The Expanse, ‘Assured Destruction’: Book Readers Know What That Means, Don’t You?

Anyone else still on the ceiling after last weeks thrill ride through space? Same!

We open on a glorious shot of The Razorback and Contorta, still linked by the umbilical after last week’s rescue while in the medical bay, Chrisjen is treated for her various G-force related injuries. In the hangar deck, Bobbie looks adorably, heartbreakingly delighted as she looks around the familiar Martian setting. Her happiness quickly fades when she spots … oh dear, Amos’ ‘updated’ version of the Martian flags. His (admittedly, very artistic) modification shows Mars not with two moons, but one moon and a curving of smaller rocks — the remains of the moon Deimos, that was destroyed by Earth as a show of strength back in Season 1. Bobbie’s face hardens.

I am excited/scared/here for this.

Bobbie marches onto the flight deck and demands answers. With his typical detached calm, Amos owns up and to Bobbie’s demand “You think that’s funny?!”, replies just as calmly, “Well, not now’”.

Heee! Bobbie has reverted to Marine mode, and wants to reclaim the ship for Mars, making it clear she’ll fight for it if need be. Amos, naturally, is about to take her up on the offer, about a second away from clobbering her with a wrench before Alex has one of his ‘crazy stupid brave’ moments, and dives between the pair.

Bobbie claims her mission is classified, and even peacemaker, Alex and his faux Texan drawl aren’t enough to cool things down. Thankfully, Holden appears to break the moment, reporting Chrisjen is recovering, and confirming to an intensely curious Amos that yes, they are still continuing to Io. Bobbie can’t believe this and while she won’t tell them her mission, claims it’s the most important. Holden is in no mood. He offers to fix the Razorbacks communications so Bobbie can use the ship more fully, but beyond that “We don’t owe you anything”.

Holden limps off, and Naomi chases to try and make Bobbie’s case. Holden invites her to leave with Bobbie and Chrisjen if she wants. Ow. That hurt.

‘What this war needs, sir, is more explosions’.

Somewhere in space the UN spy satellite, Watchtower is beaming a signal back to the Earth war room. Errinwright and some cronies are reporting to the Prez that they have detected Mars’ space-borne missile silos — they can see two, and can use them to find the rest. These silos house ten Planet-Buster nukes, and Errinwright is proposing making a preemptive strike on the missiles before Mars fires them. Prez, we learn, has some good sense that this is a bloody terrible idea that brings the distant war directly to Earth’s doorstep — particularly if they miss even one, as Mars will surely retaliate for the attack.

Over the President’s concerns, Errinwright insists Mars is losing and desperate enough to fire first, if Earth doesn’t protect itsself. Prez questions how they got the information, suggests Mars is leaking it on purpose to push them towards a peace treaty. He questions the potential lives lost, and Errinwright climbs up on his cross to lament the lives already being lost, and how each Martian death pushes the red planet closer to launching their nukes.

I mean, surely then the obvious thing to do is call a ceasefire and begin peace talks, but, you know. Erringwright is a doooooooouche.

Mr. Steal-Yo-Ship

In space, hidden amongst the remains of the space yacht, we see a still-bleeding Cotyar and the crewman, Theo on their drop ship, drifting around with no apparent control. They just got a response to their SOS, only it’s from the Agatha King, the flag ship of the U.N.N. Jupiter fleet. … So, a big gigantic battle destroyer, which is almost certainly under Errinwright’s control. Meep.

Onboard the King, Admiral Souther (Martin Roach) and a crew member wonder why they have been sent to investigate this, of all things while some mysterious problems make the lights flicker, and a nearby engineer suggests the ship needs an overhaul. In fact, they they spend a few lines of dialogue on it. Huh. They take a message from Admiral Nguyen ( Byron Mann, last seen as O.G. Kovacs in Altered Carbon). Nguyen is demanding any survivors from the wreck or drop ship be put under lock and key until he arrives on his own ship. This is clearly not normal procedure, and the crew looks nervous

On the Drop Ship, Theo is panicking as he realises they’re going to be taken prisoner, and Cotyar reassures him they’ll be fine, telling him to close his eyes and breathe. Once Theo is distracted, a genuinely remorseful-seeming Cotyar chokes him to death, apologising all the while.

