This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 2 Episode 8
Different people have different ways of dealing with the protomolecule being out in the world in The Expanse, and this week’s episode highlights the contrast between altruists, opportunists, and those with other things to worry about. With another beloved character from the novels entering the mix and established characters revealing more details about their history, the show is starting to take on an emotional depth that seems to be preparing viewers for some tough decisions ahead. If Tycho can fall prey to rising tensions, where else might the seams be ready to rip open?
The instability has even reached farther into the Rocinante crew’s family dynamic, as Alex chastises Amos for not helping with the refugee crisis. Although we may agree with the pilot when he says, “We help people, that’s civilization,” Amos is clearly still distraught over the incident where the refugee child looked at him like he was a monster. Many viewers may be mad at Holden for lying to Naomi about the protomolecule still being out there or at Naomi for being dishonest about disposing of their sample, but watching Amos searching for his childhood caretaker, Lydia, may have been the most disheartening moment of all.
Luckily, everyone had their distractions to keep them busy. But even when Naomi suggests going out to the antenna array to see where Cortazar last heard the “shout” of the protomolecule’s garbled voice, we might wonder whether she’s secretly worried he might have spotted her hidden cache. But as each detail about the new protomolecule danger unfolds, the backstory of several characters develops along with it. Drummer enticed us with the knowledge that Dawes nurtured Fred Johnson into the OPA leader he is today, but what did she mean when she told Naomi he did it with “more than just talk,” and why are the two leaders so at odds now?
It’s not surprising that the more radical elements of the OPA want to take advantage of the missile stash Fred stole during the Eros incident, but it was interesting to see the groups stirred up by Dawes’ speech enough to stage a coup even though they had no hope of removing the countermeasures. Fred has been shaped by his past into someone who isn’t afraid to die for his principles, but what about Drummer? The pain of seeing her shot in the gut as a method of persuasion was balanced perfectly by her execution of the mutineers once rescued.
And what a rescue it was! Even Amos came out of his funk to cut off oxygen to the bridge; perhaps threatening lives was a task he felt more comfortable with given his sociopathic tendencies. Leave it to Naomi to have a monitor on the hangar bay that held the captured Earth nukes; it almost makes the audience more comfortable with her still possessing the ace-up-the-sleeve protomolecule sample. Except, of course, we agree with Holden that she’s key in reminding him who he is, and his promise of “no more secrets” is a bit one-sided as a result.
But the heart of this episode, just as perhaps Bobbie was in last week’s installment, was Praxidike Meng, the botanist who watched the mirror fall on the domes of Ganymede and who awoke on a refugee ship without his daughter, Mei. Bringing the consequences of the sabotage in the outer planets down to a personal level was a perfect way to emphasize the personal toll the political and corporate posturing takes on the general populace. We felt the helplessness of someone displaced from his lifelong home with no time to gather his loved ones… only a single soybean plant.
It was also, of course, an ingenious way to further the investigation into the source of the “shout” heard by Cortazar after Eros hit Venus: Ganymede itself. Seeing Holden and Naomi connect the dots between Protogen, pediatrician Dr. Lawrence Strickland, and Prax raised more questions than it answered, but aside from informing the direction the Roci crew can now take, it gives the forlorn father hope he didn’t have before. As Amos tells him once he’s on board the ship, finding his kid is “a good reason.” How will it relate to what Bobbie saw?
Combined with the horrific execution of inner planet refugees, including Prax’s colleague and potential lifeboat, Doris, the pain of the situation pulls the audience in in ways the Belter mutiny under Fred could not, as action-packed as it was. What could have been another political twist with casualties became a personal tragedy that motivates a crusade. This is what The Expanse does best: bringing a multi-planetary conflict down to a human scale. Like Prax, the audience is on board for what comes next, not as a prisoner or even a guest, simply being guided along by the emotional journey.