The Expanse delivered the eleventh episode of this season, “Here There Be Dragons”, and things are moving rather rapidly now.
Jim and the others follow the video track of Dr. Meng’s daughter, intershot with scenes of her going to her pediatrician. Randomly, we find out Naomi used to have a child. Chrisjen tells Errinwright the security council is going to blame Eros on him in an upcoming hearing. Bobbie gets a dressing down from the “chaplain” for her escape, and is told she is no longer a soldier. He also berates her for being a spoiled snowflake. Chrisjen ruins their attempt to get off Earth.
Alex tries to find a way around the no-fly zone around Ganymede. He overhears that one Mars vessel is cleared for landing, and realizes it’s probably black op and so likely to be there for the same reason the Rocinante is. He plots out a landing course using only thrusters and gravitational slingshots, to be unobtrusive. Meanwhile, Jim and company reach a bunch of scientists and soldiers in the tunnels under Ganymede station. Dr. Meng sees his daughter’s backpack, and loses his calm. In a shoot out, Amos is injured when he saves Dr. Meng.
Bobbie goes to see the “chaplain” and beats him up until he tells her what was happening on Ganymede. She then escapes the Martian compound and asks Earth for political asylum.
Alex almost crashes into a Mars vessel that unexpectedly emerges from behind a moon they were both using for gravity assist. He decides it’d be better to not use autopilot from now on. The research team near Venus keeps losing probes to the Eros crater, but finally they manage to modify one so that it lands. They get one shot of the blue protomoleculish surface before they lose visual.
Jim and company are preparing for further action just one door away from the bad guys. Dr. Meng finds the body of a child infected with protomolecule, and Jim incinerates it. Bobbie talks to Chrisjen for a moment, confirming her theory about a weapon Mars is trying to get. She brought the “chaplain’s” datapod to Earth, too, with all its information on it. Bobbie leaves for debriefing, and Chrisjen has an incoming message from Mao.
The evil scientists throw a grenade into the room where Jim and company are, but Amos notices it in time and throws it back. The sounds coming from behind the closed door are pretty much like the apocalypse. When they quieten down and the Rocinante crew enters, everyone is dead except for one dying scientist who tells them that they have lots of protomolecule and it’s awesome. Jim refuses to save her life. Oh and there is a glass cage something broke out of, and tore out the airlock.
Chrisjen and her spy discuss the message from Mao, which asks Chrisjen for a meeting in a neutral space. The spy insists it’s a trap, but can find no logical reason why it should be. (Dude, I can think of several.) No matter, though, because Chrisjen has already accepted.
Alex appears in the torn airlock of the room where Jim and company are, to rescue them. Jim prepares to go, but Naomi tells him she’s staying. She wants to help the people of Ganymede. She tells him they can’t stop the protomolecule anymore. They kiss goodbye. Naomi takes Amos with her, while Dr. Meng wants to stay with Jim and Alex. Alex notices a zombie terminator on a nearby asteroid. Clearly, it was him who escaped from the cage. Jim suddenly turns into an 80s action flick hero and says: “Suit up, we’re going on a hunt.”
This episode was weird. The highlight were definitely Bobbie’s scenes, but even they had issues issues.
The “chaplain’s” rant about Bobbie’s generation being spoiled and a bunch of snowflakes was clearly meant to parallel certain complaints about millennials. It would have worked much better, though, if he wasn’t kinda right. Or rather, I don’t know about Bobbie’s entire generation, but her personally? They took great care to establish she doesn’t do well listening to orders. So much so that I’ve wondered why anyone would put her in a command position. So now when what was clearly meant to be a bad guy was ranting at her, I was thinking…he has a point. Bobbie wasn’t exactly painted like a good soldier driven to extremes. She was painted like someone who has consistent issues with insubordination that culminated in beating up her superior officer. In this context, it’s a little difficult to believe it’s chiefly about her dead friends.
I won’t deny it was amusing, though, to see the chaplain accuse Bobbie of being spoiled and not knowing what sacrifice was onto to have him give up his most guarded government secret after three hits in the face. Tell me more about sacrifice, darling.
