Sunday, December 15, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Miller Needs Holden's Help to Free Himself From the Demands of the Protomolecule in 'Saeculum'

Amazon's The Expanse - Episode 4.09 "Saeculum"

Holden and Miller race to save Ilus. Murtry puts his endgame into motion, putting the Roci crew's lives at risk.

In 2018, there were 495 scripted shows airing amongst the linear channels and streaming services. The way people are consuming content now is so different than it used to be. It happens according to one's own schedule. As such, there is less necessity to provide ample coverage of each specific episode in any given season from a show. Moreover, it is simply impossible to watch everything. As such, this site is making the move to shorter episodic reviews in order to cover as many shows as possible. With all of that being said, here are my thoughts on the next episode of Amazon's The Expanse.

"Saeculum" was written by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck and directed by Breck Eisner

At what point does a person lose their humanity? Is it something easy to fall away? Or does it take a collective chipping away of it over the years? These are the profound questions that have long been asked by The Expanse. Holden has always tried to save everyone. He is idealistic and noble in that way. Everyone else is trying to get him to understand that there is an acceptable amount of loss in times of war. This season has also tried to extend that concept to exploration. Traveling through the Ring to new worlds can be incredibly exciting and rife with opportunities. There is still so much to learn about the universe. It is humanity literally landing in worlds that were also once full of civilization. They have sense gone extinct. As such, it's important to try to learn some lesson from all of that. Humanity may be set up to fail. There may always be corruption at the top. There may also be corruption that slowly infects the people making the decisions on the ground level. Murtry has been employed by RCE for a long time. He knows that the law doesn't apply in the wild west. He is the force of authority on Ilus. That is a responsibility he has given himself and that his company has backed up continually for years. And yet, he too is more than willing to absolutely devastate humanity in order to earn a lucrative payoff. Wei may be susceptible to that concept as well. That dooms her romance with Amos here. The Roci crew has largely conducted themselves by a strict moral code where they are fighting for something that matters. In the earlier seasons, the pressure was always on them because the fate of the entire world was hanging on the actions of four people. They still may decide whether or not situations end in tragedy or triumph. Holden is the only one with a special connection to the protomolecule. He may have made life on Ilus more difficult. However, that energy may have infected this settlement no matter what. Holden is trying his best in order to uphold a sense of decency in a land where people feel betrayed and constantly abused. Murtry knows his actions won't face any serious punishment or consequences. That emboldens him and makes him so corrupt in his position of authority. He already feels lost in a profound and tragic way. Wei ultimately is as well. She wants to fight to create a better future for the people she inherently trusts. Loyalty means everything to the RCE crew. Yes, she was more than willing to form this new connection with Amos. However, they both refused to back down in the end. That leads to her death and him possibly being fatally injured. Holden may get justice for his friend. Murtry isn't killed. He is simply disarmed. That may be enough to uphold a greater sense of community and unity on Ilus. But there are also forces working beyond the control of any singular person. Holden was guided to the underground world of the protomolecule structure by Miller. This episode explains that Miller and the protomolecule have two very different agendas even though they present with the same interface. Miller is looking for a way to free himself from this endless suffering. He has the power to push back against the technology controlling him. He no longer speaks in vague clues about needing to solve a mystery. Sure, he may also point Holden to a new mystery regarding the substance that allows humanity to have access to all these new worlds. He may also be jeopardizing everyone on the planet by activating the entire protomolecule deposit just in order to die in the same way that the previous civilization did. It's a dire and unfortunate situation. It's one that also may have a human casualty with Elvi choosing to push for scientific exploration and ultimately getting caught in the crossfire. She too may be lost to the mysterious ring that exists in this dead zone. The finale will confirm whether or not she is okay. This action could save the lives of everyone on Ilus and in the immediate orbit. However, the various factions have still turned against each other. The Edward Israel followed Murtry's orders in sending a shuttle to the Rocinante in order to sever the connection it had with the Barb and the precious resources it was carrying. That may still be a sacrifice the Belters have to make in order to survive. That is the most important component of the narrative this season. Survival and the restoration of humanity extends far beyond any of the scientific mysteries. There is a profound sense of loss throughout these actions. Holden hasn't compromised himself even though he is following Miller into the great unknown. He sees the danger and presses forward. That is heroic. It's also a perfect example of how science fiction mechanics and plot devices can ultimately enhance the ideas of what makes us human.