Welcome back Beltalowdas! It’s been another exciting week in the wonderful world of spaaaaaaaaace, with news reaching us that Amazon is currently in talks to save The Expanse! Nothing is set in stone just yet, but we have been heard and we have been seen, so we must not stop, not yet!
Previously on the show; Drummer reclaimed the Nauvoo in the name of Belters and under Fred’s orders, will turn the massive Ark ship into the biggest gun ship in the history of …well of guns. And ships. And gunships. Mars was saved from certain doom thanks to Naomi’s skills for persuasion and Fred’s arsenal of stolen nukes, an act we can only hope saves them some face when the nature of their Nauvoo salvage becomes clear to anyone paying attention. Speaking of Naomi, she may well be leaving the Roci. In spite of reconciling with Holden, it’s clear she wants or even needs to be with her Belter people, fighting on their behalf in any way she can.
Meanwhile, Mau and Errinwright both finally ended up in custody, Mei was reunited with her father, and Strickland’s head was turned into Spaghetti sauce by a quietly furious Amos. The Space Jellyfish launched off the surface of Venus to the immense distress of oh, everyone, and last but by no means least, Bobbie — already the only living human to survive a Proto Hybrid attack — became the only living human to beat one in a fair fight. Because she is literally The Best.
We open with a quiet scene that fantastically highlights Chrisjen’s skill and expertise in what makes a good politician, as she delivers an address to the whole planet of Earth. She is back to normal, her hair, make-up and clothes flawless and striking, no doubt planned as carefully as her speech, as she tells the audiences that along with Errinwright’s arrest, the Secretary General, aka Prez, has also resigned. Her speech is a marked contrast to the call to arms The President delivered just a few weeks ago as she describes the scary new era humanity has entered and the need for us all to join hands and stand together. As she speaks we see the Space Jellyfish drifting beyond Uranus and taking its final form, some kind of structure which looks like and has been nicknamed ‘The Ring’.
We cut to a stunning shot of Jupiter and the great storm raging on the surface, before we follow a tiny ship — The Y Que— a slingshot racer hurtling at high speed past the distant planet. Inside, the pilot is a young Belter, Maneo, who is some level of famous for his record-breaking racing antics, though he keeps being bumped from the headlines for news about the Ring. Months later, he spectacularly surfs the rings around Saturn, and this time doesn’t even merit a mention in the press. Worse yet, his girlfriend is dumping him for some speedo-wearing slab of muscle. Maneo sees a news report that Holden is visiting the ring — and is apparently now so famous and well-liked he warrants such breathless reporting, and Maneo makes a decision. He sets up a new course, aiming for The Ring its self. Oh honey.
Out in space, the Roci is part of a UN fleet heading for The Ring, and onboard we learn that somewhere along the way the crew has picked up some new friends, in the form of a documentary film crew. The lead reporter is editing and shooting all at once so as to capture the most powerful and effective shots, and it’s not merely Holden’s attitude, but his actual words that make it clear they’re only onboard because they’re paying for the right to be there. They want to know his feelings on the Ring and he doesn’t really have any; he’s only going there because the camera crew need a ride, and the Roci isn’t cheap to run. Monica, the reporter (Anna Hopkins) jibes it’s not even their ship which gets Amos’ and Alex’s attention but mostly just so they can fill the audience in on that Mars has sued over ownership of the Roci, and the news team is paying the legal fees on our gang’s behalf. Alex vies for some camera attention but Monica wants to focus on Amos (… I mean she has eyes, who can blame her? Though, his history is much more mysterious, and if there’s anyone she can get a camera friendly rise out of, it’s our favourite Murderchild), and then we find out Naomi has left the crew months before.
Oh. Oh, my heart. Look, I’m not going to be okay until Naomi and Amos are, okay? Good.
Over on the OPA’s Behemoth (Formerly the Nauvoo), Naomi is working as an engineer on what Holden calls a leave of absence.
She’s dropped her Earther friendly appearance and gone back to her Belter roots, acquiring new ink, changing up her hair and clothes and even falling back into her old Belter accent. She asserts her authority over some druggie Belters who want to work while high, before getting called up to the bridge to meet Drummer and a new arrival on the ship, one who clears a path through the crew like Moses through the red sea. Hold onto your butts because David Strathairn just arrived, introducing himself as Klaes Ashford, repping for Dawes for the duration of the mission.
