Lots of sci fi likes to show you a future where humanity has put their petty squabbles behind them and united to build a more enlightened world. The Expanse thinks that’s cute. The Seventh Man is all about how regardless of whether or not we’ve developed faster-than-light travel, conquered the vacuum of space, or even encountered alien lifeforms, we’re still a bunch of yahoos who are probably going to blow each other up because of some political bullshit.
Something happened on Ganymede, but neither Earth nor Mars is quite sure what. It’s clear that thousands are dead or injured and the crops from the farm domes have been destroyed, but there’s no indication as to how the conflict started. Mars is freaking out, Earth is freaking out, and Errinwright wants to go to war over it, because he never saw a problem he thought couldn’t be solved with lots of shooting - done by other people, naturally. Chrisjen suggests a calmer option: invite Mars to a peace summit on Earth. Remember, her hot scientist pal planted the idea that Eros becoming mobile wasn’t the result of Mars technology, but something alien nobody knows anything about, so she’s very wisely planning ahead for an eventuality where humans need to back each other up. And hey, if Mars is behind the attack on Ganymede, where better to rattle your saber than in your own back yard where even the local gravity gives you a psychological advantage?
Up on Tycho, Fred Johnson calls together the various factions of the OPA to discuss a plan for grabbing a seat at this peace summit table. His argument is a good one, too - return the nukes to Earth as a sign of good faith, and get treated like an equal for the first time ever. He nominates Anderson Dawes, charismatic OPA leader from Ceres to be their representative, and that’s where everything starts to go wrong. Dawes is a Belter through and through, and he’s also incredibly savvy. War between Mars and Earth would be bad for the Belt, for sure, but peace would be even worse, he says to a room full of people ready for rebellion. Peace just means things go back to the way they were, and how is that good for the Belt? Holden, bless him, backs up Fred Johnson’s plan because he’s a rational guy who doesn’t think hotheads should have access to planet-busting missiles. But as Naomi says to him after the meeting, all those Belters saw was two Earthers trying to tell them how to run things. Ouch.
Something else Dawes has reasoned out is that if Fred Johnson is willing to give up the nukes, he must have something else up his sleeve. The character of Dawes is such a wonderful combination of personality traits. He’s a thug when he needs to be, cagey at all times, charming when it suits - a natural leader who gives back to the people when he could use his power for his own means. No wonder the Belt follows him… which is why young Diogo spills the secret that the sole surviving member of the science team working on the protomolecule is being kept on Tycho. Well, Diogo never really had a chance against the will of Anderson Dawes, who figured out exactly how to play him within about thirty seconds. Dawes is brilliant and oh my lord, don’t you just want to see him and Chrisjen throw down? It certainly says a lot about The Expanse that the prospect of watching two characters in a room talking is as exciting as an all-out war. Dawes snatches the scientist and slips away from Tycho, which is bad for any number of reasons, but mostly because said scientist is aware that there’s more protomolecule out there somewhere. So, great, Dawes is more than likely going to track down the missile that Naomi didn’t blow up and get himself a nice bucket of alien mutagen. This is fine.
It’s easy to sit here on Earth and decide Naomi made a bad call not destroying that blue goop (look, she made a really bad call), but it’s also easy to see why she wasn’t down with a bunch of Inners telling her what’s good for the Belt. Alex, Amos, Holden, Fred Johnson… yeah, they’re her friends and shipmates, but none of them really understand her perspective. More than anything, The Seventh Man lays out how bad decisions come from good places. Up on the Scirocco, Bobbie is having trouble recalling the events of the fight on Ganymede, but one thing she knows for sure is that Mars didn’t fire first. But they’d rather she bend that truth when she testifies about the incident, because it may be the only way to prevent a war. Politics in motion, man. It’s enough to make you wonder what your squadmates really died for. Bobbie does eventually remember that the UN soldiers did, indeed, fire first, but not at the Martians; they were firing at a figure that was behind them, chasing them. The seventh man. The one not wearing a vac suit. Ignore that, she’s told, just stick to your story and head to Earth. Because it’s definitely the best idea in the world to send perhaps the angriest Martian alive to a peace summit. Hoo boy.
And we thought everything was done once Eros slammed into Venus.