This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 2 Episode 12
Emotional stakes are everything in The Expanse, and this week had plenty of them. Viewers were likely as surprised as some of the characters when political assassinations, last minutes rescues, and unexpected twists spiced up the already flavorful drama which pitted friend against friend and brought enemies closer together. Who is right about the potential of the protomolecule? Mao, who would exploit it; Holden, who would eradicate it; or Prax, who would reason with it? That’s a lot of questions to raise in the penultimate episode of the season, and how it will culminate in next week’s finale is anyone’s guess.
The writers have done an especially admirable job of showing Holden’s slow decline into single-minded focus on destroying the protomolecule. Unlike Alex who is in awe of the new hybrid, speculating, “We’re yesterday’s model — obsolete,” Holden tenaciously pursues the escaped creature even at the risk of being spotted by a Martian patrol or of being pulled into a trap in the ag dome. Prax being railroaded as he wonders if this particular creature might be Mei is one thing, but Holden questioning Alex’s loyalty is a sad thing to witness. What will pull Holden out of his vengeful blindness?
That’s what makes the climax of the episode that much more triumphant. When Alex finally convinces Holden that they need to worry about their own family, and they swoop in and destroy the missile headed toward the Somnambulist, not only do we get another great mini-space battle sequence, but we also see the more useful side of Holden’s bluster as he forces the patrol ships to leave the refugee ship alone. All is forgiven as Naomi smiles in relief and jokingly greets Holden’s arrival with, “You’re a son-of-a-bitch, that’s my status.”
It was touch-and-go for a little while there with Naomi and Amos, and surely many viewers were starting to wonder if the Somnambulist should just leave the crazed crowd behind. Even Melissa, the original benefactor of the refugees seemed to be wavering, and Amos clearly had no doubt what they should do. Appealing to the struggle of the Belter is always a great way to inspire the characters and the audience, and the calm evacuation was quite a sight. Was it a bit too easy? Maybe, but then again, we’re not Belters.
But just as Holden’s anger could be explained by his having been on Eros, Naomi’s compassion is likewise as a result of her feeling like she didn’t do enough at Eros. Amos delightfully refers to the ruckus as just being another hot day at Pimlico,” which also fits his character, as does taking two tranquilizers before going down. Each character acted as we would wish them to, and the coming together of the Roci crew once more feels even stronger because of their emotional journeys.
For Avasarala and Bobbie, the journey was more of a physical one as the assistant undersecretary made her rendezvous in space with Jules-Pierre Mao, the architect of the protomolecule weapons race. Starting the Earth story arc with Errinwright spending time with his son and writing what appeared to be a suicide note was a brilliant misdirect. We don’t see Avasarala off-balance too often, but the sanctions she put on Mao’s family were decidedly less intense than the threats that Errinwright has now put on the table by destroying the Karakum, killing Mao’s Martian confidante, and telling him to “get back to work” for Earth.
Even though at this point Bobbie is simply along for the ride, her soldierly antagonism of Avasarala’s hired spook, Cotyar, is a charming start to her new life. Her answer to his doubt of her loyalty was a great reminder of her strength of character: “Burn me and mine and I’ll go through you like a door.” Perhaps her burgeoning relationship with Avasarala can be met with more mutual trust than we’re used to seeing between an Earther and a Martian. We would welcome such a strong partnership!
As the character dynamics shift and readjust to new circumstances, The Expanse is clearly gearing up for an explosive finale. Astute viewers no doubt spotted the glimmer of blue in the Rocinante’s cargo hold: evidence of a stowaway on board. Will the crew be confronting the blue-eyed creature directly, and will it be Prax’s daughter transformed? Will the tension between Mars and Earth be even greater because of what happened with Mao and Avasarala, or will the Ganymede situation be defused once there’s nothing left to defend? Whatever happens, the finale will likely bring things to a head and set up the third season decisively.