Saturday, April 20, 2024

The Expanse Brings Sacrifice And Harder Choices

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The Expanse delivered its fourth episode of the season, “Godspeed.” In it, things take a decidedly tragic turn.


Chrisjen sent her spies to the stealth ship Fred Johnson gave her coordinates for. They find dead ex-employees of Progen there. That makes Chrisjen realize that Mao is behind whatever is happening. Progen is one of his companies and he is one of the few people who have enough money to finance something like this. Chrisjen orders her spies to push the ship into the way of the UN patrols.

Meanwhile, Jim and Naomi talk to Fred and Miller about their plan to destroy Eros with the Mormon ship. Miller explains that they need a gunship for protection, so they need Jim. In the end, he agrees to do what needs to be done.

Mao is asked for a private chat with Chrisjen and the undersecretary to explain himself. He pretends Progen was one of his many companies and he had no idea what they were doing. Chrisjen points out that would imply serious mismanagement on his part. She warns him that if it comes to war with Mars, the people of Earth will blame him. She also asks about Phoebe Station, citing that Progen used to work there and that Mars obviously wanted to cover whatever was there. So…what was it, Mr. Mao?

On Tycho station, the Mormon ship is being evacuated, and then prepared to launch. It all goes off without a hitch, except some upset Mormons. Miller and Diogo are flying with it, to plant bombs that will seal Eros and prevent anyone from entering.

Mao watches news that tell him his involvement has been made public and that his assets have been freezed. He calls the UN Undersecretary, telling him Chrisjen knows they’re working together. The undersecretary doesn’t believe him, and Mao ends up effectively threatening him and maybe sort of ending the cooperation between them.

The Rocinante finds a humanitarian ship called Marasmus near Eros. The Marasmus crew claims they couldn’t get inside the station. Jim is about to let them fly away, pretending to be a genuine Martian gunship on patrol. But then Miller, on the outskirts of the station at this time, discovers that they had, in fact, gone inside. Their dead crew member with the proto-molecule all over him rather proves it. Marasmus blames them, as Martians, for doing human experiments. He announces his intention to broadcast this fact to the world. Jim reveals his identity and begs them not to fly away from the range of their jamming. He makes it clear he’d have to shoot Marasmus down. Its captain tells him to do what he must, and so Jim, agonized, gives the order. We watch Marasmus explode.

The debris of the shot-down ship almost kills Miller and Diogo, who are just done planting and arming the bombs. It fries the safety on one of the bombs, meaning that somebody has to keep a finger on it to prevent it from exploding prematurely. Miller offers to do it, sending Diogo away.

He sits there and watches the Mormon ship approach, ready to die. But to his astonishment, the ship misses him, and the entirety of Eros. As it turns out, the problem wasn’t the ship. The entire Eros station moved instead.


I’m afraid that saying it was a brilliant episode is getting a little repetitive, but what can I do?

This time, my enthusiasm is chiefly plot-related. Particularly, I have to bring out the scene in which Jim shoots down Marasmus. It was wonderfully written, directed and acted, and shows precisely the difference between gratuitous death and well-written one.

It’s exactly because The Expanse doesn’t let characters die just for the shock value, or kill just for the shock value, that a scene like this can have so much strength, and is not just another shrug in a quest for amusement. That, and also the fact that Jim’s character was so well crafted.

What turned it into a true masterpiece, however, was the clear parallel between this scene and the one in season one, where the Canterbury is shot down and Jim broadcasts the news. He fully believed what he was saying on that broadcast, that a Martin ship had shot down a Belter one. He started massive riots with his well-intentioned, but ultimately erroneous announcement. Marasmus was in the exact same position. They discovered something big, and they wanted to let the world know, to warn them that Mars was doing human experiments. Something they fully believed to be true, and dangerous.

And Jim was the one who shot them down. It was like killing a younger version of himself.

And then the plan didn’t even work.

I expect to see repercussions of this for many episodes to come, probably till the end of the season at least. Jim did what he believed was necessary, and turned into his own worst nightmare in the process. There is, of course, also the direct comparison to Miller, who shot one guy because he thought it was needed. Jim just killed a whole bunch.

You know how I said I was a sucker for the characters who make the hard decisions no matter the cost to themselves? This show is rapidly rising on the list of my favourites—and it was damn near the top to begin with—as we see more and more characters like this. Chrisjen has been doing this for a long time. Fred did so last episode and now again, making the decision to send the Mormon ship to Eros even though he knew the repercussions would be huge. And now Jim, too.

