Wednesday, May 30, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Holden Believes He's Losing His Mind When the Next Attack Occurs in 'It Reaches Out'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 3.08 "It Reaches Out"

An old friend taunts Holden with the answers he seeks. Naomi struggles to fit in. A mysterious low-level tech aboard the Thomas Prince enacts a terrifying plan.

This is a very thrilling and mysterious episode of The Expanse. No, it doesn't provide any further answers about what's going on with the Ring. The fleets approaching the vessel all saw the devastation that occurred after that reckless belter tried to fly right through the center. He was immediately killed while his ship was saved. That's a key distinction. It wasn't like the ship ran into a wall and was completely destroyed. No, the kid's body was the only thing that was killed in that strike. Instead, the protomolecule saved the ship for a reason. And now, it can be added to whatever mysteries are currently happening there. Earth and Mars both see this as the Belt going rogue and putting this entire expedition at risk. They see this third government as being reckless and trying to prove that they deserve to be recognized as a legitimate organization in this system. They are horrified because it could have gone wrong any number of ways. They don't know what the repercussions to this action will be. They have now fired the first shoots against the Ring. It was just one rogue agent trying to impress a girl. But the protomolecule may not see it as such. It may process it as an attack with an entire army about to follow with a strike. As such, it needs to prepare for the worst. Of course, it also seems like this moment of enlightenment also wakes something up within the protomolecule. The same moment that the belter dies trying to go through it Holden received his first vision of Miller. It was completely unclear what that glimpse of his former friend was or meant. It could tease that he was sick and slowly losing his mind. Or it could have given even more importance to the Rocinante moving forward as the vessel that can actually communicate with the protomolecule and try to understand what it wants.

Politics is still being played throughout every complication of this exploratory mission. Anna cautions everyone to take a breath on the Earth vessel because she knows that this unexpected development wasn't an action sanctioned by the Belt. She just sees it as one foolish kid trying to do something incredibly stupid to impress a girl. And now, the mission can benefit from knowing that nothing can pass through the ring. Sure, it may have only further weaponized the structure. The scientists still aren't any closer to understanding what's happening there. Anna continues to be ridiculed as part of the religious leaders also on this mission. The commanders of these ships want to see things in a very practical way. They aren't out here searching for god or some living entity. They just see a new enemy that is mysterious and needs to be understood in order to help protect all of humanity. Anna is there to ensure that compassion is able to inform all of the decisions being made. The Earth leaders quickly wanted to fire at the Behemoth believing them to be supportive of the decision to send the one ship through the Ring. Anna is able to talk them down. She is able to see the world more clearly. She can see when there is trouble afoot throughout this ship. She has the compassion to always reach out whenever she spots a troubled soul. She is very giving to the people around her. That's what she preaches through her beliefs. She has a conscious and must act on it at all times. But that isn't able to stop an attack that immediately threatens the Rocinante crew.

Melba needed to act quickly in order to ensure that her secret mission was able to succeed. She was such an unknown presence in last week's episode. A new character introduced aboard the Earth vessel who presented as nothing more than a technician helping the ships run smoothly. She was doing maintenance for the first time in space. But she proved to be more dangerous than that by planting a bomb and killing her supervisor after he discovered it. That moment proved that she has some way of becoming incredibly strong for a couple of seconds. It was enough for her to smash him against the wall and to crash his skull in so that he could fit into a crapped compartment to avoid being discovered. Sure, it's very convenient that the other technician doesn't think it's strange that only two of them are flying back to the main ship. But it's also clear that she is traumatized by having to kill. This isn't something she has ever done before. Sure, she intends to cause more chaos and destruction to disrupt this mission. But her motivation is still shrouded in secrecy. She is wrecked with guilt over what she did to an honorable man. That has to mean something as well even though it's clear that she is targeting Holden and his crew for a very specific reason. Anna can see that Melba is in agony over something that has just happened. But she is unable to actually get through to her in time. Once the bomb is detonated, Melba is able to broadcast a message of Holden claiming responsibility for the OPA. He is calling for Belter superiority over Earth and Mars because they are the ones who control space. They don't have a planet to call home. So, the discovery of the Ring should be entitled to them. It's a clear fabrication. But none of the ships have the proper time to analyze the message and actually authenticate it. Plus, the Rocinante isn't able to get their message out claiming that it's not true. As such, it appears that there is a traitor in their midst as well - with Cohen seeming like the culprit because he is the one who replaces a key part of their drive before the bomb explodes.

