We open on Amos and Alex watching a message Holden made for them before his absolutely insane solo trip into the depths of The Bubble. He ends the message on a direct order not to follow him, so fire up your countdowns to the minute the pair decide to absolutely ignore that order, and go save their Captain.
Out in The Bubble, drifting along to his as yet unclear location, Holden still has Miller for company. The Investigator’s communication gets clearer and more Miller-like the deeper they get, which makes me wonder if there may be some actual physical trace of him in the nucleus. Miller suggests it’s fate that has brought Holden this far. Holden’s not so sure, more of a Free Will kind of guy, so Miller points out how weird it is that Holden is present for every near or actual disaster to befall the Solar System of late. I mean, Jim … he has a point.
Over on the Prince, they’re preparing to travel through the Ring after so many other ships, and the mood is tense to say the least. Except for Anna, who is still smiling and grinning like an absolute idiot while everyone around her looks utterly terrified. She’s approached by a terrified Lieutenant who is seeking spiritual support, but Anna doesn’t even glance in his direction, mumbling vague platitudes in response to his clearly stated fears, and then she just … walks away from him. Literally just taking several steps forwards, so she can get away. Oh, Anna. Then the ship is through and again, Anna is oblivious to the fact she’s the only one so excited by it all. They detect the nucleus and realise anything sent towards it — thesling shot Belter ship, Martian probes and Drummers nuke, have taken up orbit around it. While Anna and Crewman Nameless (show, if you give them lines in more than one episode, give them a name. DO THIS. FOR ME) plan probes and searches of the area, the terrified Lieutenant slips away. I feel absolutely certain that poor man will be found dead pretty soon.
On her shuttle, Naomi is still failing to raise the Roci ,and is contacted by a Martian ship — the Xuesen — telling her to back off as they intend to arrest Holden. Naomi points out the same Holden they are trying to arrest saved Mars from Hybrids literally months ago, but Martians are just that fickle.
… Except for one, Bobbie, who is on the Xuesen and preparing to chase after Holden with some other Marines. She does defend Holden to them, and assures her fellow Martians that she will apprehend Holden and bring him in alive, as ordered. Out in space, Miller shows Holden the Martians have already launched, and are heading towards him. Holden speeds himself up a bit using the jets on his suit, and Miller warns him he could be killed if he travels too fast, and makes him slow down. Holden claims he was exercising some free will.
On the Roci, Alex reports the Martians have launched a skiff after Holden, and Amos suggests going after Holden first and fighting any Martians who try and get in their way. Alex is confused how Amos is managing to be so Amos about everything. Amos is smart enough to give an inch, admitting he knows they’re into some weird shit, but other than that he seems to just see it as another thing they need to survive. To Alex’s claim they’re out of their depth, he points out that’s been true of humans since we started hunting lions. Alex asks if he’s not even a little bit afraid and Amos does that Amos stare and calm level tone and says he hasn’t felt fear since he was five years old.
… and now I’m sad.
Alex wishes he would live without fear, and Amos is still staring and calm and says ‘No, you don’t … and now, I’m sadder. Poor, broken, beloved murderchild.
Alex is afraid that the Ring means all of humanity is going to die, and Amos ‘reassures’ ( … ) him with the story of a friend from Baltimore who said if the world ended, she’d take a bottle of vodka and her two cats to a roof, watch the end roll in, then jump, with the cats. ‘Like a fuckin’ Pharaoh’. To Alex’s … you know, confusion, Amos promises his friend that if it comes to it, Amos will take Alex with him into the afterlife. Gentle Amos is Gentle.
On the Prince, they’re debating the nucleus. Something like inertia is working on the objects in orbit, such as the probes or missiles but otherwise they are working normally. It’s not clear why they have been pulled into orbit, while ships appear to be able to move with some freedom. Anna notices a strange purple glow around the objects, and theorises it’s a sign The Bubble views those objects as a threat. Which is terrifying, and the poor, terrified Lieutenant is still around, hearing every word, and growing more distressed by the minute. Anna notices his fear just long enough to ask if he’s okay, but when he clearly lies about being fine, she goes right back to ignoring his existence. Once again, he takes his leave.
Upstairs on the bridge, Melba is checking the Roci’s course, seemingly hoping to intercept and board. Oooh, girl.
On the Behemoth, they’re facing the same vague signal issues as everyone else but Drummer is just happy the Belters will reach the centre before the Inners. Ashford moans about her letting Naomi leave rather than have her build them some probes and Drummer notices Diogo and Ashford’s other friend paying too much attention to the scene. She coolly puts him in his place and says she’ll convert some old farm probes, and that’s the end of that. Except it’s not, because Ashford is shady as fuck.
