Friday, January 14, 2022

REVIEW: Amazon's 'The Expanse' Examines the True Cost of War in a Changing World Once More in Its Final Season

Amazon's The Expanse - Episode 6.06 "Babylon's Ashes"

Inners and Belters fight side by side with the crew of the Rocinante in a last, massive, desperate battle with Marco and his Free Navy, with the fate of the Solar System, the Ring Gates, and of all humanity hanging in the balance.

"Babylon's Ashes" was written by Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck & Naren Shankar and directed by Breck Eisner

The hope that the future has to be better allows so much of the world to march forward to that idea. It's the way to justify the need to keep fighting. Something glorious is just on the horizon. It has to be in order to explain all the sacrifices and destruction that have been so prevalent throughout history. No one can forget the oppression of the past. The system has changed in so many ways since the protomolecule was first discovered. That sent this world on a new path. It drove innovation forward. So many mysteries still exist. The threat always remains that the entity that once destroyed the protomolecule will return with a vengeance and wipe out humanity as collateral damage. And yet, that fear cannot paralyze those who must continue to act. However, everyone must question just how strong their bonds truly are given all they have endured over the years. In previous seasons, Holden held the steadfast belief that there had to be a different way to resolve conflicts. War cannot be the answer to every problem. Life cannot be one society trying to exert dominance over another. He is flawed when it comes to trying to deliver that message. He has a reputation of being independent. He is loyal to a mission and his crew. But he truly can't serve as a symbol for a changed world. His contributions to history are important. They deserve recognition. He is so often the one person who has to choose the fate of so many. He operates with that responsibility whether he wants it or not. It falls onto him regardless of if he can explain it afterwards. He didn't want to be the man who killed Filip, Naomi's son. He didn't want to traumatize her in even more profound ways. He was taking that choice away from her. As such, it's moving to watch her make that decision in the finale. She does so not knowing that he had escaped. He had finally grown disillusioned enough with his father to break away before he led the crew to their deaths. Marco is such a charismatic individual. He is greedy and narcissistic as well. He believes he can rally anyone to his cause. He can submit anyone to his will. He got a taste of power. He directs it at those who carry the burden of so much chaos and oppression. The current leaders in power want to assert that things are different now. They no longer carry themselves the same way as before. They hope they can be seen as trusted and deserving of such acknowledgement. Drummer felt trapped with no good options when she had to align with the Inners. They had the same goal. Marco needed to be stopped. And yet, Avasarala and Earth had the benefit of people's suffering being on their side to showcase a meaningful and empathetic story. With Drummer, she has lost her family. Those bonds meant something to her. She was even hurt when Naomi sought to manipulate this connection for the greater good. It's all costly. It weighs on these personal relationships. And even then, it's unclear just how much good it actually accomplishes.

Of course, that's ultimately the entire point of this final season. Each episode opened with a story set on a new Ring world, Laconia. The Martian colonists are studying the planet in addition to trying to communicate with the protomolecule structure. It's all about the personal connection this upheaval carries though. Cara is eager to explore this world. This wasn't the fate that was previously assigned to her family. It's the sacrifice they needed to carry to honor the cause. That's what they needed to believe no matter what. Even Xan's death had to be noble. Instead, Cara reacted with compassion in trying to save his life. That may have only opened the door to further exploration of the protomolecule. One that invades personal lives in ways that has never been seen before. The family is victimized and traumatized. They face an unknown world because of the divisions from the prior one. This colony teased Marco along enough to use his resources to survive. They have no problem cutting him off when the time comes for him to rely on their discoveries. That's not the big focus of this story. Sure, it all comes back around to the threat that lurks within the Ring. Holden and Naomi were studying that. In fact, the world continues to make bold discoveries with the protomolecule. People are grateful for that. But that too only confirms all the worst impulses and decisions that were made in pursuit of this objective in the first place. It cannot justify the lives lost along the way. And yet, that may be the only way to survive. Marco's entire crew dies because the Rocinante knows more about the mysteries of the Ring. They overload the system. They manipulate it to their benefit. Of course, it's still scary and precarious as they embark on a mission to destroy the weapon that Marco has in this space. He believes he is in complete control. He has earned that posture as well. It has come at the expense of so much. People learn that their lives have been cut short by all this hatred and animosity. They can't understand all the decisions others have made. The divisions are still strong from all the pain of the past. It takes everyone coming together to defeat this threat. Again, they succeed in doing so. Avasarala notes that war doesn't end when the fighting stops. It's all about the negotiations afterward and the commitments made along the way. Holden and Drummer don't negotiate in good faith with the rest of the system. Their boldness is required to push the system to something better. They need to believe that. Everyone has experienced pain and loss along the way. They do so not knowing if their actions have made a difference. And yet, the lessons they've passed along have made an impact. That carries forward in the audience as well as the characters as they try their best with whatever life has in store for them next. They may not carry burdens in the same way. They may not like the accountability that awaits them. The threats are still real and profound. That is all constant. That goes unchallenged. Instead, the focus remains on the love of family found along the way. It's just as powerful when the Rocinante crew sits down for a home cooked meal as it is when they storm Medina Station. All of that resonates in deeply personal ways built on the connection the audience has developed with these characters. Part of that comes from the fear that any of them could die. But it's also the hope informed by what all of this means on a deeper level and what they want to accomplish with the parallels to our own world and the pursuit of humanity.