By Christopher Robin Negelein
(Safe/Doors & Corners)
With the Expanses’s second season starts off with back to back episodes, it looks like SyFy wants to hit the ground running. And it does with the Safe’s introduction of a new main character, Bobbie Draper (played by six foot-tall Somanian actress and amamteru boxer FRANKIE ADAMs) during the usual, “It’s a combat — no — it’s a combat drill!” scene. A cliche, sure, but the action is done well and military sci-fi gear heads will eat it up. Especially since Draper get addressed as Gunny (Gunnery Sergeant) more often than by her name. Her storyline plays counterpoint to Chrisjen Avasarala’s as opposite poles to the same event — two superpowers racing to the Phoebe research station where the protomolecule was discovered last season.
As a side note: we’re still locked into seeing only Martians in uniform and those Earthside are wearing Armani and top-shelf saris.
Through Draper, we see that some Martians want payback for the last dust up before their cold war because the now mandatory military Martian presence has pushed back terraforming project back by a 100 years. No one over 20 years old is going to see a green Mars in their lifetime. Even the Martian elite send their kids to be power-armored grunts.
She may be ready have the Martian Navy “drink Earth’s ocean dry.” but her CO is more grateful that the two governments haven’t engaged in MAD.
He defused the Expanse’s version of the Cuban Missile Crisis by blowing Pheobe up to avoid turning the mission into a suicide run.
On Earth, Avasarala plays a dangerous balancing act, as she explains it to her newly hired spy. (“My son would have had grey in his hair, too, by now.”) She’s the public face of Earth’s crack down on Fred Johnson.
In private, she confesses that it’s a distracting witch hunt designed to kill her career — or her — as a failed assassination attempt demonstrates.
The crew of the Roci (and Holden has also shortened the Rocinante to Roci, so points for me) debate what to do, but decide that going to Tyco for Johnson’s help is a savvy thing to do. They find out the safe they brought on board is the protomolecule. They stash it in an abandoned asteroid mining site before docking at the Mormon generation ship. Miller’s personal journey gets rough after he discover his dead mentor on ice. He tries to have it out with Burton (who I still rather call by his first name, Amos), but the thick, burly Earther eats his lunch … and dinner and maybe some tomorrow’s waffles too. They really dialed up Burton’s low-key sociopathic tendencies. But by the end of the episode, Kamal pulls out the old family dinner trick which gets everyone, even Miller, to sit down and warm up to each other.
As for Nagata and Holden … yea cancer meds maybe with Viagra.
In Doors & Corners, Avasarala’s game of acceptable losses, though, loses her an ally in the warroom. Having a drink (and more salty language that brings Aghdashoo’s performance in line with the books), she scolds a resigning Admiral for his commitment to principles and learns that maybe Fred Johnson is not your standard radicalized politician.
The Roci has arrived at Tycho, but Kamal is getting a hard time with the Eros refugees he’s quarantined. After they test negative for protomolecule infection, he tries to get them settled into Tycho, which seems more like a mall than a LDS downtown, but they aren’t having it. On the other hand, Kamal and Burton do get a funny scene in as the pilot vents about how the deck is stacked against the refugees. More than you think by the episode’s end.
The Roci crew tackle Johnson head on and get him onboard with the alien tech and conspiracy. He needs 30 good volunteers, most lining up to hear him are from Eros. And it must be liking the character too much, because he has to do something homicidal to remind us that it’s always hard choices out on the edge of human civilization. These fighters will be hiding in a freighter that hides the Roci against their target, a unlisted space station that Dresden fled to.
Miller volunteers to go as well, which earns him a bunk on the Roci and gets him to meet with the street rat, Diogo, from Season One (who was also abandoned in space by his uncle — this punk has the worst luck.)
Another dude to have bad luck is the head of the conspiracy, Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle), who can never complain about how much his sticking out his neck because Julie’s father always pulls out the “well, this cost me my daughter, but that’s none of my business” card.
The centerpiece of Doors & Corners (that’s where they ambush you, the doors and corners), is a rousing cat and mouse dogfight. If you remember from last year, Kamal ended up as a freight hauler because the Martian Navy didn’t think he was good enough for fighter school. He keeps failing the simulators as they get closer to the target, but he pulls it off when it counts.
The end result of the fight are some dead refugees that Kamal knew and a Faustian deal made between Dresden and Johnson. He doesn’t care who he’s working for as long as he can keep researching the possibilities of the protomolecule. Dresden fears the worst, that the devices was sent towards Earth millions of years ago to use its biomass for unknown reasons.
Well, the deal was almost made before Miller shot Dresden in the head once … twice … three times.
Miller already thinks the cost of that knowledge has been too high with the deaths of Julie and Eros. The consequences of that rash action are the cliffhanger before end credits roll.