‘Wait…am I the bad guy?!’

Over on Io, Mau is actually genuinely moved to see the children in the labs playing together, so Strickland Mad-Scientists at him about how it’s allowed, because the kids being happy keeps the Protomolecule under control. Mau’s face falls and as he glances around the lab, sees brutal, graphic photos of his own daughter, killed after being infected in a different way by the Protomolecule, turning her body into ground zero for the outbreak on Eros.

In the labs, Mae is surprised by her friend from Ganymede, Katoa — the boy is already infected, and turning into a hybrid.He shows her the progress of the blue glow under his arm and as the children are walked back to their dorms, shows off his incredible new strength and agility by easily leaping up the walls and onto light structures. Despite the grim, terrifying meaning of his new abilities,I honestly laughed out loud at the exasperated sounding escort who calls for him to stop, as if she’s apparently completely used to, and totally over, the sight of ten-year old kids climbing the walls like spiders. Mae looks delighted, while Mau watches on the cameras, and asks about if or when the other kids will be infected. So far, Katoa is the only one, but that could change.

I think Mau is going soft on Mae. That could be interesting.

‘Did you just ‘actually …’ me?’

On the Contorta, Amos is adding ‘medic’ to his growing list of skill sets and crew roles, as he removes the staples that have been holding Prax’s head together for the past few days. Prax is grateful Amos confirmed the mission to Io was still their priority, and Amos is Amos-ly calm about how it’s what they said they’d do. He’s not the gentlest nurse, having only ever removed his own staples, but he doesn’t want Prax to look ‘like Frankenstein’ when Mae sees him. Prax is that guy, about who was actually called Frankenstein, and Wes Chatham reminds us all why he’s a fan favourite by leaning Amos around the magnifying scope to express “Goddamn … that’s right” with such perfect delivery that I fainted, before going back to work. It’s honestly hard to know if he’s just learned a thing or if he knows full well, and is messing with Prax for sheer fun of it. I love him, so much. Prax asks why Amos is so sure Mae is still alive. Amos shrugs that everyone who cared for him on Earth thinks he’s dead, but … here he is.

Prax prods a little, clarifies Amos came from Baltimore, which is where he learned to remove wound staples, generally just survive and Prax half-jokes, all Amos’ specific “people skills”. Ah, heh. Amos takes a split-second, shrugs that on Earth getting by meant getting even, though no one he dealt with was innocent. He states that dying was the only way to leave Baltimore and when Prax asks how then, did Amos leave, Amos stares into a darkness behind his eyes and says “I died”.

Oooh, the book fans know what that means, don’t we? OoooOOOoh! ( I really can’t risk explaining, as it may be a spoiler.)

Naomi and Alex are working on the Razorback ,and Naomi mirrors the ship’s controls together, so Alex can pilot both ships. Naomi is going through various controls, and takes a moment to see how long it would take to travel to Tycho. On the Contorta, Alex can see what she’s looking at and seems troubled, before Naomi realises she’s not “alone”, and closes the map again.

We don’t deseve a moment of Frankie. Not one second.

In the med-bay, Chrisjen is awake, and wondering why she bothered. She and Bobbie share an amazingly sweet moment where Chrisjen thanks Bobbie for saving her, maternally squeezing Bobbie’s hand. Bobbie is glad to have been of service, and then cuts a quick exit, so Chrisjen can have a chat with Holden. She calls him the hero of Eros but he quickly and in slightly strained tones (… huh), asserts Julie, Mao and Joe Miller were the true heroes. Chrisjen has no problem telling Holden there are rogue factions in the U.N.N. behind the use of the Protomolecule, if she can only get to the right people quickly enough. Holden invokes their mission to save Mei, and Chrisjen calls the mission noble — but like Bobbie — she clearly feels her own mission is far more important. She can, after all, potentially stop the war.

