This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 3 Episode 7
At the end of “Delta-V,” the young pilot Manéo enters the Ring and decelerates so drastically that his body is reduced to jelly by Newton’s laws of motion. In a similar fashion, the second half of The Expanse has changed direction so abruptly that it’s a good thing we’re in our crash couches because this almost feels like we’re starting over with a new season. With months having passed since the events of the last episode, we have to wrap our heads around a massive Ring in stable orbit near Uranus, the passing of power on Earth from Sorrento-Gillis to Avasarala, a documentary crew onboard the Rocinante, and the departure of Naomi to the newly christened Behemoth. It’s a lot to absorb, but the narrative manages to hold together despite the g-forces involved.
The vignette unfolding on the Y Que is a nice way to frame the latest news cycle in which the protomolecule Ring takes center stage and Holden is even more famous in the system than he was before. Néo a.k.a. “Supa Star” is trying to break records and impress his Evita, but he can’t capture anyone’s attention with everyone focused on the Ring and the new peace as everyone races to learn more about it. The compressed months of his journey fit nicely with the time jump between episodes, and his decision to go through the Ring almost seems obvious despite the artifact’s unknown nature. But the outrageous nature of his death creates the perfect shocking ending that sets up completely unpredictable consequences to come.
And speaking of unexpected, the sudden rise of Avasarala to the height of power, although perfectly logical, seems meteoric even with the unmasking of Errinwright’s conspiracy. However, her new position explains Anna’s presence on the UNN Thomas Prince, which in turn provides an excuse to speculate on the metaphysical nature and origins of the protomolecule now that it has formed itself into a shape that’s less organism and more mechanism. The pastor is still missed at home, but with our attention now turned once more to what the protomolecule wants, her higher-order perspective is welcome.
The only part of the drama unfolding near the Ring that actually does seem rushed in this frenetic re-focusing of the central conflict is the one involving Melba, who inexplicably leaves the Thomas Prince to plant a bomb on the Seung Un. Readers of the Corey novels know the reasoning behind her actions, but with all the various ship names and new characters floating about, it’s difficult for the average viewer to place this act in context. Melba seems very nervous and displays abnormal strength in killing her boss to cover up her sabotage, but it wasn’t all that clearly expressed exactly what was happening, either for neophytes or readers of the books. Perhaps the moment could have been saved for a later episode when there was time to concentrate on it?’’
More successful was the introduction of Monica, the reporter played by Defiance’s Anna Hopkins, who is making a documentary about Holden and his crew in exchange for their legal fees in fighting against a Martian government seeking to reclaim the Rocinante. Whether she and her nosy camera operator are flirting with Amos or spying on Alex’s conversation with Bobbie (who’s back with the MCRN, interestingly), the filmmakers give us further insight into the crew as they struggle with the spotlight. Plus the seeds of something shady with the blind camera guy as he fiddles with the ship’s maintenance controls promise more intrigue to come.
Of course, the documentary will be missing the perspective of Naomi who decided last week that it was time to reforge her connection to her OPA past, and having her work alongside the wonderful Camina Drummer on the refitted Nauvoo soothes any separation anxiety viewers might feel with her away from her Roci family. Now that she’s among her own people (with spectacular new hair), Naomi’s more exaggerated Belter patois is noticeable and appreciated. It was always a puzzlement why she didn’t talk that way before, and now it makes sense: when in Rome… Drummer’s aggressive leadership style contrasts nicely with Naomi’s more tempered approach, especially once Ashford, played wonderfully by David Strathairn, comes aboard.
Lest we forget that Anderson Dawes is now cooperating (but also vying for power) with Fred Johnson to portray the OPA as a legitimate system power, the presence of Ashford on the Behemoth is rife with political implications. But even though he’s clearly a plant of the more radical OPA factions, he disperses wise advice to Drummer even as he undermines her authority: an interesting dynamic! Bringing Diogo back as Ashford’s enforcer is certainly another step up for this black market water thief, but his entertaining interactions with Miller back during the Eros adventure ties in nicely with the episode’s bombshell ending.
That’s right, Thomas Jane is back as Miller, the mumbling, hat-wearing Belter detective who persuaded Julie Mao to steer Eros toward Venus, saving Earth from an extinction level collision with the asteroid. Whether Holden is just imagining him, hallucinating him, or something else entirely is part of the fun of this new development, but in the meantime, this is a character that was missed, and it’ll be great to see back in action again. Hopefully, he’ll have a thing or two to say about what the protomolecule is up to, if his return has anything to do with the alien influence.
So, yes, it’s a lot to take in. At times during the episode, the narrative threatened to overwhelm even the most exposition-phobic viewer, but it managed to hold fast to its thrilling pivot into the new story arc for the most part. By necessity, specific plot points overshadowed others, but presumably the next few episodes will cushion the impact of the 90-degree turn so we don’t end up like so much bloody paste on the wall like poor Néo. We’ve come to trust The Expanse as it has shifted from alien virus to killer hybrids and now to mysterious space ring quite smoothly, and the mystery of the alien organism/technology continues to create a singular focus for one of the most compelling sci-fi dramas on TV.