The Expanse approaches the finale of its third season with the tenth episode, “Dandelion Sky.” In it, things escalate quickly, though the protagonists are moving within a speed limit.
Content Warning: this review discusses suicide, as depicted on the show.
The episode opens with Holden sending a message to Amos and Alex, telling them what he did. They’re not happy. Ana shows her high level of spiritual awareness and the goodness of her heart once more by completely ignoring the man who comes to her for advice in a moment of crisis.
Naomi is warned away from the Roci by the Martians. She ignores them, of course. One of the Martians sent in after Holden is Bobby. When Holden spots them, he tries to go faster, but Miller warns him against that, saying that if he does, the “station” will defend itself against him. They also have a conversation about free will, which Miller denies.
Elsewhere, Amos and Alex have a conversation about possibly dying. Amos says he doesn’t feel fear, and that if the end of humanity comes, he’s going to kill himself and Alex both. Alex doesn’t seem to find it very reassuring. For some reason we have Anna theorizing about the nature of the things inside the Ring, because obviously a pastor is the most qualified person to do that.
MCRN contacts Holden without response. Bobbie tries, and he does speak to her, but he is talking to Miller at the same time, so he sounds not quite sane, and the Martians certainly notice. Drummer’s first officer and Dawes’ guy has an argument with her. Diego overhears and tries to take the man’s side. The first officer tells him to cool it, but Diego doesn’t look too happy about it. Holden reaches the bubble and, after some hesitation, goes in. The man Anna ignored before kills himself.
Clarissa tries to get to the Roci before MCRN to mask her interference with “Holden’s” transmission. When she realizes there is no way, she tries to find a way to blow it up instead. Walking in a corridor, she is recognized by Anna’s colleague, the one who made sure Anna could stay aboard the ship. Anna finds out the man killed himself, and blames herself because she neglected her job in her excitement.
Holden has a nice chat with Miller where Miller explains to Holden that he only sees him because “Miller” directly interacts with the bits in his brain that control sight—and hearing, because he hears him too. He calls himself a computer and Holden a monkey. It’s a nice, friendly journey through the inside of the station as “Miller” tells him he is using him basically as a physical interface.
MCRN realizes Holden got inside the bubble, and speculate he can control it as they get ready to pursue. Anna speaks at the dead man’s funeral, and then advises her colleague to go speak to Clarissa after she confides her secret. Drummer and Dawes’ guy talk, and she accuses him of intentionally making his accusation to her in front of the crew so that he could seed doubt and then reap the rewards. He declares they have a problem and have to deal with it.
Holden speaks to Miller at the final interface that Miller wants him to connect. Holden tries to get some emotional reaction out of him to confirm it’s actually Miller, not just the protomolecule. It doesn’t work, and Holden refuses to do what he is asked to. Anna’s colleague goes to speak to Clarissa and Clarissa prepares to kill her.
Miller appears again, this time emotional. As Holden gets ready to do what he wants, the Martians come in. Bobbie tries to talk Holden out of doing what the protomolecule wants. When he doesn’t listen, the Martians shoot at him. The station stops them, kills one, and stops everything else inside the Ring, including Clarissa’s murder attempt. Holden has a lot of cool visions, and then he fall down, screaming.
This episode was nice. It had tempo and everything, I enjoyed it. I only have one major problem: Anna and everything related to her.
The biggest issue, of course, is the suicide. Because unless the dead man turns out to have been particularly important in some way—which I really don’t anticipate—I don’t see how going so far is justified. We didn’t know his character, so it is not as if his suicide was a culmination of some struggle we watched. And Anna neglecting him would have been wrong even without his suicide.
The framing makes it look like it is Anna’s fault the man killed himself. Everything she says when she blames herself is technically true. But it would have been just as true if he was still alive. There would have been no more or less blame on her. Making the man die suddenly pushes this into very uncomfortable territory. Because unless someone stands above a knowingly suicidal person telling them to kill themselves while handing them a gun, it is never all right to blame anyone for someone else ending their life.
There are usually any number of factors that contribute to someone acting that way. While one moment—like Anna ignoring the man here—can be decisive, it does not mean the blame is on her. But the way this was shot, with the man only becoming relevant in relation to her and as someone she has refused, it suddenly looks like her refusal was the end all and be all of his decision.
It’s compounded by Anne’s colleague, whom she told to speak with Clarissa, being attacked later. Another life is endangered because of Anna’s action. While she is pretty much blameless here, it seems like a bit too much in combination.
We have not seen her reaction to her colleague’s fate yet. We don’t know what that fate will be. But there are some issues with how she responded to the man’s death. She recites all the things she did wrong, yes. But she does not seem touched by what happened at all. I understand some people are very good at keeping a public mask on. But if that is the case, we need to see her in private, where she lets it slip. We need to see how this affected her emotionally. It is the same problem as her leaving her wife and daughter behind. It hardly seems to affect her at all.
Another problem is the condescending tone of voice Anna constantly speaks in. It didn’t change one bit after this tragedy, as if, while she rationally knew it was related to her failing, it never affected her. It turns her into an uncomfortably irritating character. Certainly when her colleague said she was very good a reaching out to people, I wondered if it was supposed to be a joke. This, I suppose, is my problem in a nutshell. As a religious person, I cannot imagine I would ever be willing to speak to Anna about anything that troubles me.
Apart from Anna, I was a little unsure about Holden. Specifically, his decision to do what the protomolecule wanted. I would understand if he was so out of it as not to question anything, but he seemed rational enough. Under those circumstances, I have no idea why he did what he did. Because the station produced a better illusion of Miller, one that could do emotion as well? Not that convincing. And I’m leaving aside the fact that it’s very strange that the protomolecule can control his brain enough to have him hear and see things, but not enough to have him move the way they need.
On the other hand, I liked Bobbie here, knowing Holden but also knowing she had to face the reality of the situation. Alex and Amos’ short scene was unexpectedly nice as well.
And last but not least, Drummer! She continues to be awesome, and her first officer is awesomely sleazy. Their scenes together were very well acted, but then they usually are.
We only have three episodes to go, and they are coming in the next two weeks. I admit, I am both excited and curious to see where this goes.