This puts the Behemoth in a very precarious position. Earth and Mars already don't trust that the Belt will be loyal in keeping peace in this system. Meanwhile, the Belt fully believes that Earth and Mars will go straight back to fighting a war once the mysteries of the Ring have been solved. This system may be able to come together to face this new threat. But it still feels like they are teetering on the edge of turning against one another as well. All it takes is one explosion for the ships to start firing on each other again. The video of the explosion shows that it was likely a bomb planted on the ship and not a missile or a nuclear meltdown of the reactor. All of the captains are able to understand that immediately. But it also puts Drummer, Ashford and Naomi in an awkward position. Naomi can speak up for Holden. She understands him better than anyone else in the system. She knows that's not him on the tape. Ashford is proud and supportive of Belter independence. He wants to honor the young man who died flying through the Ring because he was willing to actually do something. But he also understands that the Behemoth only has a few moments to decide if they are going to remain loyal to one ship because of personal trust or if they'll align with Earth and Mars to better secure a future for the Belt as a legitimate government. It's Drummer's decision to make. She has to be the one to decide whether or not to fire on the Rocinante. She has worked with the crew in the past. The only one she formed a genuine connection with was Naomi though. And now, she's no longer on that ship. But she still must listen to her advice on the situation. In the end, it seems like she won't have to make that decision because there's a power outage once she gives the order to fire. But a missile is still launched. She chooses to destroy the one ship that has saved this universe countless times because of the manipulations of one mysterious new player in this world.

And yet, this hour doesn't end with the destruction of the Rocinante and the deaths of everyone onboard. That would be such a bleak ending for the show that would really eliminate what makes it so special in the first place. Instead, it forces Holden and company to place their complete trust in the protomolecule and the Ring. Holden has seemingly been going mad because he's been talking to someone who isn't there. He is seeing Miller. It's not the protomolecule projecting the image of Miller onto this ship for everyone to see. Holden is the only one who sees him. Miller isn't captured on the cameras that are now all over the place either. It seems like he is nothing more than a ghost or a hallucination. A sign that something is seriously wrong with Holden. But nothing is wrong with him. He just needs to figure out why Miller is appearing now. He needs to know what his purpose is. Of course, this isn't Miller. Miller died during the impact on Venus. But his knowledge and memory of the world was absorbed by the protomolecule. It has been learning and growing ever since that fateful day. And now, it's decided to enact it's own plan. It's clear that the protomolecule is continuing to learn and evolve. It's figuring out the best way to replicate Miller so that he can appear to Holden with a clear and concise goal and message. It's not until the situation demands it that Holden is able to get some clarity. He thinks he is losing his mind because he must be infected with protomolecule. The rest of the ship is very worried about him and his ability to continue to lead this crew. Monica knows that he is keeping part of the story from her cameras. But Holden is able to piece together the importance of Miller appearing before him. And in the end, he does have to trust what the protomolecule says. That's the only way his ship will be able to survive this attack. The Rocinante isn't destroyed because Holden has Amos fly straight towards the Ring without crashing into it. It's such an ominous and tense sequence. One that feels like the show will be leaving the audience in ambiguity until the next episode. But then, it does offer clarity in seeing both the Rocinante and the missile floating in suspended animation. The missile doesn't make contact. It's at a complete standstill. Now, both are under the control of the protomolecule. That's daunting for the Rocinante crew as well. But at least, they are still alive to face it.

Some more thoughts:
  • "It Reaches Out" was written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby and directed by Kenneth Fink.
  • Thomas Jane gets a "Special Appearance by" credit. That means he may only continue to appear this season in this very specific story. Miller died once and has now managed to be resurrected by the protomolecule to serve as a conduit with Holden and the Rocinante crew. Because he's not listed with the rest of the series regulars, it seems inevitable that something big and climatic is about to happen with this plot device as well.
  • The documentary crew on the Rocinante mostly just seems like a hassle that the main characters have to put up with now. And yet, they are given some purpose that show why they are allowed on this mission as well. Monica may just be chasing the awards. But the company they work for is paying all the bills for the Rocinante and ensuring that the ship isn't reclaimed by Mars. Plus, all of the cameras allow Holden to have his big realization about the sudden appearance of Miller.
  • Of course, Monica and Cohen are still pretty one-note characters at the moment. They just seem like liabilities on the Rocinante. They need to be protected as well once a missile is fired at the ship. Plus, if Cohen was working on this plan with Melba in order to get the access and footage necessary for the ruse, then it would be a suicide mission for him because he knew the other ships would all want to fire on the Rocinante.
  • Avasarala and Bobbie don't appear this week at all. That's disappointing given how great both of them are on this show. And yet, it's understandable too. Right now, it's important to stay in the moment with all of the ships converging together near the Ring. That needs to be the focus of the story right now. It's still clear that there is politicking going on between Avasarala and Fred Johnson though.
  • Fans of The Expanse should be rejoicing right now. The show is in the middle of an excellent season. But more importantly, the show will be producing a fourth season. Even though Syfy cancelled the show a few weeks ago, Amazon has officially become the new stateside home for the series. That's terrific. I'm grateful that more stories will be told with these characters even though I'm already worried about how the episodes being released all at once will affect my ability to provide in-depth analysis for each episode like I've done for three seasons now.