Wednesday, March 8, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Bobbie Explains What Happened on Ganymede Station in 'The Seventh Man'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.07 "The Seventh Man"

Preparations for Earth/Mars peace conference tightens the tension on Errinwright.

"The Seventh Man" is pretty much a table-setting episode of The Expanse. It gets everything established for high drama in next week's episode. But right now, it's just moving pieces around to make things as dramatically interesting as possible. It's a necessary type of episode. But one that is a little surprising and a bit of a let down after the attack on Ganymede station that closed last week's hour. That moment seemed like a crucial turning point for the show. It was confirmation that there was alien existence in this universe. Bobbie seemed like she would be the point-of-entry character for that new, fascinating world as the only survivor of the attack. However, that doesn't seem to be the case at all. Instead, this hour is all about the various sides in this universe preparing for a peace summit. Too much has happened as of late that threatens to ravage the system with war. Avasarala is hoping to avoid that and continues to prove himself as the smartest person in the room. It should be fascinating to see all of the sides come together for once. But this hour just proves that getting to that summit will be very complicated for most of the characters.

This is proving to be a defining incident for Bobbie. She was a fascinating new addition for the season. She was a new perspective that added some insight into the Martian army. She was a soldier who wanted to go to war with Earth so that Mars could begin terraforming the planet as soon as possible. She dreams of vast oceans and beautiful forests. She's a trained soldier. She's stubborn and speaks out of line. But she still serves proudly and does what she's told. And now, she has newfound importance as the only survivor of this massacre on Ganymede. She's the only person who can bring clarity to Earth and Mars over what happened. Both armies fired on each other. This could be the moment that finally brings them to war. What Bobbie says will determine the fate of the system. She can use this as her moment to justify starting the war. That's what she wants. However, the situation is much more complicated than that. Her superiors are telling her to say whatever will lead to peace being restored to the system. They don't care about what actually happened. They just want to delay war for as long as possible - even if that makes Mars seem inept.

But of course, the mystery goes much deeper than that. The Earth soldiers only crossed the line into Martian territory on the station because they were being attacked by an unknown combatant. It wasn't a declaration of war so much as them running for their lives. It was still a hopeless pursuit. They still died because of whatever that being is. The glimpse that Bobbie got confirmed to the audience that it was an alien. But she doesn't have that idea yet. Because of Martian technology, she is able to enhance her memories and know that the Earth soldiers weren't firing at her and her unit. They were instead firing at the seventh man chasing them. It's an emotional time for her because she has just lost her entire unit. Mars is rewarding her for her bravery. And yet, her government is also trying to silence the truth. Her new captain wants her to share a story that will maintain the status quo. The world is changing. All of the main characters are becoming aware of that fact. Alien materials have fallen into the system. It's changing the system. Not everyone is aware of that yet. Leaders justify that by maintaining order and peace in the system. But it also leads to reckless moments were people go rogue without having all of the facts yet.

That leads the story back to Tycho Station and Anderson Dawes' debut for the season. Anderson seems like an important character on the show. He's one of the public faces of the OPA. In fact, he probably carries more sway over the belt than Fred or Holden because he was actually born in the belt. He's not someone from Earth who has abandoned his home and agrees with the cause of belt independence. He has suffered the kind of persecution that is motivating the belt to unify against its oppressors. The OPA has the opportunity to be taken more seriously than ever before. Fred and Holden saved Earth from destruction by Eros. And now, they still have several nuclear missiles that could be used as a power play. However, it's important to remember that Holden and Fred know more than the average member of the OPA. They know more than Anderson Dawes. They are keeping information from him regarding the protomolecule and what really happened on Eros. Much like Earth and Mars, they keep it a secret to maintain peace and order in the system. They are making this play for power but also have to be aware of what information gets out. Anderson is very smart for knowing that Fred is withholding information from him. It's thrilling that he investigates and instigates a jail break. But that can only do so much to define his character.

Right now, things are happening in the plot solely because a major character doesn't know what's really going on. Anderson has no clue about the protomolecule or what the scientist actually does. He just knows that he's important to Fred. Taking him could easily lead to a takeover of Tycho Station and removing Fred from power. That's what all of this is ultimately about. Fred has been in control and has been a powerful ally for Holden over the course of the series. The audience should sympathize with him in this situation. But it's also incredibly easy to do so because Anderson has very little depth. The efforts the show makes in this episode also do very little to change that. It increases the debate amongst the core team over what to do in this situation. Holden and Naomi are once again at odds over Anderson and whether he can be trusted as an ally. Holden is still an idealistic man who believes the OPA should just hand the nuclear missiles over to Earth in order to be at the peace summit. He sees that as the move that will earn respect from Earth and Mars. Naomi disagrees because she sees Anderson as a hero from Ceres who provided for the belt in ways the rest of the system did not. She's still the one ultimately chasing his ship in the end once he makes his escape. It's a futile effort because he manages to get away with the scientist. It's just frustrating because it's the character acting out of ignorance of the facts. And yet, that's the point too. The system isn't united right now. It will need to be if it's going to face this new alien threat that they barely understand.

Some more thoughts:
  • "The Seventh Man" was written by Georgia Lee and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Anderson Dawes continues to be such a weird character for Jared Harris to play. The accent work alone is just so intriguing and complicated. He inhabits the role perfectly fine. He just hasn't been that exciting or necessary yet. Him stealing the scientist will likely change that though.
  • It's great that Avasarala is always the smartest person in the room when it comes to Earth needing to make split-second decisions. And yet, is it something the show has done too much of this season? Does she always have to have the best strategy? Or does the rest of the government have to listen to it? It would be interesting to see them vote against it and what the ramifications of that would be.
  • Mars has basically invented the Limitless pills that boost the brain's ability to do everything. It's fascinating to see Bobbie take the pill for the first time. She's a soldier not an engineer and this pill may be too different for her. But she takes it nonetheless and remembers things she forgot or blocked out.
  • More details about Bobbie's backstory are given in this episode as well. Her father was a soldier for the Martian army too. Meanwhile, her brothers have chosen to become engineers - career moves that their father didn't totally approve of.
  • The scientist notes that he is still getting new information from the protomolecule. So, that either means that there is another sample of it still out there or Eros didn't completely burn up on Venus. Either way, it should be fascinating to see if he can continue his work while with Anderson.
  • I still doubt that Miller and Julie are gone from the show for good. And yet, this is the second episode in a row without them in it - with no update on Earth's mission to explore the wreckage on Venus. However, both Thomas Jane and Florence Faivre are still listed in the opening credits.