This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 3 Episode 9
The Expanse slows things down this week the same way the Ring has its speed limit, but the narrative still holds its impact as it embarks on the mystery of the pocket universe that the Rocinante finds itself in. Exploring what it means for each of the system factions to cross the threshold will no doubt be explored as the finale nears, but in the meantime, it’s important to take a breath to unpack the motivation behind Melba’s frame job and to allow Holden to formulate a plan in this foreign environment. All of the emotional beats of “Intransigence” follow this same pacing to create another well-told story.
Thankfully, it didn’t take Amos long to figure out that Cohen the camera guy was behind the malfunctioning comms and weapons, and it was enjoyable as always to see the mechanic employ his unique skills to try to fix the problem. To all appearances, Cohen is telling the truth about not knowing exactly what he did, and sending both him and Monica out the airlock to appeal to the Martians on the Xuesen, who also have entered the Ring, seems an appropriately coarse consequence for Amos to employ, and it’s not a terrible plan at that.
After all, Holden’s original conclusion before Miller showed up was to hope the MCRN could be reasoned with. The Xuesen acts as a narrative device to explain the nature of the bubble with its speed limit, a nucleus that pulls in anything that breaks that limit, and an edge that leads to oblivion, raising the stakes for the Rocinante, which has nowhere to flee. The arrival of Miller provides another course of action, though, crazy as it may be. Although it was pleasant to hear the detective simulacrum speaking more clearly (yet still needing to use metaphors to communicate), we can only guess what sending Holden to the nucleus will do. The setup, however, was nicely executed leading to an unexpected result.
The same could be said for Naomi’s journey in this episode. Ashford continues to be enigmatically both a reasonable man and a zealous advocate for the Belt, but it’s wonderful to see his advice to Naomi turned around on him. He discourages her from indulging in nostalgia about her time with the Inners, but he ends up making her realize she left the Rocinante because of her rosy memories about her time with the OPA. Her departure from Drummer is a painful one, especially after the captain gave such a rousing speech, but it’s also encouraging to note that, although Ashford clearly tattles on her plan to take a skiff, Drummer allows Naomi to return to the Roci.
Meanwhile, Melba’s story starts to paint the picture of why all this mayhem occurred in the first place, although forcing everyone into the Ring certainly isn’t the result the technician was hoping for. As the daughter of Jules-Pierre Mao, who was just brought low by the plan to create hybrids with the protomolecule in the first half of the season, it makes perfect sense that she would seek revenge against the man she thinks caused her family’s fall from grace. Just as the flashbacks seemed to indicate, Melba is a proud woman who doesn’t take well to humiliation.
But of course she’s also trying to prove herself to her father. To be seen as nothing but a party planner while her sister Julie gets Jules-Pierre’s respect despite being openly defiant of him must have resulted in some complicated feelings for Melba, especially once Julie became protomolecule fodder, so even though she seems pretty well put together, there’s clearly a well of hurt inside her. The fact that she would send a message to her dad through Ren’s family shows that the potential her father-figure boss saw in her is something she desperately wanted from her own real parent. Her tale is a satisfying unfolding of a pivotal motivation for the current main conflict in The Expanse.
Melba’s interactions with Anna continue to be rather superficial, but we’re definitely being set up for more there. Anna’s compulsion to stay with the Thomas Prince as it heads into the unknown seems to fit with what we know about the pastor, who seems to love her family but can’t resist any world-changing events that she has a chance to be a part of. It’s interesting to see her passion for pioneering contrasted with Hector’s self-preservation, and when he says he wants to rejoin his family as part of the UNN’s evacuation of civilians, he must just really be scared, just as the soldier who risks being charged with desertion evidently is.
Avasarala’s detached messages about the evacuation make us miss her presence in person, but in the meantime, we’ve got Miss Fagan to occupy our attention. In earlier episodes, she seemed to be simply a vapid spouse of a wealthy politician, but her admission to Anna that she’s an aging debutante seeking thrills wherever she can get them is refreshingly honest. As Anna admits to her that she also wants to stay to experience this miracle of first contact, it’s easy to see how these two unlikely companions might bond with each other moving forward.
And so the stage is set with the many ships that entered the Ring alongside the Behemoth. Naomi may be headed back to her family, but Holden has left the ship with Miller as his guide; Anna and her companions are now surrounded by military; Monica and Cohen presumably are with the Martians; and we mustn’t forget that Bobbie is on the Xuesen, which seeks to capture Holden on behalf of Mars. How will the new setting inside the pocket universe of the Ring change the dynamics of the story? Events in The Expanse did slow down a bit, but the shift in the action still promises plenty of intrigue and adventure to come.