In the final moments of last week’s Expanse, we saw a grenade blast inside the protomolecule-crafted sphere create a sudden shift within the Ring’s void space. This week, on “Fallen World,” we see just how devastating that disturbance really was—and its startling aftermath.
After that Martian soldier ill-advisedly tossed an explosive at Holden inside the spherical alien station, the protomolecule did its “my Ring, my rules” thing and spontaneously changed the internal speed limit, also known as the “don’t go faster than this or you will disintegrate like that Belter kid who went through first.” You could spend a lot of time puzzling through the scifi science of what, exactly, that means, but for our purposes—imagine if you were in a speeding car that instantly slowed to a crawl. You’d be flung forward, violently and dangerously. That’s what happened to everyone in the void space.
The lucky ones, like Anna and Naomi, happened to be strapped in and just had the wind knocked out of them. But thousands of Martians, Earthers, and Belters were tossed into walls, ceilings, or whatever solid objects were in their path. Hundreds died instantly—and many of the wounded are doomed, too, since the compromised gravity on their respective ships will prevent their internal injuries from healing.
Aside from the Martian who was disintegrated—kind of the protomolecule’s version of “Tsk, tsk, naughty!”—after the grenade incident, everyone aboard the sphere is OK aside from Holden, whose body and mind are still frazzled after tripping the light fantastic. Though the other Martians are suspicious of Holden, seeing as how he’s both protomolecule whisperer and alleged saboteur, Bobbie insists they get him back to their dropship and give him some much-needed medical attention. The news from the MCRN Xuesen is grim; lots of dead, lots of injured, and the vessel is being pulled into orbit around the sphere, along with any other ship that was traveling faster than 100 kilometers per hour. Essentially, they’re all trapped, since it would take months to exit the way they came in. Bobbie theorizes that the sudden deceleration was the protomolecule’s way of defending itself, but her fellow soldier isn’t so sure. She thinks something more malevolent is at work. “That’s not a defensive measure,” she says. “It’s a massacre.”
Over on the OPA’s Behemoth, we get an up-close look at the carnage in person, in what becomes the episode’s most surprisingly emotional plot line. Drummer and Ashford are both trapped by the same hulking piece of machinery, with no way to call for help. If it rolls forward, it will kill her— but if it rolls backward, it will kill him. These two have clashed since the moment Ashford came aboard, and The Expanse seemed to be hinting that he’d use some nefarious means to seize the top job for himself. But it doesn’t go down like that. Neither of them can move, so they try and work together to extricate themselves from their painful predicament. When that doesn’t work, they fall into a rambling conversation, swapping adventure stories, songs, and philosophical points of view, particularly as they pertain to the new Belter uniforms. “I sacrificed too much in my life to adopt the tradition of my enemy,” Drummer grumbles, but Ashford (after admitting the uniforms were actually his idea), argues that “When the victim becomes the victorious, they adopt a uniform to show that they are one warrior... I have no desire to look like anyone other than myself, but I will sacrifice my pride to make something better for the future.”
Drummer, who’s in much worse shape than Ashford, drifts in and out of consciousness before deciding to make the ultimate sacrifice. Since she’s the one who can reach the mechanism that’ll make the machine move, she fires it up and it rolls forward, freeing Ashford but making her injury much worse. As she’s taken away by the medics, Ashford steps up as captain, and his first act is a surprising one: giving an order to spin the Behemoth’s giant “drum,” which will restore gravity to the ship. When that’s a success, he puts out a call to all the ships in the vicinity—no matter of origin—inviting them to bring their injured aboard to an environment where they’ll actually be able to heal.
En route to the Rocinante, Naomi is banged up but generally OK—though her Belter skiff is toast. She abandons ship and space-drifts through the void the rest of the way—and it’s a damn good thing she did. Both Alex (surrounded by floating lasagne) and Amos (surrounded by floating tools) are in very bad shape, so Naomi quickly gets them some much-needed medical care. Alex is able to mumble that Holden left “with Miller,” which sounds crazy to Naomi—well, she’s got some catching up to do. Amos is barely conscious, but he murmurs “You changed your hair”—and it seems like maybe he’s finally forgiven Naomi, especially after she calls him her “family.”
Meanwhile, on the UNN Thomas Prince, a shell-shocked Anna picks her way through the gory corridors. She tries to offer up her services—she’s a trained nurse, after all—but the harried medical officer tells her that “without gravity, any internal bleeding is a death sentence.” He notices she’s a pastor, and adds, “You might want to put in a good word with your boss... this is only going to get worse.”
Indeed it is, when Anna receives a call from a very distressed Tilly, moments after helping Melba/Clarissa get aid for her broken arm. As M/C glares after her, Anna runs to help her friend, who’s gruesomely impaled but is still able to wheeze out that Melba, a.k.a. Clarissa Mao, tried to kill her and is ultimately hellbent on killing James Holden. Anna’s temper, which hasn’t flared since she had to deal with Errinwright’s smug mug back on Earth, rises up, but she’s not able to stop Melba in time—she can only watch as the spacesuit-clad villain shuffles off the Prince toward the Rocinante to settle her unfinished business.
And she gets there, too. Naomi’s none too thrilled at the rude invasion, especially when Melba, a total stranger, attacks her with that irritating superhuman strength and threatens to kill her if she doesn’t reveal where Holden is. Just then—HOLY SHIT!—Melba is zapped from behind. I was fully prepared to see a revived Amos wielding the weapon, but nope: Anna to the rescue! Anna, who’s never been in space before, took it upon herself to put on a suit and follow Melba into the void. That was outstanding, and I can’t wait to see how the Roci crew is going to deal with Melba and help clear Holden’s name—and how Anna’s going to fit into their future adventures.
But before the episode ends on Anna’s triumph and Ashford’s humanitarian gesture, we get one last check-in with Holden aboard the Martian dropship. He doesn’t know or care about his would-be assassin on the Roci, because he’s Seen Some Shit, my friends. To be specific, as he tells Bobbie: “I saw something... a vision... of everything. The end of everything.”
The final two episodes of The Expanse season three will air back-to-back next Wednesday.