The Expanse: Retrograde

"Mars is no longer the Mars we used to fight."

Naomi tries to save Lucia from Murtry's wrath, Drummer and Ashford nab a pirate, and a disillusioned Bobbie makes a major career change.

ILUS

We pick up exactly where the last episode left off. Murtry has decided that the shuttle bombing gives him the justification to become Judge Dredd and execute whoever he wants. Him and his goons have finished off slaughtering the Belters who were planning to retaliate against him and now he's after Lucia, even though she's no obvious threat to him, but I suspect Murtry's watched too much Breaking Bad and doesn't believe in half measures.

Unfortunately for Murtry, his hunt for Lucia had the unintended consequence of finally forcing the Roci crew to pick a side in this conflict. From the moment they landed on Ilus, the crew has tried their best to remain neutral. They were sent there to investigate protomolecule tech, not get involved in a land dispute between the Belters and RCE. In fact, they were expressly told by the Secretary General to stay out of it. But telling this lot not to get involved is like telling a fish not to swim. It just isn't in their nature. Whether it is by fixing a generator or using their ship's advanced Martian weaponry to ward off would-be murderers (why am I not surprised Naomi has an app for that), the moment they see someone in distress they are compelled to offer a helping hand.

This all fits in with the western motif this season is going for. Westerns often centre around protagonist reluctantly drawn into some local conflict. If we were to slot the protagonists and antagonists of this season into familiar western archetypes, then Holden would be your classic white hat, a dedicated lawman, fresh from the big city, there to bring peace and justice to this wild new frontier: basically Henry Fonda in My Darling Clementine. Murtry, on the other hand, is your classic black hat, a remorseless killer in the employ of some greed cattle/railroad baron: basically Henry Fonda in Once Upon a Time in the West.

Now, there are usually only two ways a good Fonda can deal with an evil Fonda. You can either throw them in jail, but only after their entire gang is dead so there's no risk of anyone breaking them out, or you can just kill them, but only in a strictly honourable way where they at least have the chance to reach for their gun. Peaceful negotiation is, in the word of Vizzini, inconceivable. No one ever talks things out in Westerns.

Locking Murtry up isn't really an option anymore because the only place they could've put him without any chance of him being killed or freed just blasted into orbit. That leaves them with option number two and it honestly looked as if we were going to get that in the final scene. All the usual ingredients were there for a classic Western duel: two enemies, both armed, silently facing off against each other, alone in a barren landscape.


But it is far too soon for a showdown between the goodie and the baddie. This is only episode four, after all. We can't have the hero killing the bad guy now. That just wouldn't be good drama. So this showdown ended with a punch to the face instead of a bullet to the chest. In spite of everything he's done, Holden won't just straight up kill Murtry because, unlike Amos, he isn't that guy. Murtry, though, is that guy. He would straight up kill Holden. The only reason he hasn't yet is because it could cost his company their precious charter. But I have a strong feeling he is currently plotting for some unfortunate accident to befall the poor James.

THE BELT

Of all the side stories this season, this is the one I'm finding the most interesting. A lot of this has to do with the fact it features Drummer and Ashford, who have quickly become one of my favourite pairings. Cara Gee and David Strathairn are just so good together I honestly think I would love this storyline if it was just them sitting in her office going over maintenance reports every week. I think this is why I'm struggling with the Avasarala and Bobbie storylines. Neither of them currently has a really compelling screen partner to play off.

Drummer and Ashford have teamed up with a few other Belter factions to grab Marco Inaros and execute him for breaking the peace with the Inners by hijacking the Sojourner and spacing its crew. Keon Alexander makes an impressive first impression as Marco. I can see why someone like Naomi would've been drawn to him, he has that alluring revolutionary charm. And Ashford's right, he clearly has the gift of the gab. He talks with passion and conviction, and his words are persuasive, enough to sway even those that hate his guts.

I expected Marco to worm his way out of his execution, but did not expect Drummer to vote in his favour. Ashford wasn't the only one left gobsmacked by that. She didn't want risk shattering the fragile peace that holds the OPA together. She knows better than anyone how quickly the various Belter factions can turn on each other. But I suspect her actions will ultimately prove to be in vain. A Belter schism feels inevitable at this point. There are just too many Belters who think like he does and would rather break bones with the Inners than bread. Letting him live just enables him to rally more supporters to his cause.


MARS

For decades, the Martian people have been driven by two clear goals: turn the planet into a garden and prepare for war with Earth. Over time the second goal began to take priority over the first, but now the war with Earth has come and gone and Mars has suddenly found itself with a massive military force it no longer has any use for. They're in a similar situation to Russia following the Cold War and the collapse of the Soviet Union.

With all this high quality military tech just lying there unused, a vile new sickness has begun to spread throughout the Martian population: capitalism. Before, all Martians worked together as one for the good of the state. But now the state has let them down, left many of them unemployed, so why not make some quick cash by selling black market military gear? It's either that or go back and stand in line at the pit of eternal human suffering... also known as the unemployment office.

I know which one I would choose.

Bobbie, though, she's a good Martian. She was raised to believe her first duty is to Mars and no matter how much Mars has fucked her over in the past (like using her entire squad(-s) as sacrificial lambs to test a new weapon) she's still loyal to Mars. So she once again tries to do the right thing, to expose these criminals to the authorities. But the authorities don't want to know. Worse still, the boss actually wants in on the action. No matter where she looks, the capitalist disease has taken hold. She tries to resist herself, but in the end she gives in. If Mars isn't going to do anything for her, why the fuck should she do anything for Mars?

Plus, it really does beat being stuck on the dole.


Notes and Quotes

--I'm so relieved that Holden finding out that Naomi was keeping another big secret from him didn't lead to any kind of falling out between them. The bond between the crew is just so strong now I don't know if anything could really break it.

--Gotta love that Amos' plan for distracting Murtry and his goons was to just charge in and start fighting them.

--Keon Alexander is an old friend of Cara Gee and was out with her and Dominique Tipper on the night when they got the call that the show was cancelled.

--Whatever's happening on the islands can't be anything good.

Wei: "You don't look like a guy who takes a beating well."
Amos: "Who does?"

Marco: "My people will not let this go unanswered. You kill me, they will retaliate. On Ceres, on Tycho. Maybe even your precious Medina Station will burn."
Drummer: "You'd enjoy that chaos, kena?"
Marco: "It would be a sight to see. But by then the three of us would just be dust and the regrets of others."

Marco: “Klaes Ashford. The Ghost-Knife of Callisto. The Left Hand of Anderson Dawes. And now delivery boy welwala. Makes me sad.”
Ashford: "Ah shut your mouth, or I will shut it for you."

Black Sky Leader: "Been looking forward to this since you stole those guns from us on Iapetus."
Marco: "Well, given the incompetence of your guards it was hardly stealing."

Holden: "I don't care where we live, as long as we're together."
Naomi: "But you're leaving?"
Holden: "But I'm coming back."

Three out of four Henry Fondas.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

2 comments:

Kayne said...

"I honestly think I would love this storyline if it was just them sitting in her office going over maintenance reports every week."

So true. I haven't read the books so I don't know what's coming next, but I do hope we get (much) more of the OPA storylines in the next seasons.

Billie Doux said...

Murtry is just too one-dimensional, I agree. And I also love Drummer and Ashford. And wish Bobbie and Avasarala were together again. I keep feeling that the characters I like are all too far apart. If they can't all be on the Rocinante, they could at least be on the same planet.