Wednesday, June 20, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Earth, Mars and The Belt Deal With the Same Threat from the Protomolecule in 'Fallen World'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 3.11 "Fallen World"

Drummer and Ashford find themselves trapped with few options for survival. Anna tends to the wounded masses as Melba continues to hunt down her prey. The Rocinante crew struggle to survive as Naomi reunites with her true family.

The Expanse ended last week's episode with Holden getting a vision from the protomolecule that seemed to spell out the destruction of the entire system. As such, it could be seen as a frustrating creative decision to push pause on that story altogether in "Fallen World." It's such a risk to produce an episode where the main protagonists are mostly sidelined for the week. Holden is either flatlining or in a comatose state following him using his hand to complete the connection in the nucleus. Meanwhile, the Rocinante isn't even seen for the longest time. So, the audience has no clue how Amos and Alex are doing following the protomolecule changing the rules of this physical space. It's such a deadly attack that it carries out against the ships. Earth, Mars and The Belt became aware that there was a speed limit to their travels through the Ring. They could only safely move at a specific speed. Anything faster than that would be completely frozen and taken over by the orbit around the nucleus. The protomolecule is collecting all of these metals and machines to its center for whatever it is building in this physical space. When it was targeted by the Martian soldiers who wanted to arrest Holden, it felt the threat throughout all of the Ring. As such, it changed the rules. That meant a significant loss of life throughout the ships. It could be seen as an act of war. It's the protomolecule showing the invaders that it is in control of this place. It is the one making up the physics and the rules. If it wants to change them midway through, then it has the power to do so and catch everyone by surprise. What once became an exciting journey into the unknown has now become a perilous mission where the ships may not even be able to escape for several months. The speed has now slowed down enough where it seems unlikely that the ships can continue fighting one another for control. They are all being pulled towards the nucleus now. They are bound to have some grand confrontation with the protomolecule. But it's important for humanity to unite as one in order to address this latest threat to their existence.

That means that Drummer, Ashford, Anna and Naomi are basically the leads this week. That's an exciting tease because those have all been some terrific and compelling characters so far. Anna was asleep in her cabin when the attack occurred. She was securely strapped in. As such, she is taken by surprise when it comes to the new gravitational effects on the ship. But she manages to survive and thrive in this new environment. She once again has to prove her worth by helping people and connecting with them when they need it the most. She is a caring individual who wants to reach out to people to understand their pain. Here, she believes her skills as a nurse can actually be useful. It's only after she offers help that she realizes just how deadly internal blooding can be in space. In this kind of gravity, the blood doesn't clot. As such, these injuries are completely lethal. So everyone taken to this specific corner of the ship is destined to die. The only people who can be saved are those with broken bones. Those injuries can heal. It just proves that the death count is about to go up significantly amongst the ships. They all easily lose a third of their crews in an instant with another third being injured. As such, the medical supplies are dwindling. But there is still the need to reach out and help. Anna is unable to do anything to help ease Tilly's suffering. She wasn't killed because Clarissa went all berserk and smashed her skull in. Instead, she was impaled by an object on the ceiling once the protomolecule made its move. She is dying and no one can help her. But she is able to pass the message to Anna that Clarissa is dangerous and will continue to target Holden and the Rocinante until she completes her mission. That then builds to the shocking moment where it seems like Anna has failed in keeping Clarissa aboard the Thomas Prince. Clarissa is still focused on her selfish mission above all else.

As such, it's fascinating to see how many people are able to board the Rocinante this week. Yes, it takes awhile for the central ship to even make an appearance in "Fallen World." But once, it does it's full of big reunions and shocking attacks. Naomi went out on this voyage to reunite with her former family before the attack occurred. In fact, the attack gives her the freedom to return to Amos and Alex when they need the help. The Martians are no longer targeting her because they have their own problems to deal with. Sure, it's absolutely horrifying for her as she returns to her home and it's essentially desolate. She has no idea where everyone is or what has happened to them. She doesn't know that Holden left for his solo mission to the nucleus. She doesn't know that he has been speaking to Miller. So when she does find Alex and Amos, she believes they are speaking complete gibberish when they talk about what has been going on. She knows that things have gotten tense amongst the ships as of late with many of them targeting the Rocinante for their seeming betrayal. But Naomi knows better. She just doesn't know everything that has occurred. She wants to. Right now though, Alex and Amos need to heal first. It's then when Naomi is getting the lay of the land that she finds herself under attack by Clarissa. She presents as a terrifying presence. That's even before she takes the mysterious substance that makes her so powerful for a couple of seconds. She has an Earth space suit that allows her to easily overpower Naomi in battle. In fact, it looks quite dire for her. It would be so tragic if she made this journey back to the Rocinante only to immediately die because of a personal grudge of someone else in the system. And yet, that's what makes it so perfectly surprising when Anna suddenly shows up and is able to use a taser on Clarissa. It's shocking because Anna has never traveled through space like that before. But she also understands that she needs to help the people on the Rocinante because Clarissa is unfairly targeting them out of personal rage for what they did to her father. She'll still want to help Clarissa though and that should create a fascinating story next on the ship.

