Wednesday, June 6, 2018

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Everyone Must Decide Where Their Loyalties Are as They Travel Into the Ring in 'Intransigence'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 3.09 "Intransigence"

The Rocinante seeks a new game plan as they attempt to avoid capture. Melba's true motives are revealed. Naomi is torn between identity and ideal. Anna seeks a way to stay aboard the Thomas Prince.

All it took was one piece of deception for the system to turn against itself once more while on this mission to explore the Ring. It wasn't even a very good piece of deception either. Yes, "Intransigence" makes it perfectly clear that Melba was working alone in this endeavor. Cohen didn't know what he was doing when he switched out one of the chips on the Rocinante. But it also ensures that the Rocinante doesn't have access to their communications or their weapons. That makes them a ship that's being hunted that can only run away from the fight. The video of Holden claiming responsibility for the attack on the Earth ship for the OPA doesn't stand up upon further scrutiny. And yet, that doesn't matter anymore. Right now, it's all about the race for the various factions of this system to determine who is willing to continue forward with this mission into the unknown and who is willing to walk away from the greatest discoveries that the system has seen in centuries. Right now, those lines are clear as well. Things remain so impersonal for the Martian ships. They have no problem following the Rocinante into the ring right away. They launch the probes to determine just how fast they can be safely moving while in there. That sets the standard for this grand chase for answers. The Behemoth is quick to follow for the Belt. Earth is the only vessel on this expedition that gives an actual order that must be followed. Avasarala wants to play things cautiously by making every non-military personnel get off the Thomas Prince and return to a safe station for transport back home. They need to launch those ships before venturing into the Ring as well. In all of these instances, a choice is actually made for the people exploring the Ring. The leaders of the Belt and Mars make the decisions for their crews. They are going into the unknown and spin it as them doing their patriotic duty that will lead to glory. Earth has a much more diplomatic approach because they sent a variety of people on this expedition. But in the end, the choice was still made to keep the military officers aboard the ship while forcing everyone else to evacuate. That doesn't stop Anna from continuing though. She sees this as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that she doesn't want to sit on the sidelines for.

Those are the grand stakes that occur in this overall story. Right now, it's much more of a chase than a mission to find meaningful answers about what the protomolecule is doing. It's dangerous for any ship to enter into the Ring. They don't know what to expect other than complete destruction should they move too quickly. The Rocinante has some of its freedom intact. But they are still a sitting duck that is just waiting to be boarded by one of the ships that is following them in the hopes of making them pay for their recent crimes against this mission. As such, it's important to understand why Melba did what she did to only stir this conflict further. When she made her debut a few episodes ago, it was clear that she had a personal vendetta against Holden. She didn't see him as the hero the rest of the world saw. And now, it's clear why she has that perspective. She is actually Jules-Pierre Mao's daughter and Julie's sister. She has never really been mentioned before. Yes, it was teased that Jules-Pierre still had more family on Earth who were being held until he cooperated with the government again. It's through getting their freedom that he was willing to hand over the protomolecule hybrids over to Earth to defeat Mars in the great war. But now, it's fascinating to have a new member of the Mao family present in the middle of the action. Jules-Pierre and Julie have been such important characters in the series so far. Julie is dead but also probably a part of the Ring. Jules-Pierre is in prison for the experiments he conducted with the protomolecule. And now, Melba is trying to earn her father's love and respect by actually ensuring that he gets the legacy that he deserves instead of a prison sentence. She seems delusional and unable to see just how dangerous this can be. She's not emotionally equipped to handle the repercussions of her actions. And yet, that's what makes things so intense right now.

This hour utilizes flashbacks in order to further flesh out the dynamic amongst the Mao family. The audience has known that Jules-Pierre and Julie had a tense dynamic. He mourned her death after learning that she was exposed to the protomolecule. That didn't deter him from his experiments on Eros though. He just saw it as a much bigger place for the protomolecule to grow and be monitored. It was an action that caused so much chaos and destruction. The ramifications of that are still being felt through the Ring. That's what emerged from Venus after the protomolecule had completed its work. It's clear that the protomolecule is still learning and growing as well. It steals every piece of technology that the system sends into the Ring. That makes it such an ominous threat. But Melba doesn't see it like that. She is just doing her best to prove to her father that she is the daughter he should have been proud of all along. Even though they fought and he pushed her away, Jules-Pierre was so proud of Julie's determination to change the world and journey into the unknown. He never saw Melba as worthy of doing anything. She was simply the daughter mostly concerned for public appearances. Every action that Julie took had the possibility of embarrassing the family. That's all that Melba seemingly cared about. She wanted to ensure that the family was always valued as important and savvy in this world. She did that to ensure that her father's businesses could succeed. And now, she's taking new action. She wants her father to know that her actions will lead to him being restored to his former glory. There's nothing that can be done to stop her on that mission either. She is determined to make Holden pay for what he did to her father. But she is also blindly loyal to him and not fully aware of just how dangerous the protomolecule can be.

