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The Expanse: Hard Vacuum

“This is Naomi Nagata...Tell James Holden I am in...control.”

One issue I had with Nemesis Games, the book this season is based on, is that it really loses some momentum in the second half. This has also happened with season five, but not really to the same extent thanks largely to the addition of strong storylines for Chrisjen and Drummer.


Our two apocalypse buddies are leisurely making their way across the new American wasteland on their little bikes, stopping only for the occasional mutual pee break (now there's an image I won't be forgetting any time soon). The blockers are all out of Clarissa's system which means she finally has her sense of taste and smell back. This means she finally enjoys food again, but it also means she smells all the dead bodies people are leaving lying around. The cute bonding moment is cut short when they stumble on a pile of dead bodies.
They make it to the now flooded streets of Baltimore and pitch Erich on their plan to escape Earth. Clarissa know a place in New Hampshire where all the rich pricks keep their personal shuttles. Erich is reluctant to leave. The city is falling apart and his empire with it, but he'd rather stay and die a king than leave and be a nobody in space. Fortunately, Clarissa has acquired prison wisdom and convinces him to leave. Amos convinces him to bring the booze.


Holden's storyline this season has suffered from the fact that all the best bits were used up by episode four. After the attack on Tycho nothing much really happens to Holden. He just gets hired by Fred to be a glorified taxi service to Luna. With Fred dead that storyline had to go and was replaced with the pursuit of the protomolecule, which was obviously never meant to succeed. It was just a means of keeping the character busy until it was time to go and get Naomi. Still, it was rather frustrating how quickly everyone on the Roci just decides that “Yep, the protomolecule is gone. Let's move on.” Come on, guys, be a bit more thorough than that.


Marco seems to be genuinely sad about Cyn's death, but he wouldn't be Marco Inaros if he didn't then use it as another excuse to lash out at his son and bring him down.


The new Secretary General is settling in by giving a very post-9/11 speech about how great Earth is, how they'll endure, and that they'll make those responsible pay. But they don't know where Marco is so the military decides the next best thing to do is blow up Pallas, killing thousands of innocent civilians in the process. It is a blatant act of revenge and shows that they are really no different than Marco. Delgado is leading the charge here, no doubt overcompensating for his earlier failure to do more to prevent the attack.
I can see why they chose not to follow the books and put Chrisjen in charge again. If she was Secretary General she would've rejected this proposal outright and that would've been that. But Pastor is a complete unknown. He seem nice enough, but that doesn't mean he isn't prejudiced and won't ignore her and listen to all the John Boltons in his cabinet calling for blood. This also puts Chrisjen in direct opposition with the only ally she's had through all of this. Can her friendship with Delgado survive him pushing for such a ruthless response?


Pulling this story forward from the sixth book and giving it to Drummer has been one of the best decisions the writers have made. Marco has the Ringos doing the shit job of picking clean the ships of Belters who stood against him. Tensions are high and everyone is snapping at each other. None of them are happy with this new normal and they're taking it out on each other. We did get one adorable as hell scene of them all mucking about with the “spilled” water, but it was far too brief, offering them only a short break before reality set back in.
This is the part where I ramble on about how great Cara Gee is. If I didn't restrain myself I'd spend every reviewing rambling on about how great Cara Gee is and twice as much for the episodes she's not in. She doesn't always have the most to do, but she always excels at what she given and this episode was no different. That scream? God, I felt that. That was a Krakatoa of emotion, a season's worth of frustrations let out in one agonizing outburst. Marco has been killing the people Drummer cares about all season and she's had to compromise again and again for the sake of her family. But this time it is Naomi. This time it is someone she's in love with. Don't try to tell me they're just platonic friends. Drummer has obviously been head over heels in love with Naomi Nagata from the very start and hearing she's dead because of Marco just fucking broke her.

This has to be the last straw for her. I cannot see her going back to being Marco's lapdog after this. She hasn't killed Karal yet, but it can't be that far off. And what about Oksana? Her willingness to support Marco and make their new alliance work has caused her relationship with Drummer to fracture. Will she damage it even further by hiding from her that Naomi might still be alive?


But as amazing as Gee was here, this episode still belonged to Dominique Tipper. This episode was practically a Naomi solo showcase. I think it might've worked even better if it had been the show's version of 'Heaven Sent'. I'd happily watch an hour of just Naomi Nagata alone on a small ship, using every trick she can think of to stay alive and save those she loves.

Her suit-less spacewalk had done one hell of a number on her, but that turns out to have been the easier part. She's now trapped on a ship that is little more than a glorified missile. Marco's people have stripped the Chetzemoka of almost everything useful. She has no controls, no communications, no food, no water, no meds to help with the constant pain she's in, and no air for the spacesuits. She only still has life support in most of the ship because they need Holden to think there's someone alive onboard.
Anyone else in that situation would be fucked. Amos would probably just accept there's no hope for rescue and blow the ship early as a fuck you to his enemies. Naomi, though, she's as stubborn as she is determined. She's isn't going to die on this ship. She's not going to let Marco have even that little victory. She's going to survive, she's going to save those she loves, and she's going to stick it to Marco all in one go.


--Drummer's relationship with Naomi is taken from a different character in the books, Sam Rosenberg. Sam was an engineer on Tycho who befriends Naomi and becomes her roommate when she briefly leaves the Roci in 'Caliban's War' after falling out with Holden. She later served as Chief Engineer on the Behemoth where she was killed by Ashford, who was a lot more villainous than he was in the show. Sam only appeared once in the show way back in season 1 where she was played by Alli Chung.

--Karal, who was originally male and grey haired, stayed on the Pella.

--No mention is made of Charles, Lydia's husband. This is consistent with the book, which left the character's fate unknown, but Amos had no way to checking on him there since he lived in Philadelphia rather than Baltimore.

Notes and Quotes

--Karal is measuring Drummer's office for curtains.

--I really feel for Frankie Adams having to spend almost the entire season strapped into the same chair.

--Loved Clarissa's shocked reaction to learning Amos's real name.

--Drummer, who only drinks when she's angry, completely drowned that bottle.

--I liked how they mirrored the establishing shot of Baltimore from 'Churn' to show how damaged the city now was.
Karal: “You can't help her.”
Drummer: “WATCH ME!”

Naomi: “Fuck!”

Pastor: “These are times that will try our souls, but make no mistake. We will prevail. We must. This is the beginning of the reckoning, the first step towards justice, and this journey will not end until we are victorious!”

Oksana: “If we had said no to Marco, someone else would be salvaging this ship and looking at our dead bodies. We are still together. We will get through this.”
Drummer: “I'm not sure I can.”

Three out of four John Boltons
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

1 comment:

  1. What a fantastic episode for Dominique Tipper. I had no idea what she was doing until it got to the end and I realized how clever it was.


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