On This Week's Expanse, All Roads Lead to Io's Creepy Child Soldier Factory

Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) meets Mei (Leah Madison Jung) on Io.
Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) meets Mei (Leah Madison Jung) on Io.
Photo: Rafy (Syfy)

On last night’s Expanse, we followed two ships with very different game plans making their way toward the sinister protomolecule lab on Io, while Earth made a power move in the war with Mars that backfired horribly. Also, who’s hungry for lasagna? Let’s dig in!

Illustration for article titled On This Weeks iExpanse, em/em/iAll Roads Lead to Ios Creepy Child Soldier Factory

After spending the first episodes of the season being a steely, badass hero, the snappy, combative Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) of old makes a return appearance in episode three, “Assured Destruction.” She may be a Martian defector, but she is not happy to see a defaced Martian flag—courtesy of Amos (Wes Chatham), who did it after Earth blew up Deimos in season two, mostly to needle Alex (Cas Anvar) but also for the sake of accuracy—aboard the Roci/Contorta. Her anger doesn’t make her any more eager to tell Alex and company what she and Chrisjen “I Freaking Hate Space” Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) were up to that necessitated their highly risky rescue. Though Avasarala is way more forthcoming once the ship’s medical machines bring her back from the brink of death.


But Holden (Steven Strait) doesn’t want to hear about any grand plan that involves trying to contain the protomolecule, because he knows it’s a lost cause; all he wants to do is help Prax (Terry Chen) get his daughter back. Of course, the protomolecule is never far from any Expanse storyline, so once everyone figures out that stopping the war will almost certainly involve exposing whatever is afoot on Io, they press on—even Naomi (Dominique Tipper), who’s still persona non grata among the crew. We see her seriously entertaining the thought of taking the Razorback and dipping back to Tycho Station on her own, but she’s staying, for now, so she can keep an eye on Avasarala (or so she says).

Also out in space, heading toward Jupiter, is the dropship used by Avasarala’s spy, Cotyar (Nick E. Tarabay) to escape Jules-Pierre Mao’s space yacht. After it’s spotted by the UNN Agatha King, the flagship of Earth’s Jupiter Fleet, Cotyar realizes he has to kill the only other survivor, a dithering crew member who helped him escape but will no doubt crack under interrogation—not ideal if Avasarala, a fugitive with information that could topple Earth’s corrupt, war-crazed diplomat, Errinwright (Shawn Doyle), is to remain safe.

Souther knows what’s up.
Souther knows what’s up.
Photo: Rafy/Syfy

As it happens, the wheezing, aging Agatha is under the command of the same man Avasarala has just told Holden she wants to contact: Souther (Martin Roach), the former UNN Fleet Commander who took a demotion after refusing to support Chrisjen and Errinwright’s plan to nuke Deimos—payback for Mars blowing up Phoebe back in season two. In other words, while Souther isn’t the biggest Avasarala fan, he is definitely a guy who thinks for himself. And when UNN Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann) shows up and pulls rank, acting very interested in Cotyar, Souther immediately suspects the spy is telling the truth about Mao’s secret ties to Errinwright. It doesn’t take much to see that Nguyen is in on it, too—a situation that’s gonna get even more tense when he takes control of the Agatha and directs the ship toward Io, where he plans to take over the protomolecule project to ensure that Errinwright will get his alien-child hybrid army.


Meanwhile, back on Earth, UN Secretary-General Esteban Sorrento-Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker) is starting to grow a spine, thanks to the influence of Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell)—though Errinwright is still basically a little cartoon devil sitting on his shoulder. After some hesitation, Sorrento-Gillis agrees to go along with Errinwright’s plan to knock out Mars’ stealth weapons platforms—but when one of Earth’s guns is slow to reload, Mars is able to lob a nuke at Earth, wiping out a huge chunk of South America. An outwardly calm, inwardly livid Errinwright clearly blames Anna for Sorrento-Gillis’ initial reluctance to pull the trigger; in their brief interaction, he manages to make the line “It’s good that you’re here... he’s going to need you now more than ever” sound incredibly ominous.

And over on Io, Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) finally realizes that doing awful, painful experiments on children in order to turn them into alien-hybrid killing machines is... uh, not very nice. This change of heart is partially because he meets Prax’s sweet daughter, Mei, who perhaps makes him miss his own daughter, Julie. He also witnesses Mei’s best buddy, Katoa—the most advanced among the kids, he’s able to climb walls with his glowing blue limbs—having a super-scary seizure as a result of all that DNA tinkering. Mad scientist Dr. Strickland (Ted Atherton), of course, is like, “The show must go on!”, and he’s got back up, in the form of Nguyen, en route to make sure that happens. Anyone else get a feeling that Mao is probably doomed?

Prax and Amos, in a scene that includes a well-timed Frankenstein reference.
Prax and Amos, in a scene that includes a well-timed Frankenstein reference.
Photo: Rafy/Syfy

Assorted Musings:

  • Pro-tip: Don’t call Bobbie “darling” unless you want to be saying it (and everything else) in sign language thereafter.
  • Souther: “There’s a lot I don’t understand in this war. But even in low G, shit still rolls downhill.”
  • Avasarala to Amos, after he helps her put on her gravity boots: “How do you know what it’s like to walk in pumps?” Amos: “Well, I didn’t always work in space.”
  • The friendship that’s developed between Prax (Terry Chen) and Amos, who couldn’t be more different on the surface, has helped develop both of their characters in interesting ways. Wonder if we’ll ever get to see how Amos “died” in order to escape his hometown of Baltimore?
  • Alex will be making heart eyes at his space lasagne (“the cheese ain’t real, but the love that went into it is...”) forever—in sharp contrast to his understandably disgusted, abandoned wife and child back on Mars. Will they ever reunite?
  • That damn glob of protomolecule is still lurking on the Roci/Contorta, lest we forget.

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I was excited when they shared information after Avasarala woke up. . People not communicating always frustrates me so I was happy to see many major characters combining their knowledge. After all this time they finally getting the idea how big the whole conspiracy is.

And Cotyar does his part on Agatha King. With that ship also coming to Io they should soon have their own cabal opposing Errinwright with an idea who is traitor and what the scope and purpose of the whole protomolecule scheme was.

The only issue is the Avasarala may want Souther to acquire a protomolecule sample for Earth and Naomi is not going to like that. She already realised that Earth doesn’t have it - it was only Mao who did - and now she feels Belters finally have a trump in their hands thanks to her. She wants to keep it this way.

That message from Alex’s wife was heartbreaking but he deserved it after telling her she and their daughter come second for him. And at least that made him make up with Naomi. With food.

This episode was stuffed with tantalising glimpses into Amos past. He used wear pumps before he went to space. He is from Baltimore and the only way out was death so he died. Now everyone who loved him thinks he is dead but here he is so Prax shouldn’t lose his belief in finding Mei. She’s not dead yet. Not even infected and even managed to soften Mao’s heart.

And so Jules-Pierre Mao has shown himself to be more humand than either Strickland or Errinwright. Marginally but still. I hope Strickland gets destroyed by his own experiment - Katoa preferably.

The problem with Sorrento-Gillis is that he barely has his own point of view. He just sways to whoever he talked to last. So Anna and Sadavir are like an angel and a devil on his shoulders - one trying to make him think of the cost of war and the other just of it spoils. But when Erinwright pushed the blame for those 2 million lives on Anna I wished Avasarala would hurry up and destroy him already.