The Expanse: “Cascade” offers some answers, more questions — Review

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All Martian Gunnery Sgt. Bobbie Draper wanted to do after giving her testimony about the Ganymede incident was see the ocean.

A simple desire, but one that her superiors seemed intent on denying her after she failed to stick completely to the story they wanted her to tell about Ganymede. Essentially confined to quarters and told she’d be heading back to Mars in a couple days, she did what any self-respecting, disappointed and slightly pissed-off Martian soldier would do – she broke out. Her travels to the ocean, and the truth she finds there from an unlikely source, are a big part of Episode 210 of The Expanse, titled “Cascade.”

Draper has had enough of the politics and the questions in her own mind about what she saw on Ganymede. Fairly disillusioned by what she’s experienced, she became determined to find a path to the sea where she could sit and let the waves wash over her legs as she pondered things. And that’s exactly what she did thanks to her own determination and some timely directions from an Earther she met and bartered with.

THE EXPANSE — “Cascade” Episode 210 — Pictured: (l-r) Terry Chen as Praxideke Meng, Wes Chatham as Amos Burton — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

It’s hard not to feel for Draper right now. In her testimony, the truth of Ganymede slipped out in bits and pieces, which didn’t help things as Earth and Mars once again saddle up for possible confrontation. There’s a lot of turmoil going on inside her, but I suspect she’s going to play a part in what’s to come that will hopefully help her moving forward. In the end, she eventually found the sea and cast her gaze to the horizon.

She’s part of something bigger than what she realizes and it’s up to our U.N. matriarch Chrisjen Asvarala to pull back the curtain a little bit. You could tell from the last episode that she wanted to have some private time with Draper to really drill down on the tidbits of information that slipped out during the testimony. She repeats that desire early in this episode and, as luck would have it, is presented with an opportunity she thought lost – because Draper decided to get lost.

Through information gleaned by Cotyar and relayed to her, Chrisjen learns that Draper has fled the Mars compound and is now on the loose. Seeing a chance at unfiltered answers, she sets Cotyar to the task of finding Draper before Martian officials do. And that leads us back to the shore where Draper sits looking at the horizon. It’s there the two (with Cotyar) meet and have a short but frank and testy discussion about what Draper saw. Chrisjen confirms that our Martian soldier is absolutely spot-on in her description of the being she encountered on Ganymede. Chrisjen also plants the seed of mutual assistance by telling Draper they can’t be enemies any longer and that she needs Draper’s help. I think that seed will grow within Draper and….well, we’ll see, won’t we?

THE EXPANSE — “Cascade” Episode 210 — Pictured: Steven Strait as Earther James Holden — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

But how do we know Chrisjen is on the right track? Well, in what I’d submit was an unexpected (yet suspicious) turnaround, Undersecretary Sadivir Errinwright showed up earlier in Chrisjen’s office to offer a contrite and humble account of his involvement with Jules-Pierre Mao and the Protomolecule (PMC) project. He gives her a short verbal explanation of his rationale, realizes Chrisjen had been on to him for quite some time, then gets hit with a dose of reality about what likely lies in store him. For those of us who have watched these two do this slow waltz around this issue for a while, it was a satisfying moment that was well-played by both the characters.

Errinwright: “I think she (Draper) did see something on Ganymede, something we’re not supposed to know about.”
Chrisjen: “And what’s fueling these thoughts?”
Errinwright: “I believe that Ganymede was a test of a new weapon that Jules-Pierre Mao is developing for Mars based on technology he unleashed on Eros.”

It appears that Mars is complicit in the PMC issue and that’s why they moved so quickly to have Draper fabricate part of her story, as well as take responsibility for the incident. It all seemed too damn easy, didn’t it? Turns out, it was. Errinwright, who admits he was aware and involved with Mao’s research, provides her with valuable data on the PMC project, which apparently includes information about what Draper saw on Ganymede – a life-form without a Vac-suit. Chrisjen is suspicious of this about-change from the undersecretary, but also sees opportunity for answers.

It could be a huge turning point in the PMC saga. It is also important to remember that while Draper and Chrisjen were searching for their respective answers on Earth, the crew of the Rocinante, along with Dr. Meng, were looking for their own answers on Ganymede. After doing a little research, cross-checking some names and locations, they find that there’s a Belter on Ganymede named Roma that has access to camera systems that could be a big help. He won’t come cheap, though, as he prefers to deal in canned chicken.

THE EXPANSE — “Cascade” Episode 210 — Pictured: Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

And that’s good, because it turns out Amos doesn’t mind dealing in canned chicken as well. Captain Holden, Naomi, Amos and Dr. Meng eventually track down Roma and begin negotiating for information. It should be noted that Roma is a tool in the ugliest opportunistic way possible. When the negotiations bog down, Amos restarts them by applying a can of chicken to the cranium of Roma — again and again and again — before he’s able to calm himself down enough to leave Roma conscious. The sudden and brutal attack did two things – convinced Roma to help the Rocinante cause, and offered us some insight into the life Amos was exposed to in his younger days. Bullies are something he’s very used to seeing and dealing with and in this Belter, who was trying to leverage his services in a smarmy way, he saw a bully – and reacted accordingly. So let’s be clear, Amos dislikes bullies on a grand scale.

Amos is such an interesting character in that the violence he perpetrates seems so matter-of-fact – making him seem cold and robotic within the frenzy. But there’s far more than that rattling around inside this man. In this episode we got a little glimpse into his past life, a life that sounded very unpleasant and predatory, but obviously helped mold him into the man he is now. As he tells Dr. Meng at one point after being asked how many people he’d killed, “I’m not a homicidal maniac. Holden and Naomi, they’re not like me. They’re better. I’ll watch your back, but they’ll find your little girl.”

Beneath that seemingly rock-hard and violent exterior is a man accepts who he is, but also has a little more depth than we are led to believe. While Roma is going through the video files looking for Dr. Strickland and Meng’s daughter, Dr. Meng is downstairs examining some plants that he notes are dying. They help filtrate the air in the station, but they are dying and Meng explains to Amos what is happening and what the long-term ramifications are for the station. Amos grasps the issue in a rudimentary way when Meng declares the station is dying, “They just don’t know it yet.”

As a major food producing facility in that sector, that’s a stark revelation and one wonders how that will play out and whether the PMC will somehow factor into it? Chrisjen now knows Ganymede was an experiment gone wrong, Draper knows that what she saw was real, and Holden and crew are closer to Dr. Strickland and Dr. Meng’s daughter — and perhaps some answers. Things are heating up on The Expanse. What fun.

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John Baker