The Expanse delivered the fifth episode of it’s third season this week, “Triple Point.” In it, things get rather heated, though there is still some room for interpersonal drama as well.
The Pinus Contorta crew is planning how to land at Io without getting shot to bits. Surprisingly enough, they seem to find a way. The Martian survivors return to a Martian ship and deliver the message from Chrisjen. Surprise surprise, it doesn’t get passed on to UNN. Instead, it goes to MCRN command, and in the process they realize that the UNN ship they were supposed to send it to has gone to Io. So, they divert course to follow. The UNN ship in question, with Nguyen in command, notices and calls the rest of the UNN fleet to help them.
Chrisjen makes the most unconvincing speech in history of speeches to Holden about how she needs the protomolecule for research and to save humankind. Alex gets a message from his son telling him he still loves him and is looking forward to seeing him again. He also sweeps for other ships one last time before going on silent and sees they’re heading for Callisto. I’m afraid the crew is up for a very unpleasant surprise when they get to Io. Elsewhere, Dr. Meng learns to shoot and declares his desire for revenge to Amos.
On the UNN ship, the loyal officers sort of suggest a coup against Nguyen, and then a Nguyen-loyal officer comes in and tells them a story about how he was in a war and saw people killed by Mars. It is a complete waste of both our and the officers’ time. The only thing I took from it is that if he has war trauma, he has no business being in a high command position.
Alex and Bobbie have a talk about the plans on Io, and Bobbie clearly doesn’t mean to run as was agreed on. Alex is made nervous by this. Mao and Dr. Strickland are using Mei’s friend, Katoa, to communicate with the protomolecule. We hear that the Work must continue once more. This time it’s paired with a mysterious “Up.”
The message from the Martian survivors still somehow gets to the good-guy admiral, who confirms its authenticity with Chrisjen’s spy. While he is in the midst of doing that, he is summoned by Nguyen.
Naomi and Holden finally have that long-needed talk about why Naomi did what she did. She talks about that child of hers that was mentioned once ages ago. Apparently her ex-partner took it away from her for some mysterious reason and then she went to work on a mining ship to forget everything, but Holden’s idealism woke her up again.
Mao hears from Katoa that the Work is almost finished, but then the boy goes into a fit and Dr. Strickland states he won’t be talking again. The next best suitable subject is Mei, and Mao gives the order. Nguyen tells Mao that he unfroze his family’s accounts, and Mao—without verifying it, I might add—transfers protomolecule pod launch controls to him. The good-guy admiral is brought to the bridge and told he is confined to quarters, but just then the Martian ship reaches them.
There is a dramatic mutiny on the ship that ends with most of the good guys dead and the UNN fleet firing on each other. Mars declares that anyone from the UNN who declares peace won’t be fired upon. Nguyen responds by launching the pods Mao transferred to him.
Another decent episode this week. I am beginning to wonder what happened with the first one or two, since clearly the team working on this show still mostly has it.
I especially appreciated more moments of Alex and Bobbie working together, planning their landing on Io. Their interactions are amazing now. It is a bit of a pity, though, that we didn’t actually see Bobbie’s relationship with anyone developing. She was simply hostile when she met the Pinus crew, and friendly two episodes later. I understand there is limited time and a lot of plot lines to cover, but still. This is important.
The drama with mutiny and the brink of another shooting conflict was well done as well. It wasn’t obvious where it was headed, either on the UNN or the Mars side of things. And while the subterfuge of the mutineers wasn’t exactly sophisticated, in this situation I understand the lack of development completely. Certainly if they had to chose, I’d prefer them giving space to developing Bobbie’s interpersonal relationships to subtle cloak and dagger material.
At the same time, though, I was a little irritated by how the mutiny went down. Mostly it was a problem of the scene being too unclear. The impression I got from watching was that the majority of officers on the bridge took the side of the good guys. If that was the case, though, I struggle with the notion of the mutiny failing. Was it because everyone thought just refusing to follow orders was enough, when they just witnessed Nguyen fire on a UNN ship? That calls for rather more radical action.
But like I said, probably it was simply unclear and there were about equal numbers of good and bad guys present. That is still a problem in the visual storytelling, though, and it should be addressed in some way.
Speaking of the conflict, there are the pods. Namely, the fact that Mao gave up control of them way too easily. Once more, this is probably a matter of space in the narrative, but this seems rather more important than the exact degree of subterfuge aboard a random ship. Mao renewing his peaceful relations with the UNN was the culmination of an arc that began in season one. Mao simply transferring them without any comment, hesitation, or checking just so Nguyen could fire them immediately afterwards felt cheap.
Naturally, it was meant to be an illustration of what Chrisjen says. He sees Earth and Mars playing at war as mere children, useful for financing his project. But even he is still sane enough to realize that those children, like Holden had said, can easily destroy both worlds. Or he should be. He is not, after all, written as completely irrational. At any rate this would be a point worth exploring, rather than his useless flipping on the topic of experimentation on children.
And speaking of children. The scene with Naomi and Holden was beautifully acted. The emotion was thick in the air. The actual content of it though… The only thing I could see there was a “woman motivated by her children” trope. We don’t even know why exactly her partner took her son away. ‘Refused to do what he wanted’ is such a broad term. It could have been any number of legitimate reasons. She could have been doing something to endanger her son.
Without any sort of background that would let us understand the situation, it’s just a case of sticking a child into it because that instantly makes for a comprehensible motivation for a woman, right? She cannot be fighting for Belters because she believes it to be right. No, it has to be “I imagined Philip out there.” What else?
The other person whose struggles with parenthood we get to see—beside Dr. Meng, with whom it is brought up regularly—is Alex. I still have trouble feeling much for his family, but this time it was a bit better. Perhaps it was the particular setting of Mars with the child in the suit. It gave the whole thing some personality. It made the child an actual character, more than just a formula.
And, of course, Chrisjen brought up her son as well in her talk with Holden. Her story about the smashed statue of Atlas (wouldn’t a character from Indian mythology be better?) was the only good part of that. Once again, I think Chrisjen is getting the short end of the stick in that her intelligence is underplayed. There was no way she would ever believe Holden would fall for what she was saying. No matter if it was the truth or not. And she would know that. Make Chrisjen great again!
We ended on the cliffhanger of the protomolecule pods flying free. I suppose there is some hope of Alex shooting them down, but the Pinus is mostly out of firepower, so I’m not holding my breath. Besides, they would reveal their position to the fleets by doing that. So, expect something rather epic next week.