The Expanse, Reload: This Show Has Zero Chill

Last time, in spaaaaaaaaaaace … and, also on Earth; Errinwright harangued the Secretary General/Earth President into a preemptive strike on Martian weaponry that while successful, came at the cost of two million Earther lives. Mau is having second thoughts about the Protomolucule project in general, just as Chrisjen has decided it would serve Earth to have her own sample of the blue meanie. Anyone who is anyone is heading for Io, except of course for Fred Johnson back on Tycho, who is patiently awaiting news that the Nauvoo has been recovered by his BFF and raging badass, Drummer. And last but not at all least, little Katoa is rapidly mutating into a Protomolecule Hybrid. It’s nice to think the effects could be reversible but … I don’t see how.

Credits! Man, even the credits on this show are amazing.

Somewhere in the void, a gigantic Belter Salvage fleet chases the even more gigantic Nauvoo, the Mormon Ark ship that was meant to push an entire Protomolecule-infested station into the sun.

It appears her engines have burned out, probably the only reason the Belters’s can catch up, and in an absolutely lovely sequence we watch the careful ballet of machines and human skill as the fleet, aided by thousands of smaller remote drones, latches onto the huge ship and turns her back around to face home, negating the inertia from the engines. Drummer leads a team onboard the craft, giving us our first glimpses inside the Ark ship that was meant to carry thousands of Mormon explorers into the unknown.

Drummer takes in the decorations left behind by the Mormons when they had to give up the Nauvoo, paintings depicting peaceful scenes of smiling Mormons in Eden-like fields. Drummer declares the ship secured, and announces the retrofit will begin at once.En route to Io, the Contorta and attendant Razorback travel through the debris from a space battle that must have destroyed one or several Martian ships, based on the amount of space junk. Bodies float amongst the shattered bulkheads and aboard the Contorta, Holden and Alex see bodies in space. Alex grimly wonders if he served with any of the dead during his time in the Mars Navy, and Holden has to gently remind him they need to raid the debris for supplies. Alex doesn’t disagree entirely, just thinks it’s like grave robbing, so Amos pops up to Amos, ‘Dead people don’t need their stuff!’. I mean … he’s not wrong. Naomi constructively points out it’s a good idea, and Holden looks sad that they can’t just enjoy agreeing with each other. Oh you two, just talk it out!

In her borrowed cabin, Chrisjen is reminding us of two things; she is a fashion goddess, and she’s deeply aware of the power of PR and image. Chrisjen has taken the (familiar from Season 1) racing suit from the Razorback, swept her glorious hair into a neat, businesslike bun and is looking more like her cutthroat self than she did while she recuperated last week. Bobbie turns up to ask how she can stand to wear a Mau-labelled suit and Chrisjen calls it ‘wearing the skin of my enemy’ and we all know, for a fact that she will try and do that for real, very soon. Bobbie has Decks for them (new viewers, The Expanse version of your smartphone, tablet, everything. With holo-projection!). The decks are rigged; they can get news and keep up with current events but communication is limited to the ship, nothing beyond — to maintain the ship’s radio-silent disguise. Chrisjen asks why Bobbie didn’t try to convince anyone to let them send outgoing messages, and Bobbie claims she’s a shooter, not one for people skills. I feel this is foreshadowing for something later, right? Chrisjen though, she is a talker and she needs to send messages, and open a dialogue if she’s to save the day. Bobbie reminds Chrisjen and us that Holden wants no part of the war, so won’t let Chrisjen message a UNN Admiral from his ship. But, Chrisjen has shared a mother-to-mother talk with (one of) Holden’s. She knows he won’t ride the fence for long, especially not when she intends to push him off.

On the Engineering deck (which is a new set for the season, I realise), Amos is having to remind Prax not to let pointy space tools float around willy nilly, but Prax is distracted. He’s watching, and not for the first time, the data they took off Ganymede, specifically Strickland’s corporate advert for the Protomolecule Hybrids — Project Caliban. The fact such a clip exists is such a fantastically dark and twisted touch. Naturally, Prax is horrified, wondering how anyone could twist a child into a monster.

Amos darkly replies ‘I think you and I had very different childhoods’ and Show, the fan fiction writers are busy enough with what you’ve given us. Would you mind …?

