The Expanse S2.06 review: “Underneath the slick effects, and glowing goo, The Expanse is also a very smart political drama”

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Watch it if only to see that one scene where Chrisjen goes all scorched Earth.

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It would be impossible to top the drama of the last episode, and Paradigm Shift wisely doesn’t try. This week’s show is all about the various political clouds that are gathering before the inevitable storm, taking perhaps the entire system with it. This is the kind of episode that reminds you that underneath the Belter creole, the slick effects, and the glowing blue alien goo, The Expanse is also a very smart political drama.

Forget Protojulie and Miller and Eros for a minute; they’re crashed on Venus and are, if not safely out of the way, at least out of the way enough for them to be the least urgent crisis. The bigger problem is those nukes the UN launched at Eros when it was still headed straight towards Earth. Most of those were safely detonated using the abort codes but... 30 of them seem to have uh, gone missing. Fred Johnson has tucked them away for safekeeping just in case Mars and Earth decide to start getting rugged with each other, which in his defense does seem bound to happen sooner rather than later. And he’s certainly not wrong when he explains to Holden and Naomi that when Earth and Mars squabble, the Belt is the one that really pays the price. Holden’s pretty pissed, not only because he’s kind of stupidly idealistic, but also because he vouched for Johnson and now looks like a total chump. Naomi, on the other hand, is feeling her Belterhood quite keenly at the moment, and is much more sympathetic. Oh, yeah, she also totally lies to Holden. Ohhhhhhhh boy.

So, remember that sample of protomolecule that the crew of the Roci stashed before everything started to go sideways? Well, it’s still out there, and Holden wants to shoot it into the sun, and Amos is totally on board with that. Alex wants to give it to Mars because apparently the writers want to remind folks that he’s from Mars, because good lord, Alex, giving alien technology to a folks itching for war is maybe not a well-considered idea. To be fair, Alex is a woefully underused character, so I’m happy for him to make any kind of significant contribution to the story, but that was just dumb. Naomi thinks they should hang onto it juuuuust in case (sound familiar?) but eventually agrees to destroy it. But when it comes time to actually do it, she fakes the launch. There’s still protomolecule out there, only Naomi knows it, and she’s actively lied to her lover about it. Yeah, this’ll end well. 

Alex and Amos are clearly the supporting cast of the Roci, which is a damn shame because the dynamic developing between them is just plain gold. Amos is not a complicated man. He sees things in their most simplified form, without BS or artifice. When Alex is getting his ass handed to him by an angry Belter in a bar, Amos steps in to rectify the situation because it’s what needs doing. He recognizes that this probably made Alex feel emasculated, and manufactures an opportunity for Alex to reclaim his manhood picking a fight. It’s clumsy as hell, but so incredibly sweet, and a genuinely interesting exploration of male friendships. Alex is caught up in societal norms and what people think, and Amos  doesn’t really care about any of that, he just wants to protect people who need protecting. Alex is - consciously or not - constantly measuring himself against Amos’ examples of bravery and masculinity and finding himself wanting, while Amos couldn’t possibly care less about any of that. I hope future episodes give these characters room to do more than just drive the Roci and hit people, because they’re definitely worth it. 

The rest of the episode is political cleanup of the Eros situation, but we simply must talk about the force of nature that is Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala. We’ve known she was canny and vicious and a political tiger - she betrayed a friend she’d had since she was a girl to get intel on the stealth ships, remember? But holy shit, the way she lays it out in Errinwright’s office was enough to make you pee a little bit. She’s been content to smile and scheme, but playtime is over, bitches, and she wants Jules-Pierre Mao’s head on a plate and she wants it now. Yeah, there’s a reason this woman was nominated for an Oscar. What’s best about her scene-shredding outburst is that it’s all so savagely on point - it’s not hysterical, directionless anger, it’s shrewd analysis of the leverage she has over Mao’s family and what she wants in exchange for not using it. This is a brilliant, but normally restrained, woman unleashing her full power and it is glorious. And also a little terrifying, hence the pee. 

Let’s check in with the Martians, shall we? Ah, yes. Bobbi’s still pissed off. That seems to be her default state, angry at Earth and wanting to shoot someone. To be fair, patrolling the farm colonies on Ganymede isn’t exactly the best use of her skills, but she does her duty, keeping her squad in line even when they see their UN mirrors off in the distance. They’re going through the motions when suddenly, their mother ship is engaged in combat, the UN soldiers are shooting, and debris is falling from the sky. Who’s doing all the shooting? What the hell is happening? Great question. Whatever it was, it took out Bobbi’s unit, and their ship, and pretty much everything else in sight, except the creature leaning over Bobbi at the end, and heyyyyy, that sure does look like a protosomething, doesn’t it? Greaaaaaat.   

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Susan Arendt

Susan was once Managing Editor US at GamesRadar, but has since gone on to become a skilled freelance journalist, editor, producer, and content manager. She is now 1/3 of @Continuepod, 1/2 of @BeastiesLl, co-founder of @TakeThisOrg, and Apex Editor, Fluid Group.