I’ve been looking forward to this moment for a couple weeks now. In “The Weeping Somnambulist,” Episode 209 of The Expanse, two ladies with very different motivations, but fundamental strength and understanding of honor and duty, get face-to-face at last.
Martian soldier Bobbie Draper and U.N. bigwig Chrisjen Avasarala are two characters I’ve come to really enjoy in The Expanse. Draper, a soldier’s soldier, is passionately committed to Mars and, to a lesser extent, waging (victorious) war on Earth. She is tough, strong and with a sense of honor that matters greatly to her. Avasarala is the consummate politician with a gambler’s nerve, finely-tuned intuition in the arena of politics, and her own tough-as-nails sense of right and wrong in the universe.
They are characters to be admired and examined and the way Shohreh Aghdashloo (Chrisjen) and Frankie Adams (Draper) deliver them is always a delight on the screen. In “The Weeping Somnambulist,” we see one suddenly unsure of her place and motivations, while the other is dead sure there’s more to what she’s witnessing than meets the eye. And it’s fun to see their respective mind’s working through the issue.
But first, let’s focus on the protomolecule for a moment as it’s an alien creation that just keeps giving and giving. We have an expedition to Venus to see what remains of Eros. The captain of the ship is convinced it’s Mars tech and a danger to earth. Fortunately, Chrisjen has an inside man on the ship as her eyes and ears and as they begin surveying the planet – well, I’ll let you see it for yourself. Let’s just say it’s a game-changer.
Also on the trail of the PMC (remember, we’re cutting Protomolecule down to PMC for easier handling) is Captain James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante. Holden, Alex Kamal, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton and former Ganymede scientist Dr. Meng are headed back to Ganymede to see if they can run down answers about Meng’s daughter and this mysterious Dr. Strickland – and how they relate to a PMC sample being there. They want to sneak in so they decide to commandeer a Belter aid ship to help them get past any “official” obstacles that may be swirling around Ganymede.
It’s actually kind of funny how Holden and Amos, with the best-laid plans, kind of stumble through the hijacking attempt with the Belter pair, a man and woman. Kind of sets up their attempt at getting to the planet and the struggles they keep encountering. Once the ship is secure, the planning begins. Holden lays out the basic outline, which has plenty of hope and very little of substance, a situation that Dr. Meng notes with a wry degree if irritation. A fun bit of dialog ensues with Amos.
Dr. Meng: “Your plans always this vague?”
Amos: “This is about average.”
Dr. Meng: “You all must be very lucky.”
Amos: “We’ve certainly had our fair share.”
Kind of reminded me of Chris Pratt’s plan in Guardians of the Galaxy, “I have part of a plan…12 percent.”
And yes, it’s barely a concept, but there are contingencies they hope won’t be needed, including Alex, who’ll be hiding behind an asteroid nearby, flying in for the rescue – under fire, of course.
But this is all a backdrop to the real meat of this episode. Draper has arrived on Earth as part of the Mars peace talks delegation. As you recall, she’s been told to explain what she saw on Ganymede up to a point – the point where she lies about what she saw (the 7th man) and who started shooting first. It’s a big ask by the Mars government of a soldier who wears her pride and honor on her sleeve, but she’s going to soldier up and take one for the team.
Called upon to address Earth and Mars delegations, she tells the story as she’s been instructed to. Grains of truth here, grains of fabrication there. In the end, Mars offers a reparations package based on the false information that it fired first. What they didn’t tell Draper was they were going to toss one of the soldiers under her command under the bus. This rattles her to her core.
The conflict raging within Draper is really well done. There isn’t this overriding angst written all over her face, but a subtleness that makes the whole thing a little more painful. Fortunately, the truth she’s holding inside isn’t lost on Chrisjen.
As the negotiations for reparations climaxes, Chrisjen asks to see Draper again for a few follow-up questions. Politely rebuffed, she digs in those talons and demands it. Dang, she can be the boss at times, right? Aghdashloo’s portrayal of Avasarala is often subtle as well, but there’s something fun and exhilarating about this character when she puts the bite on someone, as she does in the episode – a couple of times.
“With all due respect, madam, where are you going with this?” a Mars official admonishes Chrisjen.
“Wherever I G…D… like,” she tells him firmly and returns to talking with Bobbie.
Her instincts tell her there’s something more, something under the surface of all this and Draper is the key. In the end, with a little proding and poking, Draper drops the wall of compliance she’s been hiding behind and a little bit of what she really saw spills out quickly, including a little ditty about the 7th man she saw without the bio suit. She catches herself, resets her professional composure and re-ups to the original story. But it’s enough, more than enough, to confirm Chrisjen’s initial assessment. There’s something deeper and darker going on here.
Meanwhile at Venus, the impact crater from Eros draws us into the PMC equation with the shocking discovery of life sign readings near the crater. It should be impossible on that dead planet, but there it is. Chrisjen’s inside man sends her the data from the scan and she puts it pretty succinctly when she says, “Eros changes everything. Just like a soldier on Ganymede without a suit.”
It’s a testament to the writing, vision and acting on this show that something like the PMC can successfully run its tentacles through so many episodes without getting stale. There’s enough about it to tantalize us after Miller and Julie Mao rode Eros into Venus, but it’s not overdone or cumbersome. There are other storylines going on, but they all kind of weave themselves in and out of the PMC storyline in some way or another. It’s well done sci-fi and it’s continually interesting, episode to episode. And I think that’s why people keep coming back to The Expanse.
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