Prax seems a little unstable, so Amos turns off the video and provides a distraction. A little while later, Amos, Holden and Prax have boarded one of few intact (though still badly damaged) Martian ships, and are looking to scavenge weapons and fuel. Naomi and Alex guide them from onboard the Contorta, and Alex is troubled enough by it all to excuse himself to go and cook — his preferred method of self-care. Naomi offers to go and make a meal called Red Kibble, a Belter speciality, and Alex is so taken aback and touched, he almost offends our girl.

On the Martian ships Holden wants to fire up the computers, but with his hand on the bulkhead, detects movement that isn’t from any of our team. He hears SOS tapped out on the bulkhead. There are survivors. Ooh, shit! Bobbie arrives on the bridge of the Contorta, and gets about ten seconds to be outraged about the scavenging before Alex reports the now ongoing rescue operation — one which wouldn’t have happened if not for said scavenging. On the Martian craft, the temporary airlock is up and running, and our crew enters a sealed room to find a few survivors barely clinging to life. The Martian soldier, spotting their martian Evo suits, gasps ‘I knew Mars wouldn’t leave us behind!’

Well. Wow. This is awkward.

Down on Earth, Prez is delivering the speech Anna has helped him write. He mentions the two million dead, briefly, then moves on to discuss the new reality humans now face, as the Protomolecule changes everything we know. Anna mouths along in the audience, though she doesn’t notice how powerfully smug Errinwright looks sitting beside her. Prez delivers a powerful line about the need for humanity to unite against this new threat, and then goes off Anna’s script by accusing Mars of turning away from such a noble cause. Anna glares at Errinwright, as his smug threatens to consume everyone in the room. Up on stage, Prez passionately argues against Mars and calls it their moral duty to, basically, war with Mars and kill as many of them as possible. Anna quietly weeps, as Prez lands him a standing ovation. Errinwright’s smug has now taken out several city blocks, as he nastily ‘thanks’ Anna for her help.

Ooooh girl, punch him right in the fork.

We take our first visit to Io, where Mau is being told the King is en route, and preparations are in place to load the data and samples onboard. Mau wants to take the children on his own ship, and has to be reminded not all the children have survived. Strickland takes himself off to check on the ‘dead’ child — Katoa, he means — only it turns out ‘dead’ may be a relative term here. In a secret room in the secret lab, Katoa is a glowing blue and very much alive, but perhaps no longer human. He even sees the world though a ProtoMolecule snapchat filter, calling the glowing blue ‘so beautiful’. Creep Strickland creepily agrees, ‘Yes … you are’.

On the Contorta, Amos and Prax treat the Martian survivors who naively, mistakenly gloat that Mars would never have left them behind. Oh, you kids. So far they just think and assume our gang is a Martian crew and don’t seem at all disturbed by, at the least (?) Amos wearing a gunshot-riddled, blood-soaked flight suit, with the logo for a different ship on the back. They rise when Holden arrives to tell them their LT didn’t make it. We learn names, Sinopoli, Loftus and Ranhofer, as they recall the attack that destroyed their ship. The lieutenant, it turns out, saved them all at the last minute and then finally, Sinopoli notices Amos and Holden’s casual attire and Tachi — the ship’s original name, on Alex’s flight suit. They realise who they’re travelling with, and that now they might … sort of be prisoners. But, we’re not using that word, lets say, ‘guests who can’t check out’?

Alex opts to stay with the kids to keep them calm while outside, Bobbie is concerned for her fellow Martians, though just as concerned they won’t see her as ‘one of their own’, like Holden suggests.

Elsewhere, Chrisjen watches Prez’s speech and spots Anna in the crowd, clearly recognising her. Bobbie arrives with the food Naomi made, suggesting Chrisjen eat, but our girl wants to talk to Holden. Bobbie is left alone to look disgusted at what Naomi has made. Heee!

Back on the Martian ship, or perhaps a different one, Prax and Amos are still working on unloading supplies. Amos is quietly but powerfully disturbed when Prax coldly shoves a Martian body aside to get to the box it’s lying on. Oh, no. They broke the cutie.

In the medbay, Alex is trying to pretend Naomi can cook worth a damn, while the survivors find the fact it’s ‘Belter food’ reason enough not to eat. Huh. Jerks.

