Episode Grade: B+
I have missed Thomas Jane on this show. One of the early strengths of The Expanse was that its three main characters of Holden, Miller, and Avasarala each brought a different style, and a different sort of energy, to the telling of the story. And honestly, Jane’s Detective Miller was probably the best and most realized of the three in terms of being a part of this fictional universe. Chrisjen always felt slightly shoehorned in (perhaps because she was shoehorned in); and Holden was Quixote; but from the word “go,” Miller really felt like a man who’d lived his life in this asteroid-based civilization. And Jane could speak the Lang Belta really good.
And now we have the return of Miller, except not really. It’s “the Investigator,” a construction of the Protomolecule much like the Ring is. And Jane’s performance here is just perfect in doing two things at once: Establishing this new character as obviously not Joe Miller, but also making his performance fit in with what’s clearly some sort of fun-house mirror reflection of the real Miller. His verbal mannerisms are weird, but then, Miller’s mannerisms always were. And then with Holden, at the end, he actually manages communication. “Come into the room too fast, and the room’ll eat you.”
“We need to talk”
Part of the strength of these scenes is how well the writers manage to communicate, even if vaguely, what’s going in here. Miller’s a “tool,” in his own words: A program or entity created for a purpose by the Protomolecule, which “reaches out” 113 times a second, looking for something. And Holden too, is a “tool” for the blue goo, which might explain why that little glob which the guys missed in the season premier hasn’t taken over the entirety of the Roci yet. Protomolecule seems to have other plans for Holden and crew than disassembling them. And I can’t say for sure, since I’ve read ahead in the series, but this all seems to be pretty well established and spelled out even for those who might come to it cold. I’ll be interested to hear if anyone who hasn’t read Abaddon’s Gate feels differently than me about this point.
Miller’s return also marks the first time in a while where it’s really felt like the action on the Rocinante is the most vital part of the proceedings. Part of that is a result of “Miller’s” giving Holden the answer to escaping death through the ring, and how to survive entry into the space on the other side, where apparently inorganic material’s perfectly all right, but organic matter is subject to a severe Delta to its V if it’s going too fast. (That’s not as dirty as it sounds: It means the velocity changes)
It’s not just the Miller-stuff that makes the Roci plot so compelling. The skulking of the blind cameraman (Cohen) last week turns into active sabotage that is obviously connected to Melba’s destruction of the U.N.N. science ship, and suddenly things are very interesting for James Holden et al, as his face pops up, seemingly forced, on every screen within range, claiming to have blowed up the ship for the O.P.A.
Heh heh heh.
I mean, it’s not funny. I’m sure a lot of people died on that ship, and we know for sure that Ren did, but it does kind of tickle me to see Holden losing his shit in real time, scanning himself for proto-infection, and then seeing a perfectly composed mock-up claiming responsibility for terrorism. And just like that, the stakes are raised!
What we see of Melba this week just compounds how interesting a character she is, as we see her struggle with having killed this man she seems to have genuinely liked. Her struggles are both emotional and physical, by the way, so she activates again whatever the hell allowed her to rekk his ass last week, in order to crush his skull and stuff him in the locker for hiding. And apparently, the (relatively) small use of her increased strength/adrenal system/whatevs comes with smaller side effects, as she is much less affected this time around.
The more interesting scene with her involves Anna, who notices the young woman eating by herself, and tears herself away from… some dilettante-ish person to ask if she’s all right. Melba doesn’t take her up on the offer, but it’s clear that, even though she’s pleased to see her scheme against Holden go through, she could use someone looking after her soul. I personally look forward to seeing these two actresses together for more than ten seconds, myself.
I can’t place whom she reminds me of in this still.
Our time on the Behemoth is shorter this week out, and it made me wonder one thing, which is that, if Ashford is supposed to be the antagonist here, when am I going to start rooting against him? Not that I wanted to blow up Alex or Amos, but even so… okay, or Holden… but even so it’s hard to fault his reasoning in establishing clearly that the O.P.A. had nothing to do with the act of terrorism being placed on their doorstep.
I’ll grant you, Ashford’s “shoot first, ask questions later” would be more troublesome for me, but given the UNN reaction, it seems like that may be SOP. Everyone seems a wee bit missle-happy: Star Trek this ain’t. So Ashford’s in company in looking to shoot down Holden’s ship. Also? they got David Straithairn to sing in Lang Belta, which I enjoyed the hell out of.
If there’s a (possible) criticism to be made for all the stuff going on this episode, it’s in the pacing. A lot of ground gets covered in this episode, and I can see this show being effective with a more thoughtful, leisurely approach.
But that isn’t the Expanse we got, and there’s something to be said for the edge-of-your-seat thrill ride the show goes for. More often than not, it delivers the thrills, and we can all be grateful for that.
Also worth being grateful for: Two weeks ago, we commiserated on SyFy’s not renewing the show for S4. Last week, we were optimistic about Amazon’s picking it up. And this week, we can all celebrate that Amazon Studios has picked up the Expanse for next year! Dédawang da ting mi ando showxa ere!
True to my word, I’ll be renewing Prime next March, and since both this and Brooklyn Nine-Nine were saved from the axe, I guess I won’t be cutting back on my TV viewing as much as I thought. (Farewell to The Americans, though)
Calling for a substitute: In 3 weeks, on the 20th, I’ll be flying out to visit family and introduce the baby to my in-laws. I’ll be gone for a week, and was wondering if anyone wanted to pick up the slack and write a review for episode 11, “Fallen World.” It’d help if you have a WordPress account, but you can set them up easy. If anyone’s interested, tag me in the comments. If no one’s feeling it, I’ll just set up a chat page to publish that night.