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The Expanse S2.10 review: "Yet another example of The Expanse showing restraint in its storytelling"

You know what’s a really dumb idea? Asking a Martian Marine to throw one of their own under the bus, then deny them the one simple thing they ask for as recompense. Bobbie Draper did her duty and lied about what happened on Ganymede, then asked to be allowed to see the ocean before she’s shipped back to Mars and probably dishonorably discharged from the Corps. Request denied, she decided to take matters into her own hands by prying her window open and fleeing the Martian embassy. You go, girl. 

She’s not the only one fed up with playing her appointed role this week, though. Errinwright has finally had enough of cleaning up Jules-Pierre Mao’s mess and comes clean to Avasarala, admitting he knew about Mao’s experiments with a protomolecule weapon. Bobbie really did see someone without a vac suit on the surface of Ganymede -  that blue husk creature is the weapon created by Project Caliban. Errinwright insists he was just doing what Avasarala always taught him - Earth must come first - but she’s not buying it, not when 100,000 Belters were turned into lab rats on Eros. Oh, and there’s that whole bit where Eros nearly destroyed the entire planet, too. She’s pissed, but she doesn’t turn him in, because he’s far more useful out of jail than in it. 

It’s a great scene because it keeps Errinwright, previously the typical politician serving as foil to Chrisjen’s clever machinations, from being a simple trope. He’ll still never be anywhere near as interesting as Avasarala, but it’s good to see him being given more nuance. The same is true for Bobbie, whose “hoo-ra, kill all the Earthers” shtick was getting pretty tired. In her search for the ocean, she finds herself wandering through a shanty town, eventually encountering a guy who’ll help her get where she’s going in exchange for her bone meds. He’s not a drug dealer like she assumes; he can trade them for meds to treat radiation sickness or to help in the summer when the homeless have to drink sewer water to survive. He even gives her tips on how to walk, something she’s struggling with in Earth’s greater gravity. He opens her eyes to the reality that hey, maybe everyone on Earth isn’t a jackhole that should be shot on sight. 

It’s a concept she’s still pondering as she finally makes it to the ocean. Restraint is something that doesn’t get enough praise on television, but Bobbie’s first sight of the sea is absolutely perfect. She doesn’t cry wistfully, or dive in or splash it all over herself. She takes off her shoes, gets her feet wet, and then sits down to just look at it. Imagine, for a moment, you’ve lived somewhere your entire life without water. Not nearby, not anywhere on your planet at all. The ocean would take on mythological importance for you, and the people who take it for granted would earn your harshest scorn. When Chrisjen finds her there on the beach, Bobbie flings “You take it for granted” at her like an accusation of treason. Chrisjen takes it in stride because, hey, she ain’t wrong, and informs Bobbie that good news, you’re not crazy, but bad news, that thing you saw is a Martian weapon. Yeah, your government is ordering you to ruin a good soldier’s name to help them cover up their shady shit. Bobbie says she doesn’t believe her, but she does, at least a little bit. This trip to Earth has been very educational, indeed.

Things on Ganymede are also a good news/bad news situation. Good news is, Strickland and Prax’s daughter Mei are still alive. The bad news is the station is dying. The plants that supported the air scrubbers are not long for this world, which means a failure cascade is inevitable. Kudos to the writers for finding a way to explain a fairly technobabble concept in a way that was easy to understand yet also didn’t feel like one of those scenes where a doctor explains a concept to another doctor solely for the sake of the audience (“Why yes, Ted, I did know that petechial hemorrhaging indicated strangulation because I went to med school just like you did.”). Keep in mind, Ganymede is a major source of food for the system, so this has enormous implications, most probably for the Belters because let’s be honest, if someone’s gonna suffer, it’s gonna be them. Assuming Earth and Mars don’t blow each other up first; Earth ships are still en route to Ganymede, which is a no-fly zone under Martian control. 

Two really great moments from the Roci crew this week, one funny, one illuminating. Alex is bored out of his mind waiting for the rest of the crew, so he has some fun with zero-g and soda, twirling in mid-air and slurping floating drops. Which, let’s be honest, is what all of us would do if we found ourselves with time to kill on a spaceship. The other moment comes from Amos explaining why he chose to bash in the head of a guy who was extorting food and supplies people on Ganymede. Where Amos comes from, people like that take little girls and force them into prostitution until they get pregnant, then when they have the baby, they use the baby, too. Remembering that Amos grew up in a brothel, it’s pretty clear he’s speaking from experience and why maybe he takes a more practical approach to dealing with bullies. Violence doesn’t bother Amos; it bothers him that it doesn’t bother him, but he’s not ‘good’ like Naomi and Holder are. It’s sad to learn that Amos thinks so little of himself, that he believes himself to be useful, but not important. But it’s yet another example of The Expanse showing restraint in its storytelling. Amos doesn’t tearfully recount his childhood or stare wistfully into the middle distance thinking about how he was abused. He just tells it like it is; the reaction of other characters, as well as the audience, is what makes it work. 

There’s a lot to admire in Cascade, which manages to intertwine several different complex plot lines without them becoming muddled or confusing. The Expanse has taken the time to build foundations for each character’s actions and personality, so you understand the implications of Errinwright confessing to Avasarala, or Naomi worrying that the Roci crew is a little too comfortable doing horrible things in the name of the greater good. It’s no small feat to keep a story with this many moving parts clear for the audience without being overly simplified, but Cascade pulls it off beautifully.

We’re starting to really dig into the meat of the mystery of the seventh man now, but I’m not sure I want to know what a geneticist with ties to the protomolecule is doing with a bunch of kids. 

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