Wednesday, March 1, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Technology Changes the World as Holden Tries to Control It in 'Paradigm Shift'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.06 "Paradigm Shift"

Earth and Mars search for answers in the aftermath of the asteroid collision.

The allegory that runs throughout "Paradigm Shift" about technology is pretty powerful. Whenever there is a new technological breakthrough, the world can never return to what it was before. The invention happens and completely redefines the world around humanity. This show has been pretty grounded in science for most of its run. Yes, it's a space drama but it approaches the genre by imagining what could scientifically be possible in our reality a couple centuries from now. It's been a unique approach to the subject matter. And now, this universe is at the dawn of a new technological breakthrough. The current status quo occurred as soon as the Epstein drive was invented. That engine was created by mistake and killed its creator. But it also gave Mars the independence to break free from Earth. That was 137 years ago. Ever since then, the tension has been brewing between the two planets. They seem on the brink of war every single day. But now, the protomolecule has arrived and changed the realities of physics. So, the world is going to once again change thanks to this new technology. That's very scary and daunting - especially with the alien theories running throughout the universe.

It's also fascinating to watch Holden and his crew try to eliminate this newfound discovery. He believes that the Rocinante crew has the only remaining sample of the protomolecule. There's no way to know if that's the case. It just makes things simple and rational for him and his crew throughout this episode. Last week's hour had a whole lot of finality to it. It brought to a close Miller and Julie Mao's grand story. Of course, it still seems doubtful that the two of them are off the show for good. Right now, that's just what the characters believe. Eros crashed into Venus and the destruction eliminated the protomolecule. The scientist working on it has been killed. So now, all that's left is the sample the Rocinante found when it was leaving Eros. If Holden and his crew were to destroy it, then the universe could go back to normal. It could return to physics that made sense. The crew would no longer need to chase mysterious and alien events. Of course, this hour also posits that's a hopeless pursuit. The characters can't just pit a lid on this. The world is about to embrace radical change that will completely shift the balance of power.

Of course, Fred Johnson is still just using all of this as a power play. He's still operating under the same belief of Earth and Mars being at war and the belt suffering because of it. So now, he's using some of Earth's nuclear missiles to bring more power to the belt. He got control of them during the big crisis with Eros. And now, he has found a way to keep them operational for whatever he desires. He understands the politics of this world. He knows he needs to be thinking ahead. He knows how dangerous these weapons can be. But he also understands the kind of legitimacy they will given his organization. Yes, it may be shifty for him to threaten to use these missiles. That's what ultimately turns Holden against Fred. And yet, Fred does have to be commended for telling the truth. Last season it was never perfectly clear where his allegiances were. And now, it makes sense that he has always been upfront with Holden. It's because of him that Holden and Miller were able to get as far as they have. But without his continuing support, Holden and his crew could have a precarious future. Perhaps that takes them to Earth or Mars. They have connections there that could be interesting from a storytelling perspective. But right now, it's just important that the seeds of distrust are growing because Holden, Naomi and Fred are keeping things from each other and getting more suspicious.

Elsewhere on Earth, it's fantastic to watch as Avasarala has her big "I'm the fucking hero of this story" moment. That's just a great scene because it's her revealing to Errinwright just how seriously she is taking all of this. She loves this work and is committed to doing what is best for her home. She knows that Jules-Pierre Mao has something to do with what happened to Eros. The station transferred into something that no one understands. Yes, her friend telling her it could be alien is a little bit of a stretch. That largely just serves as a way to have those suspicions present in the characters on Earth as well. Avasarala will need evidence of that in order to believe it. She demands answers now. She sees herself as the reason Earth was able to avoid disaster. She knew that Fred and Holden could be trusted with this mission even though she publicly has to say horrible things about them. And now, she reveals just how far she is willing to go to understand what has just happened. She threatens an entire family. That's a dark moment but really empowering as well. There's no way Errinwright will be able to deliver that message with the same intensity. But its purpose is to show him and the audience just how serious Avasarala is going to take all of this moving forward. She demands the truth now.

Of course, things are about to get a whole lot more weird and complicated as well. The idea that the protomolecule came from aliens has just been suspicion so far. No one has actually believed it. But now, this episode closes with the biggest proof yet that more is happening in this universe than humanity knows about. It's a fantastic sequence as well. It's all centered around new character Bobbie. She's been gearing up for a fight. She's not a well-disciplined marine who knows when not to fight. She doesn't have that diplomatic side yet. She does follow orders. And yet, nothing could help her and her team for what happens on the moon they are protecting. Earth and Mars are so paranoid about what the other might do that an alien presence is able to come in and just wipe them all out. The soldiers have orders not to fire unless fired upon. It's a chaotic set piece. One that includes Earth crossing the line into Mars territory and Earth ships firing on the Martian one. It seems like Earth has finally started this long-brewing war. But that may not be the case at all. In fact, it could be aliens making their presence known in this world. That's a cool and enticing visual to end on here. Bobbie is the only person to survive. So, that will give the show a point-of-entry character into this foreign new world. And that is very exciting to think about.

Some more thoughts:
  • Holden and Naomi tell Amos and Alex that they have started sleeping together. It was built up as this huge secret. And yet, these guys couldn't care any less. In fact, they were making bets on when it happened. That brings a nice levity to the hour.
  • However, Alex and Amos have a really weird story in this episode as well. They return to Tycho as heroes for Eros. But it quickly turns into a story of whether or not Amos has to protect Alex. They get in a fight but it doesn't really mean much.
  • The Rocinante crew agrees to destroy the protomolecule sample that they have. They have some debate about it but they ultimately agree to do it. And yet, does Naomi actually launch the torpedo? On the computer screen, it says she does but there's no big moment about the sample being sent into the sun for its destruction.
  • Naomi has the tattoos of the OPA but she hasn't been a part of the organization for a very long time. And yet, it seems like she's becoming interested once more. She actually helps Drummer with disabling the counter measures on the stolen missiles from Earth.
  • Naomi also goes to Fred to say that the world should know about the role Miller and Julie played in avoiding disaster with Eros. She props it up as a tragic love story while Fred knows that Miller was largely just a pain-in-the-ass who was on a suicide mission the whole time.
  • It's interesting to see how many times the episode goes back to the past and on Epstein's tragic venture into space. It feels inevitable that he'll die because the audience knows the effects of this kind of high-speed travel. But it's still interesting to watch as his world comes to an end.
  • Earth is sending a team to Venus to explore the wreckage of Eros and better understand what happened to the station. That's probably not going to go well if the protomolecule somehow survived the impact. Plus, it makes Fred and Holden a little annoying for not telling the Earth and Mars governments about the protomolecule.