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Exploring the Expanse: tensions mount as the season finale looms

The Expanse is a television show based on the novels by James S.A. Corey. Every week, I’ll be taking a look at one moment in each episode of the show’s second season, and chatting with the creators about how it was created and what it means for the larger story.

Spoilers ahead for the ninth, 10th, and 11th episodes of season 2.

Due to some scheduling issues and a vacation, we’ve missed the last couple of episodes of The Expanse: it’s time to get caught up. When we last looked at the season’s eighth episode, “Pyre,” we met Dr. Praxidike (Prax) Meng, a biologist who was on Ganymede Station, and he’s now traveling with the crew of the Rocinante to try and find his missing daughter. In the following episodes, “The Weeping Somnambulist,” “Cascade,” and “Here there be Dragons,” the action shifts to Ganymede and the fallout from the massive attack that damaged the station.

In retrospect, the show made a huge mistake earlier in the season by only showing a few glimpses of this attack. It’s a major interplanetary incident, something that’s driven the last handful of episodes, and we barely saw any of it. There’s probably some reason for this: portraying a major battle is enormously expensive, and there’s certainly some dramatic value in only having seen the battle through Bobbie’s eyes. Still, we’re missing out on a spectacular moment, and given how pivotal it has been in driving this arc, it feels like something’s missing.

There’s a bunch of things going on following that incident. Our favorite Martian Marine, Bobbie Draper, heads off to Earth to testify before a committee, attesting that the Marines were at fault. She’s essentially ordered to throw herself on the sword to protect the interests of the planet. However, she’s disturbed when the Martian brass order her to relay a false narrative to get the entire thing swept under the rug, something that Avasalara picks up on. By the end of the three episodes, Bobbie realizes that her life as a Marine had been predicated on a belief that was a lie, and she escapes from the Martian embassy and requests asylum. This is huge, because of the theme of ingrained tribalism that The Expanse has been exploring: she’s trained her whole life to hate Earth and its citizens, and in one moment that’s all overturned for her.

In the next episode, “Cascade,” the crew of the Rocinante put together a harebrained plan to get onto Ganymede, which has been on high alert since the attack. They’re looking to track down Prax’s daughter, and figure out what’s going on down on the Moon. The crew hitches a ride on a supply ship to get into the station, while Alex is planning to hold back with the Roci and pick them up when it’s time.

Image: Syfy Channel

Alex’s time alone on the Roci is enlightening, because he’s a character we haven’t had a chance to really meet yet. These quiet moments show Alex while he’s not playing off the rest of the crew, and reveal how deeply he cares for the ship that he pilots. Cas Anvar, who portrays Alex in the show, told The Verge in a phone interview that “when the gang goes off on an away mission, he’s back there holding the fort. So he’s restless, anxious. He wants to contribute, but he has a very core job, which is to be the cavalry.”

One scene in particular is telling: while Alex is waiting, he fools around in zero-g, squirting beer out of a can and flying across the ship to catch it. “When he’s alone, he kind of cuts loose a little bit,” Anvar explained. “His personality comes out a bit more. He loves having that quiet and alone time on the ship.”

It’s an important detail, Anvar says, because the Roci essentially gives Alex his identity. Earlier in the show, we learned that he was a member of the Martian Navy, but that he’d only been allowed to fly transports, and he lacked direction in his life. The Roci is a bit of a dream come true for him, and being part of its crew gives him a purpose in life.

At the end of that episode, Alex gets word that the Martians have locked down the station, and he goes in to pick them up.

In this week’s episode, “Here, There Be Dragons,” Captain James Holden and the rest of the Rocinante’s crew try to find Prax’s missing daughter. This is where a bunch of storylines start to come together. The doctor who’s apparently responsible for the kidnapping was connected to Protogen (which was responsible for the protomolecule), while Bobbie learns about the nature of the attack on Ganymede. Meanwhile, across the system, a UN survey team is looking at the remains of Eros on Venus, trying to make sense of some strange readings that they’ve picked up on the crash site. All of these storylines are connected by way of Protogen’s scientific and weapons research, as well as the protomolecule, which might not have been as destroyed as they initially thought.

This doesn’t come a moment too soon, as the season is quickly coming to an end with just two more episodes remaining. Things might have gotten off to a slow start, but with the various stories picking up, we’re in good shape for the finale — and then another long wait for season 3.


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