Wednesday, March 29, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Avasarala Learns Who Was Behind the Attack on Ganymede in 'Cascade'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.10 "Cascade"

Holden leads his crew through the war-torn station on Ganymede.

When the attack on Ganymede Station first happened, it seemed like confirmation that aliens were about to become a major part of this story. That final shot of Bobbie looking up to see a man without a suit and seemingly covered in the protomolecule was chilling. It confirmed that things wouldn't be able to go back to normal throughout the system. This new technology is here to stay even though the disaster at Eros is over with. But now, "Cascade" reveals that the attack wasn't alien at all. In fact, it's still Jules-Pierre Mao and his team studying the protomolecule and learning how to weaponize it. Ganymede was simply another test station. They learned nothing from the disaster that happened on Eros. And now, it seems like the Martian government is in on it as well. It's a nice twist that shows that the greatest risk still comes from humanity and the need to put up on walls and discriminate others. It's a kind of monstrosity that is still largely in the shadows. Jules-Pierre hasn't been seen in awhile. Nor has the show let the audience see who is in charge of the Martian government. They are the true enemies here. But even once they are eliminated, the protomolecule is still new technology that will radically change this world.

Bobbie goes on quite an adventure in this episode as well. It would have been lame and cliche if she suddenly found a new appreciation for Earth culture simply by walking around the city on her own. That's certainly a part of her story. But there's more depth to it too. She just wants to see the ocean. She has experienced so much trauma as of late. She survived the brutal tragedy on Ganymede. And now, all of her superior officers are trying to silence her story. She's still a dedicated Martian soldier. She still believes that Earth and Mars are headed towards war. She's not suddenly going to help Earth just because she sees things from a different perspective. But she is definitely more isolated than ever before. She feels that way while trapped in her room. That's why she escapes. But even on her journey, she is isolated. She's a Martian who can't handle this environment as well as she thought she could. She still gets a major victory in the end by seeing the ocean. It's a beautiful sight. It's fantastic that the show gives her that moment of peace before blowing up everything she knows.

It's also great to see Bobbie and Avasarala together without the rest of their governments present. Avasarala knows that Mars is suppressing Bobbie's testimony. They are keeping her locked up for a reason. Her escape gives Avasarala the opening to talk with her. It's a moment this episode is building towards. The final scene is quite powerful as well. Avasarala comes armed with a wealth of information. She knows more about the protomolecule than ever before. She's the one who drops the bombshell that it was Jules-Pierre and the Martian government responsible for these protomolecule attacks throughout the system. She discovers that information because Errinwright finally confesses his involvement to her. That's the only way for answers to come to these mysteries. It shows that he knows more about what's going on. But it also highlights his guilty conscience about all the death and destruction because of his involvement. It still may be a trap. Avasarala has to tread carefully moving forward. But it's a nice way for the show to be forthcoming with information for the audience while still allowing things to be tense in the story. Avasarala simply passes the information along to Bobbie right before she is taken back into Martian custody. She returns with the knowledge that she was suppose to be collateral damage. That's a great way to give her urgency moving forward especially as she doesn't know who she can trust.

With all those answers and forward momentum in the Earth story, the action on Ganymede moves a little slower. Holden, Naomi, Amos and Meng have arrived on the station in search of Meng's daughter and her doctor. He's the person who can provide answers as to what happened on the station. Of course, the audience now knows what happened. So, the doctor will more than likely have to tease something new and exciting to the narrative. But the show doesn't actually find him or Meng's daughter in this episode. The gang is largely just wandering around the station hoping to find a clue. They are successful in the end. They have a pretty good idea of where they are. They just now have to go find them in next week's episode. All of this could seem like stalling techniques to pad the season's story. But it does have a couple of good moments of self reflection as well. These characters still want to hold onto their inherent goodness. They believe they are the heroes of the story saving the system from the dangerous protomolecule. That may still be the case. But Naomi is right to say every horrifying decision they've made has only made it easier to make the next one. This season has been especially tough on the crew. They've killed a number of people for the greater good. But how long can they continue to justify their actions that way? It remains unclear.

Plus, there's the looming threat of Ganymede essentially dying as a station. It's a proclamation that Meng makes as he further examines the dying plants. He devoted his life to this station and his research. This was his home. It allowed his daughter to thrive despite her disease. And now, it's died. The people on the station have the hopes of rebuilding it to its former glory. Meanwhile, Mars has committed to financing all of the repairs on the station. But something more nefarious is happening as well. Perhaps Mars wants the station to die in order to further ignite the war with Earth. The peace summit is just a distraction from all of that. Plus, the Martian ships have established a no fly zone around the station. That will make it so much more difficult for Holden and the Rocinante crew to eventually leave. It's a problem that only Alex is aware of at the moment. But it all hints at something sinister going on that the characters aren't fully aware of yet. It doesn't feel like a meaningless tease though. Instead, it's a major concern for the characters that will ensure a very dramatic future for them very soon.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Cascade" was written by Dan Nowak and directed by Mikael Salomon.
  • Bobbie is pretty bad at asking people for directions. And yet, her journey throughout the city provides the audience with a glimpse of what life is like on Earth for the common man. It's depressing too. Yes, the homeless have technology that improve their lives. But the government really isn't doing anything to make their lives any better. Bobbie had judgment for these people last week. But now, she sees how depressing it can be.
  • Will Bobbie get into any trouble for trading some of her pills in order to get to the ocean? She needs those pills in order to survive on Earth. Without them, her body will eventually break down. Of course, all of that goes away as soon as she leaves Earth which will more than likely be soon.
  • Unsurprisingly, Bobbie is very resourceful when it comes to breaking out of her room. It's particularly meaningful when she uses her medal for surviving the attack to break the window. That shows just how little she actually cares about the award.
  • The cutaway to Alex on the Rocinante largely just introduces the threat of the no-fly zone from the Martian ships. And yet, the shot of him doing a flip and drinking his energy drink in zero gravity is pretty cool.
  • Amos claims that he is not a homicidal maniac. However, he can't tell Meng how many people he has killed. He either doesn't care or has lost count. That's a troubling scene. But then, he just starts beating up the guy who can help the team find Meng's daughter. That's random but shows just how far these characters are willing to go now to find the truth.
  • Meng's daughter had a friend with the same disease as she did. She is missing now as well. Her father seems more broken and distraught. Is this something the audience should care about though? In all the video footage, the doctor only has Meng's daughter.