Wednesday, March 15, 2017

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Fred Struggles to Maintain Control While Holden Meets a New Potential Ally in 'Pyre'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 2.08 "Pyre"

Naomi tracks down signs of protomolecule and Fred Johnson's control over the OPA collapses.

Holden, his crew and his allies on Tycho Station all believed some order had been restored to the system following the destruction of all of the protomolecule. Of course, the audience knew that wasn't true at all. It wasn't a massive destruction at all. The material is still out there. It's still causing new problems that the characters only barely understand. They are still just reacting to all of the new information that the protomolecule releases into the world. But more important than that, it has created a power vacuum throughout the system. Earth and Mars have clear government hierarchy. They have a clear chain of command. They have governments where a select few control the fates of many. It's a broken system. It can easily lead to corruption. But it helps them maintain order in an increasingly chaotic world. They have those systems to rely on as they try to keep the system together. The belt has no clear rule. It has fractions of people. People with distinct personalities and perspectives. It has leaders who they rally behind. But it's largely a collection of people. People often abused by the two planets that exist in this system. People that believe everything should be equal amongst all.

The belter mentality is an interesting philosophy. Those characters can easily be frustrating and annoying because they are always causing problems and headaches for the main characters. Anderson Dawes has been important. But him stealing the scientist who was working on the protomolecule for Fred Johnson largely just creates a story and friction amongst the characters. "Pyre" largely focuses on how Anderson managed to escape. Plus, the team has to find out what the scientist found out about the protomolecule before he was taken. But it's also fascinating to see what this move by Anderson does to the various communities on Tycho. Holden and Fred have been allies for a long time now. Tycho Station is the longest place the Rocinante and its crew have been docked. It's not exactly home but it's the closest any of the crew members actually have at the moment. They still can't go back home without facing a ton of suspicion and questions. They've proven themselves to be allies but Earth and Mars still have their doubts about them. So, it's important that they have Tycho Station to recharge and catch their breathes. And yet, that will no longer be the case moving forward.

Fred and Holden have a difference of opinion. They are very similar as people. They have complimentary beliefs. But now, they disagree over how to move forward. Holden wants to destroy every last drop of the protomolecule so that the system will never have another event like what happened to Eros. Of course, he's already too late for that. The protomolecule and its alien origins have already wrecked havoc on Ganymede Station. Tycho is welcoming in refugees from that disaster. So, the characters are aware of what went down out there. It's just now they are realizing how it connects back to everything they already know. Killing the scientist wouldn't have changed that. So, it's a good thing Holden wasn't able to go through with that assassination. And yet, Fred is no longer a friend because he wanted to exploit the scientist's knowledge in order to improve the belts' standing in the system. He wants to use everything that has happened to bring some legitimacy to their operation. Of course, those pursuits are quickly hijacked by Anderson. So, things aren't ultimately going Fred's way. But he's still in charge of Tycho and wields a ton of influence over the belt. Holden and his crew will just no longer be welcome there.

Of course, that's under the assumption that Fred will continue to be in power at Tycho moving forward. A couple of belters try to hijack one of the missiles from him. They storm the control room and are willing to kill anyone to get the access codes. Fred and Drummer only survive because the Rocinante crew discover what's going on and cut the oxygen to the room. That shows how important these people are to each other's survival. All of them are capable of handling themselves and staying alive long enough to hold onto their power. Drummer doesn't hesitant to kill her captors as soon as she gets up to walk again. In fact, that's a pretty badass moment. But more importantly, this shows that Fred is losing his grasp of control in the belt. He has always wielded his power in phenomenal ways. He's usually been able to get people to do what he wants. And yet, that message from Anderson was enough to place doubt in some belters. They felt confident enough to storm the control room. They ultimately failed. But how long will it be before someone else tries to take Fred out? He's still alive now. But the target on his head is growing. His days on the show are seemingly numbered. Once he goes, possession of the nuclear missiles will be very important. For all his faults, Fred knows they should be used as a power play instead of as weapons. Not everyone has that same mentality though. So, that could be the spark that ignites the war throughout the system.

And yet, Holden and his crew aren't going to be on Tycho Station to see that if that happens. They are going to investigate Ganymede and what the protomolecule is up to there. They already have some strong leads too. They are able to identify a pediatrician who worked for Protogen who seemingly knew that the attack was coming. That's a promising lead that allows answers to be forthcoming once the Rocinante arrives on the station. Moreover, the show does something very promising and offers a new perspective into the world of this new station. This hour tells the story of a refugee from Ganymede. Meng is just a botanist on the station. He's growing plants and makes sure the one in his pocket still survives after all the devastation. But he's lost a lot from this attack as well - namely his daughter who had a doctor's appointment during the battle. He survived but she is likely died. That's devastating to him. It's clear he wants to do the right thing. He wants to make sure the belters who float refugees from Earth and Mars pay for their crime. He also wants to help Holden and Naomi when they search him out seeking answers. He was always going to connect back to the overarching mystery somehow. He's the entry point into this new world. He understands the station better than anyone else. Plus, he has a key personal motivation for going back there. He needs to find his daughter who the pediatrician took with him before the attack. She may be special somehow as well which could add a whole new level to this mythology too. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Pyre" was written by Robin Veith and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Of course, Meng seems like a prisoner aboard the Rocinante. He's doing the right thing by trying to find answers as to what happened. And yet, the crew have him locked away in a room. He's not really a prisoner. They give him new clothes and equipment. But it's also clear that they aren't sure if they can trust him yet.
  • Naomi did not destroy the sample of the protomolecule the crew had like she claimed she did. She fears that that's the sample that the scientist identified in the system. So, it's a sigh of relief that that's not the case at all. Of course, it's only a matter of time before everyone else discovers she lied.
  • Holden and Naomi also say "I love you" to each other even though they are both doing some dark things at the moment. At least, Holden is upfront about his attempt to kill the scientist. Naomi doesn't come clean with her lies at all.
  • Drummer could easily be a character of importance to be killed off to establish the serious stakes of the power vacuum on the station. She's a key ally for Fred while also being helpful to the Rocinante crew. Her death would mean Fred having one last person to rely on. And yet, she survives. She and Fred are still in control of the station.
  • What is going on with Amos? He's just not himself and only Alex seems to notice that. He's still affected by how that young boy saw him. Of course, this could just be a way to introduce more of his backstory and the one woman he seems to care about in this world (besides Naomi).
  • It's cruel when Amos calls out Alex for not being helpful to his family back on Mars. And yet, that seems like it's going to become more important moving forward. It took that harsh moment for Alex to be reminded of what exactly he's fighting to get back to.
  • This episode was great in bringing new conflict to the power struggle on Tycho. But things will be even more intense once Earth, Mars and Anderson gather for their peace summit. That has the potential to really reshape this system and who's really in charge.