Holden doesn’t think the war can be ended, but all Chrisjen wants is to send a message to Souther, on the King. This would give away their location, so Holden nopes right out of it, and makes it clear he’ll only take part in fights he can win.  Chrisjen brings out the big guns; she met Holden’s mother (Holden actually has five biological parents, but Alice was his birth mother, and the one with whom his relationship is clearly strongest). Chrisjen does what she does best, all smiles and sweet grandma vibes, while she runs rings around your psychological defences. She talks of how Holden wanted to be a knight, and of how he could save them all. But, Holden is in a bad, dark place and hisses at her “I am nobody’s saviour”.

On the King, Souther watches Cotyar recover in a med-bay as Nguyen arrives on board. Nguyen pulls Souther aside to reveal he’s there on behalf of Errinwright to apprehend Chrisjen, hence all his secrecy. Souther pretends he believes for a second that Chrisjen was working with Mau, and follows Nguyen to the secure medical bay to question Cotyar. Cotyar sasses, lies about murdering Theo, even while allowing Theo was a good dude (you were, Theo). Cotyar easily lies that Chrisjen is dead, killed by Mau’s goons, and that Bobbie took the racer and fled. Nguyen (Byron Man has great, intense crazy-eye) thinks Chrisjen is alive and defected to Mars, and threatens to charge Cotyar with treason. Cotyar up and names Errinwright, but Nguyen isn’t listening.

On Earth, Anna presents a drafts of her speech to the Prez and he likes it, but remembering that he’s about to drag them into the end of the world, he wonders if the focus should be on … fear, hard choices … sacrifice. Anna gently chides him that he can justify war, but he can’t make it holy like he’s trying to. She asks how many people are actually going to have to die for his cause, and it’s very clear Erringwright hasn’t sunk his claws all the way in, just yet.

On Io, Mau walks down a corridor and finds a wandering Mei, asking who he is. An orderly comes to return her to her room and Mau follows, seeming lost, as Mei adorably chatters about cartoon dinosaurs on her favourite show. Mau remembers his own daughters watching the show, and is clearly reminded of them as he speaks to our little Mei. She’s still excited by Katoa’s climbing skills, and hopes to be able to do the same someday, and of course, show her dad when she does. Mau’s face falls at the reminder, then brightens again when Mei asks his name, and they clearly are friends for life.

Back on Contorta Alex is doing systems checks that involve firing up the comms, and finds he’s had a reply to his message to his estranged wife. He watches the recording, his wife telling him they thought he was dead and while they are glad he is not, his message has come too late — his son has learned to live without a father. She says they don’t need him anymore. Oh. Man. That hurt a lot.

Earth is ready to launch on Mars’ missiles, though the chances of success are not 100%. Erringwright literally won’t even allow discussion of the casualties that could be incurred if any of their strikes miss, and Mars retaliates, but it’s clear Anna has really gotten under the Secretary General’s skin. To Errinwright’s hilarious disappointment, the Prez calls for a standdown. HAAAAAAAAAAA!

THIS. IS. EVERYTHING.

On the Cortanta, oh … MY GOD. YES. Amos and Chrisjen are in a scene together! PRAISE BE! Amos is teaching Chrisjen how to use gravity boots, revealing as he does that he knows how to walk in high-heeled shoes. Chrisjen and Bobbie are all of us as they share “… okay” looks, and Chrisjen is walking like an old pro. Bobbie is once again the most adorable human of all time, as she gleefully jokes about how Mars should surrender already, and finally, Chrisjen is free to walk around the ship.

In the galley, Alex has made some of his famous lasagne as Naomi enters, and sheepishly makes herself a tea. Alex speaks up about how he’s still angry about what she did, giving Fred their sample. He does respect her commitment to her people. He wishes he shared her strength. Naomi is moved by this, enough to agree to sit down and eat with him (Alex’s delighted little “Yeah?” is too much for my heart; he is too good for this world).

Later, Chrisjen holds court on the flightdeck and tells the crew what she knows about the Protomolecule, and who is behind it — namely Mao and Erringwright. Bobbie mentions her own battle with the Hybrids, and Chrisjen finally gets Holden’s attention when she explains that she thinks Errinwright will use the Hybrids to lay waste to Mars.

