wants to go ahead.
Left alone he gets a message from Nguyen who is taking control of the modules carrying the mutated hybrids. Souther arrives on the deck and learns he’ll be confined to quarters for his last little escapade, but their entire conversation is interrupted when sensors detect the nearby Hammurabi. The ships are within spitting distance of each other, but where the King could kill a planet the Hammurabi is woefully out matched.
On the Martian brig they do the math, and realise they’ll have enough time to die horrible juuust before backup arrives, so the captain literally slows down their engines, and calls for Sinopoli. Her second-in-command realises she sent the message, which might be treason, though she points out they are on the verge of the biggest, and arguably most decisive battle of the whole war. Thousands could die, leaving both their planets defenceless against what follows, so maybe, just maybe, away from scheming politicians, luck and cooler heads may prevail.
On the Roci, our gang gears up for their Io mission and Amos assures Prax that whatever they find, Amos has his back — even if that means killing Mei.
On Io, Mei is strapped to a bed, but the procedure is interrupted by the sounds of a landing ship.
Our crew approaches the bases on Io, and have to cut through the doors. On the King Nguyen doesn’t understand why the Martian’s don’t fire, and Souther suggests it’s a test.
On the Martian ship, the captain asks Sinopoli about Chrisjen and he admits he likes her (good boy) and the captain is on the hook enough to keep approaching the King.
Souther is arguing against battle and in an absolutely thrilling moment, he and his crew mutiny and take back control from Nguyen. He opens comms to ever nearby ship and reports Nguyen is a traitor, and he’ll transmit the proof post haste. Only, he won’t, because his formerly awesome crew is easily distracted and overwhelmed, and Nguyen kills Souther. No!
Nguyen sees the Earth ships are backing off and orders them to return, threatening to label any ships who don’t as deserters. Though he’s forced to make the shot himself, he destroys a last lingering UNN ship who won’t return to battle. It’s only now that Souther’s crew find their feet and fight back, but basically everyone gets shot in the ensuing gun fight. Nguyen is injured, though enough of his crew remain to launch on the UNN fleet. Within seconds, the UNN fleet are in a gun fight against the King and when the Mars crew sees it, the Hammurabi captain calls Mars to just … let them.
Then she pulls an utterly badass move by sending open comms to everyone, offering aid to anyone who falls in with Mars against Nguyen and the King.
Realising he’s done, Nguyen plays his last remaining hand — he has control of the hybrid pods. As the Roci crew watches from the surface of Io, the pods are launched.
And there the episode ends. WAIT, THERE?! NO! NOOO! DON’T MAKE ME WAIT ANOTHER WEEK FOR THIS!
Holy hecking shit. This show makes me need like … yoga or sedatives, or something.
First of all, the not utterly heartbreaking or enraging; Alex’s son loves him and is proud, and I can’t stop crying about it. And Holden and Naomi are getting there, and I can’t stop crying about that, either. It’s the character moments like these that make this show so interesting to watch, because our heroes are real, human people. They are flawed and damaged, but in the ways that matter, they are good. It’s so perfect that Alex’s son would have his inherent sense of just … goodness, and I hope that in future episodes Alex might actually get to see his son again, even if it’s only briefly.
And of course, Holden understands Naomi’s decision. I think he did before he learned how traumatic her past was, if I’m honest. But, how tragic it is. Poor, poor Naomi. I know after spending half a season rescuing one missing kid some people might want a change of pace but, speaking for myself, I’d happily take five more seasons of the crew tracking down Philip and reuniting him with his mother. Make it so, show!
Of course I must give a nod to Dominique Tipper’s beautiful performance this week. She has always shone as Naomi but her emotional confession to Holden was really something else.
This week was an absolute joy for the eyes and especially for the fans, who are not merely science ficion, but science fans, too. The breathtaking shots of Saturn and Io are based on real NASA imagery, and it’s powerfully moving to see our Solar System rendered so beautifully, even with all the terrible things happening inside of it. One of my favourite things about this show is the confidence the makers have in their effects, but more than that, their appreciation and respect for the setting. It’s likely not cheap or terribly easy to create such scenes, even if only briefly, but they consistently do and we’re better off for it.
I’ve loved watching the most emotionally … complex character of the show, show, Amos, grew so concerned over Prax’s growing detachment from any emotions. In my mind, Amos’ concern isn’t merely for Prax’s emotional state, but for what it may mean later on. Amos seems to firmly believe Mei is alive, and I like the idea that his concern is not just for Prax, but for the effect his new personality may have if and when they find his daughter. It’s one thing to save the child, but Amos must be wondering if Prax will even be capable of being the father she needs when they are finally reunited.
I didn’t believe Mau’s little change of heart back when he first got soft on Mei, and I’m not surprised to see him so callously toss aside any bond they had, in order to further his own agenda. Back in the Season 2 opener, his reaction to Julie’s death was to hide any real grief, and tell himself and Errinwright she was a noble sacrifice to the cause of progress. Mau isn’t capable of anything like love, or empathy towards anyone that isn’t Mau. And, it’s not as if he’s trying to understand the events on Venus for unselfish reasons. You mark my words, Mau wants to learn what to do, so that when he’s inevitably caught or dragged before the courts, he can reframe his own narrative as the guy trying to save everybody. Mau is the kind of sociopath that will someday glibly admit what he did to Katoa, what he (hopefully only) tried to do to Mei, as part of his own defence. In a show with nine feet tall, glowing blue demonic hell beasts, Mau is the biggest monster around.
Souther, we hardly knew ye. I am gutted he doesn’t appear to have made it (I know he got shot in the heart, but I have HOPE, OKAY?!), and sure, his sacrifice and mutiny … sort of made things far, far worse. It also served as a vital catalyst. Even if Errinwright’s message won’t be seen right away, the decision by the Martian captain to offer support and shelter is pivotal.
Next week looks to be one of the most exciting things to happen in … I mean, like, television history. Who will win the space battles? Will the Protomolecule, once contained, get out and contaminate all of known space? Will Mei be saved?
Be here next week to find out, The Expanse returns Wednesdays on Syfy and on Oohlo, soon after.