The kids are not really feeling the food, and don’t want to hide out while Mars burns. Loftus throws shade at Alex for wearing a Martian flight suit and he reminds them he was Navy too, but he’s a civilian now and not part of the war. The kids sweep in and corner him quickly, beating the absolute living shit out of him before Loftus takes his gun, and declares they’re taking over the ship. Ooh, honey. No. You’re not.

On the bridge, Chrisjen shows Naomi and Holden the damning recording of Errinwright from the Season 2 finale, the one where he openly and clearly admits all his guilt and allegiance to Mau. She wants to send the recording to Anna, trusting the other woman to know what to do. Naomi repeats Holden’s ‘No’ but unfortunately, just in time for Holden to start thinking it might be a good idea. He asks why, Anna; Chrisjen explaining Anna’s a civvie, with unmonitored communications, unlike everyone else working at the UN. She points out that Holden’s home could be the next spot that gets nuked, then turns up the Loving Grandma levels to ten, and asks him ‘Please help me stop it!’. Holden agrees, because this is Chrisjen. She’s not just totally correct, she played him like a fiddle. Naomi, who saw every string Chrisjen was pulling, is infuriated and points out Holden can’t trust Chrisjen, giving him the chance to remind her he can’t trust her, either. He can at least understand Chrisjen. Ooh. Ow. YOU TWO. TALK!

In the lower decks, Alex is led at gunpoint back to the bridge, where Naomi is now alone and unarmed. The Martians are getting more guns and threaten Alex’s life if Naomi doesn’t comply and take them to reunite with the Jupiter fleet. They intend to abandon Amos and Prax, which gives Naomi an in to lean on their guilt about abandoning her crew.

Downstairs, Rathofer the Martian has found the armoury, but more to the point, he’s found Holden who kicks the absolute hell out of him, and takes him out in about eight seconds flat. Oh shit, son! Holden pulls out his deck and sends a sneaky message.

Upstairs, the Martians notice the message go out as Holden pops up with a loaded rifle to warn them they have as long as it takes Amos to gets back to surrender, otherwise … well. Amos.

And then Bobbie appears. Oh shit yes, Bobbie, crush skulls!

Bobbie calmly orders Loftus, who has Alex at gun point, to drop her gun and is backed up by the other remaining Martian who recognises Bobbie’s Marine recon gear, and is suitably terrified. Loftus is at a point when she’s basically too terrified and confused to be rational, and is driven by revenge and misguided honour. Bobbie recognises this, and talks the girl down in a tense and powerful moment that sent my blood pressure to the moon. Just as Bobbie gets the gun and peace returns, Amos busts into the room, honestly disappointed to learn he missed the fun. HA!

On Earth, Anna rages, I mean rages at Prez, even scaring Erringwright into shutting his damn mouth for once. Anna hits Prez where it hurts, reminding him he used to have honour and principles and by the time she’s done, even Errinwright looks a little stung.

Naomi and Amos have repaired the other Martian ship well enough that the survivors can reunite with their fleet. Naomi, somewhat hopefully, points out how nice it is to have something easy to fix. Amos sees through her and pointedly tells her that some things can’t be fixed, walking off without another word. Ow. My heart.

When Holden makes his DeNiro face, it means it’s a good idea.

In the galley, Sinopoli — the most reasonable and awake of the Martians — is introduced to Chrisjen, who he recognises at once. Chrisjen about kills the boy with sass, so Bobbie signals to skip ahead to telling him the war is a lie, and he now has a mission from Chrisjen; take the Martian ship, rejoin his fleet and show his Admiral the Erringwright clip. Then have the Admiral hail Souther on the King! So simple and not at all insane.

Sinopoli, it may not be a shock to learn, is not onboard right away, so Chrisjen threatens to just, you know, space him and his ingrate little friends — spacing here meaning, ‘throwing them out of an airlock’. This changes his mind, so Chrisjen shows him the killer clip.

On Earth, Anna is video chatting with her wife, raging about the Prez but she calms herself to comfort her family through their fear over the, you know, imminent and already deadly war. Anna is exhausted and shaken, and can barely stand from the guilt she’s dealing with. Her wife brilliantly shifts Anna from weeping to laughing in heartbeat, and they promise to be reunited as soon as possible. But, that won’t happen, of course, because Chrisjen just sent Anna the message. Anna sinks, horrified, into her seat as she watches reality fall to pieces.