Holden plays the video of the Hybrid incursion, stunning Bobbie with the news they killed the thing, and Prax discusses the children being turned into Hybrids, including of course, Mei. Chrisjen hopes Mei is safe, asks what they will do with anyone else they find, like scientists, or samples of Protomolecule? Amos states they’ll shoot the scientists, and nuke the rest, but Chrisjen suggests they’d give samples to the Belt. Holden admits Fred has his own sample. Chrisjen is furious, rounds on Naomi, who admits to being the one to hand it over, raging about letting the OPA — viewed by many as a terrorist group — speak for the whole Belt rather than actually trying to be something.

Naomi fires back that the Belters aren’t the ones doing the killing, and Earth and Mars already have the Protomolecule, so Belters deserve a chance. Chrisjen changes her mind; maybe they should nuke Io.

On Earth, Errinwright visits Prez, who is still working over his speech, and thinks it might be one to define his term. Errinwright waves it off and lays on the guilt and fear, thick and heavy, reminds him of the strange events on Venus, and that another Eros could happen. He thinks military strikes will make Prez, not some speech. Prez looks troubled. Anna should handcuff herself to the man until Chrisjen gets back to serve as his conscience and good counsel.

On Io, Katoa is entertaining the other kids with handstands until he collapses and has a seizure, blue light glowing beneath his skin. Mau watches as the boy is carried off with Mei calling after him. Oh no.

“Are we doing shenanigans? I am IN’

Over on the King, Souther quietly asks after the strange electrical problems, basically to see if he can sneak a quiet meeting with Cotyar. A lieutenant silently turns off the cameras on the level, as the other crew member sneaks the guard away from Cotyar’s door. On the bridge, Nguyen is redirecting their ship to Io (oh SHIT), quickly sniffs out the ruse, and rushes off to intercept the admiral. Souther busts into Cotyar’s cell, basically swears fealty to Chrisjen, and gets the entire skinny from Cotyar. Our man spills the beans, as they figure out Nguyen is in on the whole conspiracy. The power comes back on, a sneaky way for the lieutenant to let Souther know he’s rumbled, and our man manages to make his exit before Nguyen turns up to catch him.

Back on the bridge, Nguyen still assumes command of the ship. Souther is still on duty, but he’s no longer in charge.

On Earth, Errinwright pushes the President to give the damned order, and Earth makes the history-changing move of firing on Mars’ missile silos. Almost at once, there is a brief but potentially deadly launch malfunction, but one by one the five targets on the map blink out. Of course, one silo manages to fire a missile, and the room stands in horrified silence. Earth’s rail guns fail to target in time, and the missile smashes into our pale blue dot, and everything glows white.

The Secretary General reels as Errinwright takes a half a second to look guilty, before setting his face and asking why the defences failed. He gets a lifeline when they learn about a power failure, due to the earlier aborted launch. Oooh shiiiiiiiiiiitttttt. Up to two million people may be dead, and from the sound of it, that’s just the immediate blast zone. Fallout will presumably send that figure soaring.

It’s a shame Errinwright is the bad guy here, because the look of absolute disappointment and anger he throws at the President is phenomenal. In a haunting moment, the confirmation comes that Earth has been successful.No one is brave enough to ask out loud “At what cost?”.

On Io, Mau has made his decision, and is shutting down the experiment. Strickland argues in favour of science or discovery, but after Katoa, Mei and the still-baffling events on Venus, Mau has had enough.

She is literally sipping tea. I mean … Queeeeen

On the Contorta, Chrisjen and Naomi meet in the galley, and Naomi makes it clear she doesn’t and will never trust Chrisjen, telling her “We’re not going to be friends!”. She knows Chrisjen is just there to get her own sample of the Protomolecule, and Naomi isn’t going to let her. Chrisjen shrugs that Naomi is right … they’re not going to be friends. Oooh, snap!

On Earth, Erringwright finds a mournful Anna watching the news, and keeps on with his scheming and twisting, explaining how the aborted first strike led to the deaths on Earth. He clearly knows it was her who stayed the President’s hand the first time, and so makes sure to lay the blame where it suits him best. He leaves her on a … warning, that it’s good she’s here, as the President will need her more than ever.

