The Expanse: A ‘Wave’ Of Uncertainty Is In The Air – Review, Ep. 405-406

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There’s something fairly beautiful in the chaos of plans not going to plan. Fortunately, The Expanse is one of those shows that continually delivers that kind of beauty – episode by episode. It’s one of the things that marks The Expanse, in my mind, as the taut sci-fi drama/thriller that it is. I don’t get annoyed that so many of the best-laid plans continually get flushed, I see it as a chance to deliver inventive and fun storytelling, the kind that propels me forward in my enjoyment of the show. The Expanse, over episodes 405-406, does it marvelously.

And I continue to enjoy the many dynamics that the diverse personalities of this show develops. Man, there are some very, very interesting people at play in this thing and seeing them play out their roles on the screen is a delight. So, I’m going to offer a few thoughts on Episodes 405-406 of The Expanse right here.

However, if you haven’t seen it yet, or are doing a slow and easy roll through this fourth season, it is incumbent upon me to let you know that SPOILERS are to follow. So, if you’d like to avoid SPOILERS, then don’t take the next step (with your eyes). If you’re okay with it, then join me as we talk The Expanse.

Episode 405

I have to agree with Holden here, the smoothness and fluidity with which Murtry is able to paint every situation as him just being a nice guy that’s been pushed into doing some bad things is marvelous. And while this episode gives me a few minutes pause to think that, at the end, he may have a point, his continued oil-salesman demeanor and constant attempts at manipulation make me chuckle. He’s always plotting, always planning, always moving the shell game to another corner. Marvelous.

At one point, with Holden getting Amos out of his restraints, Murtry rattles off some things that have happened in the Belter camp and comically asks, “You people act like I’m the bad guy here. I came on a peaceful mission, these squatters drew first blood.”

Shohreh Agadashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala in The Expanse from Amazon Studios.

I almost spit out my mouthful of Cheerios. It’s so wonderfully backdoor and manipulative. So I’ll answer the question, Murtry. Yes, you are the bad guy here. You have schemed, pushed, bullied, killed and re-schemed during your time on the planet. You are, indeed, the bad guy! So, now that that’s answered, let’s move on…ya creep.

This episode is a great example of the blindness of desperation and ambition. Holden eventually, at the prodding of Dr. Okoye, decides to come clean about what he knows about the protomolecule and his visits from Miller. He and Naomi feel that some honesty about what they are really facing on that planet will help. It doesn’t. Both sides are dug in and there’s a lot of yelling and fingerpointing and snide comments involved, but little unabashed listening.

To top it off, some of the Belters have taken two security guys hostage, so the fear is Murtry is gonna get his giggles by gassing and killing some Belters. Holden is desperate to avoid that kind of fatal outcome, but it’s clear the Belters are desperate to stay and Murtry’s UN charter makes him desperate to get them off and his people on the land. It’s interesting that Holden tries to find middle ground of a fight that apparently has none.

Well, not completely. Things take an interesting turn when one of the islands on the planet not only heats up, but explodes. That could be the key to getting these folks to work together. But for now, the battle lines are clearly drawn and the hostage situation seems to be that last little bit of kindling to make the fire really get roaring. Holden notes that Murtry seems to be enjoying it and Murtry, for his part, admits that the situation has some clarity and that’s something he is enjoying.

Wei and Amos continue their interesting relationship, even while he’s restrained. Again,  he’s very pointed in his comments and she finds that fascinating, it seems. At one point she cups his bearded chin in her hands and utters the words all men long to hear, “You’re so weird.” There’s a fun honesty to this relationship, but also an unspoken realization that they may have to choose sides in a real shooting situation. You can tell it makes them uneasy and weighs a bit on their minds. We shall see where this one goes. Again, love the chemistry between Wes Chatham and Jesse Salgueiro. It’s cute, it’s intense, and it’s a bit nervy.

Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal on The Expanse from Amazon Studios.

