Episode Grade: A
For many people, last week’s episode was “the fireworks factory.” For me, and I’m sure a few others, it was a setup for this payoff. It’s a shame that Thomas Jane’s name appeared in the credits really, because damn it’s an effective (re)entrance. I <spoiler> predicted that such a WHAM moment would be saved by the writers for a season finale, but with the show’s decision to skip past all the boring stuff, like seeing the MCRN and UN back down from war, or everyone watching and theorizing about the Ring making it’s way out from Venus to past the border of Uranus, why wait?
I loved everything about the Miller-plot this week, which of course is the same plot as that of the late, great Manéo Jung-Espino–. First of all, do you suppose the show had to license what must be some futurey cover/re-write of “All by Myself?” Because I just about had a giggle-fit when I recognized the tune, and how overwrought it was (just like young love!). Truly, Néo, for all that he only got a few minutes of screen time, was just a hoot, a triumph of efficient story-telling. I also appreciated seeing him bust out from the moons of Jupiter, to appear near Saturn “a few months later,” and then with the beard at the ring. I think the show-runners were doing with him what they contemplated doing with Alex last season when he made his run through Jupiter’s moons. This time they could do it without killing the pacing of the show’s main plot.
And then, when he reached the Ring… WELL. That was gruesome. And hilarious. I’m happy they opted for the visualization instead of just having him pass through and disappear. Vaya con Dios, Néo.
We’ll have to wait for a fuller explanation of what’s going on with the Ring, the Protomolecule, and Joe Miller. I’m hoping he can clue Holden in to what’s going on out there in a near episode. They need to talk.
The Roci storyline, like it has been in a couple episodes, is light on plot, except for the espionage being conducted by the blind cameraman, but nice on character beats. I’m sorry to see Bobbie leaving the ship, but it only makes sense. I’m not sure where the show’s going with her character, though. Literally… I missed whether she was part of the Martian detachment heading to Uranus or not. Anyone catch it?
So, Naomi’s gone, and Holden’s being Holden about it, and Prax is gone home with his baby girl, and Amos is awfully sweet about that. His echo of Prax’s line, calling him his “best friend in the whole world” got an out-loud “aw” from me, as well as a slight misting up. I love how the show treats Amos and his emotions; it doesn’t really suggests that he doesn’t have them, but most of the time, he seems to be almost observing the emotions as opposed to feeling them, and Wes Chatham is able to knock the performance of that out of the park, week to week. His stellar performance also makes those times when the emotions actually hit that much more meaningful.
Alex, meanwhile remains a big ol’ puppy-dog who’s ignored in favor of the more interesting folks he flies with… though Bobbie’s compliment to him definitely had the double-sound to its entendre. The fact that she could snap him in half would add spice.
And now, our two “new” story lines. The UNN fleet heading to the Ring gives us Anna Volovodov finally away from the politicking Errinwright and Sorrento-Gillis (now replaced with a well-coiffed yet still vulgar Avasarala). Mitchell isn’t given a lot to do, but it’s not nothing, and it retroactively gives a bit more meaning to her earlier use in the show: We don’t need to spend time getting to know this character now, because the first five episodes did that heavy lifting for us. This is a good thing, because we’ve got a new and very interesting character in Melba Koh, the young electrical engineer with a sabotage hobby.
Obviously answers as to what’s going on with Melba are short on the ground, as we’re given just enough time to meet her and her compatriots, see her plant the bomb, and then show contrition before she kills Picker from Justified. The visuals from that fight are not quite as graphic as the death of the Belter thrill-seeker, but are quite a bit more disturbing. The sudden switch in her mannerisms into something feral, her inhuman strength in lifting this huge man up bodily (even in low-g, I can’t imagine an easy feat for someone with her build), and her instant collapse once the adrenaline or whatever left her system… Woah. We don’t know yet why she’s doing what she’s doing, but if she doesn’t know a lot about electrical engineering, she at least knows where to plant a bomb. Given what her boss said, it sounds like it’s well-placed for maximum destruction.
By now, you must be wondering “what about Naomi?” And you know what? I sort of liked Naomi here, among other Beltas. (I also like how her accent deepens among her tribe) She’s now on the good ship Nauvoo, rechristened the OPAS Behemoth. And oh BOY is this plot already thick enough to dig in to. Given our history with them, it’s natural that our sympathies lie with Naomi and with Drummer, now the captain of the ship. Also, the fact that Anderson Dawes’ contingent contains Diogo? Ugh, I hate that little creep. But on the other hand:
Oh, show. You almost give us too much. The Expanse has always had good actors, and a few brilliant ones, but now in this season we get first Elizabeth Mitchell and now David Strathairn? We don’t deserve this. I suppose it only right that Strathairn appear so soon after Syfy announced they weren’t picking this show up for Season 4, since I still haven’t forgiven the channel for dropping Alphas six years ago (and this is one of their first real sci-fi shows since that one). Well here’s Dr. Rosen again, and just like that, every scene he’s in is his.
More than that, this guy Klaes Ashford, is very interesting. It’s obvious he’s undermining Drummer, and finishing off her speech at the airlock was a dick move. But… he’s actually kind of right about nearly everything he says. If the OPA’s a government and/or a military, they can’t just space people they think committed a crime.
No, Roslin! Not this time!
Especially if such conduct is explicitly allowed until stuff goes sideways. Ashford, it’s clear, has enough moral standing to make his antagonism interesting. Drummer clings to something… the past? when she sneers at the effectiveness of the plan she came up with, to airlock the drugs her crew was using. Anderson, for all that he’s Dawes’ man apparently, and we know Dawes sucks, is again giving voice to a more reasonable view. his discussion with Naomi immediately afterwards also shows how dynamic this situation might wind up being, and I’m looking forward to seeing how Naomi deals with the complexities of the situation and the conflicting loyalties she’ll be forced to contend with. And the effortlessness with which Straithairn inhabits the character, right out of the gate, with intelligence, with menace, with playfulness, is a delight to see.
This episode? All cylinders were firing for me here. I might complain about not enough Shohreh, but that would be petty and besides, you don’t want to overstuff. This week was a season-best to my eyes, and I can’t wait to see where we go from here.
Oh yeah: So things are looking much better than last week for the Expanse. Amazon Studio’s interested, but the writers are encouraging folks to get the numbers up for the show. So watch this live on Syfy, or do something else measurable like I do: You can buy season 3 on Prime right now, and get access to the episodes in the wee hours after airing. I think you can also buy individual episodes, but either way, it’s using your dollar votes to convince Amazon that this is a good deal, and they need to shove lots of money at it!
Come on, lasses and laddies! Do your bit!