Meanwhile, Drummer and Ashford find themselves trapped in their own dire situation. They were down in a mechanical engineering station when the attack occurred. They find themselves both pinned down by the same machine. After they get the machine working again, they realize that it would kill one of them because it can only move one of two ways. The trick is to find some way to get it to move upward in order to free both of them. They have had their differences during their time together. But neither one of them wants the other to die. Sure, they both want command of the Behemoth. They have been fighting each other for it. But right now, they are simply two Belters who are trapped in the same predicament. It forces an honest and open relationship between them as well. There is the hope that they will be able to craft their own escape. No one knows where the captain and the first officer currently are. That's a major concern that should create huge problems elsewhere on the ship. But more importantly, every tactic that they try to call out for help goes unnoticed or blows up in their faces. It's such a heartbreaking loss when the claw smashes the tablet before Drummer is able to reach it. It is broken into a million little pieces that represent the last bit of hope for the two of them escaping from this situation. As such, they both basically resign themselves to their fates. They are going to die out here trying to create a better future for their cause. It's a future they can appreciate and relate to. They have both had these aspirations. They are able to bond over sharing stories about the closest calls with death they've had in their lives. They can sing a song to showcase their belter unity. It's all very moving to watch because of the two, strong central performances from David Strathairn and Cara Gee.

And then, it all comes to the stunning conclusion with Drummer deciding to sacrifice herself so that Ashford could live and be the leader that the Belt needs right now. While trapped here, they are able to come to the realization that humanity needs to be united as one right now. Earth, Mars and the Belt have allowed themselves to be divided. The peace between them is still very tenuous at best. The Belt still feels so oppressed with the desire to prove that they belong at the table helping make the decisions alongside Earth and Mars. It takes more than just issuing uniforms for everyone to wear aboard the ship as well. They have to stand up and put the entire system first without letting their personal ego get in the way. That is so often difficult to do. Drummer makes this sacrifice because she knows that the Belt will be in good hands with Ashford. She is captain of this ship and she needs to be the one to make the ultimate sacrifice. Of course, the injury may not be as severe as they thought it would be. She still needs immediate medical attention and can no longer serve as captain. Ashford is the one making all of the orders. But he decides to take the risk of spinning up the drive in the hopes of creating a unique gravitational force on the Behemoth that will allow the internal injuries of the crew to actually heal. It no longer has to be a death sentence like it was clearly established early on in this episode. As such, it's a way to bring the system together as they face the unknown. The Belt isn't keeping these healing capabilities to themselves. They are willing to share it because they've all been attacked equally. The protomolecule isn't just fighting one of these governments. It's a direct threat to the entire system. One that may be signaling the destruction of everything that has ever existed in this world. That means that the captains must set aside their personal agenda and just be willing to extend the hand of friendship and healing. The Behemoth has these capabilities. And now, it's important to show that the Belt can be trusted and relied upon when the situation becomes dire in the worst of circumstances. That's the leadership that will create a better future.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Fallen World" was written by Dan Nowak and directed by Jennifer Phang.
  • Bobbie is still being the advocate for Holden. She understands that he's not working secretly with the protomolecule to destroy everyone else in the system. She knows him better than that. She trusts him to tell her the truth once he wakes up. She is still following orders in arresting him and bringing him back to the main ship for interrogation. But she also has this personal connection that makes it easy for Holden to trust her when everyone else wants to kill him.
  • Holden does regain consciousness at the end of the episode. When he does, Bobbie is right there to hear about what he has just seen. He may still come across as a rambling mad man who almost cost the lives of everyone currently inside the Ring. But he also issues a dire warning that he has just received a vision of everything. He knows how the world will end and that will make him a powerful resource.
  • This story has established that the stakes are going to be incredibly lethal. There is bound to be casualties from the regular characters. None of them really die here. But the pilot of Bobbie's ship notes that none of the ships were prepared for a seven month expedition into the unknown. That's how long it will take to get to the outer Ring again. And so, they may be trapped here and slowly just starve to death.
  • Of course, it also seems like Naomi, Clarissa and Anna are able to travel pretty quickly from their respective ships to the Rocinante. Naomi needs to abandon ship after her system starts malfunctioning with the threat of exploding on her. Of course, she's also given the opportunity to explore the space she is now floating in and whether or not it is dangerous. Meanwhile, Clarissa flees because she believes she's been discovered and Anna pursues her because someone has to put a stop to this threat.
  • It's amusing that the first thing Amos says to Naomi after waking up is that her hair is different now. But once he is fully lucid again, he wants to know if she's back for a short visit or back for good. She confirms that the Rocinante is her home and the crew is her family. She is here to stay. She just didn't know how special it was until she left. And now, she's more determined than ever to protect it.