A discovery pushes Naomi and Holden apart and sets the Rocinante crew against each other.
What happened on Eros changed everything in the system. It opened everyone's eyes to the dangers and uncertainties of the protomolecule. There was no longer any way to hide that this power was out there and could radically change the power dynamics of the system. It also forced everyone to decide how far they are willing to go for what they believe in. Do they remain loyal to the beliefs they've stood by all of their lives? Or do they see it as their duty to protect the whole system by any means necessary to eradicate the protomolecule wherever it appears? "The Monster and the Rocket" is an intense episode of The Expanse that reveals just how far these characters have gone and changed because of their run-ins with the new technology across the system. It has forced all of them to do things they previously thought impossible. It has changed all of them. Has it made them monsters? In some cases, yes. Have they all lost their humanity? No, it's still something worth fighting for. The circumstances themselves are just making it more and more difficult to find the hope in this increasingly tragic world.
Jim Holden probably has the most simple-minded view of the world at the moment. He's under the easy objective of destroying the protomolecule wherever it appears. He knows how damaging it can be. He sees it as an obtainable goal to eradicate it completely from the system. He believes it's still in short supply. And yet, every time he believes he's destroyed the last of it, it then appears somewhere else. He doesn't know everything going on with Jules-Pierre Mao and his attempts to sell it to both Earth and Mars. He just sees it as a weapon that is destroying the status quo of this system. He needs to be the man who acts because he can't sit by and let another incident like Eros occur. All of this has taken him down a dark path this season as well. He's losing hope and growing more and more desperate. He doesn't understand what the scientists were doing with the protomolecule on Ganymede. He just knows it was injected into a person. That person is now wandering the surface of the station. Holden believes it needs to be shot on scene and destroyed completely. That's the only thing he can focus on at the moment.
Holden's story is incredibly simple and probably the least important story of this episode. And yet, it's vital in showing the differences of opinion amongst the characters. Alex and Prax warn Holden of the error of his ways. He doesn't know the full truth. He's just acting out of fear that danger and death isn't far behind from the protomolecule. All of this could be a trap. The crew doesn't exactly know what they are hunting. Holden is just desperate to kill it. Prax doesn't know any better. He doesn't know if he can reason with the creature. He doesn't know if it's Mei and she's just scared of what has happened to her. That would seemingly be the strong twist to do for thematic and emotional reasons. But the show doesn't actually confirm that. Instead, it's just important that Holden and Prax are clashing for ideological reasons. Plus, they aren't able to kill it. Holden has to accept that maintaining control of the protomolecule is an impossible task. His skills and the ship are needed elsewhere - where they actually can make a difference.
That points the Rocinante back to Naomi and Amos. Naomi made the noble decision to stay on Ganymede to help fix Melissa's ship and get as many people off of the station as possible. The station is growing toxic. It's dying and that leads to a massive panic by the people still alive. All of this is further complicated by the lack of air filters on the ship. Melissa can only carry 52 more people with her. It's a ship built for hundreds. There's a crowd waiting to board. But there is nothing they can do. They don't know if the Rocinante will be able to get to them in time to share some of their air. They don't know if they can reasonably save everyone on this ship. But it's something that Naomi needs to do. She needs to save as many people as she can. She needs to make a difference. This is how she reacts following the disaster on Eros. She has regrets for not doing more for the innocent people on that station. In the end, she is successful here. It's a very moving and powerful storyline. The belter mentality has been frustrating in the past. But here, it is used to unite the people and keep them strong despite the difficult situation they find themselves. Naomi is willing to sacrifice herself to save someone else. She's willing to do that and leave the world doing something good. Of course, that doesn't happen. She's on the ship and the Rocinante is able to threaten Mars and Earth into letting them off the station. But all of that is just setup for the protomolecule creature having climbed onboard which will lead to a nice, personal and intimate story for next week's finale.
Elsewhere, Avasarala travels to space for the first time in the series. It's for an important mission as well. She travels to meet with Jules-Pierre Mao in an attempt to figure out what he plans on doing with the protomolecule moving forward. It's an important story. But it also gives Errinwright an important spotlight. As a character, he's frequently been used by Avasarala and Jules-Pierre. He's rarely had his own agency or importance. But here, he's the one making moves to determine the future of this partnership. He kills Korshunov, the Martian Defense Secretary, because he now firmly believes that Earth needs to come first again. Jules-Pierre has gotten too destructive and open with the protomolecule. Mars has already weaponized it and used it against Earth. Errinwright has taken the blame for all of that. And now, it's his time to make a move. He won't just go away quietly like Avasarala wants him too. She wants him to tell the truth and pay the consequences for his treasonous actions. But here, he's calling into question Avasarala's loyalty to Earth. She seems motivated by what's in the best interest of the entire system which goes against the ideas she previously preached. She's working with a former Martian marine and meeting with a fugitive. She's changed a lot. Her morals have had to adapt to the changing situations. That could ultimately cost her though as the war between Mars and Earth finally seems like it is breaking out over on Ganymede.
Some more thoughts:
- "The Monster and the Rocket" was written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and directed by Rob Lieberman.
- Both Errinwright and Korshunov knew about each other's involvement in the protomolecule project. So, they both had to put on masks of ignorance when interacting with each other in public. Errinwright offers to talk openly about what they both know. And that's the perfect setup for him using Martian technology against Korshunov.
- The hour is also setting up a completely different scenario with Errinwright as well before he reveals himself to Jules-Pierre and Avasarala in the end. Before that, he was seemingly suicidal by offering some very personal advice to his son and leaving behind a note for his family to find. Of course, that doesn't ultimately happen.
- Bobbie understandably doesn't trust Avasarala and Cotyar. And yet, she goes on this mission with them because they are very upfront about what they need from her. Plus, she gets more of Cotyar's backstory. She sees that Avasarala is still able to trust him even though he got her son killed.
- It seems very unlikely that Melissa would trust anyone from the Rocinante again after they hijacked her ship and got her husband killed. And yet, Naomi is the only person on the station who can fix the ship in time to leave with as many refugees as possibles. That's very convenient.
- Amos is more than a little useless this week though. He's good for punching a guy and showing just how chaotic and out-of-control the mob outside of the ship can get. But Naomi is easily able to take him down when she makes her move to help 52 people.
- How far are the Rocinante and Weeping Somnambulist going to get before the protomolecule creature reveals itself? They will more than likely get out of the Martian no-fly zone. Plus, the full team will probably reunite. But it's going to be a tense showdown no matter what.
- No update is given as to what the protomolecule is up to on Venus. Nor is anything new shared about the current location of Anderson Dawes and the scientist. Those are plots that could be important to remember heading into the season finale as well.