The Expanse Delivers Its Best Space Battle Yet, Along With Some Blasts From the Past

The Expanse Delivers Its Best Space Battle Yet, Along With Some Blasts From the Past
Image: Amazon Studios

Season six of The Expanse is ripping right along, as Avasarala discovers trouble brewing on Ceres, Drummer builds a key new alliance, and the Rocinante crew’s brief breather after last week’s big discovery is rudely interrupted by a certain Mr. Inaros. And has a smidge of Pet Sematary has entered the chat? Let’s get into “Force Projection,” it’s about to get hot!

As is becoming tradition, we open on Laconia for more drama that seems unconnected to the rest of season six so far — but since this is The Expanse, chances are everything’s gonna link together at some point. Still mourning the loss of her bird friend, Cara brushes off her little brother, Xan, who pesters her to play soccer after school. Instead, she returns to the clearing in the woods, where she notices the broken drone she’d pilfered from her parents has been repaired. Then the “strange dog” appears… as does the bird, who’s somehow alive again. “You fixed her! You fix things!” Cara shrieks with delight and rushes off. But her mood changes fast when she sees the scene at home: Xan’s motionless, blood-covered body is laid out on the couch, and her shocked parents are sobbing. Hmm… one suspects “you fix things” is definitely coming back around for this plot development.

Now that the Rocinante has put an end to Marco Inaros’ rock-flinging operation, the combined forces of Earth, Luna, and Mars head out to reclaim Ceres Station, which was briefly under Free Navy control. But the station — always an important strategic stronghold — is weirdly vacant and depleted, with Marco and his people nowhere to be found. The MCRN’s Kirino wonders if it’s a trap; Avasarala looks like she’s thinking the same. A search turns up some stragglers, including chief administrator Nico, who’s none too pleased to see “the inners” return for their “illegitimate occupation.” But when Avasarala questions her, the Belter says she doesn’t know where Marco went or why — it feels like an honest answer — and advises the Secretary-General to “take your people and leave.” And while Nico insists Marco didn’t abandon the Belters who stayed behind, she also says Ceres only has three weeks’ worth of food and air left — something the stretched-thin UNN fleet isn’t equipped to assist with. Yep… it’s most definitely a trap. “If we don’t help this station, we will be the ones responsible for a massive humanitarian crisis,” Avasarala says. “The Belt will see us once again as the oppressor and Inaros’ power will continue to grow.”

Also heading to Ceres is the Rocinante, where Clarissa — who’s still wobbly after using her mods — is taking her first night-watch shift. She clears the air a bit with Holden, confessing to him about how she once used her mods to kill a co-worker who was a good friend — The Expanse showed it in season three — and she’s still haunted by it. “Everybody on this ship has something they regret. Including Amos… I think,” Holden says, lightening the moment. “You’re in good company.” In the kitchen, Bobbie and Amos have a nice exchange dissing the horrible food aboard the Roci, reminiscing about the Canterbury and their old lives, and planning their activities on Ceres: “They got decent booze, and all the brothels are union,” Amos says excitedly.

And we have another nice moment between Naomi and Holden, where she opens up about why she froze during the Azure Dragon mission — no surprise, it was due to lingering trauma from her terrifying space walks in season five — and says she’s embarrassed about what happened. When Holden changes the subject by asking for her help with the data surrounding the Barkeith mystery, Naomi smiles and correctly deduces “You’re trying to distract me by giving me an interesting problem.”

In a less peaceful state of mind: Filip aboard the Pella, watching news reports that Belters are rioting to protest Marco’s abandonment of Ceres (Filip’s especially aghast to spot a poster of Marco’s face with “COWARD” scrawled across it). Marco, however, is in a chipper mood and seems unconcerned with Rosenfeld’s report of the inners’ increased military presence in their midst. He’s pumped for a “hit and run” plan if any Free Navy ships encounter battle groups while picking up supplies for Medina Station. Filip enters, wanting Marco to explain why they left Ceres after declaring it to be the Belt’s capital. In a patronising tone of voice, Marco says he knew they could never keep control of Ceres — he just needed the people there to believe they could. “I told the people what they needed to hear when they needed to hear it,” he says; seems Avasarala’s assessment about him deliberately creating a humanitarian crisis for the enemy to deal with is 100% true. He also insinuates that the Belters who spent their lives serving inners on Ceres are a class beneath Belters like him and Filip. “You and I are meant to be out here in the darkness, in the fight,” he tells his son. They hug it out, but there’s still unease between them.

Image: Amazon Studios Image: Amazon Studios

Aboard the Tynan, Drummer and Walker are chewing over the ex-OPA ships that might help them target Marco’s secret supply depots. She wonders why he has the depots in the first place, and Walker says he’s not sure either: “You tell me. Strategy is for generals.” Nearby, Michio watches a news interview with… hey, season three again! It’s Pastor Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) talking about the ongoing aftereffects of the disaster on Earth, a piece we soon learn is one of Monica Stuart’s Avasarala commissions. “Poor, poor Earther,” Josep snarks. “Doesn’t know where she’ll get her food and water. Welcome to the Belt.” Michio disagrees — she doesn’t think anyone should be treated the way Belters were treated — and they argue loudly enough to draw Drummer’s attention.