Back on earth, U.N. Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala is prepping for a debate with Nancy Gao. They are working on her interview skills and she’s just frustrated with it. I will say this, I’m a little disappointed in the way Chrisjen treats her staff at times. She’s very condescending and can be out and out rude. I mean, she’s under a tremendous amount of pressure with an election she has to try and win, Holden not communicating, and other issues. I feel her husband, nice soul that he is, is fighting a losing battle at trying to make her seem more approachable. She isn’t. And she knows it. So this little battle for control of who she is, or who she is seen to be, is interesting.

But don’t be such a tyrannical leader, Chrisjen. Your staff is trying to help. Show some appreciation. Telling them to “get the f… out of here” regularly doesn’t do much for me. Just makes you look like you’re grumpy and incapable of taking help.

The debate with Gao kind of goes back and forth, with both women scoring some impressive point. I liked it. I liked that both had points to make that were good points. I agree with Chrisjen about not rushing into the new realms of the Ring willy-nilly and what’s happening on Ilus demonstrates what she fears most. There’s reason to be cautious there, but Gao sees the opportunity that these new systems represent for new settlements and prosperity. I see that dream, too. It’s interesting.

The debate is broken up for a security alert. The shadow of Marco Inaros rises as he’s outfitted a ship with the engine of the Sojourner and aimed it at a asteroid warning satellite. It’s bad timing as Chrisjen, sensing the danger, orders it destroyed. It’s bad timing, but a reminder that Marco isn’t going to let things go. He’s out there and he seems intent on continuing his private war on “the inners.”

On top of all that, a Belter family has its own turmoil. Jacob and Lucia (who is now on the Rocinante recovering from Murtry’s bullet) engage in a video fight as he calls his wife out about the sabotage effort that started all the bad blood. On top of all that, their daughter Felcia is missing and that’s got them both struggling. I didn’t think for a minute that Felcia had come to harm, or that Murtry had snagged her.

She wanted off that rock, so I figured she’d stowed away and, as we see later, she did. But her parents don’t know that and the aftermath of what Lucia took part in has them in a bad place. So bad, in fact, that Lucia turns off her medical device and, in zero gravity, tries to kill herself in anguish over her missing daughter and what she has been a part of. It’s a haunting moment and one that has such an interesting trail back to the beginning. Actions have consequences, sometimes unintended ones. And sometimes that impacts family. A somber moment.

I thought episode 405 was another in a string of good episodes. I did note that Dr. Okoye spotted some green gunk in the eyes of a security guard. I marked that at the time and it was proven correct. The green gunk and itchy eyes will prove to be an issue before we’re all done. Mark my words.

Cara Gee as Camina Drummer on The Expanse from Amazon Studios.

EPISODE 406

So, island explodes, shockwave coming and a tsunami will follow. Seems reasonable to assume that once the Belters and Murtry have this information of imminent destruction, they’ll behave reasonably and make good decision, right? Nope. Murtry will continue to plot and plan while the Belters ask for assurances that Holden will back their claim to the planet. In the end, a deal is struck and the plan is to evacuate.

Only problem is, that plan will not work. Why? Because the protomolecule decides to knockout all of the ship reactors in the area. “So the physics of fusion have just stopped working,” Naomi asks rhetorically. So that leads to plan B, where the smaller shuttles will come down and take people in shifts. As you’d expect, Murtry tries to work this to his advantage, but that plan then goes awry when the shuttle burns up upon entering the planet’s atmosphere. So that leads to Plan C, which is little more than hunkering down and try to ride it out, which leads Amos to note that “Plan C sounds like everybody dies.” Yup, Amos, that’s what it sounds like.

And with that, Holden comes up with Plan D – go to the protomolecule ruins, get inside, seal the opening, and ride it out. And that’s the plan they go with. So, with that in mind, everyone puts their efforts toward saving as much as they can and getting out to the ruins. Again, Murtry takes this opportunity to ask if Wei can be counted on. Why? Because in his estimation, the food will start running out before help arrives and if it comes down to the Belters and his team, it’s going to be his team. “Holden and your new boyfriend may have a problem with that harsh reality. Is it a problem for you?” he asks Wei. She tells him she’ll do what needs to be done, but I sense a bit of softening of that hard veneer.