The “chaplain” is rather exceptionally stupid, too, for someone who is probably rather high up. Until they had Bobbie safely on Mars and locked up, he should have done everything he could have to get on her good side again. She knows crucial information they really don’t want her to share.
That brings me back to my question from the previous review. Why did Mars allow Bobbie to testify? It’s looking more and more like the weapon test was actually a thing the Martian government as a whole knew about. There are way too many official records of everything to make it something as covert as what Errinwright was doing. And if that is the case, sending Bobbie to testify makes exactly zero sense. They could have claimed she was either dead or too injured to testify and no one would have known. They risked everything for no reason.
It doesn’t work much better on the Doylist level either. It looks like Mars will be the bad guys once again. It’s tiring. When The Expanse gives us one sympathetic Martian character, only to have her be forced to seek asylum on earth because of how her own government is treating her, if rather defeats the object of both sides being painted as equally right or wrong. Earth is, consistently, being depicted with more nuance than Mars.
This goes for the characters, too. When Chrisjen and Errinwright interacted in the previous episode, I could feel deeply for both of them, even though he’s the villain. When Bobbie and the chaplain interacted here, though, I could feel for neither. He was a random jerk, and she was beating him up. Part of that is probably that neither of them is as good an actor as Shawn Doyle, but part of it is no doubt the writing.
As for Chrisjen’s storyline, plot-wise I just don’t get it. Mao contacts her and asks for a secret meeting, and she insists – and even her careful spy insists – there is no reason to believe it’s a trap. Well, let me see. From what we know, Chrisjen is the only person who has all the information about the protomolecule and is dedicated to getting to the root of the problem. Mao explicitly says, in the message, that he needs her to stop blocking his allies. Wouldn’t it be rather helpful in this if she…say…died? It’s not like Mao’s position in the public eye can get exactly worse.
Aside from that, Errinwright knows he’s in danger of being executed for what he did to Eros. Chrisjen is considering secretly meeting with Mao right now, when he’s a known public enemy. So what’s stopping Errinwright from putting the blame squarely on her? From using this secret meeting to pull her into it. His impeccable good character? Please.
Unless she takes precaution against both these things – by, for example, telling the Secretary she’s about to meet with Mao and giving him the message she received from him, and by taking some rather strong escort – she will likely suddenly find herself holding the idiot ball. And if there is one character I never want to hold it, it’s Chrisjen.
Her interaction with Errinwright was brilliant as always. I am seriously beginning to wish for a spin-off where these two would just dance little political dances around each other. I could watch it for hours.
As for Jim, his story is fine, I suppose. True, letting the evil scientist die was not only not exactly a good guy thing to do, it was also stupid. They could have got more information out of her. But apart from that, he consistently continues on the way to becoming a darker and darker character. Bonding with Amos over it was a nice indication of that.
What absolutely didn’t work this episode, though, was Naomi. First we get a completely random information drop about her having a baby. Okay, I guess? So what? What are the character consequences for her? Why is this important? How does it affect her? Context? Anything? No.
And then she just clears the scene with a last kiss. I’m confused. What has the romance between Jim and Naomi even accomplished? How has it influenced them in any way? Would either of them have acted differently in any moment had they not been together? Because I don’t see it. I’m aware that a black woman being the romantic interest of the protagonist is a progressive thing to do. I’m just not sure if it counts when the romance is so completely an afterthought. There should have been a lot more emotion in that final farewell, but there was nothing. Naomi has markedly more chemistry with Fred’s deputy than she has with Jim. That is a relationship I would actually care about. But ever since they left Tycho station, Naomi’s storyline has completely flickered out.
I hope, at least, that this doesn’t mean she will disappear from our screens. She deserves a better storyline than this. And her hidden protomolecule should play a part, too. I think teaming up with Fred’s deputy to give her the hidden protomolecule so that the Belt can defend itself, would be an interesting path for her to take.
At least Alex was nice in this episode again. And the scientists at Venus finally acted normally. Though that scene would have worked even without the artificial tension between them from previous episodes. Worked better, in fact, since there was markedly less tension this time. What we saw in “Here There Be Lions” was a regular view of two colleagues who have different viewpoints. It was good. I hope for more of that in the future.
Next episode is “The Monster and the Rocket.” Something tells me we are in for a lot of Jim.