Friday, July 19, 2024

The Expanse Lays On The Guilt

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The Expanse got a move on with its newest episode, “The Weeping Somnambulist”, and we got a few scenes that we’ve been waiting for for some time.


A refugee relief ship is boarded by Martians, and searched. When the Martians get too insistent, one of the ship owners starts to struggle, and in that struggle takes off the mask of one of the Martians. Turns out it’s Jim Holden. She recognises him, too, and the game is up. He has to admit that they need to use their ship to land on Ganymede, because the Rocinante is too conspicuous.

Meanwhile, Bobbie is approaching landing on Earth. She is given pills she needs to eat to deal with the gravity, and also shades. She leaves the shades behind, however, to show that she can deal with the harsh light of the Earth’s sun. One of her co-travelers isn’t dealing with Earth quite so well, and vomits immediately on landing.

We see a short scene from the research ship flying to Venus. There is a Martian ship waiting nearby. Tension rises.

Chrisjen talks to Errinwright about what news have come from the ship so far. He assures her it was nothing much, and when she requests she be in the loop, he tells her she needs to keep her head clear for the peace talks.

Dr. Meng tries to send a message to his dead friend’s family, and when he can’t, demands to know why. Amos tells him about the protomolecule. The Rocinante crew then plans their Ganymede landing. Dr. Meng points out they are going to need a lot of luck to pull it off.

The peace talks happen. Nguyen is there, for some reason. Sure, why not. Ask the biggest war-mongering moron among you to your peace talks. But, anyway, Errinwright and Chrisjen don’t let him entirely sabotage it, and Bobbie gets to say her piece. Mars makes Travis, the Earth-born Martian, take the blame for firing first, given that he’s conveniently dead. They make it seem that like he was compensating for his Earther origins. Bobbie is understandably upset by that.

Errinwright and Chrisjen discuss how Travis is the perfect scapegoat. Chrisjen seems dissatisfied, and when the talks resume, she demands to speak with Bobbie again. She tries to get to the real story, and manages to make Bobbie mention the man without the vac suit before the interrogation is interrupted by the Mars chaplain. Chrisjen tries to resume it, but Bobbie has calmed down and only reiterates that Travis panicked.

The Venus research ship gets close enough to the Eros crater and sees that there is life in it. Also something extremely strange going on. Chrisjen gets the message from her man aboard, and muses about how the Eros changed everything. And, she says, so does the man without a vac suit.

Alex hides Rocinante in the shadow of one of the moons and the rest of the crew lands with the relief ship on Ganymede. They offer the owner couple protection from local mafia, but the couple refuses, insisting they don’t need their crusader knight help. As Jim and Amos leave the ship, however, they see two guys with guns enter. The mafia wants to take the whole ship now, with all the resources aboard. They are rather insistent, with guns up to the couple’s heads. Jim and Amos enter with guns of their own to save the couple, and in the resulting shoot out, one of the civilians is killed. We close with Jim’s anguished face as the civilian woman weeps over his body.


Finally, the meeting of Bobbie and Chrisjen took place! Was it everything I hoped it would be?

Yes and no.

I rather hoped they would get to speak in private, but I do realize that is probably not entirely realistic. It would have also been nice to see more understanding between them, but there too I suppose I overlooked Bobbie’s staunch anti-Earthism. I would still like to see that private talk where they understand each other, but I’m not really expecting it.

And the scene actually was brilliant. Chrisjen can sense a weakness like nobody’s business, and she explored it for all she was worth. The best moment was when at the beginning of her interrogation, when she is leisurely talking abut Earth and Mars, and a Mars representative asked her where she was going with it. Her response?

“Wherever I goddamn like.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is the Deputy Undersecretary of the UN. She is on her turf, and she is in charge. Her ability to be both hard and soft, as needed, is on the best things about her. She is not to be discomposed. Frankie Adams, the actress of Bobbie, acted her face off to display her frustration but, at the same time, strength.