The Martian kids leave, and Alex visits Bobbie in the Contorta gym to thank her for saving all their asses, before. Bobbie was just saving the only decent cook on the ship, and slips her own little dig in about ‘Belter food’ (Bobbie. No). Bobbie hopes the Martian kids get home safe, and Alex reassures her Naomi knows her engineering better than she does her cooking. He moves to leave but Bobbie … with more than a little bit of a flirtatious note, invites him to stay and work out with her. Oh, my.

On the bridge, Naomi calls out Holden on letting Chrisjen send her message, dragging them into the war. Holden braces to get yelled at but Naomi warmly thanks him. Holden smiles back, through bruises and a bloody nose, and quietly admits he’s glad she’s okay. That’s all he says before leaving again.

YOU KIDS.

On Io, the kids are being packed up to move and Mei is asking, even saying ‘please’, to see Katoa. When the nurse firmly says no, Mei kicks her in the shin. It’s a good thing the nurse is evil, and working for an evil lab, otherwise I’d insist Mei lose minutes off playtime. Mau asks Mei what’s wrong, and she keeps demanding to see Katoa, hoping he might go home and send a message to her dad. Mei realises she won’t get her way, so just runs off to find her friend, herself. Mau follows and finds her crying outside the secret lab that even Mau doesn’t know exists. Mau has Strickland brought to him to be allowed into the room and incredibly naively, he walks Mei in to see her friend.

This will prove to be a dreadful mistake. Inside we see Katoa, still glowing blue and talking distantly of connections and links. Mau has Mei rushed out by his bodyguard as he and Strickland stand horrified at the sight before them. Katoa, the real him, surfaces to apologise for acting odd but then the strange droning voice comes back, and we pan back to see what has the men so upset. Katoa has killed the nurse, eviscerated the body and is laying out the pieces in neat, careful patterns. Mau realises Katoa is talking to the other samples, parts, pieces of the Protomolecule. Just as you’d expect him to take off and nuke the place from orbit (just to be sure), Mau gasps ‘You were right to continue … he’s the key to everything!’.

This show has ZERO chill, honestly.

That got so dark, so fast, and we’re already in pretty hairy territory.

I feel Anna may have just become the embodiment of the fabled, scorned woman and Errinwright is heading for a spectacular fall from grace. I will take much pleasure watching Anna destroy him, but I have to admit, I am terrified for her. Anna is powerful and can clearly handle herself, but she is in the middle of what has fast become enemy territory, and she is not a politician, spy, nor soldier. She has no protection here ,and Errinwright is a professional asshole and as we know, has already escalated to personally murdering people who cross him.

It would probably be a stretch to say our gang have made ‘friends’ in the Martian fleet, but I believe the Martians survivors will do the right thing. I also feel like we’re being set up for some heroic payoff later on, with the Martians perhaps returning at a key moment to save our gang from imminent death.

Watching Bobbie grow as a person is one of the best parts of the entire show, and what makes it, is how it never feels forced. It would have been easy to write the scene so that Bobbie must use her people skills, but it was much more satisfying to have her just decide to try diplomacy. She absolutely could have resolved the situation through force alone, that’s just a fact, but she chose another way, and it’s what makes her so much fun to watch.

I am sad Prax appears to be breaking. I am sadder that he may stay broken, even if they find Mei. But, I have hope. He’s grieving, I think, preparing for the worst so he won’t have to deal with it in the moment — like I believe in the Martians, I also believe in Prax. He’ll be okay. Especially, since I don’t think Amos will allow things to be any other way.

And how about that last scene? Holy shit. Katoa is gone, that much is clear, but what he’s turning into isn’t as easy to determine. We never saw the transitional phase of other Hybrids, and Katoa definitely feels like something new, and far more troubling. I was not expecting that level of gore; but wow, they did that and what a great, horrifying moment to cap off the episode. Tthe killer:  I really loved was how it brought Mau back into the glowing, blue fold. His little guilt trip is over, and I don’t see him having any more doubts after this. I’m curious though, is his renewed interest still from a place of evil … or does he see Katoa as a way to fix his errors? We’ll find out.

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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  • Al Jackson

    This science fiction show may be the best thing on TV.

    • Nadiney

      Yup!