On the Martian skiff they worry about what’ll happen when Holden reaches the nucleus – from aliens to explosions, so Bobbie makes contact but Holden is distracted, talking to Miller and unable to balance the two conversations. He cuts off contact and even Bobbie has to admit he doesn’t sound rational.
But Holden don’t care because he’s reached the nucleus and slows his descent enough to float over the sphere at the middle. A doorway, tunnel of sorts opens up and Holden hesitates to go forwards. Miller,still talking like it’s a case, says there’s a ‘records room’ inside they need to get into, that billions of years ago there was a great civilisation but now there’s nothing, just few locked doors that need to be opened. I think, as I said last week, that who ever sent the Protomolecule to Earth is long dead, and the Miller avatar is trying to find out what happened. The Martians are getting closer and with Holden’s options limited, he has to go inside.
Back on the Prince, the scared Lieutenant retires to his quarters and after a moment of consideration, takes his own life. I hate it when I’m right. Elsewhere, Clarissa watches some of the videos from Cohen and Monica (who … are they still adrift in space?), and her anger at Holden burns. She checks the intercept route for the Roci again, impatient. Hey, try to go faster, sis. See what happens.
On the Behemoth, Diogo approaches Ashford to express anger at how Drummer spoke to Ashford earlier. Ashford points out she’s captain; Diogo thinks Ashford should be captain. Ashford darkly warns him to tread carefully, but this is Diogo, so we’ll see how that works out.
In the nucleus, Holden drifts through the tunnel, and realises it’s some kind of machine. Miller explains it’s not fully functional, hence Holden’s physical presence — Miller needs him to turn it on. He explains, sort of, how he exists: he messes with things in Holden’s head so he can see and speak with Holden, and makes it Miller so it’s easier. Holden sort of gets it, but it’s Miller(ish), so he explains again, this time with several insults just for fun. Heee!
On the Martian Skiff, they prepare to land on the nucleus. Oooh, Holden. Hurry.
On the Prince, Anna learns of the Lieutenant’s death, claimed now as an accident while cleaning his gun. Anna has been around enough to know military code for suicide, and it finally hits her she may have lost sight of things. Below decks, Clarissa tries and fails to get clearance to further her latest scheme.
Back with Anna, she’s trying to prepare something to say for a service for the dead man and Tilly approaches to offer support. Anna admits she was distracted and probably shouldn’t be on the ship in the first place. She realises her role on the ship was to comfort and help. To minister, as is, you know, her job. And, she didn’t. Later, Tilly walks the corridors and bumps into Clarissa. Tilly is so surprised to see her, she doesn’t notice she her pocket was clearly picked. I … do rather hope Tilly realises the significance of a Mao being on the damned ship, like … soon.
At the rather hastily convened service for the Lieutenant — Jordan — Anna speaks of her regret she didn’t know him better. She recalls what he said to her during the transit through the Ring, his question if god thought they should be there. She is not sure, but knows god would want them to be together. They can’t know Jordan’s pain, though they can know the pain all humans share. She encourages everyone to be kind to honour their dead friend. As the parishioners file out Tilly approaches and admits she saw Clarissa Mao. The Mao family, for the most, part ran off and hid after Jules’ arrest, though Tilly knows some escaped. Tilly isn’t sure why, and doesn’t want to call security if Clarissa is just in hiding from the fallout of her father’s actions. Oh, Tilly. You are not a smart person. Anna is just as oblivious and tells Tilly to trust her instincts, which even Tilly says are terrible.
In the nucleus, Holden has reached the centre, a chamber that looks like the finished version of the space where Miller found the Julie thing on Eros. From the floor and ceiling of the space, twin outgrowths emerge and reach towards each other, but stop before they touch. Miller explains Holden’s job is to complete the circuit. Holden … maybe don’t?
The skiff has arrived, and the Martian Marines leap out into the void to make their landing.
In the chamber, Holden remembers that when Miller was on Eros, he could feel Julie’s presence. He wonders if completing the circuit will just kill everyone he loves, people who Julie died trying to save. Miller insists he do it, that they’re running out of time and Holden realises that when Miller found Julie, she was already gone and felt no pain, but Miller did. He asks if Miller was taken apart by the Molecule, or if he burned up in the crash. Miller looks unsure, afraid. And then he’s gone, and Miller is alone.
