Wednesday, February 22, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Miller Explores Eros in the Hopes of Preventing Disaster in 'Home'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.05 "Home"

The Rocinante chases an asteroid as it hurtles towards Earth.

Once again, an episode of The Expanse hinges on how much the audience is invested in the dynamic between Miller and Julie Mao. After discovering what happened to her last season, it felt like the show was done with that mystery and angst. But that hasn't been the case at all. Julie has still been a significant character this season. That has led to a number of awkward and bland moments of Miller hallucinating her and mourning her death - even though he never really knew her. Their bond is largely built up on an idea Miller has of her. He doesn't know her personally but he found himself drawn to her nevertheless. And thus, it took on romantic connotations that never seemed earned. Instead, it just propped up the idea of Miller being a creep but one who has a number of smart ideas a lot of the time. He just became obsessed with her. Even when he returns to Eros for this dangerous mission, he's still concerned with her and hoping that he can rationalize things with her before everything turns into one big tragedy. This is the most active the two characters have ever been together. That makes it better than what their dynamic usually is. However, there's still something a lot too forced and manufactured for it to work - even with the tragic ending of it all.

The show went into this episode with a lot of momentum as well. Last week's episode was the best one so far. "Home" is able to maintain the intensity and the uncertainty that hangs over all of the characters' decision. Miller's grand plan to destroy Eros and the protomolecule failed. It was going to be a suicide mission after he had to stay on the ship to detonate one of the bombs at the appropriate time. He miraculously survived. And yet, that just shows how powerful the protomolecule really is. No one understands it. The crazy scientist said it could rewrite the rules of physics. That's essentially what it's doing throughout this hour. At every single turn, it proves itself to be a smart organism that is able to adapt quickly to an ever changing situation. It didn't just move a little bit out of the way so the Mormon ship could miss it. It's actually picking up a ton of speed and heading straight towards Earth. That's a huge cause for concern. It's the biggest priority for all of the characters. If it hits the planet, it could be an extinction-level event. That would be so disastrous. Miller is still on board and can act to diffuse the situation. But it's still so wonderfully messy and complicated which allows this episode to be just as intense and mysterious as the last one.

It's fascinating watching everyone in this universe having to work together for a shared goal. The Earth government knows that Eros is on a deadly trajectory. So, they launch missiles to destroy it while also making sure Mars doesn't get the wrong impression of what's going on. They have to trust that this isn't some grand Martian conspiracy to reveal what kind of weapons Earth really has. When Eros is able to take itself off radar, it means the missiles are flying without a target. That forces Fred Johnson to reveal himself. Earth has easily labeled him a terrorist. Collusion with him is a treasonous crime. And yet, he's the only person offering a solution that could avoid this catastrophe. He's the only one who knows that the Rocinante has a visual on Eros. They can guide the missiles to the station and ensure that it is destroyed. Everything happens so quickly. These characters need to trust each other even though they've spent the entire series cloaked in secrecy. Avasarala is the one who vouches for them. That could easily have turned against her. And yet, it doesn't. The Rocinante crew is able to communicate with Earth and that's what gives them confidence once more. Of course, not everything goes according to plan. So all of this basically just revealed everyone's importance to the other for seemingly no gain. That should be fun to explore in the future.

The Rocinante crew want to save Miller as well. They couldn't get to him in time before the Mormon ship showed up for the collision. But after that failed, they could. They could have found a way to save Miller and get him back on the ship. He didn't have to risk getting infected by the protomolecule and dying like the other scientists there. Instead, him being aboard Eros is the only thing that saves everyone from disaster. The Rocinante crew believe they need to be there to support Miller no matter what. They operate under the belief that he'll be able to plant the bomb in the heart of the station's energy source and make it out before it explodes. As the situation grows more dire, that plan seems less and less likely of actually happening. So, this still remains a suicide mission for Miller. It just takes awhile for everyone to accept that. The Rocinante is the key piece that could hold the future of this mission in place. It needs to keep a close eye on things happening on Eros. And yet, the ship can only pursue Eros for so long. The crew is willing to die as well as long as the mission succeeds. It's brutal to watch as their bodies can barely withstand the travel. That only makes Eros travel faster. Every new threat it detects only increases its speed and uncertainty. Once everyone backs off, things are allowed to slow down again. The crew accepting that also means that Miller will go down with the station as well.

So again, the big climax of the episode hinges on Miller and Julie. Miller recognizes that the energy source from Eros is coming from the room Julie's body was discovered in. She was the first infected on the station. So that makes sense. And now, she is seemingly in control. She may be dead but her consciousness has also fused with the protomolecule. She just wants to go home. That's why the station is hurtling towards Earth right now. Miller has to talk her down to make sure that collision doesn't occur. It's because he knows so much about her that he is seen as a comforting voice in that moment. Julie has no idea who he is but he's the guy with all of the answers. She doesn't know what's going on or what the protomolecule has done. She just sees a comforting guy who seems to love her. It's through talking with her that Miller is able to get Julie to change course. The station hits Venus instead of Earth. That's an event that will surely reverberate throughout the universe. Earth survived but Eros could have potentially destroyed another planet. It also confirms the tragic end of Miller and Julie. They went down together. It's poetic symmetry - once again, if you connect with that dynamic. Of course, it's still odd that the show is willing to kill off one of its leads so early in the season. So perhaps, all of this is just setup for an even grander transformation for Miller. He killed the scientist because his crazy ideas were making sense. And now, he may actually become part of the experiment. He'll be with Julie. But he won't be the same. If that's the direction the show is going on, that could really amplify the sci-fi narrative even more. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Home" was written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and directed by David Grossman.
  • Miller and Holden have had their differences. And yet, there seems to be a reignited spark in their friendship as Holden helps guide Miller through Eros Station. Sure, it's filled with awkward banter and misunderstandings as well. But it's back to them being allies who need each other.
  • Of course, that makes it very bittersweet when the Rocinante crew pours one out for Miller after they aren't able to rescue him from the station. It's how he wanted to celebrate a successful mission. But he wasn't able to partake in it himself.
  • Avasarala's husband hasn't been seen at all this season until now. But it's still very moving to hear him understand why Avasarala has to stay on Earth even when everyone else in the government is fleeing. He understands that Avasarala will always stay and fight.
  • Fred Johnson and his associate had to divert the missiles away from Eros in order to get the protomolecule to calm down. Those missiles never go off though. They just travel into space. So, will they be seen again at some point this season?
  • Errinwright leaves an angry voice message on Jules-Pierre's system blaming him for this pending disaster after losing control of his science experiment. Again, Earth is saved. So that should make the fallout of this near miss very intriguing to watch.
  • It should also be fascinating to see what Mars thinks of all of this. Bobbie and her team are nowhere to be seen in this episode. But it should be interesting to see how this might change their perspective on things. Or if it'll just intensify the pending war even more.