The Expanse – Season 5 Episode 7
The Expanse begins to ramp up the action as well as continuing its focus on character growth and emotional intensity, with some split groups being reunited, while other individuals are pushed to their limits.
The story of this series has so far been far more disparate than most, with its characters playing different roles in far-flung parts of the Solar System to give differing perspectives on the various aspects of the story playing out. This time around, things are far more focused on the events aboard Inaros’ ship the Pella and the emotionally screwed interplay between the terrorist, his ex and their son.
Although Inaros deigns to grant Naomi some concessions that he does his best to relate as his own choice, in reality they start to indicate the cracks in the control he has of those around him, and it’s debatable whether he is trying to convince others or himself that he is still the one fully in command of the situation.
When you go down a path that you readily accept will end in your death, there really isn’t anything that anyone can continue to threaten you with, and regardless of what Inaros believes, the only reason that Naomi won’t simply try to kill him again is that she can now perceive a faint hope of getting Filip to see his father for who he truly is and convince the boy to leave with her.
The simplicity of Naomi seeing a shaving razor in Filip’s room demonstrates to her that the baby she remembers is now almost a man, but nevertheless is someone who has spent his whole life being shaped into a weapon, to the extent that anything he might have become if left to his own devices has been buried under years of conditioning to think and act in a way that most benefits what Inaros wants from him.
It’s becoming increasingly clear that Filip was raised to be little more than a reflection of Inaros, someone in whom he can duplicate his philosophy of fear and violence and carry on what he perceives as his legacy. Such is the ingrained nature of what is expected of Filip it sometimes feels like he has no real personality of his own, and for all the bravado and confidence he tries to project, he’s still little more than a boy desperate for his father’s approval.
Inaros’ manipulation in undermining Filip’s confidence in himself is a way of keeping him subservient and, as I’ve previously observed, is a psychological tactic adopted by serial abusers. This is paralleled with Naomi’s statements of her past with Inaros and her being little more than an extension of his own thoughts and beliefs. Someone making you feel special can blind you to their faults however evident they might be, and it was only after freeing herself from his influence that she was able to become her own person free to have thoughts and make decisions each not dictated by the will of another.
It must also be observed that Naomi’s past was far from spotless, and she is doubtless absent of personal sin for her involvement with the O.P.A., but being made a party to mass murder without her knowledge or consent was evidently where the line of morality was drawn, prompting her to seek a better way.
An issue that’s been lingering, albeit unspoken, is exactly how she could have possibly justified leaving her son behind no matter how she felt about who she was involved with. Only now is it revealed she didn’t plan or intend to, but that Inaros kept the child hidden from her in an act that further reinforces how driven he is by possessiveness and spite. Her guilt at abandoning her son is evident in her every facial expression, and doesn’t really need her explicitly stating such to make the point. Her statement that the grief over the loss almost pushed her to suicide lays bare the true extent of how badly the experience affected her, and it could be argued it takes greater resolve to carry on in the face of such suffering than simply succumbing to despair and ending the pain. The scenes of emotional intensity are among the most compelling moments of the series so far, and Dominique Tipper, Keon Alexander and Jasai Chase-Owens each nail the shifting interplay involved.
Elsewhere, Holden is now fully back into things searching for the Zmeya and the protomolecule it carries. Some dialogue between him and Tycho’s security chief Bull (José Zúñiga) remind us of what made Fred such a compelling character, and that even though the former soldier’s tactics might have sometimes been more than a little questionable he genuinely wanted the Belt to prosper independently, attempting to attain through diplomacy and control what Inaros wants through bloodshed and fear, and his loss will likely cause a significant upheaval once the current crisis is fully dealt with.
The notion of Naomi’s message to Holden is brought up, which only serves to remind us of information that has been dangled in front of us but waiting for what’s perceived as a suitably dramatic moment before actually relating it. It’s an annoying tactic, especially when its withholding does nothing to advance the narrative. Such creation of artificial tension was one of the myriad things that irritated me about the Harry Potter books, and I don’t care for such a basis for comparison being one I’m able to bring up.
Alex and Bobbie re-join Holden, the sharing of information now allowing people to form a larger picture of exactly what it is they’re up against. The conceit of their being close enough for their signals to be of such negligible delay that they are able to have something resembling a conversation is a little implausible (similar to Naomi’s warning the Rocinante had been sabotaged), but as it does such a good job of building the tension I can let it slide.
This season has largely been absent of the sense of awe and spectacle that the others provided more of, but the space battle between the Rocinante and the Zmeya goes more than a little towards making up for it. A lot of live action sci-fi forgets that movement in space is undertaken in three dimensions, and the perfectly rendered shots of glowing ammunition lighting up the black void of perpetual night and the ships frantically try to out-manoeuvre each other take full advantage of the directional shifting that can be done in a vacuum. It’s not clear if the latter ship was being remotely piloted, or if its crew were such zealots they were willing to blow themselves up than be taken, but even though the action would suggest the protomolecule has been destroyed, as it’s highly unlikely a plot device as potent as the alien substance would be removed so unceremoniously it would suggest something else is going on.
The theme of guilt of the past also comes up with Cyn admitting to Naomi that he helped Inaros to hide Filip, and in bringing Naomi aboard believed he could somehow make amends for his past mistakes. He always knew what kind of man he served, but presumably believed that even Inaros had limits, and seeing the path down which the terrorist is about to drag his crew, and by extension the entire Belt, he seems to be rethinking where his allegiance would be best served.
Inaros again equates a propensity for killing with strength of character, and conversely that overt displays of emotion should be seen as weakness, and Filip’s declarations of being strong and a fighter are clearly repetitions of things that Inaros has told him and conditioned him to believe in.
When Filip eventually turns on Naomi at the episode’s end, the uncertainty is clear in his eyes, and it seems unlikely that the prospect of imagined glory would instantly undo the connection he and his mother were beginning to make. Whether or not he has truly made his final choice of which parent he will stand by will probably become an important plot point, but that will have to wait, as things conclude with Naomi making a dangerous escape.
A lot of sci-fi that shows instant explosive decompression the moment a live human body comes into contact with hard vacuum, but they can actually survive, albeit only very briefly and with potential lasting damage, especially when aided by an injection of hyper-oxygenated blood like how Monica was saved after exposure in the cargo container. Less clear is just how near death Naomi was when making it aboard her ship, and how much of a challenge it will be for her to make her way back to Holden will be a key point in the next episode.
“Oyedeng” is another excellent episode that brings even more emotion to the table while also incorporating a bit of action. The central characters are inching ever-further to being completely reunited, with the promise of bringing things back into more familiar territory as the season begins to approach its climax.
- The emotional interplay between Naomi, Inaros and Filip
- The explanation why Naomi was attracted to Inaros
- The circumstances of Naomi abandoning Filip
- Holden finally having something to do
- The space battle between the Rocinante and the Zmeya
- Not seeing Naomi’s message after it was brought up again
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