Monday, December 11, 2023

The Expanse Does It Half-Right

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The Expanse brought the second episode of the third series, “IFF”. It was an improvement over last week, but still not quite what we’re used to…


Mei is still being kept alive by her creepy doctor. Good to know.

Bobbie and Chrisjen are in a tight spot, and realize that they cannot get out of it without Chrisjen dying, because she can’t take the high g. She come sup with the idea of sending an emergency signal to Mars using Bobbie’s communicators, since at this point they’re a safer bet than the UN.

Dr. Meng suggests a number of improvements on the ship, related to botany. Then they receive a Martian alert about a diplomatic personnel in distress—the one from Bobbie, because of course they’re on a Martian ship so they have the encryption.

The secretary general sort-of-kidnaps an old friend to his office to get her write a speech for him to justify the war. She doesn’t want to, but agrees if he supports her clinic for the poor.

The Pinus Contorta crew is tied about whether to help Bobbie or not, since Holden doesn’t want to slow down saving Mei. But Dr. Meng is a mensch, so as we watch Chrisjen almost dying from the high g, and then having torpedoes fired on them when they can’t evade, our heroes come in to save the day.

Secretary General’s friend—Anna—has an awesome wife and a cute daughter, and slowly realizes she is surrounded by people with absolutely no conscience whatsoever and that this is what she is going to be supporting.

Pinus Contorta is in a fight, and Dr. Mang didn’t secure a compartment properly, so lots of instruments are suddenly flying around and one of them knocks out his oxygen. After a lot of drama, the crisis is averted. We also find out that Dr. Meng wasn’t being awesome as much as he was trying to avoid finding Mei, because he feared he would find her turned into a monster.

We find out that the kidnapped children hold the key to controlling the protomolecule in the rare disease they have. Mao, who was originally about to stop the project because the protomolecule was too unstable, gives the green light. But hey, Mei met a friend in the secret clinic at least! A friend…who has the protomolecule in his veins…

Pinus Contorta manages to eliminate Errinwright’s ships engines without killing anyone on board, and Holden comments that they had just declared war on Earth. Meanwhile, Chrisjen is not doing so great, so when the crew opens airlock, they see Bobbie with her in her arms, begging for help. Holden just stares, recognizing someone he probably didn’t expect to see after receiving a martian distress call.


This is more like it.

Seriously, this week was so much better than last one. Or, well, the first half was. Then the drama kicked in once more.

The artificial drama of “will the Pinus crew save Bobbie and Chrisjen or not?” wasn’t so bad. I wasn’t actually sure what was going to happen . I didn’t expect Chrisjen and Bobbie to die, but there could have been a plot twist where, after teasing it, it wouldn’t actually be the Pinus Contorta who saves them. So at least there was some actual tension. The motivations for different characters to do different things made sense, too. I could get truly immersed in the situation.

The drama with the flying instruments, though? Not so much. It’s nice of them to show how such small details matter in space, I guess. Even though it also begs the question if they shouldn’t have checked Dr. Meng’s work, since they know he’s new to this. But apart from that, why was it there? Just…What was the point? There are so many more interesting things this show could be telling. Instead, we get cheap drama we all know won’t lead anywhere. It’s filler, and it’s stupid.

What was good, on the other hand, was the interesting potential developing with the Secretary General, Anna, and Errinwright. I can see them as the little angel and devil on SG’s shoulders. I also saw the looks Errinwright was giving her. I’m very much afraid we were shown her family chiefly so that he could threaten them if she gives him too much trouble. Especially as this was further foreshadowed by him talking about threatening Mao’s family.

The relationship between Chrisjen and Bobbie is finally becoming a bit more compelling. Mostly, it was the moment when practically-dying Chrisjen asked Bobbie if she was hitting on her that did it for me. And Bobbie’s incredulous expression, too. Even after her disillusionment, Bobbie continues to be more idealist than the completely cynical Chrisjen, and it’s nice to watch it play against each other in a manner very different from Holden and Miller in first season.

It’s a pity there’s such a big age difference and Chrisjen is married, that would have been quite some romance, and it would make this show a little less heteronormative, what with all of the protagonists being pretty much established as straight. Well, except Dr. Meng I think…

I’m not sure what to think about Mao’s presence. It’s nice he isn’t completely insane, I suppose? But I suppose he was only onscreen to give us crucial background information about the protomolecule. His scene just felt a little unnaturally forced. A short impulse to decent behaviour that was squashed before it even reached the sunlight.

I also deeply appreciated Alex being upset over the crew’s unwillingness to help Mars, and his loyalty to his oath. Seeing him bond with Bobbie a bit as the rest freaks over Chrisjen would be more than amazing. I have said already that Alex got probably the least attention of the entire crew so far, and last episode seemed to hint we were headed in that direction this season. I just hope that his background goes better than Amos’s. With him, we trailed off on a really awkward pedophile line, and never came back to it. I suppose Alex’s family is less awkward, but still. Don¨t disappoint me, creators, please!

Oh, and I want to kiss them for Anna’s response to Errinwright’s question whether what was happening was a sign from God: “That’s a line non-religious people use to make fun of those who are.” You go get him, Anna!

Hopefully next week, this improving trend will continue. Chrisjen meeting Holden and the rest of the crew has great potential. It fully deserves an entire episode devoted to it. If they ruin it, I will be most upset indeed.

Images courtesy of SyFy


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