On the Behemoth, Ashford finds Drummer working on some drones. She’s been there a while because she’s still angry, and Ashford makes it about Naomi even as Drummer insists Naomi is still her friend. She points out Ashford can’t help himself with the scheming. She calls out how he’ll talk shit to her in front of people, but when she’s gone he’ll turn around and praise her, insist she get respect. That way, when the mutiny comes and Ashford takes over, everyone will ‘know’ it’s because he had to; he had no choice, thought Drummer was the bee’s knees, so he’ll just try to do right by her, but also mostly, the crew. Ashford says they need to work out their problem. Drummer calmly demands ‘Or else … what?’ KICK HIS ASS, SIS!
On the Prince, Tilly has tracked down Clarissa and thinking she’s in hiding, offers help. Tilly offers her family’s lawyer to help her or Jules, and Clarissa just laughs it off. Then, she activates her implant while poor, helpless Tilly looks confused.
In the nucleus, Miller reappears. He doesn’t look entirely well or perhaps, entirely human. He recalls a story Julie told him. She says when a child dies, an angel takes their hand and travels halfway with them, so they won’t be afraid. Miller tried to be the angel, but he was too scared. So, Julie had to be the angel. Holden recognises Miller, the real Miller. Then Martians arrive, and Bobbie calls to her old friend, promising she never thought he was guilty, but he has to leave with the Martians. Holden reaches for the circuit and the Martians raise their weapons. He insists ‘it’ doesn’t want to hurt them and lunges for the circuit, so they fire. Their bullets are stopped, glowing the same purple that surrounds the other objects in orbit. The Protomolecule defends itself, and a Marine who throws a grenade is lifted into the air as suddenly, out in The Bubble, every ship comes to a dead stop. Their travelling speed has been mentioned as about 12,000 kilometres an hour. So many people just died.
The levitated Marine is deconstructed the same way the Arbhogast was, with a puddle that used to be a person falling to the floor. And with everyone distracted, Holden shoves his hand into the circuit.
There’s a flash, and then he’s bombarded by images tracing the origin of the Protomolecule. It seems to be a sort of history rather than something current, as we see he’s in another, larger Bubble (or is it the same, when it’s working properly?), this one with many Rings to many galaxies, as well as our own. He sees this nucleus power up and fire a beam through our Ring, at our sun. Our sun turns Protomolecule blue, and Holden screams and collapses, catatonic.
Okay. That was terrifying.
It seems only right to offer a moment of silence for the possibly hundreds of dead after the sudden halt of every ship within The Bubble. It’s hard to decide if everyone will have burst like he did, or if we’ll see a lot of people slamming into bulkheads or screens, but it’s not going to be pretty. It’s a damned good thing Alex and Amos didn’t accelerate after Holden, and that Naomi seemed to be travelling at safer speeds, otherwise we may have seen a side of them all we never wanted to. Specifically, their insides. It’s hard to determine how anyone else will fare. I can’t stop wondering if everyone was in the same last position we saw them. Were Drummer and Ashford still standing beside all that large, heavy machinery?
Holden got his very own Space Odyssey moment, but so long as he survives it, it was pretty damned informative. It seems the Aliens’ plan is to fling the Protomolecule at planets or suns, wait for the Ring to be created, opening a path between the galaxies. Then, they fire their very own Star Killer at the sun. To what end … maybe its a kind of space-born terraforming? Change the nature of the sun, the radiation it emits, and change the effect it has on planets and living organisms? Make more planets that can support the species behind the molecule? Whatever their long term goal, if they are still around, we’re pretty much entirely screwed. It’s hard enough to protect a planet from a missile, as we have seen this season. A beam of pure energy fired at our sun …Alex is right. All of humanity might be about to die.
Or, are we? Miller seemed to suggest, as I speculated, that the species behind the Ring are not where they should be, and there is only one Ring remaining in The Bubble — ours. Humanity may have been very lucky. We may have outlived the creators of the most deadly weapon to ever exist, anywhere, and if we’re smart enough to destroy every sample we have of the shit, we may live longer still.
There were a lot of great character moments in this episode, particularly from Holden, and eventually real Miller. Bobbie also got a chance to show how she’s changed from the hard, war-ready Marine we first met. I also loved Alex and Amos’ brief exchange, which made me tear up a little, and then howl with laughter at Amos’ promise to take Alex with him if he should decide to go ‘off the roof’ before the world ends. Once again, this is Amos being kind and gentle and I love him so, so much.
Next week … did everyone get turned into space roadkill? Did Holden turn the super-weapon back on, dooming humanity forever? Will Monica and Cohen ever be picked up? These questions and more on The Expanse on Syfy,, and Oohlo soon after!