This just keeps getting better and better. I’m grateful for this slower, calmer episode after the breathless chases of the first two, but I love that they can still pack so much in, without it feeling over busy or rushed. First things first … something is up with Holden, right? I don’t just mean his anger and frustration over, oh, everything. For the ostensible lead of the show, we’re three episodes deep without having spent any real extended time alone with Holden, and that’s entirely new. We’ve spent time with Prax and Amos, and their deep conversations. Alex and Naomi have had their moments, both alone, then together. But, Holden? Not so much. And when we do see him, he does not seem okay. Again, it feels like it’s about more than his mood. Something is happening with … or to Holden.Book readers, do you know what I’m alluding to?

Errinwright, who clearly attended the same Scheming Asshole school as Petyr Baelish, is probably one of my favourite villains of all time. He’s growing into his Super-Villain status wonderfully and as evil as he is, it’s fun and fascinating to see him work his Machiavellian schemes, especially with Chrisjen absent. She’s always been his foil, even before she knew what he had done, but without her he’s in his ascendency. If she can’t make it back soon enough, it seems likely Errinwright’s next moves will be to consolidate his power. Whether that means he openly challenges the current leadership, or just continues to manipulate the President … it’s hard to say. Erringwright isn’t so much driven by a need for power, just his need to destroy Mars, but he’s not so stupid as to think he should be the one to oversea that act. How he moves next will be huge.

I loved the contrast between Mau and the President this week, both men struggling with huge decisions to extend or end this battle; both men taking, one way or another, guidance from two figures on each side of the fight. Even the contrast in their outfits, both in quite old-fashioned waistcoats, Mau in dark sleeves, and the President in white ones, was a subtle, clever touch. I feel like Mau might be doomed after that crazy-eyed look Strickland gave him. I’m not even sure where Mau would go if he was able to leave Io, but I feel like leaving might turn out to be more difficult than he has assumed.

I liked the touch that he only truly committed to ending the project after the brutal reminder of his own loss to the Proto-molecule. We’ve seen this before, when he mourned Julie’s death in the initial outbreak on Eros, while barely seeming to register that he actually killed her, not to mention hundreds of thousands more. Maybe he is truly struggling with guilt over all of it, though I prefer the idea he’s the kind of narcissistic personality who only sees how this affects him personally, and that’s his only motivation.

Anna proved herself a powerful force for good this week. Sure, Errinwright got his way, but Errinwright is actively scheming to get his way. Had Anna been the last voice in the President’s head, the second launch wouldn’t have happened either, and in these trying times, that matters. She’s already proving a fascinating, powerful woman in a show jam packed with them. I can’t wait for her to have some kind of showdown with Errinwright, eventually. It’s hard to guess at how he’ll be laid low, but when it happens I hope Anna and Chrisjen team up to give him the verbal dressing-down of a lifetime.

Speaking of My Queen; Do you know how giddy I am to see her amongst the crew? SO GIDDY! Watching her and Naomi face off, even in their quiet,oh so polite little chat was absolutely thrilling, not to mention all her adorable moments with Bobbie. They make such a great team, and I love how they are with each other. There is so much mutual respect and admiration, but there’s this familial feeling as well, and it feels so important. Chrisjen and Bobbie have never seemed to need anyone, and suddenly it’s so clear they need each other, and I love watching them.

Chrisjen and Amos discussing his knowledge of walking in pumps killed me dead. It’s a curious little moment, darkly funny, but handled so well by everyone. The second when Bobbie and Chrisjen both paused, probably to picture the big, muscular Earther in stilettos, was so perfectly timed, that I think I want to give it an award. That scene was nicely contrasted against the more openly dark discussion Amos had with Prax about growing up in Baltimore. Wes Chatham is quietly the best actor in this entire show, and in Amos, has created an entirely new character archetype, beyond the “brute with a tragic backstory and a heart of gold” trope. He’s especially fascinating to watch, as Amos continues to remain estranged from Naomi and is quietly, carefully, growing into a new version of himself.

The Expanse returns next week on SyFy, and on Oohlo soon after.

Nadine Morgan

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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