The Expanse – Season 6 Episode 4
The Expanse briefly slows its pace, allowing everyone to take stock of recent events and figure out what to do next.
For all the excellent action sequences The Expanse regularly provides, it’s impossible to maintain such relentlessness without letting the actual story suffer, so every once in a while it’s nice for an episode to cut back on the life and death intensity and give us a bit of a breather. Given that there are only two more episodes until the show’s conclusion it’s likely that this is the last time it will happen, so we’d better make the most of it.
After the events on Ceres were left hanging, the aftermath of the explosions that vented its water supply and killed hundreds of people is now being dealt with. While it’s still unclear exactly who was responsible, the Belters are rallying behind Sanjrani’s rhetoric that it shouldn’t force the station’s populace to capitulate further to their perceived oppressors. It’s likely this was entirely the intent, forcing a backlash against the humanitarian efforts being offered to them and ensuring they will not agree to further subjugation just to survive.
That the citizens would react so strongly against the very people who are there to keep them alive demonstrates the depths of the mistrust that is intrinsic in Belter culture, with Avasarala even stating that the evidence it was likely supporters of Inaros who planted the explosives wouldn’t be believed due to the lack of credibility an Inner’s word carries. Although Avasarala’s political career has fluctuated over the course of the series, it’s clear that if nothing else her skills in diplomacy have never blunted, being able to see a problem from all sides and predict outcomes without needing to first watch them play out.
It’s unfortunate that the Martian military, represented by Admiral Kirino (Krista Bridges), don’t agree and instead push for an all-out counterstrike against the Free Navy. The gung-ho attitude of the MCRN has always been fairly consistent, forever deciding that a show of force is the best way of reacting to any given situation, and the probability of them defying orders is unlikely to end well for anyone involved.
Events on the Rocinante aren’t any less tense, since as predicted the log of Holden disarming the missile that would have destroyed Inaros’ ship is discovered. Clarissa naturally doesn’t feel it’s something she can bring up herself, as she has only just been accepted as one of them. Even though it’s been explicitly stated she is now part of the crew, she clearly still feels her position is a little unsafe and that it might still be revoked. Amos, on the other hand, has never had any qualms about saying exactly what he thinks to anyone, and demands Holden justify what he did.
It’s unfortunate, then, that Holden invokes his captain’s privilege of not having to explain himself to his underlings. While Holden is technically within his rights to do so, be it right now or at any other time, intentionally sabotaging at the last second the best chance yet to take out a murderous warlord wreaking death and destruction across the entire Solar System is a hell of a choice to expect your crew to not question. Additionally, the unity of the Rocinante is maintained by trust, not an authoritarian command structure, so if Holden thinks Amos is going to just accept his non-response and move on, he’s going to be sorely disappointed.
Holden’s conversation with Naomi about the issue only escalates things, making it sound like it was consideration for her that drove his decision despite that she wordlessly overrode her maternal instincts while being well aware of just how much it would emotionally cripple her. He at least has the courage to admit it was ultimately about him, being unable to handle what Filip’s death would forever make Naomi feel about him, but it’s still a poor justification that highlights that he can’t yet see past Naomi’s trauma and treat her as an equal rather than someone who needs protecting. Despite being the central presence of the show’s wide ensemble of characters, Holden has always been far from its most compelling one, and having a specific reason to think poorly of him risks jeopardising his status as the nominal hero.
Holden’s conversation with Clarissa was less one-sided and provides a different perspective. Her being able to talk frankly about her previous vendetta and what it turned her into marks a progression in their rocky relationship, and her opining that not choosing a path of violence can sometimes be the better option, despite what consequences it may have, demonstrating her own personal growth. It suggests that in such struggles there is rarely a single right answer, but is often down to the individual in the moment to make the call. The philosophy is extended by one of Monica’s videos, a recording of a homeless old man on Ceres who has evidently had a hard life, his exhaustion evident as he wishes for an end to the violence, his words juxtaposed with the chaos of the explosions racking the station that represent everything he hopes to never see again.
On the subject of a ship’s crew beginning to lose faith in their commander, we head back aboard the Pella. Inaros is evidently still furious about losing his best chance yet to destroy the Rocinante, ordering the spacing of the officers of his companion ship that failed in battle. Although Inaros’ underlings will have long accepted that his command is beset with intimidation and fearmongering, along with such occasional executions for failure, his recent outbursts demonstrate a captain whose self-control is beginning to slip, revealing a mere man whose façade of a visionary leader who puts the lives of his people above all else is becoming less convincing by the day. It’s also likely to be another example of his gradually diminishing reliability that may make more of his allies turn against him and possibly join Drummer’s rebellion, further weakening him at a time when what genuine respect he can actually call upon is deteriorating.
