The Expanse seems to have made a clean break in the story with its eight episode “Pyre”, which was entirely focused on Jim Holden and his crew.
We open with a view of a botanist, Dr. Meng, and his little daughter in a greenhouse on Ganymede, just before the fight in orbit. The girl is the one Bobbie saw waving from the greenhouse. The mirror falls effectively directly on top of her.
On Tycho, the Rocinante crew is discussing the mad scientist situation with Fred Johnson and his deputy. The deputy explains that the ship Alex and Naomi followed was a blind, and the mad scientist was actually taken away on a different vessel only a few minutes later. Just then, Dawes the OPA boss calls to let Fred know that he’s going to “give his secret weapon to the Belt.” There’s also a lot of talk about Fred acting like an Earther.
Dr. Meng is on a refugee ship, finding out that his daughter is dead. He has a Martian friend on the ship, who offers him to go to Mars with her. The ship manager then comes telling all inners to go to airlock and prepare for a ship to pick the up. Dr. Meng wants to go as well, but he’s banned, since only inners are allowed. It turns out that was because they were going to murder all the inners by spacing them.
Naomi tries to destroy the last remaining sample of protomolecule, but Jim interrupts her and she has to stop so that he doesn’t see. She then goes with Fred’s deputy to get data from the station’s antennae. They are trying to find out where is the protomolecule the mad scientist has detected. Naomi expects her secret sample to be discovered, but instead, it’s found on Ganymedes. We also see the more militant OPA people listening to the OPA guy’s message to Fred.
Dr. Meng arrives at Tycho Station and tries to report the murder of refugees to a doctor, but not very successfully. Alex asks Amos to help him with refugees, and Amos refuses, looking very much not himself.
Jim and Naomi look for some connection between Protogen and Ganymede. They find one geneticist who worked on Ganymede as a pediatrician. They cannot localize him, however. When they look at his photos to find people close to him, lo and behold, there is our botanist. Jim and Naomi go get him and talk to him.
Meanwhile, six or so militant OPAs attack Fred’s “bridge” and shoot a few people, then demand he gave them the Earth missile release codes. Fred refuses, so they shoot another station worker, and then almost kill Fred’s deputy.
On the Rocinante, Amos finds his old friend Lydia in the system and he and Alex argue about Amos’ supposed selfishness. They have a fight where Amos almost kills Alex. Then they notice an alarm blaring because someone is trying to launch the missiles.
Jim and Naomi talk to Dr. Meng, and find out the guy they want was his daughter’s pediatrician. By looking through records, they also find out that he got the daughter out of his clinic just before the attack. They speculate he knew it was going to come and specifically went to save her. Therefore, they hypothesize the daughter could still be alive, and Dr. Meng agrees to go with them to Ganymede.
In that moment, Alex calls Jim to let him know about the missiles. Naomi starts pumping CO2 into the bridge and Amos goes out to space and manually cuts off the oxygen flow. Then, when everyone in the bridge has fainted, Alex and others break in and save Fred’s deputy, and Fred himself, and just everyone.
The Rocinante crew is preparing to leave for Ganymede, but Fred doesn’t want to let them go. He threatens that if they find the protomolecule on Ganymede and don’t give it to him, they won’t be welcome on Tycho anymore. Jim counters with saying he likely won’t be in charge anymore, and that he’s out of the game now. He also reminds Fred they saved his life. Resigned, Fred lets them go.
Eros is dead, long live Ganymede!
So, I can’t quite say that “Pyre” dealt with my problem with the OPA. On the contrary, it made it markedly worse.
But to be fair, that attack on Fred was a long time in coming, and has been foreshadowed for a full season now. I’m mostly happy to have it out of the way with so few causalities. It is also good to know that Fred’s deputy isn’t a traitor to him – or, if she is, she’s a very sophisticated one and plays her hand very safe. Of course, it’s also true that I never suspected her of working for the militant OPAs, so if she’s with Dawes, we still don’t quite know. Certainly if Fred was to lose control of the station, I would like to see it go to her. In fact, if it goes to anyone else, it’s going to be mightily irritating.
