Wednesday, May 23, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - The System Adjusts to the New and Unknown Protomolecule Threat in 'Delta-V'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 3.07 "Delta-V"

All eyes turn to the edge of the solar system as a mysterious new presence emerges. Naomi recommits to her roots. Drummer butts heads with a seasoned new commander aboard the Behemoth. A young Belter makes a name for himself.

"Delta-V" is a weirdly transitional episode for The Expanse this season. It's the show moving onto the next stage of its story after "Immolation" brought everything to a conclusion with the war between Earth and Mars. That hour resolved everything that the season had been about up to that point. Of course, it was also clear that this turn was coming. Last week's episode brought that conflict to a close and offered up a little tease of what would happen next. The entire system was aware that their focus needed to be on what the protomolecule is doing to Venus. They all understand that it is a new threat that could completely wipe out the system. The human race needed to be united before that threat emerged. And yes, the war was resolved by the time that the protomolecule's work was complete and it left the stability of Venus for the great unknown elsewhere in space. It emerged in this mysterious form that mostly just surprised and confused the people watching it on the news reports. It was an ominous image that basically confirmed that there would be no time to rest after the war. The characters would all quickly be flung into the next crazy story to save the human race. That's the way the story has always operated. And yet, it's surprising that there is a sizable time jump in between the episodes. The protomolecule emerges from Venus and essentially becomes a ring that is quite massive in one distinct place in the system. It is allowed to exist there without changing or the various governments sending missions to explore what is going on. They have all been busy negotiating how to send out a party of researchers to embrace this new era of humanity that represents all of their best interests. That now includes The Belt as well. Fred Johnson still has a protomolecule sample and it's now clear that he and Anderson Dawes are aligned as the leaders of this new legitimate government.

A time jump also allows all of the characters to be in completely different places both physically and emotionally at the start of this new story. For the entire series so far, the Rocinante crew has been jumping from conflict to conflict trying to prove to the world that there was this vast conspiracy that could unknowingly destroy them all. It was the failings of a certain group of men that almost completely destroyed the system before the ring was even formed. And now, the truth has been exposed. Errinwright and Jules-Pierre Mao have been arrested. Sorrento-Gillis has resigned with his legacy ultimately being this illegitimate war between Earth and Mars that didn't need to be fought. As such, it's quite a victory to see that Avasarala is now the leader of Earth. She's the one presenting a unifying message as everyone journeys into the great unknown. She is now the representative from Earth who presents with calm stability. It's been so much fun having her out in space so far this season. And now, it seems like she is far removed from the main source of action because she exposed the nefarious actions of those within her own government. All of the other characters of importance are out in the party actually exploring the ring. They too have been restored to the reputations and positions they want to have in this world. They were each given a choice as to what they wanted their lives to be next. As such, it's very fascinating to see where everybody has ended up even though it also feels like the show just keeps bouncing around this complicated world touching on everyone so the audience knows just how much things have changed during these past few months.

The Rocinante could have been completely decommissioned. For the entire series so far, that crew has been operating without any support from any official government. They were in control of a Martian war ship. That helped them get into some places undetected. But it caused problems for them as well. They were flying around in this ship that was essentially stolen property from Mars. The crew deserves to be recognized for their valor and bravery in stopping the system from complete destruction on a number of occasions. Sometimes they were just lucky. They happened to be at the right place at the right time to make a difference. Getting that recognition means they no longer have to fear the other ships on their radar and how they may potentially fire upon them and disrupt their mission. But it's still an operational ship for Holden, Alex and Amos. They easily could have walked away after saving Prax's daughter and helping Avasarala prove to the world that the war didn't need to be fought between Earth and Mars. They could return to whatever lives that may be waiting for them out in the system. Instead, they have chosen to continue on this mission. There is a level of trust that Avasarala must have for them because of their hard work and contributions so far. Here, it's fascinating that none of them can really explain why they are still risking their lives for this mission. A documentary crew is now aboard the Rocinante as well. This filmmaker wants to get an inside look at how these men think as they head into the unknown. She wants to know what's driving them forward. She may just be trying to get a rise out of them to provoke an emotional response. She can be a very manipulative character which does present her as more of a stereotype than anything else. But right now, it's clear that the show is reckoning the past and the future for these characters. Are they still defined by the lives they lived before boarding the Rocinante? Or do their actions aboard this ship now overwhelmingly define who they are?

