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The Expanse: Churn

“I am Camina Drummer. You respect my claim or you die and become a story I tell the next captain.”

The season premiere only had one major flaw and that was the complete lack of Drummer. I know I shouldn't take it personally when one of my favourite characters isn't in every episode of one of my favourite shows, but I do a bit. So you can probably guess how happy I was that this episode wasted no time satisfying those of us in desperate need of a Drummer fix.

Okay, I could have probably phrased that a lot better.


Since quitting her job as head of Medina Station and Fred Johnson's right hand woman, Drummer has been making a name for herself as the pirate queen of the Belt. She's the good kind of pirate, though. She doesn't murder anyone, she just robs them blind. Well, technically the other pirates rob them blind, she just makes sure they don't murder anyone and pay her tribute for operating on her turf. She also has a crew that clearly love and support her and I want to see a lot more of that. Too bad this episode had other plans and left us on a cliffhanger of them discovering Ashford's ship.


It looks like Chrisjen is going to spend most of this season playing Chicken Little. She knows Marco Inaros is up to something and has credible leads worth investigating, but her superiors aren't interested. Being exiled to Luna hasn't hindered her ability to get things done, but it has seriously diminished her influence. Even when she wasn't Secretary General, Chrisjen was a woman of power and influence. Not many in the government liked her, many outright hated her (like a “dear friend” Admiral Souther), but they still listened to her. Now no one wants to talk to her unless it's about the crappy job Gao has her doing. Admiral Delgado is the only ally she has left and even he isn't willing to risk his career by publicly supporting her.
So why doesn't she just quit? That's certainly what her daughter wants her to do, give up service to a government that clearly no longer wants her and return to Earth to reconcile with Arjun Version 2. Sorry Ashanti, but that just isn't going to happen. As much as she loves her family, Chrisjen will always put her duty to Earth first. She can't walk away knowing Marco Inaros is out there planning an attack and she could do something to stop it. It may not be the job she's supposed to be doing, but she'll still do the best she can with the resources available to keep her planet safe. She is certainly closer than anyone else on the show to uncovering Marco's grand plan, but I fear time is not on her side. 


Holden is still trying to just relax and enjoy his down time, but Monica is still trying to pull him into her quest to unmask this latest protomolecule conspiracy. Which, let's face it, isn't really the most difficult thing in the world. I'm actually surprised it took more than one attempt before he caved in. Unfortunately for Monica, as is so often the case in these situations, the bad guys have gotten to her first. Fortunately for Monica, they've kept her alive, no doubt to find out exactly what she knows, how she knows it and who she's shared it with. Unfortunately for Monica, they've hidden her away in one of the hundreds of shipping containers at the centre of Tycho where there's no atmosphere. Fortunately for Monica, James Holden has zero impulse control and pushed the button that allowed them to find her. That's really all this was, one extended rescue sequence, which I didn't really find all that gripping, probably because I'm rather indifferent towards Monica and couldn't care less if she lives or dies.


The way people have spoken about Baltimore in the past I was expecting it to look a lot worse than it actually does. But that's probably the point. Cities don't need to look to like dystopian hellholes to be awful places to live. Even though most of it is underwater and there's some futuristic touches here and there (like all those giant holographic billboards), Baltimore still looked and felt like Baltimore. At least, it looked and felt like the idea of Baltimore I have in my head from years of watching The Wire. Just to make this whole experience feel extra Wireish, they brought in Frankie Faison to play Charles and had Amos get in touch with Erich by attacking one of his corner boys.
The Expanse's Baltimore is a broken town (literally and figuratively) that produces broken people who expect nothing but the worst from it. Timothy Amos came home thinking Lydia had been murdered and was fully prepared to unleash bloody vengeance. He wasn't expecting he'd have to comfort a grieving husband and help him keep his house. Even Erich, his best friend who loved and missed him, thought he'd come back to kill him and steal his crown. He just couldn't conceive that there were good people in Baltimore looking to do kind things or that Amos of all people would be one of them. 

While this episode gave us a lot of insight into Amos' past, I'm glad that it didn't become a full-blown flashback episode. His backstory is so horrible and traumatic I honestly don't want to see it played out on screen. So I'm relieved that we only got the one flashback which showed why Lydia was so important to him. She wasn't just someone who looked after him, she was probably the first person who understood just how damaged he was. She knew he would need someone good in his life, someone righteous, to guide him. She knew that wasn't her, and that he'd unlikely find such a person in Baltimore, but she agreed to pretend to be that person so long as he agreed to pretended to love her. Really, it's the story of Amos' life that the first person who genuinely loved and cared for him didn't think he was capable of loving them back and no doubt died thinking that, too. I'm not surprised he didn't want to ever come back here again. Then again, in a few days time there probably won't even be a here to come back to. Let's just hope Amos is off world or somewhere safe when that happens.