Filip begins his demotion as a maintenance technician, although his new boss Tadeo (Joe Perry) still feels as though he has to display deference to the son of the Free Navy commander, the older man seeming to be almost afraid of exerting any kind of authority. Although he likely knows why Filip has been reassigned, as the rumour mill that exists within any vessel will have made its way to him, it soon becomes more than clear that Filip has absolutely no idea what he’s doing, and by extension his new role is nothing but a punishment to give him some of the least respected duties on the ship.
Despite this, Rosenfeld (Kathleen Robertson) suggests Filip apologise to his father to maintain a show of unity, only to be met with a barely veiled threat. She might only be a support character largely existing as someone to react to Inaros’ commands, but she’s also someone who, like Amos, refuses to temper her opinions regardless of who she’s talking to, with Inaros himself even observing that she’s possibly the only person in the entire fleet who isn’t afraid of him. As such, her throwing Filip’s response to killing Yoan back in his face is perfectly within character, and further cements her refusal to be cowed by anyone.
Filip’s new lowly position makes him privy to the discovery of the torpedo warhead being disarmed in flight. Although nothing is said directly, it will doubtless make him aware that despite the choices he’s made and the things he’s done, someone clearly still thinks his life is worth something. It could well lead to him realising that that he doesn’t need to live beholden to his father’s erratic anger, but can choose for himself who and what he wants to be. His role also puts a personal face on recent events, seeing Tadeo listening for updates on Ceres in the hope of learning what happened to his brother that highlights the cost of war, and that no matter what allegiance individuals might hold, in the end everyone is human and possesses the same fears for loved ones, and that everyone has reasons for the choices they make that are rarely black and white.
My only real issue with last week’s episode was the continuing lack of direct involvement Drummer has been having with this season’s events, and as though in answer she is thrust back into things in a big way, staging a raid on one of Inaros’ supply depots. The infiltration is brief but intense, and instead of a prolonged firefight against its few defenders the tension instead comes afterwards when Josep’s arm is crushed and pinned under a falling supply crate. It gives Michio the chance to prove her worth after spending much of her time feeling like a liability, immediately taking charge of the situation and making the decision to cut off Josep’s arm in order to save his life. That she has only a knife to perform the impromptu surgery makes it all the more gruesome, the shots not sparing the pooling blood and gory details of skin, flesh, muscle and sinew being agonisingly sliced apart.
It also serves as a reminder that the Tynan’s crew are all in one big polyamorous relationship and as such genuinely love each other as much as any monogamous pairing. As such, rage at someone she cares about being hurt prompts Drummer’s decision to come out of hiding, transmitting a message across the Solar System calling out Inaros for his actions and declaring he should “live shamed, and die empty.” One thing you can say always about Drummer, she sure as hell knows how to pick a fight.
On Laconia, we get a surprising piece of characterisation after the death of Cara’s brother Xan, with the introduction of Admiral Duarte, the commander of the rogue Martian navy vessels. Although his name has been mentioned a couple of times this is his first actual appearance, and far from the power-hungry antagonistic traitor you might have expected a high-ranking military defector to be portrayed as, his trying to offer some small comfort to a bereaved young girl shows him as an actual person with at least a baseline functionality of compassion.
It also provides some context and explanation for his actions through his thoughts on the fate of Mars. What with the terraforming of the Red Planet being no longer seen as a worthwhile endeavour now that the Ring Gate placed countless uninhabited Earthlike worlds in humanity’s reach, along with the exodus of its inhabitants to lives considerably less Spartan and subterranean, the generations of sacrifice Martians made to maintain the Dream of Mars in the hope that one day it could sustain life have been swept aside as though they meant nothing.
The exchange is ended by a piece of foreshadowing, with Cortázar informing him the ancient structure orbiting the planet is now under their control, the familiar glowing blue light of active protomolecule glowing eerily in the dark vacuum, likely leading to the establishment of some eldritch military might the separatists will utilise in defending their new home.
“Redoubt” might be lacking a point of focal action seen in this seasons other episodes, but this only provides it the opportunity for enhanced character moments. Its exploration of how the realities of war affect all those involved, not just combatants, puts a human face on the conflict, and allowing even supporting characters moments to shine makes them, and by extension the whole show, that much more engaging.
- Avasarala’s navigation of the Ceres crisis
- Naomi’s refusal to need protecting
- Clarissa’s philosophy of abandoning a path of violence
- the acknowledgement of how war affects powerless people
- Rosenfeld’s pragmatic interactions with Inaros and Filip
- the measured introduction of Duarte
- Holden’s poor justification for sparing Inaros to save Filip
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