Naomi is no longer a member of the crew on the Rocinante. She and Holden had their grand romantic reunion after saving the system once more. It was the two of them coming together and respecting each other's beliefs even though Holden also knew that Naomi wouldn't be staying with the ship for much longer. He knew that she would be fighting the fight for a legitimately recognized government for The Belt. She has those values. They are so personal to her. She sees it as a fight worth fighting for. Now is the best opportunity for it to happen as well. The system is looking at The Belt and Fred Johnson differently. Earth and Mars are starting to see them as an invaluable resource that must be respected. Of course, it may be extremely difficult to unify The Belt around one system of beliefs and government as well. Fred Johnson and Anderson Dawes have had huge differences in the past. They have betrayed and injured each other. This season started with Fred Johnson sending out a message to Anderson saying that he wanted peace between them to establish a greater presence in the system. He had the protomolecule and Anderson had the scientist who could understand it. They needed each other. That's a very precarious partnership though because it presents as one of the numerous changes that are happening amongst The Belt. In order to become unified, some Belters have to put past animosities to the side. The government needs to be better than before. They can't just deliver capital punishment whenever someone commits one crime. Drummer is the captain of the reworked Nauvoo - which is now named the Behemoth. Naomi is serving as her chief engineer and close confidant. But it's actually the introduction of David Strathairn's Klaes Ashford to this world that forces them to truly reckon with having to do things differently in the pursuit of respect and admiration throughout the system. Drummer has only ruled one way. She doesn't like Ashford at all. But she also must listen to his advice because they all need to put the future of The Belt first. They have to worry about diplomacy for the first time in their lives.

Of course, "Delta-V" is still a very intense and surprising episode of The Expanse as well. That comes from watching a story that is completely tangential to everything else going on in the system. There is a pilot named Maneo trying to do a slingshot run in the shortest amount of time. He sees it as the way to keep impressing his girlfriend. It's him actually chasing fame and notoriety. It's such a bitting commentary on toxic masculinity and the need to produce these epic moments of pure adrenaline rushes in the hopes of being seen as sexually attractive to the opposite sex. It's so incredibly toxic and awkward to watch. As such, it should come as no surprise that him changing his course to be the first ship to fly through the ring ultimately ends in disaster. The mysteries of the protomolecule are still vast. It's unknown why it decided to form a ring in space and come to this specific location. It's still growing and learning. But now, it's clear that nothing can pass through the middle of it. Maneo dies instantly while trying to go through that section of space. It's such a grueling image that shows just how severe and dangerous this new threat can be. And yet, it's more enticing that the final tease of the episode is the sudden return of Miller. He decided to crash Eros into Venus to avoid a mass casualty incident on Earth. As such, it was inevitable that he would return after the work the protomolecule was doing there was completed. But it is shocking to see how he returns. He pops up as an apparent hallucination to Holden and is just talking nonsense. There's no sense of what it means. But it is a powerful tease that the mysteries are about to become even more complicated and vast this season. 

Some more thoughts:
  • "Delta-V" was written by Naren Shankar and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Anna is also a part of the U.N. portion of the exploratory mission of the ring. She was put aboard that ship to see if there was any biological signs of life aboard this new structure. She has the moral conscience that Avasarala trusts while also willing to show kindness to whatever the protomolecule may be becoming. Of course, the distance between her and her wife is now putting a strain on the family because she has been gone for so long despite the good work she is doing and getting in return.
  • Even more time is spent on a mysterious new worker on the maintenance staff of these ships. This women, Melba Koh, simply presents as a newcomer to this job who is facing the pressures of handling sensitive machinery at the edge of the known system. And yet, it's clear that she has her own agenda that could prove quite destructive to the overall mission because she is planting a bomb and kills her superior once he goes back to check on her work. That's very ominous as well.
  • Drug use is also more apparent across the ships as well. Naomi notices the underground market in effect aboard the Behemoth. She doesn't do anything to shut it down until one of the workers dies because he couldn't focus on the task at hand in space. Meanwhile, it appears that Melba Koh is able to consume something that immediately gives her super strength for a couple of seconds. That could develop into something huge and lethal too.
  • Both the filmmaker, Monica, and her cameraman try to seduce Amos in the hopes of him becoming more cooperative. It's a lame cliche for a journalist to have sex with her subject in order to learn more about him or her. It's great that both Amos and Holden shut her down. And yet, the show will still have to do more to present her as a character worth investing in who is actually smart with her observations of this world aboard the Rocinante.
  • Bobbie has rejoined the Martian marines. That's where she wanted to serve. She no longer felt like Avasarala needed her protection. She could return to the service she was trained to do. She's still in communication with Alex on the Rocinante though. That presents a new way for him to interact with his family back home on Mars. She has met them and is able to experience the tension that now divides this family unit.