This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 2 Episode 11
The Expanse had so much going on this week, it’s difficult to decide which element packed the most punch: Bobbie’s defection, Holden’s dangerous discovery, the cryptic spectacle on Venus, or Avasarala’s impending meeting with Jules-Pierre Mao. Because Bobbie requesting UN asylum involved actual punching, that would be the best bet, and certainly the Martian marine’s story has been a highlight of recent episodes. But honestly, there’s never a dull moment in this show, especially when Alex is piloting the Rocinante like the Martian cowboy he is.
Readers of the James S.A. Corey novels will realize we’ve had a few departures from the book here, and one of those is the manner in which Bobbie takes shelter under Avasarala’s wing. This episode did a great job of painting Sergeant Draper into a corner with Captain Martens making it clear she would no longer be a soldier upon returning to Mars. Combined with her outrage at being used as a “sales demo,” it’s no wonder she made a run for it.
After all, Martens has no right to tell Bobbie, “It’s time you stopped looking for places to project your guilt,” since that’s exactly what he’s doing. When he receives word that the Karakum is en route to Ganymede to pick up “Caliban” (a great Shakespearean codename for the blue-eyed creature), he’s likely recalling that the beast wasn’t meant to take out the marines during the test, only the UN soldiers. Displaced guilt indeed! Might as well call this so-called “version 1 hybrid” a very buggy beta test.
Avasarala was wise to engineer the fake OPA bomb threat on Bobbie’s shuttle to delay matters. Now she’s in possession of Captain Martens’ hand terminal and the only eye-witness to the protomolecule 2.0. It was interesting that the episode left viewers hanging with Mao’s offer to meet the assistant undersecretary on neutral ground, but we’re used to this with Avasarala: small increments of progress laying the groundwork for the political fallout of whatever’s going on elsewhere in the episode. This time, however, she may be taking center stage soon — an exciting prospect!
She’s also keeping an eye on what’s happening on Venus, which could end up being the bigger story. Whether the Caliban creature is truly under human control is definitely up for debate, but the more raw Eros protomolecule is clearly up to something more mysterious on Venus. The reinforced probe Janus and Iturbi sent down to the surface glimpsed a remarkable structure of some kind, and whatever its purpose is could eclipse the danger posed by Caliban. The Expanse brilliantly understates these important details to remind and tease its audience about the loose threads that have been far from forgotten.
Meanwhile, the main thread of the episode has clarified the nature of the alien-human hybrid without actually spelling it out for the audience — an admirable approach. With the body of the young child (thankfully not Mei) that Holden and Prax find in the incinerator room, the safe conclusion is that children with compromised immune systems are well-suited to accommodating a modified protomolecule that could turn them into vacuum-hardened killing machines. The dying Protogen scientist even says, “We made the protomolecule do what we wanted, made it in our own image. And there’s a lot more where she came from.” So has Mei been transformed? Have others? Is there one Caliban or many?
Two added elements made the Ganymede story the most well-rounded plot of the episode. First, there was the emotional piece brought by Naomi admitting to Prax that she has lost a child and later refusing to accompany Holden in continuing his crusade, a surprising departure from the novels. Secondly, Alex’s slingshot maneuver to come to the group’s rescue was just the exciting sequence we needed after several episodes without cool space effects. Despite showrunner Naren Shankar’s misgivings, that was cool as hell and provided the perfect ending to this part of the story.
When watching The Expanse, full engagement is never in question. Whether focusing on political intrigue, personal conflict, or character motivation, viewers are always on the edge of their seats. The most attention-grabbing details are continually doled out in a careful doses each week, and “Here There Be Dragons” is no exception. The big question now is, how will it all end now that the season only has two episodes remaining? Whether answers or cliffhangers are forthcoming, we’ll be there with baited breath.