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The Expanse: Exodus

“Why do they hate us? You tell me. All we've ever done is starve and beg for a scrap! Baratna, they hate us because we shame them. They hate us because they think we are weak, and they hurt us anyway! We make them feel ashamed! And men always gonya hate the thing that shame them. But we can teach them to fear us... to hate us... to hate us because they fear us! Because when you are weak, you can be surprising. And when our day comes... when we surprise them in all their strength... on that day, they will fear us! Because they believe we are weak, we have the power to be audacious!”

'Tis the season to be jolly. Unless your country is run by complete morons who bungled their response to the pandemic and now you're back in lockdown and confused by this badly conceived tier system. But at least we've got a new season of The Expanse to help get us through this.

Not long before this season started, it was confirmed that The Expanse will be ending with season six. While I'm sad that one of my favourite shows is coming to an end, season six is probably the best place to end things. I know that means that the final three books won't be adapted, but they're more of a sequel trilogy with their own separate story based on a couple of dangling threads leftover from the end of the sixth book, Babylon's Ashes. Without going into book spoilers, I can see the show easily tying off those threads so nothing is left unresolved.

Last season ended with a one hell of a cliffhanger as Marco Inaros, Belt terrorist and Naomi's baby daddy, sent several large rocks cloaked in Martian stealth tech directly at Earth. We pick up several months later and those rocks have yet to reach their target because the solar system is big and they're reliant on their own inertia and gravity to get where they are going. Marco's entire plan is almost thrown into chaos when one rock, that rebellious #9, goes full Icarus by flying too close to the sun and getting itself noticed. But one quick massacre later and Operation: We Will Rock You is back on track.

After this episode aired I saw a few people criticise it for being too calm and slow. Calm I get and don't really see as a negative. Season openers tend to be relatively peaceful affairs. But slow? I thought this episode moved quite quickly and wasted no time in getting all of this season's various plotlines up and running. It helps that all the groundwork for these stories was done last season. Say what you want about season four, and I certainly did, but it really did do a great job getting all the pieces in place for this season.

TYCHO STATION

There's the mass exodus of millions from the solar system and out into the great unknown via the Ring Network. On Earth, this is seen as a glorious thing that will bring about a new age of wealth and prosperity for all, something new Secretary General Nancy Gao seems to be taking all the credit for. On Mars, though, this is having the opposite effect and its streets have become an endless row of “Closed” and “Going out of Business” signs.

While this mass migration is going on there's a much smaller and more intimate exodus taking place on Tycho Station, where the Rocinante is currently docked for extensive repairs following the events of last season. The book this season is based on, Nemesis Games, was the first book in The Expanse series to focus exclusively on the Roci crew. Holden was the only one who was a POV character in previous books and we only ever got to know the rest of the Roci crew through him and other characters. Nemesis Games changed all that by finally making Naomi, Amos, and Alex POV characters and splitting them all off on solo missions to reconnect with their respective pasts, leaving poor Jim to take care of the ship, which is a lot less homely now he's all alone.
I was shocked and somewhat disappointed that they decided to skip the goodbye scenes for Amos and Alex. It would've been nice to have at least one scene of the crew together before they all went off on their own. But I can understand why the writers decided to skip those goodbyes and focus on the only one that really matters, the parting of Holden and Naomi. Although it makes sense for her not to go on this trip alone (if Amos had been there she probably would've let him go with her), I fully understand why Naomi didn't want Holden to go with her. When descending into the Belter underworld the last person you want to bring with you is the system's most famous Earther. As much as Naomi loves him, she knows that he's too much of a liability on a mission like this. He's too well known, likely to attract all the wrong attention, and has this annoying habit of acting without thinking things through. Plus, kids rarely react well when moms introduce them to their new stepdads.

Yeah, best to leave Jim behind to take care of the house. It'll keep him out of trouble.

Oh, who are we kidding? This is Jim Holden we're talking about. You could seal him up in an adamantium box and toss it into a black hole and he'd still find a way to get reluctantly caught up in the latest galactic conflict. The poor guy just wants to relax and sip coffee, but trouble always finds him and today its name is Monica Stuart. All she has to do is mention someone researching the protomolecule in the Belt and Holden does the typical Holden thing of charging into Fred's office and confronting him about it. Jim, buddy, you've only survived this long doing dumb shit like that because you had your crew watching your back. You're all alone now so please, for your own safety, just go back to your quarters and take a nap for the next few months.

LUNA

We join Amos as he's travelling to Luna for a stop over before heading down the well to Earth. He can afford first class, but he prefers the cheap seats (so long as no one snores). This brief trip allows us to see the two main settings of Amos Burton. Setting Number One is where he always looks out for the vulnerable and won't let any bullies on the ship exploit them. Setting Number Two is where he lets those same bullies easily find him so they will foolishly attack him and he has cause for smashing their skulls in. If he ever gets bored of being a space mechanic he should consider masked vigilantism. He's only a fortune and a cape fetish from being Batman.

Once on Luna he's stopped at customs just so Chrisjen Avasarala (looking fabulous as always) can have a word with him about why he's visiting Earth. It's a flimsy, but welcome, excuse to get these two amazing characters to interact again. Amos makes no effort at all to hide his attraction to Chrisjen, openly hitting on her and calling her “Chrissie”. This one scene is better than her entire storyline last season. Alas, this wondrous moment is cut short by the arrival of Admiral Delgado and news about everyone's favourite Belter terrorist. If Gao thought exiling Chrisjen to Luna and giving her a shitty job (overseeing the migration to the gate worlds that she opposed) would humiliate, humble and hobble her then she really doesn't know Chrisjen Avasarala. She still has friends in high places willing to slip her information and is clearly being crafty with the department's budget to keep funding Bobbie's expensive investigation. Which brings me to finally addressing the elephant in the room.

