Sunday, June 23, 2024

The Expanse Reveals Some Of Its Secret

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The Expanse gave us the fifth episode of the season, “Home”. I suppose now I know why it was called that…


It turns out Eros didn’t just avoid the Mormon ship, it started on a collision course. Towards Earth.

The UN calls an emergency meeting. The war-mongering general Nguyen insists it’s an attack by Mars (what is it with this show and East Asian men?). The Undersecretary insists that there’s only one thing to do. Use the nuclear Earth defence system and destroy Eros.

Meanwhile on the Rocinante, Naomi gets the idea that Miller could take his one triggered nuke and take it inside the station. There, it would explode and destroy Eros before it collides with Earth. Miller agrees, in spite of the risk to himself.

The UN decides to send the missiles. Chrisjen is the only one who remembers to warn Mars to make sure they don’t take it as an act of war.

The moment the missiles are fired, the protomolecule on Eros reacts and the whole station goes into stealth mode. The missiles are flying blind.

Fred Johnson contacts the UN to tell them they have visual contact via the Rocinante. If the UN releases the control of their missiles to him, he says, he could blow Eros up. Chrisjen calls Jim directly. He sends back a video stating that they’ll do what they can and that they have to trust each other. After a tense moment, the UN Secretary agrees, seeing they have no better option.

Eros accelerates. To compensate, the Rocinante has to go to a speed that endangers the crew’s lives as they pursue. Miller goes deeper and deeper into Eros, following the heat shown on a thermal map. He is beginning to hear Julie’s voice.

Earth is evacuating, but Chrisjen chooses to stay, having only a short phone call with Arjun as a possible goodbye.

Miller realizes Julie is at the centre of the entire protomolecule activity, and that her mind is still alive. He urges Jim to stop the pursuit, that he’s going to try and negotiate. He warns that the nukes are likely to be as ineffective as the Mormon ship was. In the end, Jim agrees.

Fred Johnson is frustrated, aware that the Earth is going to think it was just a ploy by him to steal their nukes. However, since the Rocinante already slowed down, there is nothing he can do.

Miller reaches Julie and talks to her. She tells him she just wants to go home, that she misses Earth. He convinces her not to, and promises to stay with her whatever happens, taking his helmet off. They kiss and embrace. Eros then flies into Venus.


Did I curse this show by praising Miller’s relationship to Julie in just the last review? Because this episode certainly took everything I didn’t like about it and ran off with it.

I talked about how Miller sees Julie basically as a hero and a role-model, admiring her for her determination and willingness to fight for a cause. Well, there was an ugly twist to that in “Home”. Miller started out by talking to Julie as his hero, a fighter, only to have her say that she was done fighting. Only to have her be completely resigned. So he switched gears, and the way he actually convinced her was the romantic approach. It was a wise older man talking to a younger woman. He even calls her “kid”. All very patronizing. He also acts as if they know each other, even though it’s the first time they’ve actually met.

Look, I understand she’s basically a bunch of protomolecule right now, but The Expanse made it pretty clear she was also still herself. She longs for home, thinks of her ship, and so on. I also understand that she was confused after waking up, but still. I have no experience with waking up as a protomolecule cloud, but if I draw on those I have with waking up from anaesthesia, I certainly wouldn’t be inclined to be all that friendly towards a strange, random guy that just appeared. I’d appreciate him taking liberties with me even less.

Miller promising Julie that she won’t be alone could have been nice, I guess, if it wasn’t all romantic-coded. Given how his affection for her was all built up in his head, though, him acting on it the moment they meet and her just going along with it is super uncomfortable, protomolecule or not. She just met him and declares they belong together, because he liked her. Plus there is the whole patronising aspect of that conversation. I understand Julie wouldn’t immediately at her best, but why did they feel the need to script it so that she was completely passive and in absolute need of a man’s help?

Miller’s story alone was fine. His determination to try and talk to Julie, and even his patronising tone, was perfectly in character. Miller is frequently patronising to people around him, especially young ones. That The Expanse made Julie go along with it was the problem. Well, that and the immediate intimate contact.

Chrisjen was the perfect hero she always is, risking her career and reputation to save lives once again. Her talk with Arjun almost made me cry, and that doesn’t happen very often. Her final shot of lying on the roof, watching the sky as Eros flew towards Venus, was very powerful as well.

My heart went out even more to Fred Johnson this time, though. It looked for a moment like there was a chance for some kind of understanding with Earth, and now it’s all gone again. Additionally, if some fractions of OPA find out he had control of Earth nukes and didn’t try to use them, he’s going to be in even deeper trouble. It will still be nothing, though, compared to what the UN is likely to think. Because one interpretation of the events truly would be that he was controlling Eros the whole time and used it as a ploy and threat to get the Earth’s nukes. Of course, the Mormon ship thing would make no sense in this context, but why should logic stop politicians from blaming (perceived) terrorists?

Additionally, there is the danger of Mars making use of the currently weakened Earth (half its arsenal gone) to attack. I sincerely hope war-mongers like this are not in Mars’ leadership, but what do we know?

There was still no Bobbie this episode. I’m beginning to question whether they did indeed mean her as the fourth protagonist. But then again, I suppose that if this truly is the last we saw of Miller, there’s newly open space that she could fill. It would be much appreciated if she did, but I wonder if it actually was the end of Miller on The Expanse. It would take away something of the mystery if we followed his protomolecule-filled story, but then again, some of the mystery was removed already by this episode. We will have to see.

This brings me to the central discovery. I have rather mixed feelings about that. On one hand, it’s an interesting twist, and opens the way for more complicated interaction with the protomolecule than just “destroy it”. That’s a good thing. On the other hand… We’re talking alien life here. So alien life can remodel a human mind, and giving it superpowers? Why? Why should an alien lifeform desire anything like that? It makes it less interesting in some ways, too. Of course, Julie isn’t in complete control, as evidenced by the statement that “we can’t stop the work”. But the autonomy of the protomolecule is certainly reduced by this revelation.

Plus, I’m not a big fan of the solutions along the lines of “let’s trust this one guy’s negotiating ability with a dead girl resurrected by aliens to save the entire Earth”. Things would be different if that was undoubtedly their only choice, but as the situation stood it was different. It was presented as a dilemma at least, but I guess I would have liked to see more uncertainty around the decision, or more clearly demonstrated inevitability.

It would have been difficult to include as it was in the story, of course. The crew, in pain from the high speed and short on time, didn’t have time for arguments. So I’m not certain I could actually offer a better solution. All I know is that it felt just a little too cheap, too quick. I felt Jim’s dilemma much less in this episode than I did in the last one. In a real-life situation like this, odds would be good that Miller would be delusional and/or controlled by the protomolecule, and his mission would fail. Leaps of faith are nice, but I’m not sure that when the lives of billions of people are at stake is the time to make them.

There was one unexpected character whom I felt for completely, though. It was the Undersecretary in his attempt at a phone call with Mao. It was a brilliantly done scene, just a short shot showing fully his despair and fear. I continue to be interested in seeing where their cooperation will go from here.

The next episode is called “Paradigm Shift”, so that makes me feel hopeful that the focus of the powers that be will truly be the situation with Eros, and not war-mongering and blaming Fred Johnson. Hey, a woman can dream!

All images courtesy of SyFy.

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