It was a little surprising that Bobbie was able to go back to her obedience to orders so quickly in such a tense moment for her, especially as she showed marked tendencies to insubordination previously. But I suppose it can be explained by her strong anti-Earth sentiments again. Whatever she may think of the current Mars leadership and her orders, she is not going to give some Earther what she wants.

The scene where Chrisjen talked to Errinwright about access to the data from Venus was a little less satisfying. Was Errinwright really supposed to believe she would accept such a blatant brush off unquestioningly? When he saw what she can be like? I think not. He might not be as smart as her, but he isn’t stupid. She might have well felt she needed to ask to mask that she has access to her private data, but then she either should have been more insistent, or he should have been more persuasive.

Which brings me to the conversations of the two scientists aboard the research vessel headed to Venus. All their conversation read to me like “look, we’re two science guys with different opinions!” I mean, why would they even engage each other like that, without any context? Why would Chrisjen’s guy randomly project an equation on screen? Did he need a conversation starter? He knew from the start the other guy lacked imagination. Did he just like riling him up? Did they like riling each other up? I just don’t see it, and I don’t think we needed to see it either. We already know what they are like. If something, you can give us this argument over the actual data from Venus, not before they even get any!

And speaking of things we need and need not see, there is the ending of “The Weeping Somnambulist”. It’s another addition to the bad things Jim does in order to do good, and we still get no exploration of his reactions to this. I know I am beginning to sound like a broken record, but the problem just doesn’t go away.

This was a good escalation for his character development. His previous kills have been out of necessity and fear of bigger danger, the kind he feels he needs to make for the greater good. This was slightly different. Here his saviour complex played a more direct part. He felt he needed to help someone, someone who had explicitly refused his help, and as a result, a person died. Harry Potter sends his regards.

Seriously though, it’s a good way to explore how good people do bad things, even kill people, from different angles. It’s also clearly meant to be a journey for his character. I don’t know where it’s supposed to take him—to an anti-hero? To something darker? Or merely to someone more mature in his approach? But wherever it is, we need to see that internal journey. It’s not enough to just see the external factors influencing it. If we don’t see it, then any character development that comes out of this will feel out of place and unearned.

There is, of course, also the possibility that no character development will come out of this, but I don’t want to give this show so little credit.

As for the rest of the crew, I wonder if Alex will get to have some sort of solo adventure as he waits on the Rocinante. It wouldn’t particularly surprise me if he had another encounter with Mars in some way. Clearly, is identity as a Martian is a major theme for his character.

I enjoyed the care taken with worldbuilding details, like the difficulty the Martians have on Earth because of the gravity. Or like the omnipresent tension that goes with a cold war. It was an actual possibility the whole time that the peace talks were going to get ruined by at attack by the idiot!scientist on the Martians. That’s what I call atmosphere.

Plot-wise, it was surprising to hear that the shooting on the ground on Ganymede was supposed to have started the shoot-out in orbit. So an Earth ship saw there were six soldiers firing at each other on the ground and decided it was a great reason to attack a Martian battleship? Seriously? I mean, I do realize the atmosphere was tense, but if people in the Cold War were this trigger happy, we’d all be dead by now.

At the moment, I am most interested in the continuation of Bobbie’s story. Will she leave Earth directly? Will she get hell for what she let slip in the hearing? How will she deal with how Mars has treated her?

Most of Chrisjen’s storyline is pretty much tied up now. She can always get more data from Venus, of course. But chiefly, it will be interesting to see what she does with what she knows. In all likelihood, she will try to find out more about the situation on Ganymede by any means at her disposal.

Jim’s trajectory is fairly clear for the moment, but I do wonder whether Dr. Meng will stay perfectly loyal to the Rocinante crew, who gave him little reason to be.

The next episode is called “Cascade”, which gives away exactly nothing. Surprise me!

All images courtesy of SyFy.

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