MARS

If I had to pick one storyline I was not looking forward to this season it would have to be Alex and Bobbie's Martian Misadventure. It was never one I loved from the book, but I've been dreading it even more since we found out what a horrible person Cas Anvar is. It's too bad the pandemic prevented them from doing any reshoots to either recast the role or just remove Alex from the show altogether. Even if all those horrible details about Anvar hadn't come out, I still would've watched this episode wanting to punch Alex repeatedly. His family didn't owe him closure or forgiveness. He wilfully abandoned them and Talissa doesn't just need to calm down so they can settle things.

Ch-Ch-Changes

This is my first time watching The Expanse after having read all the books so these reviews are going to have more analysis and commentary on all the various changes the writers have made in adapting them for the screen. I will keep this section spoiler free, but you are welcome to discuss book spoilers in the comments so long as you are considerate of non-book readers and put up a warning first.

--The pre-credits scene is a reworking of the prologue for Nemesis Games which saw Filip lead a raid on the Martian shipyard at Callisto to steal stealth tech before covering their tracks by launching a rock at the base, sacrificing some of his own people in the process. Since we already saw how they got the stealth tech last season, this has been changed to them attacking a science vessel over Venus that detected the fragments of naughty #9.

 --Alex originally arrived on Mars via a transport, not the Razorback. The Razorback was now owned by Bobbie's, a gift to her from Chrisjen.

--Bull, the new head of security on Tycho, is a character from the third book, Abaddon's Gate, who was cut from the show and had elements of story transferred over to Drummer. So we have a character that was originally replaced by Drummer replacing Drummer, who was still on Tycho at this point in the book.

--Sakai, the Tycho engineer working on the repairs to the Roci, has been changed from male to female.

Notes and Quotes

--Bobbie used some of the money Chrisjen is sending her to not only get hold of some new power armour (that is sure to come in handy later on), but also to get Esai's family a ticket on one of the colony ships.

--Monica broke one of the cardinal rules of investigating a conspiracy. Never talk about what you know in public. You never know who might be listening.

--New recurring cast members this season include José Zúñiga (Agents of SHIELD, Madame Secretary) as Bull, Michael Irby (Barry, Mayans M.C.) as Admiral Delgado, Brent Sexton (Deadwood, Justified, The Killing) as Cyn, Bahia Watson (Star Trek: Discovery) as Sakai, and Olunike Adeliyi (Flashpoint, Workin' Moms) as Karal.

--Amos changed out of his familiar overalls (which he's worn since the beginning) when he got to Luna, symbolising that he is letting go of his current life to return to his former one.

--The Martians are still bitter about the Tachi.

--Does Steven Strait have it in his contract that he get shirtless at least once every season?

--Some of the Tycho sets look like a redress of the Medina Station sets.

--According to the display Marco was ominously looking at there are just 12 days to go until the rocks hit Earth.

--As has happened every season, the title sequence has been given a tweak to include new locations like Lovell City on Luna. The city is named after astronaut James A. Lovell, Jr., the commander of the Apollo 13 mission. Like the Ilus scenes last season, scenes on Luna and Earth have been shot in a different aspect ratio.

  --Adored Bobbie's disgusted reaction to that western themed bar complete with saddles for stools, neon Stetsons and the Rawhide theme playing in the background.

--As always, it is the little details I love the most: like Tycho workers walking on the ceiling in zero g, the showers on the transport being mostly vapour or Chrisjen having to give the bottle a little tap because of the lower Luna gravity.

--Amos stole his bag off Murtry and just wrote his name on it.

 Chrisjen: "You look like shit."
Amos: "You look amazing."

Holden: "I think it changed my brain and let me see them."
Fred: "Changed? You mean physically?" 
Holden: "It’s like folding a piece of paper. Fold it enough times and even after you unfold it and smooth it out, the creases are still there."
Fred: "Claiming to have brain damage is not the way to sell me on this, son."

Thug: "What crew you run with?"
Amos: "The Rocinante." 
Thug: "Never heard of him." 
Amos: "You probably have. I'm out of context here."

Amos: “First of all, I didn’t start it. Second of all, they were all alive when I walked out.”

Three out of four rebellious rocks.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

2 comments:

Billie Doux said...

I'm so happy The Expanse is back! And while I was a little impatient with the fact that the crew were all separated and that there was a lot of set-up, I'm so happy The Expanse is back and I don't care! :)

Mark, I've also been writing about the differences between a long-running book series and a long-running TV series (Outlander). I haven't read the Expanse books yet, but I'm definitely interested in reading about those differences. (I'm going to read the books after the series is over.)

Could Amos and Avasarala have an affair, already? Pretty please?

magritte said...

I too am excited to see the Expanse back, though I have to say I'm a little nervous about everybody going their separate ways...I hope the stories start to tie together. Although I'm intrigued to see some of Amos' past...and he does have interesting chemistry with Avasarala.

Something that struck me watching Amos story was that I'd sort of thought of the Rocinante crew as famous, but I guess it's mostly Holden who's famous. Well, Bobbie and Alex are probably famous (or infamous) on Mars, but maybe not on earth?