The Expanse – Season 5 Episode 6
The Expanse ploughs on in the aftermath of Inaros’ meteor attack, and everyone still alive begins the journey, physical or psychological, to get back to where they need to be.
Family is the primary theme of this episode, but rather than in a tedious Next Generation fashion, instead it makes observations that we as a species are not intended to be alone, and that having those we care about and who care about us around can often make us inherently better people, regardless of how brutal the society we find ourselves in.
After a notable absence last week Avasarala is back in the story, desperately trying to get in contact with her estranged husband, once again reminding us that the cost of the attack wasn’t just numerical in the number of lives lost, but the continuing heartache of not knowing the fate of loved ones and being forced to continue imagining the worst.
The UN’s transportation minister, having been made the acting Secretary General, turns up to ask for her to join his cabinet, being possibly one of the only times in history – fictional or otherwise – that a politician finding himself in a position of power openly acknowledges he’s woefully unqualified for the job. This will doubtless lead to Avasarala returning to her former position by the end of the season, possibly humbled but certainly no less foul-mouthed.
After the near miss in the last episode, Holden has cleared whatever coding sabotage would have caused the Rocinante to blow up upon drive ignition, and finally sets off on his mission to hunt down the Zmeya and discover where Monica was being taken and why, but not before the reporter barges aboard to demand to tag along, only maintaining her position by pointing out that there could be more of Inaros’ agents aboard Tycho Station ready to abduct her again.
Holden finds a message from Naomi pre-recorded in the event of something in her search for Filip going disastrously wrong, although we’ll have to wait until next week to find out what it was, since, like Avasarala, this one sequence is all we get of him this time around. As I’ve mentioned previously, he’s one of the show’s least interesting characters so his absence is not felt as strongly as it is when we’re denied the presence of people far more compelling than him, but his part in things has been somewhat stagnant for a little too long.
One of the black marketer’s ships comes across Alex and Bobbie drifting in space, and presumably assuming they’re dead, its crew break their way inside. Of course, the former marine is waiting for them, and a barrage of gunfire from her power armour soon puts paid to the invaders, while the pilot launches himself to plant explosives on the hull of their would-be killers. As well as the brief battle sequence, also reminding us what makes Bobbie such an uncompromising badass is a particularly distinctive moment of her holding the crippled ship to the docking gantry, in a visual not entirely dissimilar to that scene in Captain America: Civil War where Steve Rogers uses the sheer power of his muscular manliness to hold down a helicopter trying to take off. when she’s not able to maintain the grip quite long enough, Alex is forced to jump back. For a brief moment it looks like he missed, the lack of peripheral vision blocking sight of the ship as it turns out of view to reveal a cosmic darkness broken only by pinpricks of light from distant stars, only for it to come back to view again. For those few moments, the fear of any right-minded spacefaring individual is evident, that of spinning off into an endless emptiness to be swallowed by the black infinity, lost and alone.
Back on Inaros’ ship, the mass murderer is somewhat angry at the failure of his plan to destroy the Rocinante, for better or worse a symbol of Solar System unity. Blaming Filip for brining Naomi aboard, he demands she be spaced. It further emphasises that he doesn’t see her as an actual person, but merely a passing amusement, as though she were like a pet dog he was attempting to train, and after realising he can’t bring her to heel he’s decided he’s bored with her and can’t be bothered with the added effort of keeping her around.
It also demonstrates to Filip the callous disregard his father has to human life. Yes, this was already evident from the atrocities in which he’s been complicit, but even for a terrorist, there’s a difference between the distant and unseen slaughter of millions of strangers you’re aware of only as a nebulous concept, and the flippant command to execute someone you purported to once care for, and this crosses a line even amidst the undeserved hero worship Filip has for Inaros. It’s probably the first time in years anyone has refused his demands, there’s a non-zero chance that he will later make an example of his hulking henchman Cyn (Brent Sexton) for refusing to carry out the command.
