The Expanse S5E06: Tribes

This episode was amazing. Just really, really good. That’s my review. The storylines were gripping, the action exciting and the character work compelling. I even didn’t mind so much the Naomi storyline, though the Expanse is coming kind of close to making Filip seem rather schizophrenic in his attitude towards his mother. I get what they’re doing, and the character is not inconsistent, really. But we’re not given enough of the inner life of Filip Inaros for his character to really feel organic and real, and it’s still tough to give much of a damn about Naomi’s relationship and feelings towards her son given the horrors he’s committed.

Yes, we’re given plenty of looks into how Marco controls his people, and we see how he controls his son. But still, history is filled with atrocities committed by people who can swear an oath on a sacred text and say “I was misled.”

Still, Filip and Naomi both instructive examples of this episode’s theme which is right there in the title. In one of the best beats of the Naomi storyline, Naomi expresses joy that her people are alive and Filip berates her for not being one of them anymore. Refreshingly, Naomi hardly hesitates and admits it’s true. She’s found another tribe, made up of an Earther refugee, a former MCRN pilot, and the hero of the gorram system James Holden.

My wife, as we were watching the episode before this, noted how little Jim’s had to do this season it seems. And that’s a fair observation. He’s a man without the tribe he’s built around himself. He has some Belter replacements, as well as Bull and Monica Stuart, but it’s hardly the same.

Amos and Clarissa Mao are a tribe of two, and we’re treated to the consequences of Amos falling too much into ferocity. Peaches is right: For all the man they killed was himself willing to rob and murder Amos, that doesn’t change the fact that Amos set out to at the very least rob the man, and that they wound up murdering him. The sequence where Implant Clarissa comes out of nowhere and rends the man half to death before picking up his gun and shooting him is striking. The Expanse doesn’t go in for that stylization much, but I felt it worked for the moment, as both what the survivalist and Amos mush have seen when Clarissa comes on the scene like a horror monster. But neither Clarissa nor Amos want to be monsters, so they’ve got to get back to Holden and the rest of the crew. To Amos’ Tribe.

I want to end this discussion, before I turn it over to you all, with Camina Drummer.

Everything about the Camina and Marco plot was wonderful. Cara Gee gives her all as Drummer, and we certainly feel for the plight she and her shipmates are in when they fall into Marco’s hands. The scene where Drummer’s crew hash out their options was a favorite for me, particularly that the voice who finally cuts through the bull and points out that no actually, they don’t have a choice is not Drummer but her mate Bertold.

So Drummer et al will throw in with the Free Navy, and in so doing offer one of the best perspectives on the night’s theme. As Marco sends Karal with Drummer, she leaves Serge with Marco. But when Marco refers to an exchange of crew Drummer hardly hides her contempt when she tells him that Serge is “family.”

And that’s what makes this episode so great to me. Nearly every scene (apart from Alex and Bobbie blowing up the Belter ship attacking them) deals directly or indirectly with family, which is just another word for tribe, right?

Cyn shows glimmers of having taken Naomi’s words of last week to heart, and steps up to protect Filip from having to murder his own mother. Drummer spits into Marco’s face practically that the song Klaes Ashford sang as he died unafraid was one he sang to his daughter, lost in a fire. Marco is unable to comprehend the loyalty of either of these two, to someone not himself and mocks Ashford as “sentimental.” And I hope Camina kills him so very dead for that.

Clarissa speaks of her father in the past tense, as he disappeared from her life after she went to prison. Amos recalls Lydia. Neither have family beyond the ones they make for themselves. The survivalist’s ploy involves the bluff of having a “son” who has a rifle trained on Amos. He’s a man of no family and no desire to have any.

In her brief scene, Chrisjen Avasarala is desperate to hear from her husband Arjun, whose Columbia University campus is now underwater along with the rest of Midtown Manhattan, but (gratefully) the daughter and grandchildren she sent back down the well earlier this season were not caught in the blasts, and are on their way back up to her. And James Holden, whose 8 parents are caught somewhere on Earth, who hasn’t heard from Alex and Amos, stares at a message from the woman he loves entitled “If Something Goes Wrong.”

What did you all think? This is so far, the season’s best for me, though it’s had no shortage of good episodes. I’m eager to hear what you all have to say.