The Expanse’s fifth season is inching closer to its finale, and this week the show narrowed its focus, spending most of its time on one especially heartbreaking storyline. Episode seven’s title, “Oyedeng,” is the Belter word for “good-bye” — and the series has rarely taken us through such a painful, powerful farewell.
We don’t get many flashbacks on The Expanse — earlier this season, there was a glimpse of Amos (Wes Chatham) recalling his troubled childhood — but “Oyedeng” opens with something as surprising as it is deeply effective: a long-ago tender moment between Marco (Keon Alexander), Naomi (Dominique Tipper), and baby Filip. As we fade in and out of that golden-hued memory, which shows us a dimension to this shattered family we’d be hard-pressed to imagine otherwise, we see present-day Naomi suffering in her cell aboard the Pella. Her own safety is hardly her biggest concern; instead, she’s fearful that she’s arrived too late to wrest the now-teenage Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) from his father’s control.
Despite Naomi’s concerns, The Expanse coyly suggests that perhaps Filip isn’t a total lost cause; check him out, alone in his quarters, reading about his mother’s heroics aboard the Behemoth (see: season three). When Marco saunters in, Filip quickly fibs that he was scanning reports of Belters celebrating the Free Navy’s victories. We can tell Marco saw what Filip was really looking at, but he lets it slide. Instead, he seizes the opportunity to give us a five-star demonstration of just how manipulative he is.
Now, Marco could easily just commandeer the Chetzemoka, the “junker” that Naomi gave to Filip, but he frames it as a favour — asking if he can use it without saying exactly why. Marco can’t resist making it clear that he’s testing him: “I know that you’ve been spending time with her lately, so I wasn’t sure if that ship held some sentimental value to you.” Naomi, of course, had hoped her son would use the Chetzemoka to escape his father, but the chances of that happening seem pretty slim. “I want you to be proud of me,” Filip tells Marco. Instead of saying “I am proud of you, son” Marco takes the Han Solo route and responds, “I know.”
Next stop on Marco’s mind-fuck tour is Naomi’s cell, where he turns on the faux charm — “It’s been a long time since it’s just been the two of us together” — but she is having none of his bullshit, a feeling that only intensifies as they argue about Filip. “He is his own person! He doesn’t deserve to die for your dreams,” Naomi says, to which Marco’s all “You have no idea who he is!” While she’s sorry to have missed Filip’s childhood — which, lest we forget, only happened because Marco hid the boy from her — she’s not sorry she left: “The pain of losing Filip was not as horrible as having to stay with you.”
Then Marco ever-so-jealously brings up Holden (Steven Strait), and Naomi says (correctly) “he’s all the things you pretend to be,” before (also correctly) pointing out that the only reason she’s still alive is because Marco doesn’t want Filip to realise that Naomi’s right about his father’s true character.
We need a breather after that intense exchange, so The Expanse hops over to the Rocinante, where Holden, Bull (José Zúñiga), and Monica (Anna Hopkins) are chasing down the Zmeya, the ship that tore out of Tycho Station with the stolen protomolecule sample. Monica asks point-blank what they’re planning to do with the sample when they retrieve it, and Holden and Bull agree they’ll destroy it. The conversation then winds over to Fred Johnson (RIP), a complex man who opted not to destroy the sample. “If you spend enough time with someone, you get to see how full of shit they are,” Bull says. “I spent half a lifetime with Fred, and I still don’t know. Hard to find people like that.” He also says Holden reminds him of Fred — which, he adds with a half-smile, “is probably why we don’t get along.” Bull’s a prickly dude, but he is a good foil for Holden and their friendship is as welcome as it is unexpected.
Out of the blue, the Roci receives a transmission from Alex (Cas Anver), who is not on Mars, as Holden assumed. He’s en route to Tycho with Bobbie (Frankie Adams) aboard the Razorback, and has just been through some heavy shit battling Belters on Martian warships. But Alex keeps it vague on the message, saying only, “We got a lot to talk about.”
