This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 2 Episode 9
This week’s episode of The Expanse was reminiscent of some more carefully paced installments from season 1 which led some viewers to mischaracterize the show as having a slow narrative. Perhaps by now, faithful fans are used to the contrast between the building tension of an episode like this in which political maneuvering takes center stage and one in which action and epic space battles blow people’s minds. Notably, each recent set-up episode has delivered at least a little action, and although this week’s Ganymede gang battle isn’t as spectacular as Drummer shooting two of her captors last week, the anticipation of conflict on Ganymede and in orbit around Venus keeps pulling the audience along.
An example of how this show can take a detail that’s frustratingly unresolved and make it enticingly painful is Bobbie’s forced silence with regard to the blue-eyed creature she saw. As viewers, we might wish for her to shout out the truth, but the reality is that she’s a disciplined soldier who follows orders even if she disagrees with them. But glimpses of defiance, such as her stubborn refusal to wear sunglasses, hint at a formidable confrontation to come based on her sense of justice. In so many ways, Bobbie is like a pot ready to boil over.
Plus it has long been abundantly clear that nothing gets by Avasarala. She already has her inside man on the Arboghast heading to Venus, and she draws the obvious parallel: “Eros changes everything, just like a soldier on Ganymede without a suit.” Avasarala knows that Sergeant Draper was angered by the implication that her colleague Travis, an Earth-born Martian, shot first, and she forced the marine to let the detail about the “seventh man” slip. Surely, Avasarala will take advantage of this fact, but how will Bobbie be involved moving forward? Surely we will be treated to some righteous marine wrath to match Chrisjen’s forceful pursuit of the truth.
Let’s not forget that many of the assistant undersecretary’s colleagues, including Colonel Janus on the Arboghast, still think that Eros was a Martian weapons test! Given the infighting among human factions in The Expanse, Janus is correct in asserting, “Maybe it’s the nature of intelligent life to destroy itself,” but the audience knows about the Ganymede creature and thus agrees with Dr. Iturbi who responds, “I prefer to think that intelligent life could choose not to.” So what is the protomolecule doing on Venus, and how does it relate to what’s happening on Ganymede, if indeed it does?
These are the undercurrents that drive an episode filled with political posturing, and the swirling surface contains the human drama among the Rocinante crew, which is never in short supply. This time, we see the strengths and the failings of Holden and company through the eyes of their “guide,” Prax Meng, and via the couple who owns the Weeping Somnambulist. These new eyes do not show Holden and his companions as noble samaritans searching for a lost child. Instead, the supposed heroes are perceived as exploiting the Belters to investigate what might remain of the protomolecule and those behind its release.
That fact that Prax is prohibited from sending condolences to Doris’ family on Mars can’t be ignored. When the Suputayaporns have their relief ship hijacked to provide cover for the Roci, and the husband, Santichai, is caught in the crossfire when Holden and Amos dispatch armed thugs, it doesn’t matter that the heavies were trying to steal medical supplies from those who need them. The death is on the Earthers. They might feel safe with Alex hiding in the moon’s shadow waiting to sweep in and rescue them, but it all ties in with what Amos tells Meng when he questions their vague plans: “This Is about average.”
Flaws like these are wonderful for strengthening characters who inhabit a complex world, and The Expanse has a deft hand in setting up falls from grace and journeys of redemption. We can root for Bobbie to be able speak freely or for Prax to find his daughter, but we can also hope for Avasarala to hold Mao accountable while avoiding war or for Holden to get to the bottom of the new conspiracy on Ganymede without losing his humanity in the process. Each story contributes to the larger journey, and if the ride is slow sometimes, it’s only so we can enjoy the view.