The Expanse brought the third episode of its third season, “Assured Destruction.” And let me just say, it keeps getting better.
Chrisjen is unconscious in med bay, with good prognosis, while Bobbie is pointlessly engaging in a genitalia-measuring contest with the Pinus Contorta crew because God forbid anyone ever got on or was capable of solving things peacefully. The long and short of it is that Pinus is going to Io and Bobbie and Chrisjen can either go with them or they can take their ship and leave again.
Meanwhile, Chrisjen’s spy and the helpful technician’s distress signal is picked up by an UNN ship. Admiral Nguyen, who is apparently in on at least some of Errinwright’s plans, announces he will come for the survivors and that until he does, they’re to be taken to the brig and no one is to speak to them. Meanwhile, the technician is freaking out and the spy kills him to ensure he doesn’t babble.
UN in planning a preventative strike. As always, Errinwright is all for it and without Chrisjen there, the Secretary is letting himself be convinced.
Mao the Amoral is slowly realizing that the people working for him are, in fact, even more amoral than he is. It doesn’t help that he sees pictures of Julie’s dead face on their research screens.
Amos and Mao have a nice chat about the ugly life Amos led before. Naomi fixes the commons to the Razorback and is tempted to contact Tycho, but manages to resist. Chrisjen wakes up and talks to Bobbie, and then to Holden. She tries to convince him to be heroic again, but he staunchly refuses to have anything to do with anything.
Nguyen arrives on board the UNN ship and has a short chat with the spy where he threatens him with execution. The spy accuses Errinwright. The ship’s commander is present for the talk, so perhaps he is intrigued?
The UN Secretary discusses his speech with Ana when he gets confirmation from Errinwright that they have located all five martian launch platforms—if there are five, that is—and asking whether they should do the preventative strike. Ana tries to act as his external conscience.
Mao talks to Mei and is clearly thinking of Julie.
Alex gets a break up video message from his wife, and then makes up with Naomi a little. Chrisjen learns to walk in magnetic boots, and we learn that Amos used to wear pumps.
Errinwright tries to keep the information of how many casualties would it be if the attack failed from the Secretary, but he catches on and says the chance of failure—18%—is too high, and forbids the attack.
Chrisjen tells the Pinus crew about the zombie terminators and Errinwright’s plans with them. They tell her their side of the story, including Naomi admitting giving some to OPA. Then they all effectively agree on nuking Io.
Errinwrigth comes to talk to the Secretary after hours, to be the devil on his shoulder. He appeals to his ego and pretends winning against Mars would ‘unify humanity against the Eros/Venus threat’:
Mao watches Mei watch her friend get a seizure from the protomolecule.
The UNN flagship admiral has a lieutenant simulate electrical issue to go and speak to Chrisjen’s spy unobserved. But since he didn’t take any precautions against Nguyen discovering him, so he almost gets caught, but clearly the lieutenant is smart and ‘fixes’ the lights, this signalizing to his admiral that he needs to get out. When Nguyen arrives, he finds no one, and the admiral now knows not to trust Nguyen, and has Chrisjen’s story.
Since the Secretary is clearly just influenced by anyone who talks to him last, he agrees to the preemptive strike. They manage to take out all five launching platforms, but the last one gets off a nuke before it’s shot, which kills about two million people on Earth just on first impact (because Earth has shit anti-missile capabilities I guess… I’m, I’m sorry to tell you guys, but if you can’t shoot down one nuke flying at you then you’re toast in this war, destroyed launch platforms or not. Mars has a lot of nukes on their ships.).
Mao gives the order to shut Io down. I don’t think Dr. Strickland is about to obey.
Naomi has a moment of astonishing hypocrisy where she accuses Chrisjen of just wanting to go to Io to get the protomolecule. They agree that they are not going to be friends.
Errinwright sees Ana watching the news about the nuke, sad, and goes to blame her for it because the delay in killing the last platform was caused by the earlier order of preparing launch and then cancelling it. Yeah, he’s more and more repulsive by the minute. It seems his morality goes down in direct proportion to Mao’s going up. Let’s see where this ends…
If the episodes in this season continue at this rate of improvement, the finale is going to be an absolute masterpiece.
The only real issue here was the pointless arguing when Bobbie first came to the Pinus. And please note that not all arguing is pointless. The tension between Naomi and Chrisjen, for example, was bound to come up. I don’t think it was handled very well—I wonder naomi didn’t choke on her hypocrisy—but it had to be displayed in some way. Like Naomi said, they were never going to be friends.
Bobbie and Alex, on the other hand…I have been looking for their meeting ever since Bobbie first appeared on our screens. Why, oh why, did it have to be a moment of conflict? I want to see bonding instead. Not necessarily because all Martians have to be best buddies, naturally, but Alex has been away from home for a long time and misses it, and Bobbie is in a very difficult situation. I think they would both appreciate being able to have someone from “back home” there with them.
What I did like were Bobbie’s little moments of familiarity with the ship, though, her happy smile when she was looking at the Marine suits there. I also like that Chrisjen age and the difference in training and fitness between them had at least some real effect, in Chrisjen’s unconsciousness for a time.
And staying on the Pinus, Chrisjen’s talk with Holden was long awaited as well, and in this case it mostly fulfilled my expectations. It was also nice to see their roles inverted in a way, with Chrisjen arguing for heroism and Holden for pragmatism.
Oh and also, is it just me or was Chrisjen really hot in that last scene with Naomi? I mean, damn, lady. Damn.
As for the other plotlines, I appreciated Chrisjen’s spy killing the poor technician. The guy clearly had no ability to keep a cool head, so pragmatically speaking it was an obvious choice, and it was in character. I’m glad they didn’t flinch from it. What I do wonder about is pretending the secret to be kept here is Chrisjen leaving on the Razorback. It is perfectly obvious. As long as Nguyen didn’t believe the claim that she was dead, what other options were there? And even if he did believe it, they would have wanted to check all the other options. The real secret that needs to be kept is that she has proof…
I also finally understood Mao’s scenes in the previous episode, which looked perfectly pointless. On one hand I like this development. On the other I’m not at all certain about Julie’s death itself not stopping him but random children now doing so. I suppose it’s a question of her being already dead versus the children being still alive. All the same, perhaps this theme deserve more space to explore it properly.
And last but not least, Errinwright. He truly transformed into a full fledged villain now, dark temptations included. Let me just say that he was much more interesting last season. He still has little twinges of conscience now and then, but his villainy inevitably triumphs over them. It’s just so much harder to relate to him in any way now than it used to be. Why does he want this war so desperately? We don’t actually know or understand. It wasn’t a problem not understanding Mao’s motivations when he was still the main villain because he wasn’t often on our screens. But we see Errinwright all the time, and it just doesn’t quite work. It’s a delicate balance, but I believe he should go back to being a little more human.
Or, you know, be taken off the board altogether.