My main issue with the OPA portrayal was the spacing of the inners. It was just such a random act of mass murder. I hope it will prove to be justified by the plot later, because otherwise I just don’t see why we needed to watch that. It further strengthens the impression that the Belters are all violent, prejudices savages. We never see random Earthers do things like that, and it upsets me.
On the upside, though, there finally seems to be an East Asian man on this show who is to be a good character. I hope he will last more than two episodes. After Mao and Nguyen, he’s badly needed.
Another thing I have complained about that has not gotten better is the lack of exploration of Jim’s trauma. He now freely admits to Naomi that he was going to kill the mad scientist. We see her reaction to that, we get something of the moral problems with it, of the idea how circumstances change you and push to do things you normally wouldn’t. Jim even indirectly reflects on it being the same as what Miller did. But we don’t actually see him deal with it at all, with any of it. He did so many things recently that go against his convictions. It deserves a reaction. Last episode, we saw Bobbie’s reaction to the death of her friends wonderfully. Jim’s trauma deserves no less attention, though it’s different in nature.
Amos’ story, too, continues to be just slightly off to me. I realise we’re not meant to understand what’s going on with him, but still. This seems too confusing to me. Unless, that is, we’re simply meant to regard this as him having a nervous breakdown in his own way. In this case there is nothing to explain, I suppose, but even then there should be some clearer exploration of what triggered it than just a random child being upset with him.
Looking at what I say like this, it seems like I hated “Pyre.” That’s not true. Apart from Amos’s scenes, which really were a little jarring, it had good plot and good flow.
The highlight was probably Naomi and her struggles. Her worry that her secret would be discovered, her increasing tension with other members of the Rocinante crew, everything. Her tension was palpable throughout the episode. The conflict between her Belter loyalties and her love for Jim is going to come to a head soon, too, I fear.
I also keep wondering what will happen in her relationship to Fred’s deputy. It seems there has been too much established for nothing to happen, yet the farewell to Tycho at the end of this episode seemed pretty final. Maybe it will only be a farewell to Fred, though. Maybe she really will be running the station when they return. I would certainly love to see these two ladies interact more. It’s a chance to show us the nuanced politics of the Belt without savages who mass murder people.
I will be sorry to see Fred Johnson go. He was one of my favourites, and an excellent counterweight to Jim, his pragmatism against Jim’s idealism. If he’s to leave Tycho, I would love for him to pop up somewhere else. Though I also can’t help but feel just a little smug. Didn’t I tell you the missiles were not safe with you, Fred? Didn’t I?
There is one other little gem I simply have to mention: Alex’s expression when Fred’s deputy shot the two remaining OPA radicals on the bridge. He had this completely helpless and frustrated look. Like, “why am I surrounded by violent killers?” I know, honey. It’s hard.
I hope that next episode will finally give us that meeting of Chrisjen and Bobbie. It’s called “The Weeping Somnambulist”, so that doesn’t really give much away. The data from Venus are also overdue, so that’s another thing I expect to see. Jim could take a back seat for all I care, except for exploring his trauma as they fly to Ganymede, I suppose. I am also hoping for some interesting interaction with Dr. Meng.
The Ganymede connection to Protogen seems to indicate that the zombie terminator was part of the same research as the rest of it. While I could see the research interest of Eros, though, I fail to gather the scientific attraction of super soldiers. It seems most plausible that Mao was wooed by someone else than Errinwright. It would on their orders that the zombie terminators attacked. That brings back my fear that it was orchestrated by Mars. I really, really don’t want that to be true. On the other hand, it could be a private individual from Mars, something like Errinwright on Earth. That would be a nice parallel.
Or, of course, it could still be part of Errinwright’s original plan. I don’t think he has the superweapons at hand yet, though, and I don’t think he would be so eager to start the war without them, though he’s hardly a pacifist.
I’m eager to see who’s weeping next week.