We’re two episodes into The Expanse’s six-episode final season, which means things are already heating up — though there’s still time for some excellent character moments, including Bobbie calling Amos “Pee-Wee.” Also, Filip flails, Clarissa steps up, and somebody finally tells Marco Inaros to get his head out of his butt and lives to tell the tale. Let’s fire up “The Azure Dragon,” shall we?
We open with the little girl on Laconia, who’s racing to get help for the injured mother bird as it clings to life. She’s moving so frantically that she nearly steps into the path of an oncoming jeep, which is going awfully fast considering it’s on a narrow road through the forest. Her mum and dad, who are scientists, comfort her as the creature dies, but they also gently remind her that they’re on an alien planet, and feeding human snacks to the local wildlife isn’t a good idea. “They have a different kind of chemistry that doesn’t work well with ours,” her mother explains. While the girl worries about the baby birds left behind, her parents hustle off to a meeting with “the soldiers,” griping that “we have nothing to do with whatever they’re building in orbit” and about their communications being cut off from “back home.” This all feels like important foreshadowing, but that all kind of gets brushed aside when the girl — after telling her little brother not to follow her — returns to the woods to try and help the baby birds. Imagine her surprise when the “strange dog” we met last week emerges from a bush and snatches the bird carcass away in its mouth. What?!
Meanwhile, in the Belt, the Rocinante is linked up to a UNN supply ship, restocking ahead of the crew’s quest to track down Marco Inaros’ spotter ship, the Azure Dragon, when they’re told their “mission specialist” is ready to board. Holden is surprised by this — until he hears “the orders came direct from the Secretary-General herself,” and the battle-ready Bobbie Draper appears, ready to help the Roci kick some Free Navy arse. Time to lock and load, indeed.
Languishing in a Ceres jail cell: morose murderer Filip Inaros, at least until his father shows up and uses his intimidating whisper to force station administrator Nico to let him go. Marco informs Filip his cover story is that he acted in self-defence, and says he doesn’t plan to punish him further, though he does get a major knife-twist in: “I would think that the embarrassment you’ve become since we’ve arrived on Ceres would be punishment enough.” In the Inaros family, this passes as a teaching moment.
Aboard the Roci, Bobbie is going over the Azure Dragon data with the rest of the crew, and she informs them “We’re gonna capture it.” Everyone’s startled — they were expecting a “search and destroy” operation — but Bobbie says Avasarala wants to preserve the date onboard. That makes the mission way more dangerous, and also nonpolitical since the Roci is an independent outfit. “If we fuck up, it’s on us,” Holden says grimly. Bobbie protests that it’s more about morale — the good guys need a win — and also points out that she’ll be doing most of the heavy lifting, but there’s an unease among the crew. Amos and Holden are worried about taking unnecessary risks (Amos is also worried about not getting paid enough for taking said risks), while Naomi can’t get excited about killing Belters, even ones that are part of Marco’s Free Navy.
After that awkward group meeting (Bobbie’s shocked to see noted fugitive Clarissa aboard, but she goes along with it), Holden shifts gears and asks Bobbie if she’s heard of any ships going missing at the Ring during transits — particularly the rogue MCRN ship Barkeith — and says that he thinks it might have something to do with the protomolecule that was stolen from Fred Johnson (RIP). It’s a mystery to Bobbie as well, but she tells Holden she’ll look into it… and that’s our weekly reminder about the protomolecule’s ever-troubling continued existence.
In the Belt, Drummer’s sole remaining ship, the Tynan, docks with the ship of a former OPA smuggler named Walker who’s agreed to take the battle-weary Michio aboard as part of his crew. The scene is brimming with tension, but Drummer soon realises Walker — who is Free Navy but loathes Marco Inaros (Walker’s sly crack that “I intimidate him… sexually” is a hell of an icebreaker) — is more on her wavelength than she realised. When he tells her Marco’s been moving supplies off stations to “supply depots” stashed around the Belt, she’s intrigued… and it gives her an idea. If there are other ex-OPA Free Navy members who’re tiring of being under Marco’s control (“tired of licking the floor for scraps,” as Drummer puts it), maybe they can band together to take some of that power back, like the pirates they used to be.
