Wednesday, February 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - The Mission to Destroy Eros Station Hits Some Complications in 'Godspeed'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.04 "Godspeed"

Miller devises a dangerous plan to eradicate what's left of the protomolecule on Eros.

The first season of The Expanse was a whole lot of set up with not a lot of payoff. That's what made it such a frustrating viewing experience for so long. And now, the second season is able to be more upfront with information while also compromising the actions the characters must take. It's the show really stepping up its game this year. The character arcs are clearer than they were before. Plus, the motivation for their actions is much more intense. The protomolecule on Eros is forcing all of the characters to react in the moment. They need to do something now before the situation gets even worse. That's a simple way to build story that is also fascinating to watch on an episodic basis. Last season, the show's best moments came from the action beats as it was a way to get the adrenaline pumping. This season the show has succeeded more with character beats and really exploring the gravity of their actions. They are all working under such extreme circumstances. They are forced to make impossible choices. But it's so fascinating to watch because it's about the actions and not just lingering on the characters moping around not sure what to do with their lives. "Godspeed" has a number of really great moments that showcase just how tragic these characters' lives have become.

Holden has always seen himself as a righteous man. He believes in the order of the world. He sees the need to do the right thing in any situation simply because it's the right thing to do. He's becoming more morally complicated this season. That was a quality already apparent last year. But it's amplified even more this season. He wasn't able to save everyone on Eros station. And now, he has to accept that destroying the station is the only way to ensure that the protomolecule doesn't infect any other portion of the universe. He and his team can question what is happening on the station. He doesn't know what kind of weapon this substance really is. But right now, it can't infect anymore people - especially since the scientist running the experiment is now dead. There is no one in charge and the protomolecule is evolving in unexpected and uncontrollable ways. Destroying all of it is the only rational thing to do now. That means Holden will have to work with Miller again. His opinion of Miller changed the moment he killed the scientist. He can hardly look at him. But he also knows that Miller is right and his strategy for destroying Eros is the most sensible and realistic one out there.

However, Holden's most significant action of the hour comes in his dealing with an unexpected ship near Eros Station. It's a quarantine area. So, that makes this the perfect time for Miller and Fred to carry out their crazy plan. Everything seems to be going well too - until the Rocinante crew discover this other ship. It's people from the belt trying to provide humanitarian relief to the innocent victims on Eros. They came to this station to help. They don't know the full situation. They don't know what they are walking into. They see the Rocinante as a Martian ship and its crew as the enemy. Of course, they fear them as well. So, it seems like the situation will have a simple and easy resolution. Holden warns them to leave and they will out of fear of the unknown. Instead, they want to broadcast their findings to the whole universe. They want everyone to know that more is going on in Eros than they've been led to believe. Holden can't let that happen because it could be the spark that finally ignites the war between Earth and Mars. So, he has to make the impossible choice of killing everyone on this ship. He didn't want anymore innocent lives lost on Eros. But now, he's had to make that decision. He had to choose who lives and who dies. It's a heartbreaking moment because it darkens Holden as a character. He kills these people because they don't know the truth. He doesn't want to burden them with that. But it still creates a dangerous situation for him. One that has immediate consequences in the aftermath as well.

And then, there is Miller who is actually on the ground on Eros Station. He came up with the idea to use the Mormon ship to push the station into the sun. And now, he's leading the team to place bombs on Eros to make sure it is completely destroyed. He sees this as the right and important thing to do. He can't just take off for some random corner of the universe. The job still needs to be finished. He killed the scientist. And now, he needs to kill his experiment. It's a mission where he has a personal stake because of Julie Mao. He finds himself doing a ton of things he never expected to do because of her. He's going on his first space walk to plant these bombs. He's once again teamed with the kid who thinks he knows so much but doesn't have a clue about anything. It's a cocky and annoying character. One who seems destined to die every time he goes off on a mission with Miller. That seems to be his whole purpose. He makes fun of Miller and then goes head first into danger. He doesn't know the full story either. He just goes where Miller tells him to. But he keeps finding danger wherever he goes. He brings that quality to the show. That works. Plus, it's amusing to see Miller try to talk some sense into him while not exactly being a good role model in the first place.

Of course, all of this takes a tragic turn when the falling debris from the ship Holden destroyed comes raining down on Miller and the kid. They both survive but get beat up quite a bit. More importantly, it tampers one of the bombs they're setting. It makes it so it no longer goes off at a predetermined time. Now, the only thing stopping it from counting down to detonation is someone holding it. So, that means someone else is going to die on Eros before all of this is over. Miller decides to take on that burden. As he pointed out, there's no life for him elsewhere in the universe. He could return to the world he knows but it wouldn't be the same after everything he has done and seen. He seems content to die on the same station that Julie did. He does so knowing he's saving this kid in the process. The kid may go on to make a dozen mistakes as he becomes just another OPA gangster. But at least, he'll have that life because of Miller. The Rocinante crew doesn't want Miller to make this sacrifice either. But it's something Miller makes his peace with pretty quickly. Of course, it's not surprising that the show doesn't ultimately kill off one of its lead characters now. His death could have served as a major shakeup for the show. But it also would have put too neat of an ending on the protomolecule. It's instead much more interesting from a narrative perspective to see the Mormon ship miss Eros because the protomolecule has found some way to move it. It is building something on board. And now, it's managed to do something pretty miraculous. That final revelation saves Miller's life. But it also makes things very intense for everyone else heading into the next episode because their big mission failed. All they have to show for it is more death on Eros.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Godspeed" was written by Dan Nowak and directed by Jeff Woolnough.
  • Fred gave Avasarala the location of one of the stealth ships last week. And now, she has sent a team to explore the ship. What she finds is three dead men with a connection to the company, Protogen. That company really is behind all of this, isn't it?
  • Avasarala is also able to figure out that Jules-Pierre Mao is the true enemy she should be focusing on. She has her suspicions about what his company was doing on Phoebe station. Plus, she's pretty sure that Errinwright is working with Mao as well. Of course, she'll have to be careful with how much of that information she reveals to them.
  • The Mormons are understandably mad that Fred and Miller have stolen their ship. They've been making plans for their 100-year voyage for a long time. And now, these two guys have messed it up for all of them. However, it is quite a sight to behind seeing that ship launch for the first time. It is massive.
  • Of course, launching the Mormon ship and sending it to Eros basically reveals to the rest of the universe that there is more going on at Tycho Station than there appeared to be. That kind of exposure could be a huge risk for Fred. But he sees this mission as something that needs to be done to save the entire universe.
  • Destroying Eros Station wouldn't completely rid the world of the protomolecule either. Miller reminds everyone that the Rocinante crew hid another sample of it on an asteroid. However, he sees Eros as his responsibility. He needs to be the one to clean up this mess. With that other sample, it's completely on the Rocinante crew.