Oh man, there’s a lot to unpack in these two episodes and the board for the season was set early. Now, the players are starting to move and it’s always so very interesting to see what motivates some of these people, as well as the situations that push their respective buttons. One thing is clear, the move to Amazon not only upped the maturity level of the show a bit, but also raised the level of production values as well.
The Expanse is not only a gritty, taut, interesting sci-fi drama, but it looks good doing it. And I don’t think that’s something that should be shrugged off. The visuals are outstanding, even the barren, sandy hunk of rock the Belters and Company employees are jousting for control over. It’s ugly, but also has this wonderful depth to it. Well done, Amazon. You kept the edge and vibe of The Expanse while adding nicely to it. Much appreciated. The acting and writing? Spot on as usual. Love it.
So, be forewarned that from this point on there are SPOILERS ahead. If that doesn’t bother you, feel free to traipse onward. We are going to talk about episodes 403-404 of The Expanse. And let me just say that a Murtry-Amos throw-down cannot come soon enough for me. Two killers who know what it means to be a killer – it’s good, juicy stuff that just feeds my anticipation. Pitter patter, let’s get at’er boys.
There’s a great scene right out of the box of Murtry stepping out of his hut surveying the camp in the morning after the killing. All is quiet and no one is around…until he spies Amos looking right at him. Just staring a hole through Murtry from a distance and I think it unnerves our security chief a little. Amos has a wonderfully direct, almost child-like way of going about things. The lightning bolts that were set off in episode 2 reach the camp and short the electrical wiring, which is old and outdated, of the Belters. Murtry tells his people not to lift a finger to help the Belters.
It’s interesting to me that throughout this thing, Murtry is always looking for subtle ways to try and inch the Belters off their land. Just subtle, little ways of turning situations to his advantage. Anyway, Amos is trying to fix the old Belter equipment when he simply decides he’s going to to over the Murtry’s side and take what he needs – they’re not using it. It’s so very straight-forward and a little naive, but that’s how he thinks. I need it, they aren’t using it, it would help these people, so I’m gonna go grab it.
Wes Chatham does a remarkable job with Amos. I love how straight line and innocently black and white this character can be at times. Chatham does a superb job of giving us a character that can be menacing and deadly at the drop of a switch, but is also kind and generous and matter-of-fact. Amos knows who he is at all times and that’s a fun character to watch. And with that attitude, he strolls over to Murtry’s camp, takes what he wants, drops a couple of security guards who protest, and is ushered away by Chandra Wei (Jess Salguiero, I never tire of you) before things get ugly. It’s great, it’s direct and it’s wonderfully, dangerously innocent. So utterly Amos on all levels.
We get more that later when Murtry and Amos meet at the “bar” in the encampment. Murtry is probably used to being the most alpha of the males he normally is around, so Amos is likely an anomaly for him – a person who sees behind the curtain and has no fear of what’s there. Murtry tells Amos he suspects the two of them are going to end up bloody in the future. As always, Amos takes the most direct line and asks why not right now, he’s free.
Again, it’s an unnerving answer and one that I don’t think Murtry saw coming. Amos lets Murtry know that he knows exactly what he is and how anxious he knows Murtry is to kill again. Now Murtry knows it’s killer talking to killer and there will be no intimidating Amos, who I suspect dislikes Murtry and what he represents very much. Why? Because it’s likely a lot of what Amos used to be in younger, wilder days.
It’s just a great little moment with the talents of Chatham and Burn Gorman (Murtry) on full display. It’s also one of those moments that are so frequent and so powerful on The Expanse. Those are the scene gems that remind us of just how important and valuable The Expanse is in the pantheon of sci-fi adventure (with wonderful drama thrown into the fray). So good on many levels.
There’s so much going on in this episode. Bobbie is drug into more David action as he’s taken and she’s forced to help a group that is working the black market hard. All that Martian military hardware is being taken down and stored – then stolen and sold. It’s clear that Mars is undergoing a change and it’s not necessarily a good one. Unfortunately, David’s stupid decision ensnares Bobbie and when she tries to go to the authorities, she finds that the mastermind behind the black market crew is a police detective.
I’m really starting to feel badly for Bobbie. So much has been taken from her and now back on Mars, she’s finding that it’s a changing place with many people looking to get a piece of the black market pie. You can see it is taking a toll on her emotionally. But, as episode 403 ends, she’s kind of in a tough place. David’s safety is in her hands and the police will be no help. Will she go through with it?
Naomi continues to feel the effects of the gravity medication not working right, Alex and Holden are trying to figure out how to turn off the protomolecule reaction that Miller had Holden start, Dr. Elvi Okoye is being very inquisitive about what Holden knows about what’s going on, and back on earth Chrisjen Avasarala will be challenged for the top job by Nancy Gao, who is pro-exploration of the realms beyond The Ring. Chrisjen is none too happy about Gao’s challenge, so that should be interesting to see.
She sees the dangers of unkown space, while Gao only sees opportunity. I don’t think she’s motivated by greed and avarice as much as the golden ring of opportunity. People need it and she sees The Ring as the fix for that. I think a little healthier respect for what might be out there is a good thing. Gao apparently doesn’t have it.