Speaking of Marco — who’s sporting a pretty intense topknot as his hairdo of choice this season — he’s on the Pella, talking with Rosenfelt about getting supplies to Medina. (As this episode shows, the importance of supplies is a recurring theme on The Expanse, just another example of the show’s commitment to realism amid its futuristic sci-fi setting.) But the conversation soon turns to Filip — as the scene cuts to Filip sadly pawing through his dead best friend’s belongings; he really seems to feel genuine regret and shame for what he did — and Rosenfelt actually proves to be a good sounding board for Marco’s complicated feelings about his son. She also has the guts to tell Marco he needs to stop fussing over Filip because it’s distracting him from the war. Marco is taken aback by her honesty, especially since most of his acolytes are afraid of him, but he appreciates that she’s a straight shooter.
The episode builds to its big scene about three-fourths of the way through, as the Rocinante closes in on the Azure Dragon. The entire sequence is yet another entry in the list of exciting space-battle set pieces that The Expanse is beloved for; recapping the eye-popping thrills in words won’t really do it justice, but here goes. Everyone suits up for the ambush — Bobbie in her Martian power armour, which Amos admires, to which Bobbie replies he couldn’t handle it and calls him “Pee-Wee” — but Dragon spots them and the Roci has to give chase. Bobbie shouts at Holden not to destroy the other ship, reminding him that a) she’s in charge and b) this mission is to capture data. Once the Roci is close enough, Bobbie launches herself onto the side of the Dragon’s hull and detonates a charge that renders it temporarily dead in the water. As Amos heads over the blow the airlock, Naomi prepares to leap after him… only to suddenly freeze at the last minute (PTSD after last season’s harrowing un-helmeted space walk, no doubt). When she hesitates, Clarissa makes the jump instead, and Naomi guides her in de-activating the ship’s reactor (it feels like she’s defusing a bomb in an action movie) from aboard the Roci.
When a trio of Belters suddenly appears, guns blazing, Bobbie goes into defensive mode — until Clarissa activates her super-strength mods, saving Bobbie from a dangerous blast, but also puking and passing out in the process. While Bobbie gets her back to the Roci, Holden and Amos take out the final Belter after they board the Dragon. With Naomi and the Roci’s help they’re quickly able to access the ship’s data core, unlocking “the motherlode:” a catalogue of every single stealth rock Marco has aimed at Earth.
Aboard the UNN flagship Zenobia, intrepid journalist Monica Stuart has figured out that something big just went down, but Avasarala — who’s clearly feeling awfully satisfied about the Roci’s big success — won’t give her a scoop. Instead, she asks her to create a series of stories about “what the Belt is doing to us” that’ll carry more credibility than the state-run media. Monica is reluctant, saying she doesn’t do propaganda, but Avasarala lays it on thick, saying the project could make it “just a little harder for them to feel good about killing Earthers,” and insinuating that if Monica turns her down, she’ll always wonder if her stories could have prevented more deaths. Monica compliments her on the guilt trip routine (“I practice a lot when I’m alone,” Avasarala says), but she agrees to the proposal.
Back on the Roci, Clarissa’s recovering from the side effects of using her mods and getting a pep talk from Amos when Holden enters to talk to her. (Amos stays put for the conversation, pointedly.) Though Holden acknowledges she was trying to help, he also reminds her that they had a plan in place for a reason, and she shouldn’t have deviated from it; as long as she’s part of the crew, she has to do what the captain says. He’s firm, but fair, and Clarissa smiles as he exits. Amos: “You know you just got chewed out, right?” Clarissa: “That’s the first time he said I was part of the crew.”
And aboard the Pella, Marco has gotten the news about the Azure Dragon — specifically that all the valuable data it was carrying is now in the enemy’s hands. Soon, Earth and Mars won’t be tasking their combined military forces with stopping more rock attacks; they’ll be free to come after the Free Navy, presumably making their first stop Ceres to take back control of the station. “No need to be so glum,” he tells Rosenfelt. “You said the fight would come soon enough… and here it is.”
The Expanse airs new episodes Fridays on Amazon Prime.