But that’s where everyone is going to ride this thing out – in the belly of a protomolecule ruin. Nice and tight, with guns and Murtry and all kinds of animosity. What could go wrong? Should be just like camping with good friends. I can’t wait.

Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper on The Expanse from Amazon Studios.

Meanwhile, Klaes Ashford and Camina Drummer are visited by some unfriendly U.N. folks from the Tripoli, who make veiled comments about The Belter’s ability to do their job on Medina Station. I have to admit, I admire Ashford and Drummer for their cool demeanor while the meeting is going on. They see what could be happening and know that the only way to maintain their status on the station is to make things happen. Marco needs to be caught and killed – preferably in reverse order.

There’s an interesting scene in this episode of Ashford watching a video of he and a baby aboard ship. He is singing to the baby and gently lifts it into the zero G atmosphere of the ship where it drifts slowly. There’s sadness in his eyes and a wistful longing for better, less complicated times. It’s an interesting look behind the curtains of Klaes Ashford, a man who doesn’t give too much away. I liked it. Kind of softened him a bit, but also led me to believe that the child was a relation of his and is no longer alive (his son or daughter, perhaps?).

While Ashford and Drummer start to track down Marco, they also start to put the pieces of the Mars-OPA relationship together. Ashford notes that Marco had said something about Mars not being the Mars of old. So as the race to track and stop Marco begins, the specter of just what’s going on with Mars and some of the fringe OPA groups looms a little larger.

I was happy to see Bobbie Draper finding something useful to do – even if it’s illegal. She’s in the game now with her crooked cop and his small group of thieves. But, she proves valuable early on and then demonstrates just how valuable she can be overall a little later. Once again, a plan that seems to have all the pieces in place for a quick score finds the pieces have been moved or altered.

Traveling to Aterpol to steal some recently decommissioned tech, the cakewalk caper turns into something entirely different. Fortunately, Bobbie the ex-Martian Marine is used to adapting and overcoming and demonstrates those skills to her new crew. It was fun to see Bobbie spring into action again, even if it was for illegal purposes. At one point, she even gives a small, wry smile of satisfaction. It was good to see her doing something that’s on her skill level.

Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal on The Expanse from Amazon Studios.

But of course, in keeping with the theme of plans that go awry, even her successful recalibration of the original plan needed, dare I say it, recalibration. And it almost cost her life. Fortunately, her crew came to her rescue and saved her. I think it maybe a turning point for Bobbie’s relationship within this crew. You could see they were pretty impressed with her guts and guile, which I think may open those tightly closed doors. I did not like watching Bobbie Draper struggle in the muck and mire that seemed to be her new lot in life – particularly given how much she’d sacrificed for Mars, and that she’d held onto her honor in the midst of others being dishonorable.

So, there’s a part of me that’s kind of happy she’s found a new niche – and a new guy. I like a woman who admits freely that she just used him for pleasure. It’s confidence, self-assured and so very Bobbie Draper. Welcome back to the fray, Bobbie. But Bobbie is Bobbie and I suspect we haven’t seen the last of her honor on display.

And with that, the race to get into the protomolecule structure is on. Murtry looks around nervously with a gun, Amos and Holden try to get things rigged, and Dr. Okoye gets the itchy eye as well. A quick scan and — some sort of infection. let’s be honest, that can’t be good. In fact, I’m doubly sure it’s going to pose a problem later on.

And in the final installment of “change of plans,” everyone is inside the monolith as the waters come rolling in, and the mechanism for lifting the sealing door into place simply won’t work. That forces Holden out into the sand, pry bar in hand, just to get the damn door moving upwards. In the end, the water hits, the door is raised, Holden dives in and holds on and we’re left to wonder how all this is going to play out in the bowels of a protomolecule structure. I mean, there’s going to be trouble and I’m almost sure more deaths are coming.

So stay tuned and keep watching. Things in The Expanse are never exactly what they seem to be. And that’s a lot of fun.

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John Baker