After a brief reconciliation, Bobbie brought Alex into her arms smuggling investigation. She suspects that the head of this particular snake might be the well respected Admiral Sauveterre. Alex is doubtful because Admiral Sauveterre is so well respected and they once served together way back when. I think Bobbie is right on the money, though because not only is Sauveterre the only suspect the show has offered up so far, he's also played by Tim DeKay who is just too well known to be playing a red herring. This casting just screams “Future Big Bad”.
So what are his ultimate motives? It can't simply be money. I doubt Marco has that much green. There has to be a more elaborate plan at work here. Is he simply trying to keep his job? The Martian military is slowly dying, just like the rest of the planet. Is this how Sauveterre is planning to save it? Sparking a new war so the government has no choice but to stop downsizing? Or does he have more ambitious goals? He spent a term teaching his students how to take and hold the Ring Gates and finished his lecture talking about carrying the dream of Mars to a thousand stars. Is he going to use the coming conflict to seize power on, not just Mars, but this new interstellar empire that humanity is building? Is he planning to not only quote Xerxes, but become Xerxes? 


--Drummer is the character who has had the most complex transition from page to screen. The TV version is a combination of several different book characters. This season they've given her the story of Michio Pa, the former Executive Officer of the Behemoth who later became a pirate and formed a group marriage with her crew, called a Ketubah. However, Michio isn't being cut out of the show entirely. According to the credits she's part of Drummer's Ketubah played by Vanessa Smythe. 

--Another member of Drummer's group is Serge, who was Bull's deputy on the Behemoth in Abaddon's Gate. He came to a sticky end in that book so hopefully things will turn out better for his TV counterpart.

--The MCRN officer Alex met with about the arms smuggling was Winston Duarte, not Sauveterre. Sauveterre was a minor character who only appears in the epilogue of Nemesis Games. Since I doubt they'd cast someone like DeKay for such a tiny role I'm guessing the show is replacing Duarte with Sauveterre. Which is odd since Duarte's name already appeared in the season four finale. I wonder what changed between seasons to make them go with Sauveterre instead?

--Ashanti had two daughters, not sons, in the books.

--Most of Chrisjen's storyline has been invented for the show. She didn't replace Esteban Sorrento-Gillis as Secretary General and therefore never fell out of political favour. In fact, it was repeatedly rumoured that Nancy Gao was just a puppet and Chrisjen was really running things from behind the curtain.

Notes and Quotes

--We learned that Amos' real name is Timothy. Amos Burton was the name of a crime boss he murdered to save Erich and then used his identity to get out of Baltimore. Erich stayed and obviously took over the real Burton's operation.

--Loved Amos giving the corner boy a makeshift ice pack. The man takes care of his friends, once they prove they're his friends.

--Cara Gee was pregnant during the filming of this season and they did a pretty impressive job of concealing it.
--The show has become more sweeping now that they've got Amazon money. The sets have also improved considerably. 

--Future Earth is massively overpopulated, over four times the current population, and we see that in how crowded Baltimore is. The streets are packed with as many extras as the show can afford.

--Climate change has resulted in rising sea levels. Most coastal cities built sea walls for their protection. Baltimore was unable to get theirs up in time and most of the old city was flooded.
--Unlike his boss and old army buddy, Bull doesn't believe in the OPA cause. He's broke and just needs the money. 

--No one ever needs to put down their coffee cups in zero-g.

--This season just continues to bring in actors I know from other things. As well as DeKay and Faison we also have Lara Jean Chorostecki (Hannibal) as Lt. Babbage, and Sandrine Holt (24, The L Word, House of Cards) as Oksana.

Holden: “There was a button. I pushed it.”
Fred: “Jesus Christ. That really is how you go through life, isn’t it?”

Monica: “I haven't been completely honest with you.”
Holden: “I'm shocked.”

Ship Captain: “How do you people sleep at night? You took everything from us!”
Drummer: “Not everything.”

Amos: “Float to the top or sink to the bottom. Everything in the middle is the churn.”

Three out of four buttons James Holden will push without thinking.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig


  1. So so thrilled to get some Amos backstory! But Timmy? His real name is Timmy? :)

    I was also thinking of The Wire a lot (and recognizing Faison) -- so much that I expected to see a Domino Sugar neon sign at some point.

  2. More Drummer please! Yeah, definitely a step up from the premiere. I didn't care as much about Holden's story as Amos, but that generally the case. He's a good lead, but kinda dull. I'm hoping Bobby's story is more interesting this season, I liked her arc on Mars but I wanted her back on the Roci.


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