On an even more personal level, the characters throughout these ships have to decide where they want to be right now. Some of them are exactly where they want and need to be. Drummer and Ashford can sense that glory and legitimacy for The Belt is within their reach. It's a goal they have been fighting for their entire lives. And now, they are proud to stand at the helm of this ship and lead their crew in a chant that will lead to such life-changing things for all of them. It's a cause that Naomi can no longer blindly support though. She chose to leave the Rocinante and its crew for a reason. She believed she needed to work for The Belt again. It was a cause she believed in. She wanted respect for The Belt. She wanted to ensure that Earth and Mars never took advantage of them ever again. She loves Drummer. But she spends this entire episode worried about what has happened to her friends. That reveals to everyone around her that she is much more loyal to them and their rogue status throughout this system. The Rocinante has always been seen as a ship without a home. Yes, that has been precarious a lot of the time. But it allows such close bonds to form amongst the crew as well. It makes it so they are incredibly standoffish to newcomers to their world. They are used to facing incredible odds at this point. They don't want to be compromised by the actions of Monica and Cohen. As such, they all basically support Amos' decision to send those two out the air lock to make it to the Mars ship in the hopes of telling them that Holden isn't the traitor he is now being labeled as. The audience doesn't know if they succeed in that mission. But it does become clear that Naomi has made her choice to reunite with her former crew. That's where she belongs in this fight right now. She tried standing up for them in the midst of all of this chaos. She was unable to persuade Drummer against firing a missile. Drummer needed to do what was best for the entire Belt and not just a few soldiers. But those soldiers are Naomi's friends. And now, she must return to them and offer the services they really need right now.

And yet, the Rocinante is running out of space to go in this conflict. They can either stop and be boarded by the Martian ship. Or they can run directly into the wall that will destroy anything that tries to pass through. It doesn't seem like there is anywhere left for them to go. It's just a small pace that is pulling them ever closer to destruction. Monica and Cohen aren't able to give Amos and Alex any solutions to how to fix the system so that communications and weapons are back up and running. The ship remains a sitting target. The other ships just can't fire any missiles at them because they would be flying too fast. That affords them time. But it's time in which Miller no longer appears to Holden. Holden is desperately calling out to Miller and he is no where to be found. It certainly does make Holden seem like a crazy person. The crew is just willing to accept that Miller may not be as dead as they all previously believed. His mind could still be intact and connected with the protomolecule that has created the Ring. That could make him an ally. He is just incredibly coy and cryptic about what he wants. He led the Rocinante to exactly where it needed to go in order to avoid destruction. The protomolecule has helped the ship survive. But now, it seems to be solely calling out for Holden. Miller appears to Holden for a reason. He doesn't present himself to the entire crew. It only wants to communicate with Holden. That's fortunate because Holden wants answers. And yet, he can't find them on the Rocinante. Instead, he will have to travel to the center of the Ring where all of the missiles and other machinery are being pulled too. He'll have to be very careful flying out in this mess of an environment. But it's a risk that will hopeful pay off and be able to provide him with a new understanding of this substance and what it hopes to achieve with the Ring. It just means he leaves his ship during its time of need. He abandons Amos and Alex without saying goodbye which is bound to create some immediate complications for them - even if Naomi is soon to join them.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Intransigence" was written by Hallie Lambert and directed by David Grossman.
  • Melba has been able to act very sneakily throughout the ship because no one recognizes her as Jules-Pierre's daughter. That seems like a stretch considering just how much she cared about public appearances. But it's important to note that someone on the ship does know who she is. Anna's new religious friend who also chooses to stay would recognize her. Melba is only able to put that together after being able to remember her laugh.
  • It continues to be fascinating seeing Melba and Anna interact though. Anna doesn't know anything about this lowly technician other than she appears to be in some kind of emotional stress at the moment. It may be connected to the mission or it may not. But the appeal of exploration doesn't distract Anna from doing her job in reaching out to people to ensure that they feel seen and heard. She wants to do that for Melba but Melba has to be very secretive.
  • It turns out to be fairly easy for Anna to stay aboard the Thomas Prince as well. She just has to pull the right strings. But it also has to be seen as a selfish act. If she escaped right now as ordered, she would be able to return to her family much faster. Instead, she is choosing to explore this miraculous event truly believing it to be unlike anything humanity has ever seen before. She wants to be on the front lines of that. And yet, she also doesn't know how to explain her decision to her family.
  • Bobbie is on the Martian ship that has also entered the Ring. Right now, the show hasn't spent any time on the Martian vessels on this mission. The show continues to explore the story through the perspective of Earth and the Belt. The Rocinante is separate from all of that. But it will be important to have an ally on the Martian ship to ensure that their story is believed about being framed because Monica and Cohen may not tell the most flattering story once they arrive.
  • It's hilarious watching everyone tiptoe around the fact that Holden is now having conversations with someone they all know is dead. Alex does the reasonable thing in walking down to his quarters to see how he is doing. And yet, he seems like such a crazy person just screaming at Miller to finally appear. But Miller only does so when he is ready to welcome Holden to the center of the Ring. Of course, it's still important to note that this isn't Miller at all but the protomolecule's recreation of him.