Jim will additionally have to deal with the bitterness of knowing it was useless anyway. They didn’t manage to destroy Eros and the proto-molecule with it. As it stands now, it looks like the crew of Marasmus died in vain.

I also predict a potential conflict with Alex, who I think tends to be most worried about any civilian loss of life out of the Rocinante crew. He is the most Hufflepuff, so to speak, which is a wonderful choice for a Martian character. I sincerely hope he will get to interact with Bobbie at some point, because their contrast would be fascinating to see.

In any case, Alex’s shock when Jim gave the order could be a source of some tension between them, even though I do think Alex will see how the decision is eating at Jim.

I was surprised by this development. When Marasmus first appeared, I expected their role to be getting away and then telling the world Mars was behind the attack on Eros, thus contributing to tensions. That could theoretically still happen, if the parallel between Marasmus and Rocinante is taken further. The Canterbury was shot down, but Rocinante survived. If a smaller ship from Marasmus survived as well, or just a message from them even, there will be trouble. It’s extremely likely that the shooting of Marasmus will be seen as an attack by Mars and as another escalation, and/or another cover-up. I cautiously expect that in the next episode.

This episode was pretty rough on Jim. Apart from his own killing of the Marasmus crew, he also has to face Miller, whom he can’t stand, calmly sacrificing (or being willing to, anyway) his life for the cause. I think they’re so different that he just can’t figure Miller out, and that’s what makes their interactions and clashes so interesting.

Coming back to the plot, here is of course the bombshell at the very end.

Apparently, what the proto-molecule was building can now move the entire station. (By the way, let me just say, I knew they wouldn’t get rid of Eros that easily.) That’s intriguing, and also terrifying. It has a lot of potential, but indicates little enough. I wonder if someone, Miller probably, will risk going there to find out? But then, it shouldn’t be necessary—the surveying system installed by the bad guys is still intact, as far as we know. They should be able to monitor what’s happening pretty exactly with the help of their one surviving scientist, who seemed capable of decrypting the data. Still, I expect The Expanse will keep it a secret for a while longer.

There is also the Chrisjen development (once again, there was no enough Chrisjen here, though for this episode I’m almost willing to forgive it). Her reaction was swift and logical, but she is treading on very thin ice with revealing so openly how far her assessment of the situation goes. If I was her, I’d probably try to lead someone else to figuring the Phoebe connection out and then have them mention it to Mao. But well, Chrisjen is probably braver than I am.

Mao’s threat to the undersecretary makes me curious. It would be interesting if he chose to turn on Mao, and pretended that he discovered his conspiracy. Unfortunately, it’s probably more likely that he’ll take his warning about Chrisjen seriously and try to control her in some ways. I’m very worried about her husband and grandchildren in this respect.

And last but not least, I sincerely hope the Mormon ship will at least be able to return to Tycho station and be their cathedral and Noah’s arc once more. In this, it’s a good thing the plan didn’t work. I also appreciated that while there wasn’t too much space to give the betrayed Mormons, their distraction wasn’t entirely swept under the carpet, and was treated seriously. I certainly wouldn’t like it if someone used by holy site without my permission and aimed to destroy it in the process…

Which reminds me that apart from Chrisjen, I am also very worried about Fred Johnson. I have grown very attached to him over the last few episodes. I certainly do not wish to watch him die. But I do not see his chances as good, with what he has been doing lately. So many people have grievances against him now, he would probably do best to just run away with the Rocinante crew.

There was no Bobbie and company in this episode at all. Narratively, it made sense, but my worry increases. It’s true that this season is to have 13 episodes, so it’s not like we’re quite in the middle already, but still. Not to sound like a broken record, but we need more Bobbie, and more sympathetic Bobbie.

Miller’s interaction with Diogo continues to be beautiful. They are both archetypes—or stereotypes, if you will—but they are well done ones. And they have twists. Diogo the eager revolutionary is not quite so naive. He effectively saw his uncle die. He saw some pretty ugly things. And Miller the cynical older man does have moments of being driven by pure ideal, usually represented by Julie.

The things The Expanse does with his relationship to her, by the way, are amazing. It’s the classic guy being guided by the ideal image of the woman he loves – only he never met her, he doesn’t love her in the conventional romantic sense of the word, and he is guided by her ideals, by the strength of what she believed in, by her example. So it’s in fact much more like having a hero, a role-model. They combine both of these things in Miller’s relationship to Julie, and the result is fascinating.

I’m eagerly awaiting the next episode. I would expect the shit would hit the fan, but it’s called “Home”, so…will the Rocinante go to Ceres? Colour me intrigued.

Images courtesy of SyFy.

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