The Expanse Season 5 Episode 8 Review: Hard Vacuum

As everyone struggles to break free of their circumstances, The Expanse sets up a possible convergence before the season 5 finale.

Naomi floating in space in The Expanse
Photo: Amazon Studios

This The Expanse review contains spoilers.

The Expanse Season 5 Episode 8

This week’s The Expanse injects a whole different type of tension into the stories of escape and helplessness. While Amos’ arc has shifted into a quest to escape a dying planet, Naomi’s has become a desperate tale of survival and a MacGyver-esque call for rescue. While the Drummer family’s struggle under the yoke of Marco’s command isn’t quite as compelling, it, too, denotes a longing to break free that has been the thematic hallmark of season 5.

That’s not to say that the emotional turmoil Drummer is under doesn’t have its own draw. The distinction she makes between salvaging and scavenging the wreckage of a Belter faction that denied Marco’s rule carries a certain amount of tragic gravitas. Likewise, Karal likening Drummer’s reluctance to Naomi’s past betrayal of her Belter family says much about her skepticism of the new alliance. Regardless, the best moment of this arc was when the family relieved the tension by slurping weightless water as a playful reconciliation.

There’s a setup, too, for their security mission to Ceres just as the new Secretary General takes counsel on a proportional response, perhaps on Pallas, to the devastation on Earth. Whether Drummer ends up following Naomi’s signal or not, there’s clearly a conflict brewing beyond what we’ve seen so far, and with Avasarala and Delgado at odds, it’s difficult to judge David Pastor’s leadership beyond the fact that he gives a good speech.

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But let’s talk about that signal. So much of this episode of The Expanse is spent wondering what the hell Naomi is doing, and the confusion is brilliant way to frame the dire straits she is in. Even viewers skeptical of her ability to survive her unsuited space jump had to palpably feel her pain as she scrapped for tools and water on the stripped Chetzemoka. As such, her repeated oxygen-deprived journeys into the heart of the ship made every ounce of her impossible task that much more realistic.

Even when Holden and Alex cooperate to find her ship, her first attempt to bypass the fake distress call fails as they begin to make their way towards Marco’s explosive trap. But even as she is testing the wires to see which one carries the false message, and even as she periodically interrupts the recording, her intention is purposely left unclear. Thus the repeating message at the end of the episode carries maximum impact: “This is Naomi Nagata. Tell James Holden I am in — control.” The cryptic code was the only way she could let them know the real her was trapped but alive behind the message!

Assuming that Drummer, Alex, Holden, and Naomi are preparing to converge somehow, all that’s left is to wonder how Amos and Clarissa will make it off planet to rejoin the crew. The “mercy killings” at the old folks home were the perfect preamble to the confrontation with the Baltimore crime boss clinging to his disappearing territory. But as fun as it was to hear him yell, “Fuck you, Timmy!” to Amos, it was Clarissa’s story of a fellow inmate that brought it home as she reminded him (and us) that “starting over isn’t always bad.”

And so we find ourselves looking forward to Peaches and Amos heading to Winnipesaukee to relieve rich people of their fancy space yachts, and not just because Amos has secured a case of tequila for the trip. With only a couple of episodes left for The Expanse season 5, the reunion of the main cast and the comeuppance for Marco Inaros is bound to be wrapped up in some of the most adventurous action of the season.

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4 out of 5