The Expanse S5E09: Winnipesaukee

Let’s start with the most important business: Delgado’s joke sucked. And not in a “dad joke” groaner kind of way. It’s just a bad joke and he should feel bad for wanting to tell it. There’s a way a joke like that goes, and you’ve either got to make the Earther the butt of the joke or else be a lot pithier with the punchline. Someone (Spice Weasel) from a few weeks back actually told more or less the same joke, except their finish went “Earther says, ‘I’ll have a Scotch… What? Your booze sucks.” Boom. Punchlines should be punchy.

But really, the joke needed a twist. Like the Earther says “yes, I should drink to know my enemies too,” then notices another person from Earth down the bar, and says “I’ll have what she’s having.” (also, the joke they were pretty clearly inspired by, with the Irishman giving up drinking, was much better because: Twist.)

Tangent ends here

So pacing, right? One of the most commonly voiced issues with this season has been the pace of the show and its plot lines. And that’s a very fair point. This is the first season where each of the Roci people has their own plot going, plus Avasarala doing her thing, plus Drummer. It’s a lot, and we can both why they’re moving at the pace they are with these stories, as well as the detriment that the deliberate pace has on the show.

The thing is, there are a lot of characters who are going to do lots of things, (no really! Trust me!) and moving too fast has its dangers, as characters can made decisions which seem sudden and forced. This was my chief problem with the final two episodes of Season 3 on the Behemoth, as both Clarissa and Klaes Ashford made decisions which felt more done for the need of the plot than arising organically. From this season, Whooeeoo in the comments mentioned not getting a sense of where Erich was coming from, suddenly deciding to pack it in, on Baltimore. And that makes sense. In the book series, there’s an entire short story dedicated to Amos’ life in Baltimore (The Churn), in which we get some idea of who Erich is. In the show, it’s the second time he’s appeared.

The place where I have faith in what the show is doing is in the drama within Drummer’s family. KingKat commented that there’s got to be more to justify all this screen time for Camina, than just her being awesome. And while I don’t know exactly how events will unfold, I actually really appreciate the way the show has shown us the dynamic, and the internal conflict within this group, in its current situation. Take Oksana.

So Oksana is working with Karal. But despite my fears of last episode, it’s done in a way that totally makes sense. Karal senses this woman’s fear for her family, and holds it over her. Oksana then keeps information from Drummer, but because he knows how trapped they are by Marco. (And she’s right! We know how little Marco values even his loyal allies as he shrugs off the destruction of several Golden Bough ships for the killing of a single UNN ship). But then, in a wonderful scene, Camina confronts Oksana for keeping secrets, and rather than continue to lie, Oksana trusts Camina with the truth, that Naomi may well be alive and on the Chetzemoka. We’ve spent a lot of time with these characters, but it doesn’t feel (to me, ymmv) like too much because the stakes are high and the drama’s immediate. And importantly, no one feels like they’re making choices because the plot demands it, nor to artificially inject drama into the proceedings. It feels, for lack of a better word, real, and that’s where spending time with these characters pays dividends.

On the flip side of pacing, though, let’s turn to Naomi. I haven’t timed the episodes, but I think that hers has been the lengthiest this season. And here the pacing is reaallly not doing the show any favors at this point. Look, the drama is that Marco is trying to kill Holden and the Rocinante, and Naomi’s trying to stop that, right? The particulars have changed but that’s been the essential conflict, central to this storyline since episode 5, “Down and Out” when Naomi figured out that the Roci was a bomb. And now we’re past episode 9 and we still haven’t gotten to the payoff of that storyline. Sure there’s more to it, such as Naomi trying to escape Marco and reunite with her family, but the show is signaling to the audience that the drama is in “will Naomi be able to stop the Chetzemoka from blowing up her friends?” And damn. After last episode was weighted pretty heavily to Naomi, to have more scenes with her, doing tech stuff and still not having gotten to the payoff… I was pretty impatient this time. I didn’t see the point. Honestly, much as I think Tipper’s doing great work, they needed to pull her scenes this episode, because they really did nothing to serve plot, character or theme.

Back to the good, I almost unreservedly loved the New Hampshire plot; I liked that the Help who were stranded in the off-season were looked after by Clarissa. I liked her explanation to Erich about “growing the tribe.” I liked her notion that people have worth not because of what they can offer you, but simply because they are people. In her own way, Clarissa’s attitude seems to have evolved into something not unlike her late sister’s, though it feels more grounded in sorrow and regret, where Julie seethed with passion and resentment.

One place Clarissa did overreach on the kumbaya, though. I did wish that Amos had had a word with Peaches about the need to think strategically (because yeah they obviously should’ve either taken those goons down when they had the drop on them, or at least disarmed them).

But the final escape sequence was baller. Well conceived, well shot, and well acted. They even did something very clever while not giving Clarissa a bad-ass fight scene might have felt like a cheat… instead, coming in on the bloody aftermath with someone telling Erich “she killed them all! With her bare hands!” And his “I’m gonna start being nicer to her.” That’s the stuff. I’m glad that it looks like Hutch survived, though they’ll have to get them to at least the marginal gravity of Luna. Good thing it’s a short trip.

And wow, this review’s already way too long, so let me just finish by saying that I liked what they did with Paster, he makes sense as a character, I like that his government resigned on him, (“we’re supposed to be better than this.” Damn right) and I’m glad Avasarala back in charge. Also her saying farewell to Arjun, after her impassioned speech in the cabinet (and noting that anyone who’d had a loved one on Pallas was feeling the same thing) was beautiful.

So what did y’all think? Where do you think the show could be tighter, and where does it work? I’ll see you next week for the season finale!