Ten Thoughts on The Expanse‘s “The Monster and the Rocket” and “Caliban’s War”

By | October 20th, 2018
Posted in Television | % Comments

Hello Multiversity TV bingers! For this year’s Summer TV Binge, I’m tackling the SyFy/Amazon show The Expanse, based on the novels by James S. A. Corey. My boyfriend Frank joined me for our look at the first season, and as we move into the second season, I’m flying my own Rocinante all alone.

Everything is coming to a head on both Ganymede and Earth as we reach the end of the second season. Let’s dive in to the penultimate episode of the second season, “The Monster and the Rocket” – – and as always, spoilers within.

1. Day of Reckoning

Dawn comes to New York City, and with it Errinwright’s hearing for his role in the proto-molecule mess, aka the Eros hearings. While he tries to find some sense of normalcy, he has a sense that his time as a free man is short, imparting advice on (his very freaked out) teenage son to “listen to your heart.” He backtracks when he sees his son’s nerves over this unexpected heart-to-heart with “everything’s going to be okay.” But is it really for him?

Chrisjen is working her darndest to clear Errinwright’s name and position him as an unwitting player in the Eros mess, and he’s going to need her to persuade Jules-Pierre Mao of the danger he’s placed Earth in with his experiments.  Is it too little too late? Errinwright thinks that is the case, as he writes a final note to his ex-wife and contemplates a liquid filled tablet.  Is he thinking of pulling a R. Budd Dwyer at the Eros hearings?

2. “Don’t Talk Down to Me, Plant Guy”

If Holden thought he was going to have a united front with doing battle with the protomolecule on Ganymede . . . think again. When the crew spots the creature they got a bit of an eyeful of at the end of last episode while on patrol, Holden’s ready to go at it guns a-blazing. Prax believes different – – why kill what you don’t understand, especially when this particular protomolecule creature could be his daughter, a human being with a soul. Even Alex isn’t too sure chasing the creature is a smart move. Could it be luring them in to a trap?

Herein sets up what could be the conflict of the third season: safety and security versus knowledge and understanding.

Or even Holden and his crew, as he makes a few snide remarks to Alex, a Martian, about how Mars got itself into the protomolecule business.

3. Saving Ganymede

Naomi had noble intentions to save Ganymede (or as much of Ganymede as she could), but the reality is a plain one. As Ganymede’s connectors between docks are collapsed and more vital systems on the planet start to fail, people are getting scared and getting ugly. And the Weeping Somnambulist (the ship that Holden and company commandeered to get on to Ganymede) only has enough oxygen for about 50 people. Naomi being Naomi, she offers the solution of the Rocinante, but Melissa (captain of the Weeping Somnambulist) isn’t buying it.

Did Naomi’s altruism put her in over her head? Quite possibly.  Is she going to give up on the people of Ganymede? Most unlikely. Not even Amos – – or violating Martian airspace – – will get in her way to do good today.

But a human-protomolecule hybrid hiding out on the Rocinante might.

4. Power Corrupts (Part the First)

Errinwright and Martian Defense Minister Korshunov attempt to put down the barriers of politics and over some drinks and a trip to the opera, debate the merits of new technology and the younger generations on Mars who don’t understand the significance of the dreams of the older generation to make Mars a new Earth. Without warning, Korshunov collapses. That liquid filled tablet we saw earlier wasn’t to end Errinwright’s life. It was a poison developed to specifically effect those in low gravity (like Martians) but banned by “the Brussels Act,” presumably for its inhumane effects. Just like the protomolecule, a technology that could change the course of interstellar history but with questionable ethics around it. Two can play at this game, and one will lose.

Continued below

5. Going Rogue

Chrisjen and company take a meeting with Jules-Pierre Mao aboard his ship. The sharp barbs and cucumber sandwiches in fancy upholstery gets interrupted with a transmission from Errinwright: the Defense Minister of Mars is dead “of a heart attack” and the Martian ship that was delivering the protomolecule, the Karakum, was destroyed over Ganymede on his orders. All appears to be a coup d’etat on Mao – – but Errinwright turns the tables and declares that Chrisjen betrayed him, declaring his allegiance for Mao.

Man, just when you think you know a guy . . .


-“Another hot day at Pimlico” = Amos showing his Baltimore roots.  Wonder if he ever had the chance to see the Preakness.

And now, we fire up the Roci for the final time with a look at the second season finale, “Caliban’s War.” Like before, spoilers within.

1. Power Corrupts (Part the Second)

The reunion on the Rocinante is one filled with relief, but one without hard lessons for Holden. He let his desire to exterminate the protomolecule go to his head and forgot about the real people in his life that needed saving: Naomi, Amos, the people of Ganymede. He’s not a hardened hawk looking for war at every turn, he’s a leader with compassion. As Amos tells him when he’s near death a little later (we’ll get to that in a bit), he always tries to do the right thing.

