SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not seen episode 302 of The Expanse
Quote of the Week- “Do you like to whistle?”
The opening of the second episode takes viewers away from the heart-pounding moments of the season premiere last week to the deceptively quiet labs of the Mao facility on Io. Dr. Strickland expertly assures and manipulates Mei into believing that she will see her father again. Later, Jules Pierre Mao arrives and tells Strickland that he wants to shut down the research. However, he too falls victim to Strickland’s persuasive power. Strickland convinces Jules Mao that the Protomolecule can be tamed by using the children.
Strickland (and Dr. Dresden earlier) almost seems too monstrous to be real but unfortunately history is riddled with men who have been willing to destroy lives for their own purposes and/or for the advancement of science. Strickland is so frightening because he is such a charming, smart, and manipulative individual. Jules Pierre Mao, on the other hand, is a brutally ruthless businessperson who only appears to care about money and power. Neither of these men cares about the harm they are doing to the children or their families.
On board the Razorback, Bobbie and Avasarala play cat and mouse with the UN cruiser that is searching for them. The interplay between Bobbie and Avasarala in this claustrophobic environment is brilliantly written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham and wonderfully acted by Frankie Adams and Shoreh Aghdashloo. Bobbie is doing everything to stay ahead of and hidden from the cruiser. All the while, she has to be cognizant of the fact that Avasarala cannot withstand the high G-forces necessary to escape. The give and take between the two of them is at times funny but other times incredibly poignant. Because of the intense action, the viewer is not sure if they will escape, be captured, killed, or die from the actions necessary to escape. Bobbie and Avasarala do manage to send a distress signal via a Martian distress channel.
On board the Pinus Contorta, Prax is settling in as the newest crew member. In many ways, he has taken over the emotional vacuum in the wake of Naomi’s betrayal. Of course, this moment of calm cannot last. It is broken when the Contorta picks up Bobbie’s distress signal. Alex calls the signal an IFF, which is an acronym that means Identify-Friend or Foe. Alex and Naomi want to help but Holden and Amos do not. Again, in a highly volatile and dangerous situation, the crew splinters on their next course of action. Naomi adds to the tension when she reveals that the distress call came from the Razorback, which is Julie Mao’s racing boat! The crew is still mysteriously bound to Julie Mao.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Reverend Annushka “Anna” Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell), arrives in the midst of violent protests against the war at UN headquarters. In the series, she is an old friend and adviser to UN Secretary General Sorrento-Gillis. In the novels, she does not appear until book three (Abaddon’s Gate), where she is a minister on Europa, not a minister and activist on Earth. It is clear from her opening scenes in the show that she is a fearless protector of the innocent and is not intimidated by powerful, elected officials. Also, she has a wife and child whom she desperately misses.
Errinwright immediately recognizes Anna as a threat when she agrees to help Sorrento-Gillis with his speech to convince the populace that he is on the right side of history. Anna is a person whom Secretary Sorrento-Gillis trusts and she is clearly not intimidated by power. Errinwright understands that a person of Anna’s moral rectitude could convince Sorrento-Gillis to end the war. It should be interesting to watch as he tries to undermine Anna’s influence.
Aboard the Razorback, Bobbie is still trying to evade the UN cruiser and their missiles but Avasarala’s age works against them as she cannot sustain the high-G maneuvers necessary to evade the missiles. But, as with any good Western, the cavalry arrives in the nick of time in the form of the Contorta. To save the Razorback, Alex and Holden execute a brilliant tactical maneuver that destroys the UN cruiser. Unfortunately for the Contorta, this rescue mission puts them right in the middle of the war.
What will Strickland create on Io? Will the new relationship between Amos and Prax give Amos the understanding he needs to more fully realize his humanity? What will happen on Earth now that Anna is part of the team? What will Errinwright do about Anna? What will the rescue of Bobbie and Avasarala do to the already tense atmosphere on the Contorta? What is the Protomolecule doing on Venus? The novels indicate that these questions will be answered in Season 3; however, if previous seasons are any indication, the answers may be different than the novels.
One of the reasons that The Expanse is so popular as a science fiction series is not only because of its scientific accuracy but because it is constantly evolving. There are changes from the novels but those changes only add to the drama of the series, while at the same time giving the viewers greater insight into the multi-dimensional and complex characters. The relationships as well as the story lines are only getting more complex as time passes and the series continues to grow. We want episode 303 and we want it now! We don’t want to wait.