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The Expanse: Strange Dogs

“F**k good. We need better than good.”

I wasn't at all shocked when it was announced that this would be the final season The Expanse, but I was a bit shocked to discover that it would only be six episodes long.

In a way it is a little fitting since this is the sixth season and an adaption of the sixth Expanse novel, Babylon's Ashes. But could they really do all of that book in just six episodes? Probably. The Expanse books are not that long and in the past the show has often had to stretch things out so they could fit everything into a 10 or 13 episode season. Doing all of Babylon's Ashes in just six episodes wouldn't be that difficult. Hell, they got through all of Abaddon's Gate in just seven and that is, IMHO, the best run of the entire series. Plus, there really is a lot from the book that can be cut, like the POV chapters for one-off characters as well as the ones the show has already gotten rid off (Fred, Alex, etc).

Even though there were a couple of brief bouts with Free Navy, this wasn't the most eventful of episodes, but that is usually the case with The Expanse. Season openers are often calm, scene setting affairs that allow us to catch ups with all the main characters and see what they've been up to since last season.

LACONIA

I'm surprised to see that Laconia is getting some build up this season. This storyline is mostly just happening in the background during Babylon's Ashes and doesn't really come into play until the final three books. Since those books are not getting adapted I would've thought the writers would drop it and focus solely on the Free Navy Conflict. I'm not sure how this is all going to connect to the main plot, if it even does, but I'm curious to find out.

EARTH

News guy wept and told us, Earth was really dying.

Judging by how long the Roci has been on its recon mission it has been at least six months since the events of 'Nemesis Games'. Marco might've run out of stealth rocks to throw at Earth, but he's now throwing enough regular ones that the UN fleet is pinned down and unable to mobilize. Even with the entire fleet on defensive, some rocks are still getting through leaving Earth more and more devastated. The situation is so bad that just under 500 people dying is now seen by some as a positive.

Marco is killing the Earth bit by bit, payback for all the years the Inners have been slowly killing Belters, and Chrisjen and Bobbie are both powerless to do anything about it. They're both so used to getting shit done in their own unique ways and now they're stuck in jobs they hate, being forced to do nothing but read report after report about how totally screwed they are. Chrisjen's even starting to like space because it gives her a moment's release from all the pressures around her. She knows that what Marco has done has worn them down, left them beaten and exhausted. She knows they need more than a few little victories if they are going to get through this. They need something big to turn the tide in their favour. Something that will let Bobbie finally kick some arse. We're just going to have to wait and see to find out what she's come up with.

ROCINANTE

The crew has been out fighting in the Belt for 187 days and most of them are close to breaking point. Even Amos, often the most cool under pressure, is becoming frustrated with the way things are. They're all hurting and lashing out because that is the very human thing to do and if this show is about anything it is how flawed we all are as a species. The ghost of Alex Kamal continues to haunt the ship and is making an already tense situation even worse. Seeing her as an unwelcome replacement for Alex, Naomi isn't too happy about Clarissa being there or that Amos made the decision to invite her aboard without consulting the others, although he is quick to point out she'd done the same in the past. Despite the cold reception from everyone not named Amos Burton, Clarissa appears to be the only one who is actually happy to be on the Roci. No doubt she's just glad to be out of the hole and doing something she enjoys.

THE RINGOS

Marco has had people hunting Drummer and her remaining family for months now. They're tired, they're stressed and they're running low on ships, supplies, and ammunition. Michio has also been struggling to cope with the stress and has been making some pretty big mistakes. Josep doesn't think she is cut out for this life and suggests letting her go. Drummer is reluctant to do that, she's lost so many people already and doesn't want to lose another, but eventually agrees with Josep. They both see this as their way of saving her. I think that they both know deep down that this fight is ultimately a doomed one. It won't be long before the Free Navy finally chases them down and kills them. They both love Michio and don't want her to die along with them. Better to break her heart and send her away some place safe. I hope just they have a last minute change of heart because I don't want to see my favourite poly Belter family become even more divided than it already is.