Back on the Razorback, a message from Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) lets Alex and Bobbie know that the UN will be using the intel they sent to help track down Marco’s ships. Then they get a reply from Holden with some big news: “Marco Inaros stole Fred’s protomolecule sample and we’re trying to find the ship it’s on to destroy it.” They forward him the same ship profiles they sent Avasarala — and then reveal their own news, namely that Mars is selling warships to Marco.
“Jesus, Inaros really does have his own Navy” is Bull’s stunned reaction. Holden’s more interested in the fact that the Chetzemoka, Naomi’s ship, is one of the vessels in the dossier. Swallowing his emotions, Holden agrees with Bull and Monica that the Roci can’t deviate from its protomolecule hunt; instead he asks Alex and Bobbie to trail behind Marco’s fleet, explaining that Naomi is being held prisoner by the Belter leader. They agree, with zero hesitation.
After that, Holden needs a coffee break, and he and Monica start to puzzle through the information they’ve just learned. “Marco’s loyalists aren’t just Belters anymore,” Holden says. Monica agrees, but points out that getting ahold of Martian gunships would require months of logistics and planning, as well as someone with top-level MCRN clearance. She’s also got a theory about what Marco’s using as payment: the protomolecule sample, along with the services of scientist Paolo Cortázar, who was kidnapped right before the sample was stolen. The one thing Monica hasn’t figured out is the connection between Marco and Naomi; Holden’s midway through explaining that complicated history when Bull pings him — they’ve found the Zmeya.
Aboard the Pella, Naomi seeks out Filip for a chat. She hasn’t given up on him and he’s not upset when he finds her in his room — in fact, he’s almost…friendly? Time is of the essence so she gets right to the point, trying to make him understand how dangerous his father is. Her case is compelling; she explains how, as a young woman, her deep love for Marco made her blind to his faults, until the Augustin Gamarra explosion made her realise how wrong she’d been. Filip claims he doesn’t regret anything he’s done out of loyalty to Marco — but he has tears in his eyes, and he doesn’t resist when Naomi pulls him into an embrace.
When he asks why she left him, she gives him the full story of the circumstances leading up to her departure, including how she nearly threw herself out of an airlock in despair. We’ve heard pieces of this gut-wrenching tale before, but now we really know everything Naomi went through. “Walking away was the only choice I had left. Walking away is the only choice anyone ever has,” she tells him.
Not long after, Naomi encounters Cyn (Brent Sexton) — it’s their first meeting since she clocked him with a wrench and used his hand terminal to send the message that saved the Roci, but there’s no bad blood between the old friends. The conversation gets heated awfully fast however when Cyn brings up some things that have been weighing on him: all those years ago, he saw her walk into that airlock, and he was relieved to see her walk back out. “I didn’t think there was anything that could break you,” he says, before admitting the reason Filip remained so well hidden back then was because Cyn was working with Marco. He was only pretending to help Naomi search for her baby.
The betrayal was years ago, but it still hurts like a fresh wound. In Naomi’s mind, there’s only one thing Cyn can do to make up for the damage he caused: “Help me now. Please.” It’s hard to know where Cyn, who’s been part of Marco’s crew for decades, stands — but we have a morsel of hope after Marco rips into him about how the Roci, which is supposed to be in pieces back on Tycho, is instead closing in on the Zmeya. He’s also super-duper pissed that Cyn and Filip urged him not to space Naomi because doing so would have “shown Filip the price of failure.” The two men get into each other’s faces, and Marco reveals that he’s more than a little concerned that Naomi is trying to turn Filip against him.
And hey, speaking of the Zmeya, after a nail-biting chase and exchange of torpedos and rail-gun fire (space battles on The Expanse give me life every time), the Roci emerges the victor. But before Holden and company can go aboard and check the ship’s data (to find out any information on where Naomi is) or retrieve the protomolecule (to make sure it’s destroyed forever), the Zmeya self-destructs. Holden says it all with one forceful, drawn-out word: “Ffffuck.”