The tension between Drummer and Ashford is clear as they verbally spar about their history, and then Ashford introduces his newest crewman. And ooooh damn, it’s Diogo! (Andrew Rotilio, who also works behind the scenes on the Belter accent or language). Diogo first appeared as a kid siphoning water from the rich levels of Ceres and after a series of wild adventures,was last seen being hauled off to prison for helping Dawes kidnap Cortazar. Diogo has new facial tattoos and a neat OPA uniform, and cheerily tells Naomi that Cortazar says “Hello”. Ashford quickly shouts down such familiarity, giving some indication as to the nature of their relationship, and then Diogo is handed over to Drummer and Naomi as the newest member of their crew.
On the Thomas Prince, a UNN ship within the fleet, Anna nervously approaches an old friend who fills in, again, the audience. It’s now 187 days since the Ring formed, and in that time it hasn’t given off a single measurable reading of any kind. Anna asks if the octopus shape the Protomolecule took rising off the planet suggests it was ever alive, and to comments about her religious belief, fires back that she is standing on a fucking spaceship and as such, knows the difference between what is godly and what is a fucking alien life form, guy.
The guy is certain the Ring is a technology and explains the recent history of the Protomolecule that makes it very clear it was designed, with intent and purpose, and suggests she pray it remains inert.
On the Roci, Alex is cooking while the documentary crew films and naturally, Monica asks about his family, because she’s that kind of reporter who just thinks throwing out jabs and pokes is how you tell a story. A ruggedly disheveled Amos appears, and her obvious interest in him flares as she asks about where he studied to be an engineer after leaving Baltimore. We learn he was apprenticed at the age of fifteen, selected in The Lottery, a system which enables Earthborn humans the chance to learn a trade or a skill, and maybe even get off planet. Amos’ selection was strange in its own right, but whats weirder is how the record of his selection and a birth certificate are the only government records that Amos Burton as we know him, ever existed.
Amos is acting admirably disinterested until she mentions that there are anecdotal records of an Amos Burton who was a mob boss in Baltimore. But, that couldn’t have been our Amos who left the planet in his teens … right? Amos calmly suggests it may just be a common name and when the cameraman lets his drone camera drift too close, Amos smashes the thing into pieces and leaves. Monica, again, in possession of a full set of working eyes, chases and tries to flirt with our boy to gain some trust, but she has no idea of the depths into which she’s wading. Amos gets in reeeaaall close (my goodness, Wes Chatham is beautiful) to whisper ‘I don’t shit where I eat’, and I think I may faint.
On the Behemoth Ashford is talking up the power and prowess of the monstrous ship and gets his first look at the bridge, smiling smugly as he considers what it means for the Belters to have such a weapon. But then he spots somebody and goes over to ‘apologise’ to some old enemy, by means of choking him into submission until the guy drops what ever grudge he may have been carrying. Um, okay, Guy.
Drummer and Ashford retreat to talk in private, mostly so Ashford can mouthpiece for Dawes about how it’s totally not Dawes fault that Drummer got shot in the attempted take over of Tycho from last year, blaming it on the OPA’s naughty sibling, the Dark Sky – think the IRA to the OPA’s Sinn Fein. He talks about politics and perception and makes the extremely valid point that Fred has Protomolecule, Dawes has Cortazar, so, you know, they could try and be friends? But his flirtimidation wont work on Drummer, at least not yet. Meanwhile, outside the ship some poor bastard in a ship is caught in a violent spin and might crash into the ship. Naomi manages to catch the ship and bring the pilot back on board but the high G’s have already killed him. Worse yet, Naomi realises he’s one of the druggie Belters from earlier, a guy who was likely working while high. A dark mood settles over the newly formed crew. Not a great start, then.
Elsewhere in the fleet we (FINALLY) check in with Bobbie, who is back in the M.C.R.N on a ship called the Xuessen. She’s chatting to Alex via a monitor about having visited Mars recently and checked in with Alex’s family. Because Bobbie is that good of a person and friend. Alex tells her he is talking more to his family but his wife is filing for divorce. On Drone Camera he admits he’s sort of relieved and they bond over not being the domestic types but being glad to be where they are. She’s glad to be back in the Marines and then leans in to reassure Alex he’s a top notch pilot who earned his seat on the Roci as far as she’s concerned. Oh, you guys. Martian romance blooms.
