The Expanse ’s season 3 started on Wednesday, with an episode called “Fight or Flight”. In it, things mostly go to hell.
Chrisjen is MIA, and Errinwright is using that for all he’s worth to convince the secretary general to declare war. He eventually succeeds. Rocinante crew, still reeling from the news that Naomi gave the protomolecule to Fred Johnson, hears about it and has to change the ship’s name and ID to better mask and protect themselves.
Fred contacts Anderson Dawes about the protomolecule he now has. His assistant is very unhappy about that.
Chrisjen is saving her personal spy’s life as Bobby gets a technician to help them get out of the ship. Meanwhile, Errinwright gets news that Chrisjen is not dead. He proceeds to blame all his crimes on her in front of the Secretary General, getting the order to apprehend her in turn.
Naomi needs a new ship name, and Dr. Meng comes up with one highly symbolic, after a phoenix tree called Pinus Contorta. Naomi then convinces the rest of the crew that going to Tycho is the only way for them to survive. Holden has anger management issues. A bit of protomolecule got stuck on the ship without the crew noticing. Alex sends an emotional message home. We learn he has a wife and a son, and while he loves them, he loves being a hero more.
Chrisjen and company find that Errinwright is shooting missiles at them, so they get out a message log as proof against Errinwright and then try to get out on a racing ship… Only to discover it’s a two-seater and the door is sealed anyway. Bobbie gets out of the ship to do a manual override.
Jim notices that when there was a spike from the protomolecule on Venus and Ganymede both, there was also a spike on Io. It just so happens the Mao-Kwikowski company owns some factory there. Since they figure there is a chance Dr. Meng’s daughter is there, the crew decides to hea din that direction, in spite of Naomi insisting they were going to end up dead.
Fred wants his assistant to get back the Mormon ship he tried to shoot at Eros and help him turn it into a warship. She seems unimpressed with the idea, but agrees to help him anyway.
Bobbie and Chrisjen board the racing ship, while the spy and the technician get into an escape pod, both just before the missiles hit the original ship.
Well. I have to say I’m a little disappointed.
First, let me just say that if I didn’t remember what happened, the “previously on The Expanse” would not have helped me at all. Especially since the whole thing with Errinwright and the Martian PM was completely glossed over.
But that’s a detail, of course. My main issue with this episode was that there was just so much drama. All of it mostly made me roll my eyes instead of sit on the edge of my chair. We all know Bobbie isn’t going to fall off the ship and die without saving Chrisjen first. So why are you making me watch that instead of something more interesting? If I wanted Mission: Impossible, I would watch Mission: Impossible.
The show is at a difficult point, of course, story-wise. It’s difficult to feel invested in Chrisjen’s escape when we know it’s going to happen. The only unsure thing was the fate of the side-characters, and so, unsurprisingly, that was the part that worked best. When Chrisjen was saying goodbye to her spy assistant, I finally felt something. I didn’t know if he would survive, and that made me invested in their farewell. Also, of course, the fact that it was well acted.
The rest of this storyline left me mostly cold. As regards the strength of the narrative, I’m not sure about Chrisjen going AWOL. One of the significant points of that character was that she was at the centre of power, contrary to the others. We don’t need another rogue cannon, we’ve got enough of these. So here’s hoping her plot will head somewhere a bit more interesting.
I also have to admit I’m a little disappointed in Errinwright. The decisions he makes this episode deserved at least as much attention to his inner turmoil as the ones from previous season. Alternately, he could have shoved all that down and ignored it. But we get just enough glimpses of his tormented face to know that’s not the case, yet not enough to be anywhere near satisfactory given we know know his potential. Not that I want this to become an Errinwright show, but I would have certainly preferred to watch that to Bobbie’s near-death experience.
Holden’s storyline has a different issue. It actually ended properly last season, and we’re in a place of a new beginning now. Those tend to be a little slow. It was actually compelling to watch the Rocinante crew struggle with falling apart and then form around a new purpose towards the end, with Naomi set apart from them. But at the same time, most of these scenes felt like they were just sliding on the surface, not getting enough time to develop the theme and cut deep. In particular I would have liked to see more of Naomi’s devastation over the state of things.
Dr. Meng was a stabilizng force this episode. On one hand, I enjoyed it. But on the other, I rather question how he managed that so soon after his complete distraction at the end of last season. I understand he’s taking on Naomi’s role in the crew, a little, but it shouldn’t be so abrupt.
To be honest, one of the most interesting potential plot points was Fred and his assistant. But that was mostly wasted, too. I have been saying since early season 2 that I want more of her, and that I want more of her with Naomi. (Nice job, by the way, for having the woman call her “bitch.” Exactly what we needed here). Instead Fred is sending her away, so unless the story follows her as another POV character or she is unexpectedly intercepted by either the Rocinante or Chrisjen, we won’t be seeing much more of her.
And the two short scenes she did have did not do her justice, especially not the last one. She disapproves of Fred’s association with Dawes, dislikes Dawes and thinks he’s not good for the Belt, and thinks the plan for the Mormon help isn’t worth anything. Yet she still agrees to help Fred. Why? For his pretty eyes? She effectively does it because he says “I need you” and “I can’t do it without you.” Nice emotional manipulation there, Fred, but… If someone’s doing something I don’t approve of, “I can’t do it without you” is only more of a reason not to help them. I understand she and Fred are friends, but still. It feels like her own wishes and agency got shelved so that she could serve as an agent for his will. I don’t like to see that.
All in all, while the episode wasn’t bad, there was also little enough to excite or interest me in it. So I’m simply hoping the next one will offer us more.