Holy caffeine overdose, did “It Reaches Out” give anyone else an anxiety attack? Holden questions reality, an act of brutal sabotage rocks the tenuously peaceful system, the protomolecule does even more weird stuff, and The Expanse (now really, officially coming back next season on Amazon!) continues to kick so much ass. Let’s dig in!
Remember that brash young Belter who tried to be the first through the Ring last week? (How could you forget, after he met such a spectacularly gruesome end?) His impulsive attempt to impress a girl is now the snuff film seen ’round the system, as a bevy of ships—the UN flotilla led by the Thomas Prince, the Rocinante, the OPA’s Behemoth, and presumably some Martian vessels that aren’t part of the immediate story at the moment—inch closer to the mysterious structure near Uranus. The UN is pissed that the Belt took a crack at the Ring first (even though it was technically just a rock-hopper acting alone) because—much like practically every other action related to the protomolecule thus far—it “triggered something before we understood it.” It’s no longer just a giant circle floating out there, it’s now visibly reacting to things.
Over on the Roci, the response is more of the overt “Holy shit!” variety, as Amos, Holden, and Alex watch the Belter kid turn into bloody splatter. “Goddamn Ring woke up,” Alex notes, echoing the UN crew’s reaction. “I do not think it was too happy about being poked in its sleep.” We learn that the kid’s ship didn’t emerge from the other side of the Ring (so, uh, where did it go?), but that’s not what’s worrying Holden. He’s very rattled by his recent vision of Miller—a man who should be long dead back on Venus, not puttering around the Roci. As the documentary team (still aboard, still annoying AF, still spying on every conversation) prods Holden for an explanation, he ducks away. He needs coffee, man.
Caffeine doesn’t help, though, because Miller’s waiting for him in the galley, still wearing his fedora and mumbling what sounds like inconsequential junk about Star Helix and Ceres, and cryptically revealing that he’s “just an investigator now... I find things.” Holden’s pretty sure he’s crackin’ up, and runs a series of medical tests (including a protomolecule scan, which Amos and Alex nervously take note of), all of which come back normal. You can’t help but feel bad for the guy because we, the Expanse faithful, know something he doesn’t: There’s been a glob of protomolecule lurking on the Roci ever since that hybrid snuck aboard in season two. And it, like the Ring, is now activated... and is trying to impart something to Holden.
The Behemoth crew, on the other hand, is busy toasting the rock hopper’s daring, though Ashford feels the most celebratory. Drummer knows “the inners,” who don’t want the OPA anywhere near the Ring in the first place, will happily blame the Belt for anything that goes wrong—though if a wonderful miracle happens, Naomi predicts, Earth and Mars will quickly swoop in and hog all the glory. Uncertainty hangs in the air, but Drummer and Ashford are getting along a little bit better, at least. For now.
Over on the UN science ship Seung Un, the “new girl” we met last week, who’s going by the name “Melba” and who has a lot of as-yet-unexplained hate for Holden (book readers, no spoilers for the TV viewers!), comes to and sees the crew mate she just murdered and looks genuinely sad about it, even as she activates her freaky super-strength to flatten his skull so she can better stash his corpse. She double-checks that her hidden explosives are all good to go before heading back to the skiff, where her third co-worker doesn’t really hesitate before just leaving the man behind and heading back to the UN flagship. It’s not really a plot hole, because apparently the dude was known for drinking too much and napping on the job, but it also doesn’t matter in the scheme of things. At this point, we’re all just waiting for Melba to detonate the li’l present she left aboard the Seung Un.
Which—after lots of suspense, as well as some sweat, tears, and a concerned word from Anna, who notices the girl’s distressed appearance while they’re both in the Thomas Prince mess hall—she does. BOOM!
Every faction is shocked by this seemingly random act; at first, it’s assumed to be an accident, until a message from “James Holden” goes out across the system-wide channel, taking credit for the blast on behalf of the OPA, because the Ring “belongs to the Belt” and nobody else. Buh-wha? Instantly, we know what that sketchy-as-hell documentary cameraman’s been up to when he’s been sneaking around the Roci—he may be sight-impaired, but he’s still capable of helping Melba by planting a fake message that looks exactly like it’s been beamed from the Roci’s captain. Holden may be going a little nuts, but he is not a guy who’d randomly blow up a ship—but there’s not enough time for someone to explain that to the Thomas Prince and the Behemoth, who are both already aiming their weapons at the Roci in retaliation. Naomi protests vehemently, knowing that Holden would never pull such a stunt, but Drummer knows what she has to do—otherwise, the Belt will be blamed for blowing up the Seung Un and all hell will break loose.
There’s no time for “It Reaches Out” to get into Melba’s real identity or what’s motivating her smear campaign against Holden—that’ll no doubt come in a later episode. Right now, all we care about is seeing the Roci dodge the missile that’s about to blow it out of the sky. Desperate, Holden does the only thing that makes any sense to him in the moment, and summons Miller. (He actually does this throughout the episode, but his conversations—which to everyone else look totally one-sided—keep getting interrupted, which is both frustrating and kind of amusing.) By now, Holden has figured out that Miller’s first appearance coincided with the moment the Belter kid tried to zoom through the Ring, and Miller has revealed that he’s sought out Holden because he has a ship. “You’re a tool that goes places, and I’m a tool that finds things,” he explains. Tools... for the protomolecule... to find “a door that wasn’t there before.” Hmm.
As Alex races the target-locked Roci for dear life, Holden’s able to grab an instant to puzzle through Miller’s cop-slang ramblings: “If you go into a room too fast, kid, the room will eat you.” (The camera helpfully zeroes in on the Roci’s resident protomolecule smear before panning up to Miller, in case the viewer has forgotten what keeps creating this “investigator.”) Somehow, Holden realizes that this means Alex needs to slow down and steer the ship into the ring. Somehow, Alex and Amos believe him when he says he’s working on a tip from Miller, and they both back his call. (The documentary crew, it goes without saying, doesn’t get to weigh in.)
As the episode ends, the high-speed chaos slows and slows and sloooowwwws... and as Holden opens his eyes, we see the Roci and the trailing missile, floating as if trapped in liquid, with the Ring looming beyond. Are they through the “door that wasn’t there before”... and if so, what’s waiting for them on the other side of the Ring? My pulse should be back to normal in time for next week’s episode when we’ll all get to find out.