CERES

With Earth under siege and the Martian Navy in disarray, Marco and the Free Navy have been given free reign of the Belt, but it is becoming increasingly obvious that what Marco wants and what his people need are two completely different things. Marco wants to fight a war and build himself an empire. He has no interest in all the boring things you have to do to run a nation like keeping your people fed. He has no time to look at “Sanjrani's fucking spreadsheets”. He might give big speeches about how Ceres will be the new capital of the Belt, but he'll happily let the people there suffer and starve because it isn't as vital to his war effort as Medina. That is his main priority because it is the key to controlling all the Ring worlds. Even if Marco loses control of the Belt and is beaten back by Earth and Mars, which is likely since they still massively outnumber him, he can still fall back to Medina, blockade the Sol Ring, and strong-arm all the colonies (save for Laconia) into paying tribute to him.

Looks like Filip is starting to lose it. He's none too happy hearing his father and Rosenefeld talking about leaving Belters to starve, or the patronizing way they are just dismissing his objections. He also seems to be feeling some guilt about his role in the attacks on Earth and it is eating away at him. Being a young man he of course deals with it by admitting he has a problem and seeking help. Just kidding. He deals with it by getting laid, getting drunk, and now likely getting arrested for murder. To be perfectly frank, I always struggled to sympathies with Filip. He isn't one of my favourite characters and he doesn't have one of the strongest arcs in the book and the show doesn't seem to be really doing anything so far to improve on it.

CH-CH-CHANGES

--Rosenfeld Guoliang and Nico Sanjrani were originally both male, but Guoliang's is now a female character played by Kathleen Robertson and Sanjrani is a non-binary character by Jo Vannicola.

--Anderson Dawes was very much alive in the book and part of Marco's inner circle along with Guoliang, Sanjrani, and Michio Pa. I'm guessing they killed him off because they weren't able to get Jared Harris back.

--Filip shot a Ceres security officer, not one of his shipmates.

--The Roci got the information about the Azure Dragon from Chrisjen, not the other way round.

--Tycho remains loyal to Fred Johnson throughout the Free Navy Conflict, but here it is included on the map of Belt stations that have gone over to Marco's side.

Notes and Quotes

--Each episode this season will come with a little short available through Amazon's X-Ray feature. The first one stars Drummer, Josep, and Michio and is sure to drive Drummer/Naomi shippers wild.

--Seems like Bull won't be joining the Roci crew after all. Kinda weird how they seemed to be setting that up last season only to drop it completely. I wonder if it was a COVID thing or a result of there only being six episodes and the writers didn't want to accommodate too many characters.

--The title of this episode comes from the novella of the same name, which forms the basis of this episode's Laconia storyline.

--Nice callback to 'The Big Empty' by having Holden just keep hitting the POS control box until it stops working.

--Laconia is planet 2 of Ring #673 and is clearly not as desolate as Ilus was.

--Love the detail of there being metal grills on the ground around the engine so you could walk around on magboots.

Amos: “Do you think I could convince Chrissy to pay us for every one of these assholes we take out?”
Holden: “I'd like to see you try.”
Amos: “I'm serious.”
Holden: “We're not mercenaries.”
Amos: “And we're not soldiers either.”

Naomi: “Jim, what the fuck are you doing?”
--Now there's the entire series summed up in one line

Two and a half out of four apocalyptic Bowie songs.

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

3 comments:

  1. I had kind of hoped that Bobbie would be on the Roci this season. Not yet, I guess. I haven't read the books to this point and I don't know what's coming. (I just started reading them, but I'm only on Caliban's Whatever. They're wonderful and I'm loving them. And reading them slowly.)

    Filip is signaling pretty clearly that he's starting to feel just a tad bit guilty for his actions. Killing millions of people can do that, I hear. It would be satisfying if Filip is the one to turn his monster of a father in, but this show isn't predictable.

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  2. I'm kind of with you on Philip, Mark. I get that he's feeling guilty but his way of dealing with his guilt is not very endearing. Kind of meh on the opener (but enjoyed episode 2 a lot more!).

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  3. Programming note: reviews for the next few episodes will be a little late as I'm currently overwhelming with work and Christmas stuff.

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