Episode Grade: A-
Characters need flaws. Every writer knows this, it’s Storytelling 101. Early on, it looked as if Anna Volovodov’s flaw was merely to be her complicity in Sorrento-Gillis’ pre-show sins, and her regret over her role in them. Especially when compared to S-G himself and to Errinwright, who were her only foils, this was not a terribly interesting foible. Fortunately for the character, Elizabeth Mitchell’s nuanced performance has made her a joy to watch, but even so the last couple of episodes have done wonders for making Anna especially interesting, as opposed to just Mitchell’s portrayal of her.
The selfishness (or perhaps, self-absorption) which Anna displayed both this week and last has costs on other people. We don’t know yet how her wife and child will react to the knowledge that their loved one isn’t coming home now, and may never. But the young UN lieutenant who reached out to her in a moment of terror was rebuffed with distracted platitudes and, denied the support he needed to carry his burdens, including that of fear, has an accident with his sidearm.
What I like about this character study is that Anna’s faults are understandable and relatable: How many of use haven’t brushed off someone with a testy “yes, yes” when they needed something more from us? There’s no way she could have known what he was dealing with. And yet, Tilly isn’t right when she tells Anna that “it wasn’t [her] fault.” It may not have been done with intent, and also be perfectly understandable, but still: it was an error. And as Anna quite rightly points out, listening to others like that kid is her job, not only on board ship, but in this life. To someone like her, it’s all our jobs, but especially a minister such as her. And ironically, she’s also at fault, though not to blame, for placing Tilly Fagan in grave danger as she confronts Melba K–oh thank God they’ve revealed her real name.
No, honestly, last week was the only week it bugged me to have to keep the name “Clarissa Mao” under wraps, because the “Mao” part is the spoiler, not the “Clarissa,” and that was given way in “Intransigence.” But right now, I have to wonder how this character’s working for those people who haven’t read the books. I’m going to keep this spoiler free, but suffice it to say that I find her compelling, but I don’t know how much of that is colored by book-knowledge, and how much just from what’s on the screen. I’d be interested to hear differing viewpoints.
But in other news, Naomi continues to call out to the Rocinante, and can’t seem to understand why they’re not responding to her. Honestly, this just makes her look dense as all get-out. Obviously they can’t. Which is too bad for her, because their dialogue is worth hearing. Amos hasn’t felt fear since he was five. Jesus that’s creepy. And… that’s an episode wrap on the Roci peeps.
Back on the Behemoth… I don’t know. The scene with Diogo makes me afraid we’re going to go towards what I was concerned about last week: Drummer vs. Ashford in conflict because he’s undermining her authority, and is at the end a self-interested no-goodnik. Certainly he’s given reason to think that’s his angle, and Drummer think’s that’s his game. And if that’s the way this goes, it’ll be a real waste of Strathairn and a storyline which had real potential.
But. I have some hope, because there’s something that’s been nagging me these last couple of weeks, that finally I put my finger on: Drummer may be the Captain and Ashford’s superior, but she’s not a very good captain. If Ashford undercut her authority on the command deck this episode, she undercut her own last week by lamely calling out an apology to Naomi’s back over shooting at the Roci. Letting Naomi leave the ship at a time of crisis was a fool move, and while Ashford “could’ve handled that better” as he says, by not making a scene in CIC, she absolutely needed to be called out on it.
Mind you, I still think that Ashford is going about things in the wrong way, and Drummer isn’t the villain of this piece. But my hope is that the show embraces the ambiguity of the situation, rather than trying to make this a simple goodies-baddies situation like what happened on Tycho last season. If we’re not going to have the Nagata wild-card in the shuffle, at least the hands dealt can be played with skill.
Speaking of embracing ambiguity, let’s hear it for the hard situation which Holden put the MCRN marines in this week, including the returning Bobbie Draper! (And never a return more welcome) Look, we know Holden’s getting info from (Miller) about what’s going on, but he’s also playing around with some dangerous stuff, and acting seriously unhinged. And to be fair to Bobbie and crew, they did try to get him to come quietly before he yelled at them that he needed “to do this.” To be less fair, one of them opened up with a grenade. Marines, amirite?
Actually, this was just one of the last in a set of sequences which made me really appreciate Steven Strait and Thomas Jane and their work together. There’s all the goofiness, and Holden rightfully demanding more answers from this… entity/program/whatever before him. And then there’s the scene, beautifully written, shot and acted, where the Investigator reveals that yes, there’s still some part of Joe Miller somewhere in there. What the Protomolecule destroys, it also preserves.
It really is a lovely scene, and it caps an episode-long thread which had me realizing just how much this show has changed from the early days, when Miller and Holden had about equal significance, with Avasarala a respectable third. Since then, we got Bobbie as a decent enough protagonist for a while, and even Prax for a bit, but these days, Holden’s the central character in a way he never really was in S1, isn’t he? This is not exactly a criticism of the show per se, but something I thought of, as Miller leads Holden to open the records, which you got to figure go back at least 20 years, and are held inside this protomolecule-looking structure. But Holden won’t play ball until he gets proof that on some level, he really is talking to, if not the Joe Miller, than a Joe Miller. It’s funny because Holden didn’t really like Miller that much for a lot of the show. But heroic sacrifices will gain you some cache with Jim I guess, and he relents, or seems likely to.
But then the Martian Marine threw a bomb, got used as the spackle to fix the hole he’d made, and Holden became the Star Child. The meaning of his vision, including the destruction of a star, and the “Dandelion Sky” of multiple rings spread across the bubble, will have to wait until next week, which I’ll be setting up a discussion thread for y’all. I’ll hop back in the week after, probably with some thoughts about ep. 11 to go with the penultimate of the season!