The Expanse: Season 3, Episode 2, “IFF” (Review)

Episode Grade: A-

I swear I thought my daughter was a day shy of 9 weeks old today, but my wife insisted she was almost 10 weeks.  And she was right, but that’s not important right now.  What’s important is that this parent gig is a new one for me, and I’m thinking that it’s coloring the things I’m starting to notice and consider, on the Expanse.

Two young girls get screen time on tonight’s episode.  Mei Meng is on Io, along with a boy she knows from Ganymede, Katoa.  (His father Basia was briefly seen in Season 2, and knows Mei’s father)  Prax is of course coming for her, but tonight we see Prax admitting that part of him doesn’t want to keep looking for her, for fear that he’ll end up finding the dead body of his little girl.  I have to admit that got me right in the feels, and it’s hard not to sympathize with him:  Who would want that?  But this scene, which is the culmination of several between Prax and Amos, shows Amos correcting Prax:  He can’t give up on Mei.  He’s all she has, though the crew of the Rocinante are certainly in her corner.Amoshang.jpg

Those scenes with Amos and Prax are some of the best of the night, giving us an outstanding and unique perspective of what the inside of a spaceship doing combat maneuvers might be like.  The tension was real: I really was scared for a minute that Prax wasn’t going to make it.  And the connection between these two characters is something unexpected and touching.

The other girl is Nami, daughter of Reverend Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell, LOST’s Juliette), and her wife Nono.  Nami is not as impactful on the story as Mei, but her scene shows us something about Mitchell, and how well she and the writers have got a handle on this new character right out of the gate.  Within a couple of scenes, we get a sense of where Anna is politically in her relationship with the S-G.  I especially liked her wincing at the racism displayed towards Belters by Errinwright and the U.N. functionaries.  The scene with Anna’s wife and daughter gives the audience a chance to see Mitchell play to more dimensions than just the government’s conscience.  The hug of the pillow and stuttering “love” is obviously very cute, but I was won over by the joy evident when she jumped off the couch to approach the screen with her daughter.  She’s only been in a single episode, but if Elizabeth Mitchell continues to bring her game here, she may reach Avasarala levels of cool.

But there are other children on the show, too.  Most of them far away from their parents, which is what this episode had me thinking about.  The season premiere saw Alex record a message for the son he left on Mars and whom I imagine hasn’t seen his dad in a really long time.  Avaserala had a son, now dead, and whose death is what binds Komyat to her.  Katoa’s in the same boat as Mei.  Jules-Pierre Mao’s children are threatened by Sec-General Esteban and Errinwright, which raises the hackles of Rev. Anna.  And then there’s Julie Mao, whose fate began this whole thing.

It was weird in early going to me, that Florence Faivre was always on the show’s opening credits, given that, outside of two episodes, she hardly appeared at all (and not even that much in the Pilot).  But then again, the shadow of Julie is still present on this show.  Certainly, her father’s actions now seem at least in part to be trying to give some meaning to her daughter’s death through finding an application for the proto-molecule.  And her name on the registry of the Razorback might not have tipped the balance in getting the Roci’s crew to turn to intercept it, but hell, sort of thing does catch the eye.

The Razorback’s flight and rescue was gripping TV through and through (and expect me to write more about the visualization of the battle scenes some time), and I really appreciated another example, along with Prax and Amos, of seeing a unique perspective on space flight, as we see how Bobbie has to handle her ship in order to avoid crushing Avaserala to goo.  At speeds like this, the ship’s integrity wouldn’t be the limiting factor in how quickly you can accelerate.  The sacks of jelly inside are much less resilient however.  I’m sure there’s a huge amount here that real science-types shake their heads at.  But it feels like pretty damn hard sci-fi to me, and I’m loving it.

Spoiler/Book Section:

…I can’t figure out how to do spoilers without an add-on, so skip this if you don’t want any book-y spoilers!

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So how does Anna get sent to the Nauvoo from here?  I imagine she’ll have some story arc on Earth before we see her going up the Well.

It’s a guess, but given their relationship in the books, and the references to Mao’s children, I’m wondering if Anna’s arc on Earth might involve the as-yet unnamed Clarissa Mao.  But right now, it’s just a guess.  This show does a really good job of following the books’ broad strokes while changing enough details to keep us all on our toes.

In the book, I seem to remember that Katoa died “off-screen.”  Certainly his death was confirmed, and was the heart of a lot of the characterization of Basia, who plays a role in book 4, “Cibola Burn.”  Given the glowy blue arm, I wonder if Katoa might wind up being our on-screen proof that these scientists don’t control the proto-molecule.  And I don’t expect he’ll survive that, poor kid.

Seriously, I thought Prax might die.