The Expanse brought its sixth episode of the season, “Paradigm Shift”. There was less shifting of paradigms done than I expected, but it did contain some unexpected development.
The UN council is meeting again. Their science advisor is explaining how Eros was probably a new weapon from Mars, and how they are sending a ship to Venus to try and discover its remnants. Chrisjen asks her own scientist friend (and ex) to the meeting, but he doesn’t really say anything. The UN also discusses that they have a few nuclear missiles unaccounted for.
Jim is sending a message to his mother—the one we know—to let her know that he’s all right and that his crew are heroes. He then crawls in bed with Naomi, answering the question whether they’re still together or not. And also angsting a bit about his command responsibilities.
Next, Jim and Naomi are solemnly announcing to Amos and Alex that they are together. The men seem to be taking it badly, but then it turns out it was a bet. Amos guessed they were an item, and Alex agreed to let him punch him if it proved true. He appears to bitterly regret that decision. Amos assures Jim that he doesn’t mind and that Naomi is like a sister to him, though “he’d do her if she let him.” That leaves Jim with deeply mixed feelings.
The crew also discovers that some of the Earth missiles mysteriously disappeared. The entire episode is inter-laid with the story of how the current fast drive was invented and how technology can change the political landscape.
Chrisjen has dinner with her scientist friend, who hits on her a little and then tells her he kept silent because he believes Eros is an alien life form. He asks her to get him a spot on the ship flying to Venus to explore the remnants of Eros. He promises to give information directly to her in exchange.
The Rocinante crew arrives to Tycho station, where they are hailed as heroes. Diogo is preaching about Miller the Idealist. Alex almost gets beaten up in a bar by the boyfriend of one of his admirers, only to be saved by Amos. Meanwhile, Jim talks to Fred about the lost missiles, only to find out that they are under Fred’s control now. Jim is…less than happy with that.
The Rocinante crew has a meeting about the bit of protomolecule they hid. Alex suggests giving it to Mars, but unsurprisingly, that’s not accepted. In the end, everyone but Naomi agrees to destroy it by sending it into the sun. Naomi pretends to do so, but in reality she only runs a simulation and the sample stays where it is.
Chrisjen talks to Undersecretary Errinwright, telling him he should try and get Mao to come in. She emphasizes that if he doesn’t, she’ll destroy Mao’s family by making his blame for Eros public. She turns into bit of a goddess of wrath there for a moment as she indirectly threatens the Maos, then leaves with a smile.
Alex and Amos have a strange little interaction where Amos is sort of trying to apologize to Alex by provoking him into punching him. He thinks Alex is angry with him because he made him look weak in the bar. Alex insists he’s a big boy and can take care of himself.
Naomi talks to Fred and convinces him to let out the love story of Miller and Julie (eh…) to calm the anti-Earth moods. She them helps Fred’s deputy in gaining proper control of the stolen Earth missiles.
Bobbie and her crew are patrolling the UN-Mars border on Ganymedes when they spot what appears like marines in the distance, seemingly charging them. Then their comms are jammed, someone starts attacking the Martian ship on the orbit and then we see a lot of dead Martians. Bobbie barely survives. The last shot is a zombie terminator with a bluish light in its chest leaning over her. Aaand the credits roll.
So, okay, it probably wasn’t literally a zombie terminator.
It looked a whole lot like one, though. With a blueish light in its chest that could perhaps have something to do with the protomolecule. (Alternatively, it was a mutated Tony Stark.)
So…is this the invasion of the alien army the mad scientist was so worried about? Or is it something directed by Mao? Or Errinwright? Errinwright would seem more likely on account of it being mostly him who wanted weapons out of Mao’s project. On the other hand, if Mao found a new benefactor, he might be doing this in their service.
I don’t much like the alien army hypothesis, because I don’t much like the stories where the first thing aliens do when they see is is attack and try to conquer us. Not that I think it’s necessarily unrealistic, I just find it boring. So I’m hoping for some awesome new explanation of the zombie terminator. Bobbie being the future mother of a savior of humankind is always an option, of course.
Oh, and also, this rather explains why we didn’t see more of the Martian crew. We had enough to build some kind of relationship with them, to be sorry when we see them dead. There was no need to give us more.
I do find it a little irritating, though, that it seems to be the role of Martian ships on The Expanse to be blown to pieces, and Martian characters to be killed. You’d expect the military hegemony to fare a little better.
Chrisjen was magnificent in “Paradigm Shift”, as always. She’s playing a dangerous game with Errinwright, but she’s playing it well, realizing how the almost-destruction of Earth would drive a wedge between him and Mao and exploiting the wedge for all she was worth. At the same time, of course, she was subtly threatening Errinwright himself and offering him a deal. Because she is the boss here.
It made me wonder, though, what exactly is the official story on Earth? Chrisjen said she was seen as a hero. So what do people believe happened? Do they think it was somehow her merit that Eros crashed into Venus? How did she convince them of that?
As for Fred Johnson, it was a little harder to find him sympathetic this episode. But at the same time, I’d have probably done the same in his place. The moment they said some of the nukes were gone, I figured Fred probably had them. And the thing is, I mostly trust him not to use them, but…can he be absolutely sure that some of the more radical branches of OPA won’t gain control of the station, and thus of the missiles? Tycho is not the most secure place for them to be. I’d have liked to see him at the very least reflect on that. Or Jim point it out to him, instead of his useless (though in character) posturing.
And speaking of characters with shady choices…Naomi. In her case, contrary to Fred, I’m not even sure how in character it was. It seems to me that until now, she had more of a tendency to argue openly than to go behind people’s backs. I understand she knew she would never win the argument, but still. It would help, perhaps, if we knew what exactly were her reasons. It seems she believes she is acting for the Belt, but how exactly? The original argument for keeping the molecule was that maybe the people of Eros could still be saved. What is the point now? What’s her motivation? She never even tried to put forth her arguments.
Jim, on the other hand, with his idealism and his absolute conviction that he is right, was spot on. When he told Naomi “I’m right about this”, I snorted. Of course, dearie. How could you possibly ever not be right about anything?
It’s nice we got some sign of him being upset about having to deal with the dark side of the commanding responsibilities, too, with deciding who lives and who dies. But it was not enough, to my mind. He shot down a civilian ship. We should see way more of a reaction to that. I understand the later events with Eros might have overshadowed it a little, but still.
Amos’ characterisation as just a little antisocial is being worked on quite well. We go deeper and deeper there. It’s the little things. Like his belief that punching someone will make everything better—even though I recall him explicitly saying that it does not make one feel better. Still, he seems to like doing it a whole lot.
Alex is the most opaque of them all in some ways, and I would love to learn more about his background at some point. Especially, as I already said, it would be brilliant for him to meet up with Bobbie.
And speaking of, I really hope she will come to realize the terminators were not sent by Earth soon. Naturally it would be her first assumption, and she will likely grieve for a time and be mostly unable to analyze the situation. She has full right to grieve. But at the same time, I really don’t want to go through seven episodes of her anti-Earth fury.
Which, I admit, will get a little harder to avoid if the terminators were actually sent by Errinwight.