On the Behemoth Naomi seeks out Drummer to fess up about the dead skiff pilot, and the growing black market of drugs onboard the ship. She feels guilty for not speaking up sooner, but Drummer points out the pilot got his own self high, so it’s not Naomi’s fault. She does need to know who the dealer is, though. Cut to her descending into the ship, and someone is about to get their ass kicked.
On the Prince, Anna has a message from her wife about the floods of donations into their clinic, and also gets a fearful lecture about how Anna has been gone for so long. Her wife is terrified about Anna’s proximity to the Ring, and wants Anna home. The camera drifts past Anna to focus on a team of mechanics departing from the Behemoth to return to their own ship. The pilot and leader of the crew is a vaguely familiar young woman going by the name of Melba (Nadine Nicole), who acts all cool but privately bristles at any mention of Holden. Down in the ship, an older engineer, Ren, is very kind to her about it being her first big contract job, and offers advice and support when ever she needs it. He leaves her alone, while Melba checks on a bomb she has concealed on their ship.
Back on the Roci, the cameraman is in engineering and assures Amos he has no cameras, and appears to be here to talk and make friends. Amos is, adorably, still tending to Prax’s Greenwalls, or what Amos calls Prax Panels. He explains Prax to the cameraman, and we learn Prax is back on Ganymede with Mei, helping to rebuild. Amos, with as much sadness as we’ve ever seen him express says, ‘He was my best friend in the whole world’ and excuse you, yes, I am crying again, okay? Amos didn’t stay because he wasn’t asked and isn’t the rebuilding type, so the cameraman plays his hand and asks if Monica doesn’t have a chance … does he? And, he places a flirtatious hand on Amos’ shoulder. Amos face tells a story, his eyes staring into something very deep and dark, but his mouth repeats his words/warning to Monica, and he’s not playing their game and guys, given what we know, or at least suspect about Amos, this is all very dark and scary territory.
Back on the ship, Melba installs her device, and Ren returns to none too subtly coach her through installing a breaker designed to spread the load of power failures, as opposed to the ship blowing a gasket all of a sudden. She’s barely fighting off a panic attack, and while Ren senses this he doesn’t seem too bothered to ask why she is so on edge, or more importantly, why the head of an engineering crew needs to be coached through such basic repair work.
On the Behemoth Naomi pushes her way to the front of a crowd to witness Drummer and her security with the drug dealer Belters, one of whom she is about to space. Naomi is against the idea and Ashford appears to fight the case that spacing the Belter makes them the animals the Inners claim them to be, and good leadership would be to show some mercy. Drummer is smart enough to listen but addresses the crowd and invites them to drop their contraband in the airlock with immunity. After that — and then Ashford speaks over her (dude!) — and declares that anyone caught with contraband will then be locked up in the brig. Those are the captain’s orders. Drummer glares death rays at him, but it’s done.
Ooooh, girl. He’s not wrong about these things but also, you know, kick his ass eventually.
Later, Ashford creeps up to Naomi to plant more ear worms and suggests she talk to Drummer about Drummer actually trusting him for a hot second. I think we’ve found our new Baelish.
Back on the Y, Maneo has grown a significant beard and learns his wild stunt has worked, and his girlfriend is waiting eagerly, and nakedly for his return. Hey, good for you Maneo! We’ll pretend for a second I don’t know what’s about to happen to you.
Ren is showing Melba to some room on the ship, realises he’s left his drinking flask, and goes back to fetch it. He’s at the panel Melba was working on and notices evidence of her work, and almost immediately finds her bomb. Melba is there and is sad he found her out, hinting strongly it’s not even the only device she has planted. Ren, a Good Guy is ready to literally fight her if he has to, and then Melba pops something in her mouth and her demeanour changes. She leaps forwards, suddenly unfathomably strong and though she lacks real skill, her strength is enough — and in seconds, Ren is dead. Melba collapses beside him, spent by her efforts, and the effects of what ever gave her such strength.