On a lesser series, that would be the final scene in the episode. But The Expanse — an exceptional series midway through a hell of a good season — has a few more knife-twists to go. With Naomi’s warning about how Marco only cares about himself turning over in his mind, Filip approaches his father and tells him he wants to do more for the cause — like, say, captain one of the ships in the fleet. Marco’s response is to humiliate his son by reminding him of his failures, calling him weak, and saying “You are nothing without me.” Yep, very on-brand. But he softens the blow by telling his son “You are my heir, and one day you will lead the Belt after I’m gone,” and leads the crew in chanting “Filip! Filip! Filip!” — a display that’s enough to draw the teen, who’s clearly been riding this emotional roller coaster his entire life, back under his father’s spell.
Naomi is summoned to the bridge, where she — and we — learn what Marco had in mind earlier when he casually asked Filip if he could use the Chetzemoka. Naturally, it’s horrifying: the ship will be used as bait to lure in the Roci, then finish the job of destroying it. Shocked, Naomi turns to Filip to appeal to whatever shred of goodness is left in him, but he calls her a “pathetic, Earther-loving welwala” (traitor), slaps her, and spits “You are everything that I am not.” (The choice of words suggests Marco has told him about Naomi’s relationship with Holden, clearly a not-insignificant part of the reason why Marco is so obsessed with blowing up the Roci.) “Did you really think you could get MY son to betray me?” Marco smirks. “You are nothing and that’s all you’re gonna be left with.”
As for Naomi’s plea for help from Cyn? Ain’t happening. For one thing, he’s involved in this cruel plan in some capacity; earlier, we saw him returning from the Chetzemoka with his toolbox and when Naomi looks to him for support, he swivels his chair around rather than face her. He does care for Naomi in his own way, but he picked his side long ago, and there’s no changing that. With her chosen family in the crosshairs, Naomi has one card left to play — or rather replay, since it echoes the desperate decision she nearly made the last time Marco backed her into a corner. You knew it was coming: the airlock!
Cyn, who’s in full déjà vu panic mode, enters the airlock with her and the doors close behind. “You shouldn’t have followed me,” she says sadly. Filip, still on the ship, watches as Naomi opens the exterior door. But this is no suicide — remember, walking away is the only choice, though in this case, it’s more like flying away, specifically in the direction of the Chetzemoka. After stabbing herself with a shot of oxygenated blood, she scrambles aboard with milliseconds to spare. Back on the Pella, Cyn succumbs to his own gruesome airlock death. Filip realises his mother has left him again, presumably forever this time. Oyedeng, indeed.
- A few weeks back, Monica was saved from suffocating in a storage container with a shot of oxygenated blood. Never would have guessed that was laying the groundwork for something bigger down the line, but such is the genius of The Expanse.
- Before Marco yells at Cyn, you can clearly hear him telling one of his crew “The Zmeya has their instructions and knows what to do.” I’d bet a barrel of red kibble that pesky protomolecule is still in play. Also, just prior to the last scene, you can see Marco studying a map that shows ships heading into the Ring Gate. So yeah, he’s still got some tricks up his sleeve.
- Dominique Tipper is always good, but this week — just a powerhouse performance on both a physical and emotional level, from start to finish.
- No Drummer (Cara Gee) or Amos (Wes Chatham) in “Oyedeng,” alas, and barely any Avasarala — but as much as we’re dying to catch up with all those storylines, it made sense to give Naomi’s years-in-the-making ordeal some extra breathing room this week. No pun intended.
- Monica was a bothersome character in season three, but her strengths as a journalist — she’s assertive, quick-thinking, and always trying to find out what’s really going on, not to mention those random sources she has scattered around the system — are an undeniable asset this time around.
- Bobbie digging a bullet out of her suit and breezily tossing it over her shoulder — “Eh, it just itches a little bit” — makes me sorry that she’s gotten so little screen time this season.