But when everyone discovers the human-protomolecule stowaway (we’re going to name it Bob for the purposes of this recap because “Bob” is easier to type than “human-protomolecule stowaway”), the outcome is clear: it must die. Prax still holds on to some hope that it can be reasoned with, but Holden knows it has to die. His crew needs to be saved. Holden and Amos attempt to solve the problem with firepower, but Holden gets trapped by a cargo bay.  Bob starts to move away and claw at the floor. And underneath that floor is the reactor for the ship, a veritable Vegas buffet for it.

Things just went from bad to worse for the Rocinante.

2.  All That Nice Furniture

All that lovely and probably expensive interstellar furniture on Mao’s ship has taken a beating, but our Earth visitors seem to have survived.  Cotyar’s shot (and cranky about his boss’s mouth), and the comms are deliberately out (by Mao’s henchmen). Bobbie’s the gal to save the day to find her battle armor so she can help hold off Mao’s goons. Meanwhile, Cotyar and one of Mao’s men broker a deal: safe passage off the ship for him and Bobbie Draper if they leave Chrisjen. But Bobbie’s off finding her power armor and convincing crew members to grant her passage around the ship. And Chrisjen gives herself up to the crew. This is a delicate ballet of diplomacy and negotiation everyone is playingWill Bobbie reach Chrisjen and Cotyar in time?

3. Saving Holden

Holden may be planning his final farewell, but Naomi’s not buying it. She saved people on Ganymede, she’s going to save the man she loves.

But it’s Prax with the solution. Using his botany skills, he compares Bob to a plant that moves toward sunlight. The plant moves to sunlight when it needs an energy source. Bob is moving towards the reactor because it needs an energy source. So why not give it a new energy source and lure it off the ship?

There’s also a subtle but important bit of dialogue here from Prax.  He talks about how he would come home from work and tell Mei stories about soybeans and she would pretend to care – – or rather, “pretended to care.” Talking about his daughter in past tense suggests to me an acceptance that she is dead, or at least, not the human form he remembers.

4. Denoument

Bob is barbecued and off the ship and Holden is saved, albeit with a leg injury.  Bobbie and her battle armor hold off the Mao goons, saving Cotyar and Chrisjen. Unfortunately, the Arboghast doesn’t make it – – its descent into the Eros crater results in the protomolecule disintegrating the ship and killing its occupants.

Continued below

This seems like everything from the season wraps itself up in a fine bow but that’s far from the truth. Naomi confesses what she did with the protomolecule sample: it’s in the hands of Fred Johnson. And Mei is very much alive, though in a pod on the verge of a long sort of nap.

And with that, roll credits.

5.  Final Thoughts

Like Outcast, The Expanse revels in the slow burn, the reveal of layers upon layers upon layers of mysteries, all of them connected.  The search for Julie Mao led to the protomolecule, which itself led to a cold war between Earth and Mars getting warmer and warmer.  And now that Fred Johnson and the Belters have the protomolecule, the war is going to get even hotter.  The way that everything folds in on itself is what makes the show so exciting. You do have to invest quite a bit to keep track of characters and plot lines; often I’ve had the official SyFy recaps up in a separate tab to re-read and check details later. It’s an information-rich universe, but worth the investment.

The socio-political issues and themes also cannot be ignored, particularly in Season 2, which was presumably filmed shortly after the election of Donald Trump as president and aired throughout his first three months in office. The women are the strength and backbone of this show, foreshadowing what would happen six months to a year later with the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements. They are not without their own conflicts with men; is the world of The Expanse closer to a utopia for gender equality or more of a commentary on how far we may not get if we remain on our current path?

If you want to continue the journey, you can watch Season 3 of The Expanse on Amazon Prime in the US. UK viewers, I think you are able to watch the rest of the show on Netflix UK, but someone please confirm that in the comments. The fourth season (which will air on Amazon Prime) started filming earlier this month.  There are the original novels by James S.A. Corey as well, which you can get at your local library or bookstore. These two seasons cover all of the first book, “Leviathan Wakes” and more than half of the second book, “Caliban’s War.” BOOM! Studios also put out a prequel digital series and graphic novel, “The Expanse: Origins” which covers the lives of the Rocinante crew before the start of the series, as well as Detective Miller (RIP).

Thank you for joining me on this journey.  I hope it wasn’t donkey balls for you.  And as always: Remember the Cant.

//TAGS | 2018 Summer TV Binge | The Expanse

Kate Kosturski

Kate Kosturski is your Multiversity social media manager, a librarian by day and a comics geek...well, by day too (and by night). Kate's writing has also been featured at PanelxPanel, Women Write About Comics, and Geeks OUT. She spends her free time spending too much money on Funko POP figures and LEGO, playing with yarn, and rooting for the hapless New York Mets. Follow her on Twitter at @librarian_kate.


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