One of the interesting tidbits we discover is that Murtry has a listening device in his quarters and hears some of the Belters plotting some revenge killing action. He knows what they are planning and who they are, and they don’t know he knows. You kind of know where this is headed given Murtry is exactly the kind of man that Amos told him he was. There will be more blood spilled, that you can count on.
The Belters plotting the death of Murtry don’t get very far. A gas grenade into their quarters, they are killed as they exit the building by the security forces, with Murtry administering the ‘cu de grace’ to the plot planner himself. As Amos said, Murtry couldn’t wait. And with this, he essentially instigates marshal law in the camp and sets out to arrest the last conspirator, the camp’s resident medic, Lucia Mazur, who is with Naomi (she had a gravity episode) when all hell breaks loose. Naomi secrets Lucia out of the camp with the help of a diversion from Amos, and heads for the Roci.
While that’s going on, Holden, Alex and Dr. Okoye discover a protomolecule device that is a massive digging machine. It’s funny to see the interjection of Okoye into the equation. As a scientist, she’s fascinated by what she is seeing and her first instinct is to study it, learn from it, embrace it. Alex and Holden have very different experience with this tech, one that leads them to a completely different conclusion about it.
They need to destroy it and do so with a missile from the Roci. It’s a great example that one’s life experiences, or the absence of them, lead people to look at the same thing and come to completely different conclusions about what should be done. Fortunately, the digger is rendered dormant by the missile and that emergency is rendered mute. What’s fun is both Alex and Holden have this air about them of “what’s next” with regards to the planet and protomolecule. It’s a fun bit of tension between the two, one filled with a level of expected disaster. I like it.
On Mars, Bobbie goes along with the plot to help the black marketers. But the disasters just keep flowing for her. After all she does, including saving David’s bacon again, she winds up being double-crossed by a co-worker and ends up in jail. It’s here that the reality of what Mars has become really hits her hard. She makes a call to the police detective and says she’s in. She’ll play the game that seems to be all the rage on Mars now. That should be interesting to see.
We’ve watched the slow chipping away of Bobbie’s honor and integrity since she’s been home, something that saddens me to pieces. But this felt inevitable. She should have taken the job Chrisjen offered her. After all, when someone calls you “glorious,” you need to pay attention, right?
Chrisjen sets about playing politics for the upcoming election, leaking some tasty info on Nancy Gao. What fun. And our Belter friends Drummer and Ashford are hosting a guest. A bounty hunter has run down Marco and he will now be judged by the other factions for his attack on the Soujourner. You know, it’s always so interesting when Drummer and Ashford get involved. As I said, they are smart, intuitive and resourceful folks who often do the unexpected, but for the right reasons.
In this episode we see it again. Marco pleads his case to Drummer, Ashford and representatives of three other faction, calling down all sorts of nationalistic and patriotic Belter ideology. He tries to tug at their heart strings, purse strings, and Belter pride as he explains why he did it and how likely it is the “inners” will betray the treaty. With a host of opportunity just past The Ring, the time is now for the Belt, he emplores his fellow Belters. Ashford votes for death, as does another one of the faction leaders. Two others, swayed by his words, agree to his financial proposal, leaving the deciding vote to Drummer. In a shocker, she agrees that it will be life.
The discussion between her and Ashford after is very interesting. She saw the potential for civil war amongst the Belter factions if Marco was killed, while Ashford sees this as a lost opportunity, one they may not get again. It’s an interesting discussion and one that has the ring of truth on both sides. We are not done with Marco, though. And mark what he said earlier when they were interrogating him – he hinted that the Belter’s weapons struggles weren’t necessarily true anymore and that Mars was not the Mars of old. Could that black market be running straight to Marco and other Belters with similar feelings? Seems somewhat more likely now, doesn’t it?
Episode 404 comes to a conclusion with Alex and Holden finding Naomi and a now-wounded Lucia, getting them to the Roci and flying them into orbit. Holden stays behind and heads toward the settlement, a settlement where Amos is now under lock and guard. Along the way, on a desolate patch of sand and gravel, he comes face to face with Murtry. A few words, a quick walk forward and Holden knocks Murtry on his butt with a punch, takes his gun and informs him “you’re not in charge anymore.”
Unfortunately, Murtry doesn’t strike me as a guy who would let a punch and a few words dissuade him from his mindset and his job. He’s there to get rid of the Belters and claim this new world for the company that employs him. Holden’s moment of triumph will not stop this guy. Killers like he and Amos don’t stop when a commission has been given them. Things are likely to get hotter a we move ahead.
Four episode into The Expanse’s fourth season and the tensions continue to rise from Earth to New Terra. There are a lot of plans, plots and games in place and you get the feeling that happiness is really in short supply. It should be interesting to see how things sort themselves out as we move along. But there’s no refuting the fact that I think Amazon Prime has, through four episodes, done the series and its fans a good turn. There are times I wish there were happier moments, but that’s muted by the wonderfully taut storytelling that’s going on. Things are dark and gritty on The Expanse and the humor that does peek through is subtle and well-timed. I appreciate it all.
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