And then we get to the juice. The Pella picks up a lone ship in its vicinity and a delighted Marco can’t believe who it is (you have to love the sinister way he stretches out the word Ro-see-nan-tay). Rosenfeld tries to talk him down as Filip quietly freaks out in the corner, but Marco can’t be reasoned with: “You should learn to recognise an opportunity when one presents itself!” Everyone heads to their battle stations, including Filip, who’s in control of the guns.

We get yet another past-season callback in the next scene. Amos and Bobbie are making repairs to her armour (sarcastic pet name of the week: “honeybuns”) when Amos gets a message sent through clandestine channels… from his bestie, Prax! After telling Amos that a scientist in his lab was killed by the Free Navy, allegedly because they suspected she was a spy, he says they’ve discovered a new strain of yeast that could help rebuild the food supply. “You know people with power,” Prax says, before pleading with Amos to share the data with Earth. “Chrissie will know what to do with it,” Amos mutters as he sends it off. “The Old Lady loves it when you call her that,” Bobbie cracks. “At least I say it to her face,” he smirks.

Elsewhere on the Roci, Naomi’s made a small breakthrough with the Barkeith data: she’s discovered a pattern to the ships that’ve disappeared during their transits through the Ring. They happen in clusters, and once a ship “falls through” the hole that opens up, the ship vanishes — and then the hole itself vanishes soon after. Holden says he knows somebody who might be able to help puzzle through this… but before we find out who that might be, red alert: the Pella (plus Marco’s two other big gun ships) are speeding straight toward the Roci. “Everybody suit up and strap in, it’s about to get hot!”

Of course, before we get to the heat, we must patiently wait through another scene on Ceres, in which Monica and her camera eye are recording UNN soldiers, some of whom have a better attitude than others, doing relief work to help the Belters. She wanders off to talk to an elderly Belter petting an orange cat when suddenly there’s a series of huge explosions across the station. A parting gift from Marco, perhaps?

And speaking of you-know-who, the Pella has missile lock on the Rocinante. Shiiiiiiit! (Literally what I yelled at the screen at that moment.) Filip takes the shot, but fortunately the Roci’s able to defend itself. Still, as Holden aptly surmises, “We’re out of our weight class here.” It’s gonna take some tricky manoeuvring from here on out, though the Roci catches a break when the two ships travelling with the Pella duck out of the fight. Filip fires again, and the Roci suddenly needs some urgent repairs. “In the middle of the fight?” Clarissa says in disbelief. “That’s the job, Peaches,” Amos replies, and they scramble off to take care of business, even as the Roci flips and tumbles. Bobbie aims, fires, and notices the Pella keeps dodging the same direction every time. Her next shot doesn’t miss. Marco is a sitting duck, temporarily at least, and Bobbie’s ready to end it, but Holden hesitates. “Marco’s better as a prisoner,” he says, but adds, “If that doesn’t work, you fire.”

A video link is established, meaning we get to see see Marco and Holden eyeballing each other (this is the first time they’ve actually “met,” unless I’m mistaken), and also Marco oh-so-carefully leaning over so that Holden (and Naomi) can see Naomi’s lookalike son sitting next to him. “I will die before I live at the end of your leash,” Marco snarls. That’s all Bobbie needs to hear, but when she fires again, the kill shot… is a dud? Couldn’t have anything to do with whatever Holden beep-booped on his wrist controller at the last second, could it? (Yes, as we soon see; unbeknownst to everyone else but forever preserved in the Roci’s data, the warhead was disarmed by “Holden, J.”)

Fortunately, the Pella disengages from the fight and hustles away. (“Did we win?” asks Amos. “No,” says Bobbie. “But at least we didn’t lose.”) The Pella is in bad shape, and Marco is furious at everyone, including Filip, who protests that he did exactly as his father instructed. “You failed,” Filip snaps in front of everybody. “This is your fault. We didn’t need to be here. We didn’t need to be in this fight. We didn’t need to kill James Holden.” An outraged Marco orders him off the deck, but Filip ain’t wrong and from the look on her face, Rosenfeld knows it, too. But suddenly Marco gets a bit of good news to turn his no good, very bad day around: a missive from Medina regarding something top-secret that’s been received at Laconia gate. The Laconia gate, you say? Oh crap. We get a look at it on Marco’s screen and — could that be some kind of brand-new stealth ship built using protomolecule technology? Oh crap indeed. The dots are starting to come together… and somehow we’re already at the halfway point of The Expanse’s final season.

The Expanse airs new episodes Fridays on Amazon Prime.

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