Sunday, December 15, 2019

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Hope Remains for Creating a Better World Even When Facing Numerous Threats in 'Cibola Burn'

Amazon's The Expanse - Episode 4.10 "Cibola Burn"

Ashford closes in on an enemy while uncovering a dangerous plot. Avasarala faces a crossroads in her personal and political life. The Roci crew works to reestablish life on Ilus in the wake of a deadly catastrophe. 

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 season finale of Amazon's The Expanse.

"Cibola Burn" was written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck & Naren Shankar and directed by Breck Eisner

Since the very beginning, The Expanse has asked the viewer to widen our understanding of the known universe. It is set hundreds of years in the future to depict a world similar to our own but expanded to showcase how civilization has grown around the solar system. Each technological discovery has advanced the human race in profound and massive ways. No discovery can be contained either. Once it occurs, the world changes forever. That's what makes it so powerful that some of the themes of exploration within the narrative still hold universal appeal today. It analyzes how humanity works in relation to one another as well as the power that comes from scientific discovery. This season presented a reality that expanded the galaxy further. It has been contained to just one settlement on a foreign planet, Ilus. But the ambition is to explore all of these worlds suddenly available. That was the deciding issue in the election for Secretary General of the United Nations. Avasarala loses that race. She has always been one of the most powerful and brutally frank fictional leaders ever seen on television. And now, she reflects on the legacy she has and the work that she still has to do to ensure a better future. She disagrees with Nancy Gao on clear subjects. But she also supports the will of the people. She understands the results that came in. She props up the new world order with all the support necessary to ensure success. That's what every person should want from their leaders. It may be horrifying to watch them do whatever it takes in order to secure victory. Avasarala believes she has a winning narrative because she backs the Rocinante's adventures completely. She views that crew as bringing salvation and safety no matter where it goes in the known universe. Others disagree. She may have also given too much to her professional responsibilities. That too is a major theme throughout the series. The thrill of adventure is enticing to so many people. They feel the need to push far beyond the boundaries of known science and reality. Holden has a perspective on the world that no one else does. It's absolutely terrifying to him though. It's his personal burden to carry. He is continually called to service by both his government and the representative from the protomolecule. This technology needs to understand the mysteries of its own past. It has survived billions of years. Humanity still only has a fraction of the story. There is a great existential threat out there just waiting to pounce and destroy the known universe. That may remain small at the moment. The system that features Earth, Mars and the Belt has only grown to include the Ring and Ilus. The adventures on Ilus almost ended in disaster as well. Miller's plan ultimately worked. The drives restart on the ships in orbit. The water recedes on the planet so the settlers can rebuild this new civilization. It is all seen as a major victory. The world is growing. Plus, the burden has potentially been lifted off of Holden's shoulders. Miller is gone. Holden does his best to give his fallen friend the sendoff he deserves. That may be all that these people want in the end. They are loyal to and driven by the mission. They are united together. They save each other from near constant despair. That is so inspiring. Technology continues to bring them back to life so that they can continue to serve. But again, that all can come at a severe cost. The future may be bright though. Elvi did pass through the foreign ring. She may be exposed and connected to the other mysterious threat out there. That could be dangerous for this planet as Rocinante heads back home. However, it can also be thrilling for the scientist who strives to understand everything that can happen in a system where evolution occurred in a dramatically different way. The world isn't that different but circumstances that drive society forward can be rather astonishing to watch.

As has been common throughout the season though, the failings of humanity are also extensive and can drag the advancement of society down with them. It has long been an open debate about what is the best way to bring about change in the world. Is it important to work from within the system and change it from the inside? Drummer and Ashford operated in that way. They honored the truce the Belt had with Earth and Mars. They saw that as the vital first step in order to guarantee true equality when the flood gates of the Ring were opened and the explorers could flow out to numerous worlds to make their claims. Or is it more important to speak up from outside the power structure that has existed for so long? The OPA believes that working with the people who have oppressed their communities for their entire lives is a betrayal of the ideals and cultural identity they have long held. That mentality can grow incredibly toxic. That is seen to a dangerous extent here with how far Marco is willing to go to send a message to the world. He sees radical change as being what's necessary. He is willing to kill billions of people in the process to ensure his own power in the new world order. The final assessment may be that both of these ways of thinking are necessary in order for society to advance. The people within governments need to represent the wills and beliefs of the people. They have to fight for what they know will be beneficial to the people they are tasked with protecting. But it's just as important for the community activists to speak up and hold the elected officials accountable for their actions. Avasarala has rightfully been criticized for the actions she has taken. That collective toil may have been enough to tip the scales in favor of Nancy Gao. But it all comes back to the central issue pertaining to the Ring. The narrative points out that Avasarala will still have personal agency in the world even though she no longer speaks on behalf of the entire Earth government. That pursuit of power has corrupted her marriage with Arjun though. He sees the importance of a break in order to remember what all of this was for in the first place. Avasarala spoke up and carried the burden of being the leader Earth needed in its time of peril. She will always be remembered fondly for that. She may have lost everything in the end though. However, Bobbie sees her as the only person in the system she can trust. She has real concerns about the Martian government being corrupted to the point where they are working with Marco and the other terrorists from the Belt. That remains the most immediate threat to the sustainability of the human race. It's fun and engaging to have these ideological debates in the abstract. It's much more prescient and vital to make the right decisions in the heat of the moment when billions of lives are at stake. The human race will survive without Earth. Marco is targeting the planet with an asteroid. That is his grand ambition. Ashford is unable to stop him. In the end, it may all come back to the loyalty of family. Ashford may eventually be avenged because of the support he has from so many people. Naomi is driven by finally learning what happened to her son. And yet, it may all be too late. By the time people are willing to embrace the lives they left behind, life has moved on without them. Alex has already experienced that lesson with his family. The Roci crew ensures that Lucia and her family are reunited and get exactly what they deserve after all of this is over. The same fate befalls Murtry who will be tried for his crimes. But again, that's with the understanding that the world will remain fair and balanced. Marco hopes to destroy that notion. He remains a powerful threat with resources to do significant damage. The season ends on that particular cliffhanger. Ashford's final message may save lives in the end. He will live on as a hero and savior. Will that be enough though? Can anyone ensure the safety of the people? Or is that too just a commonly held belief that people need to trust in order to believe there is some grand order in the world? There are too many mysteries that have yet to be solved. But these characters will continue to pursue them even if it comes at a great personal expense.