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The Expanse: Saeculum

"This planet is already a corpse. Let's go kill its ghost."

'Saeculum' brings the crisis on Ilus to a conclusion, although that really does depend on how the cliffhanger is resolved. If the good guy's plan worked then everyone is saved. If it didn't then... well, I guess they'll have to cross that bridge before it collapses under them.

As with much of season four, I really enjoyed this episode even if I didn't exactly think it was The Expanse at its absolute best. Of course, this show is now at such a level that even when it is just rather good instead of really great, it is still head and shoulders above all the other sci-fi dramas out there.

Miller is back. And proper Miller this time, not the protomolecule's cover version of him. After being shut down and rebooted so many times he finally figured out a way to cut the strings and ditch the hat. He's free to be himself again and he has a plan to save everyone on Ilus and bring an end to his own tortured post-life existence. During all his digging around for clues he found something, a leftover from the war between the Ring Makers and the beings that destroyed them. Something that can kill protomolecule tech.

To get to it he takes Holden deeper into the planet and passes all the gigantic machinery the Ring Makers left behind, which gave me serious Forbidden Planet vibes. I wonder if the Ring Makers suffered the same fate as the Krell? Were they destroyed, not by some malevolent external force, but by monsters (from the Id) of their own creation? These are probably questions for another season, although I do hope the show never gives us too many answers. Ancient, god-like aliens work best when we know as little about them as possible; this is why the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey works and the ending of Interstellar does not.

Whoever or whatever these two great races were, they sure did leave behind a lot of cool toys for all the kids to play with. The device Miller found, the "Eye of an angry god" as Holden described it, is some kind of protomolecule EMP. In order to use it to kill the planet's defenses, Miller needs to link to all protomolecule tech on the planet then physically connect to Eye. To do that he had to download his consciousness into a robot body, which I just bloody loved. Millerbot was the highlight of this episode. I really wish we could've kept Millerbot, he would've been a fun addition to the Roci crew, but I know it was just not meant to be.

Thanks to that cliffhanger we won't know for sure if Miller's plan worked until the next episode, but if it did I can't see any possible way he could come back from this, outside of flashbacks or dream sequences. If it did work, and this really is the final end for Joe Miller, then it really wasn't a bad way to go. It might've lacked the emotional punch of 'Home', but it was a decent send off that allowed him to once again go out as a hero, saving everyone's butts while ensuring that he, Julie and all the thousands of souls from Eros finally get to rest in peace.

Of course, it wouldn't be The Expanse if there wasn't some human element for our heroes to contend with along with all this crazy alien shit. Unfortunately, that human element is Murtry. He's been one of the weakest parts of this season, a disappointingly one-dimensional villain with simplistic motivations, who isn't really that effective as a threat. Apart from killing some minor characters early on, he's done little but sneer and scheme all season. He finally made his move against Holden and his people and the results were a little underwhelming. His attack on the Roci was easily dealt with, and while it did look like it might cost them Lucia and the Barb, Naomi and Alex's quick thinking saved the day. Even his showdown with Holden, where they finally had that Western quick draw they've been teasing, was an overly talky disappointment.

The only really damaging thing Murtry did in this episode was put Amos into a situation where he had to kill Wei. The moment she made it clear that she wouldn't turn against Murtry and was going to stop him from going after Holden, Amos knew he would have to kill her. And he didn't hesitate, didn't even wait for her to draw first, he just shot her dead, which was an obvious shock for Wei. She clearly didn't think Amos would do that. She knew he liked her and probably thought that might be enough to at least hold him off. But that's not Amos. His loyalty will always be to his crew and he will go through anyone, even someone he likes, to protect them.

Notes and Quotes

--A saeculum is a term that was first used by the Etruscans. It originally meant the period of time from the moment that something happened (such as the founding of a city) until the point in time that all the people who had lived at the first moment had died, at which point a new saeculum would begin. Since protomolecule technology is alive in a sense, if Miller was successful in killing all of it on the planet, it would signify the end of a saeculum on Ilus.

--It is typical of Holden that he really thinks he will get justice by taking Murtry back to Earth to stand trial.

--Once again I have to commend how amazing all the FXs have looked this season.

--Assuming she survives falling into the eye, I'm guessing Okoye is going to end up with some link to the race that made it. I said a few reviews back that Okoye's envy of Holden's connection to the protomolecule would probably come back to bite her in the arse.

--Since the first shuttle was destroyed and the other one rigged to be a bomb, how was Murtry planning to get off the planet?

--Miller told Holden about the piece of protomolecule still on the Roci.

--We got a good look at the contacts list on Amos' terminal: Cap’n (Holden), Boss (Naomi, obviously), Alex (duh), Tonight (I'm guessing Wei), Peaches (Clarissa), Doc (Okoye?), and My Best Friend (Prax).

Holden: "You came here to die?"
Miller: If you can call this living, pal."

Amos: "Just because someone is good to you it doesn't mean you can trust 'em."

Holden: "I met another guy once who liked using past genocides to justify his bullshit."
Murtry: "You weren't persuaded?"
Holden: "A friend of mine shot him in the face."

Dr. Okoye: "You are really detective Miller from Ceres?"
Miller: "Well, if I'm not, I'm acing my Turing test."

Holden: "That's it? No explanation? No cop stories or tortured metaphors?"
Miller: "Hey, I got you this far, kid. Rest is up to you."

Holden: "If I slip off how long will I fall?"
Miller: "Mm... rest of your life."

Three out of four Millerbots.

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


  1. For an episode that was probably intended to be climactic, it fell a little flat for me, because I was never really invested in Murtry (whom you've rightly noted is a boring one-dimensional villain) or in Wei. Ordinarily, having a main character forced to kill someone he's been in a sexual relationship with to save his friends would be pretty dramatic stuff. But this is Amos and I never thought he would hesitate, let alone let her off, because his attachment to her was never as strong as with Anna or Prax, let alone Holden. Wei's appeal to him made it clear she hardly knew him at all. Amos may share a willingness to use violence without hesitation with Murtry, but he's no mercenary. He's not with the Roci to make money and retire, and Wei taking that tack just showed how little there really was between them.

    And the standoff with Murtry spouting his blather didn't do much for me either. Holden might have pointed out that A) he's spent more time on wilder frontiers than Murtry and B) Murtry's power depends upon civilized rules (like military chain-of-command) and a far-off corporation that has provided him with better equipment than his adversaries, not any personal superiority.

  2. Ancient, god-like aliens work best when we know as little about them as possible; this is why the ending of 2001: A Space Odyssey works and the ending of Interstellar does not. Well said.

    The Millerbot made this episode for me. What a wonderful way to conclude Miller's story (I assume).

    I found it so frustrating that Holden decided to take Murtry back for trial. Really? Although it was an interesting way to contrast Holden with Amos, who just killed his new love interest without a moment of hesitation.


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