On the Roci Holden is checking the Evo suits and discusses his time in the Navy, and how it taught him to trust — including Naomi. Monica, though, is done, and thinks all the boys are lying about why they are there, what they want, and who they actually are. Monica tries for another rise by suggesting Holden secretly loves being The Hero he tries to pretend he’s not. Holden is wise to her though, and makes his exit before she gets too much rope to hang him with.
Her cameraman makes excuses and then sneaks off to the bridge, using his cameras and sensors in his eyes (he appears to be blind, using tech to aid his sight) to scan for information about the ship.
Nearby on the Y, Maneo sends one last message to Evita, while he ignores increasingly frantic messages from other ships ordering him to stop. He’s travelling at incredible speeds as he blasts rock music and speaks of making history, and right as he’s getting into the swing of things he uh … well, bursts? He decelerates to a dead stop so suddenly that his bones, muscles, his everything, explode forwards out of his body, as we pan back to see the Ring is not empty, but some sort of event horizon has formed within, and he’s just been hit.
On the Roci, Holden walks back into his room, hearing strange whispering and muttering and when he looks up, he sees an impossible sight; Joe Miller (Tom Jane), a man we were lead to believe is not only dead, but burned to nothing when Eros crashed into Venus, perched atop his bed, looking like he needs to talk.
And then … credits.
There are not a lot of shows that can maintain a consistent pace and quality, let alone get better with each new episode, but The Expanse is one of the celebrated few.
The leap forwards in time is in tune with the books, and is a smart way to move the series forwards and enter a new stage, without forcing us to wonder if, or even when the characters are meant to get any sleep. It also adds powerful poignancy to a lot of the scenes regarding the departures of Prax and Naomi, as being apart months rather than days or weeks, adds a distressing permanence to the proceedings.
It’s fun to see Naomi in a new setting, and the detail of her dropping her Earth-friendly look and accent to revert to her more natural state is one that makes me cheer. It’s a reminder of the harsh reality lived by so many today, that they feel they must edit their personality to ‘fit’ the status quo, even if it means distancing themselves from the culture that raised and nurtured them.
Naomi is different in this setting, cooler and more sure of herself, no longer having to expend the energy required to live up to someone else’s perception of what she ‘should’ be. It’s also just fun to see Dominique so skillfully adapt to a difficult accent that her Belter co-stars have had three years to work on. She’s really so, so talented.
I’m glad to see Bobbie isn’t gone from the story and better yet, is heading to the same place as the Roci crew and Naomi. I had hoped Bobbie might stick with Chrisjen after their time together, but that might mean she didn’t get to be a part of whatever is about to happen, so I guess I’ll have to be okay with it. For now. I am loving the budding something between her and Alex, and just the general change to her demeanour, even now she’s back in uniform. She’s still clearly the ultimate badass, but Bobbie has softened in an important way, and it’s a joy to behold.
The addition of the documentary crew is, again in line with the books, but I like how it’s serving as a way to dig into the backgrounds and natures of our beloved little ragtag gang, and yes, again, particularly Amos Burton. If you have read the novella The Churn then you understand exactly what the scene about Amos’ name was all about, and you likely understand why Amos seems to have such complex emotions about sex and intimacy. It’s just always fascinating to watch his character unfold and as always, I have to give credit to Wes Chatham for handling such a layered and complicated character so adeptly. It helps that Amos Burton was Chatham’s own favourite character from the books. It shows how much love he has for what he’s doing.
So … that Ring, huh? That’s … honestly terrifying. It might seem far away and distant but in the show, it’s a few months travel by space and that’s on human ships, and we know the Protomolecule can accelerate objects at speeds humans can only dream of. What is on the other side of the surface poor, mashed-up Maneo smashed into, hard? Is it a gate? Does it go both ways? I honestly don’t want to find out. I want them to nuke it.
Particularly, since at least one skill it appears to possess is the creepy resurrection of long dead Detectives, namely, Joe Miller. Joe died on Eros, convincing the thing that used to be Julia Mao to crash into Venus rather than return to Earth, but it appears he, or something that looks like him, has returned. Is it really Joe? And is that why he appeared to Holden? I have to admit that this is about where my knowledge of the books stops, so from this point I am genuinely clueless about what might happen, but I am excited.