Filip’s doubt about what he has been told about Naomi is becoming evident, and her observation that “He wouldn’t die for you, but he would let you die for him” is a statement powerful in its simplicity and highlights the vast gulf that exists between Inaros’ attitude towards Filip as his leader and his father. His viewing Filip visiting his mother in her cell to hear of her exploits aboard the Behemoth indicates to both him and us that his control over his son’s thoughts and actions is slipping, likely meaning he is already planning for the moment when he can no longer trust Filip to follow his orders and will cut him loose in service of his megalomaniacal goals, especially after she begins her story by extolling the necessity of people working together to resolve a common threat.
Already realising her weaker position through seeing the Martian military vessels Inaros has at his disposal, Drummer has no choice but to seriously consider his offer to join them, which as one of her crew points out, might be presented as a choice, but in reality is anything but. By denying his request, she would be making herself a target of both the Inner Planets who see all Belters as alike in the brewing conflict, and the rest of the O.P.A., now united into a single vast force. She’ll sadly have to wait a little longer to punch the self-satisfied and condescending smirk off his face, although Filip’s slip regarding Naomi’s whereabouts doesn’t go unnoticed, and will likely come into play later.
After escaping the underground prison, Amos and Clarissa wander the wilderness and come across a refugee camp in a forest clearing, although with the latter technically being a fugitive official government help is out of the question. There’s something faintly ironic about their being wrapped in the torn halves of a UN flag, as though the minimal warmth the shredded cloth provides is all the aid the global power can truly offer them.
The episode’s recurrant highlighting of lousy parenting continues with Clarissa, whose father, if you recall, was Jules-Pierre Mao, the scientist and corporate tycoon responsible for attempting to weaponise the protomolecule throughout the first three seasons, and cut off all contact with his daughter following her incarceration.
Amos’ biological parents are even less to him, with a mother who died young and a father he never knew, and the only parental figure he knew now dead. “There are ways you can live a good life, but not be a good person,” observed in response to Clarissa’s assertion she must have been decent to have been there for him, is about as philosophical as he’s ever got on the subject, or anything else.
His checking of their trail demonstrates the instincts of someone who always had to watch his back, be it on the streets of a decaying city barely clinging to life, on starships and space stations where many always look for the next moment they can screw over a rival, or now in a desolate forest where the localised collapse of civilisation leads to people abandoning their sense of the same.
The “churn” he mentions, referenced in the novella of the same name that charts Amos’ backstory as well as this season’s second episode, is the homogenous mess of humanity in which all but either the obscenely rich and powerful or those in destitute poverty exist. Inaros’ attack has shunted back our species’ progress in removing the differences that we use to divide ourselves and returning to the race memory comfort of congregating among those we perceive as most like ourselves. While such differences still exist, seen most in the Earth-Mars-Belt cultural distinctions (as well as the gravity-induced biological differences between the three that the show can’t replicate for obvious reasons) people were working towards removing the inherent inequality, only the aftermath of the meteor strikes now causing everyone to revert to that tribalism, to which this episode’s title refers.
After locating the compound of a survivalist nutter who has supplies they need, a confrontational reception means Clarissa finally gets to go full-on berserker on someone, first beating him to hell in seconds then blowing a large hole in him. It’s a contrast to her earlier expressions of genuine remorse over the people she’s previously killed, and was certainly only done to save Amos’ life. She later makes him acknowledge that even though the guy was a nasty piece of work who had doubtlessly killed others merely looking for help, that doesn’t change the fact he manipulated the encounter to provoke him into initiating hostilities and thus give them the excuse of killing him in self-defence. Acknowledging to himself that such a strategy is something Holden wouldn’t have ever sanctioned, Amos realises that without his crew around him he’s in serious danger of backsliding into the unthinking thug he once was, which reinforces the point that the Rocinante’s crew are at their best when they’re together.
“Tribes” is another sedately paced episode, but one with far more to say about those involved in it. Most characters have now clear goals about how they need to proceed, and even though events in this season are still moving forwards gradually, it’s now clear that they’re about to begin accelerating towards some sort of conclusion.
- The various observations of what family means
- Bobbie getting to look badass
- Filip beginning to see Naomi as his mother
- Amos’ continuing self-awareness
- Clarissa demonstrating some humanity
- Holden being sidelined for too long
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