After a soul-wrenching period in which The Expanse appeared doomed by cancellation, Amazon stepped in; though the deal isn’t confirmed yet, fans now have fresh hope the scifi standout will return. In the meantime, there’s still a good chunk of season three left to go on Syfy—although so much changed in last night’s thrilling “Delta-V” that the show practically exploded.
A lot has changed since last week’s action-packed “Immolation,” with the story jumping ahead several months but losing none of its momentum. After spending the early half of the season following the war between Earth and Mars—now resolved, with Earth’s government purged of evil Errinwright (who’s in jail) and his puppet, Sorrento-Gillis (who resigned)—we finally get a look at what’s going on in the Belt, as well as WTF the protomolecule was constructing on Venus.
That strange alien structure is now dubbed “the Ring,” and it’s the talk of every news outlet, as well as the focus of Avasarala’s opening address to Earth. She’s back in full-glam politician mode, resplendent in earrings that look exactly like dangling ice cubes. And she’s finally getting to steer the system’s focus in the right direction, toward a peaceful united front as humankind “faces the unknown together”—which is to say, tries to figure out the purpose and intention of the Ring.
As part of the UN’s delegation heading toward the Ring, Anna asks all the right questions (is it a lifeform, or an example of alien culture?), but gets very few answers at this point. While her wife back on Earth gives her a guilt trip about being gone—this episode has an ongoing theme about people who’ve been left behind by partners who are roaming space—it’s probably best for all of humankind that someone as sharp and level-headed as Anna is helping lead Earth’s investigation.
Buuuuut not everyone is approaching this strange new situation with measured calm. The hard-living Belters can always be counted on to go their own way—whether it’s a random hotshot high-speed pilot (more on him in a minute), or the crew that’s taken over the massive colony ship Nauvoo, renamed the Behemoth, and captained by Fred Johnson’s right hand, Drummer. (Neither Johnson nor Anderson Dawes actually shows up in this episode; it’s implied that the OPA heavy-hitters are tentatively in a truce at this point, though it seems they haven’t quite united Johnson’s protomolecule sample with Cortazar, Dawes’ expert scientist.) The ship’s new chief engineer is none other than Naomi Nagata, who’s doing her patriotic duty as the OPA makes its biggest push yet to be recognized as equal to “the inners.”
A third strong personality soon joins this mix: former pirate Ashford (new cast member David Strathairn), who comes aboard to be Drummer’s second-in-command, though there’s immediately a power struggle. For one thing, Drummer doesn’t appreciate the way he undermines her authority when she’s about to hand down a harsh punishment for a man who’s been supplying “pixie dust” to the ship’s drug dealers. Rather than spacing the man, Ashford suggests they take a less fatal approach, instead giving all aboard a chance to hand over their contraband (or else). “We’re not pirates or rock hoppers anymore,” he reminds her. “We’re citizens of the Belt, and we have to start acting like members of a society that obeys the rule of law—not like the animals that the inners have always portrayed us to be.” Drummer, who’s never far from snarling anyway, is understandably fuming... but while Naomi says she’s in Drummer’s corner, she’s definitely not closed off to Ashford’s way of doing things.
Meanwhile, aboard the Roci, galactic celebrity James Holden has allowed a documentary team to film the activities of the three crew members who remain aboard. (Why in the hell, you ask? Well, the production company has agreed to pay any fees associated with Holden and co.’s legal spat with Mars over who really owns the ship.) Alex is generally okay with it, but Amos bristles at the invasion; this is not a guy fond of probing questions about, say, his mob boss (?) past. Nor is he fond of being propositioned, though he’s sleazed on by both the aggressive female interviewer and her shifty male cameraman. Needless to say, ain’t no tempting Amos. Let’s hope this found-footage interlude doesn’t last too many more episodes, though that cameraman looked like he might be doing double-duty as a spy, too.
But the craziest things we see in all of “Delta-V” happen, as is Expanse tradition, in the final scenes. First, the head-banging Belter slingshot pilot we meet at the beginning of the episode is in full mope mode after his comely girlfriend back on Ceres ditches him for being gone too long. To impress her, he announces he’ll be the first person to zip through the Ring, figuring such an act will make him a superstar, even more famous than the great hero James Holden. Unfortunately, as soon as he hits the Ring he’s reduced to bloody red space goo. It’s spectacularly gross, and the moment lingers.
That still isn’t the biggest gotcha this episode, though. That comes at the very end, when Holden heads to his quarters and suddenly sees Miller—you know, the guy who supposedly died in season two after helping a fully protomoleculed Julie Mao steer Eros to Venus instead of Earth?—sitting there. Does the Ring have mindfuck powers among its as-yet-unrevealed array of terrifying wonders, or what??
- So, the brief interlude about the three-person service crew that departs Anna’s UN ship and boards a nearby fleet support ship was hugely important. After the “new girl”—the one who hates James Holden—activates the explosives, she channels some inner superstrength when one of her co-workers discovers her handiwork. If you’ve read the books, you’ve probably already figured out who she is, and how she ties into the larger story of The Expanse going back to the beginning.
- Naomi’s Belter accent is distinctly stronger than it used to be, now that she’s back among her people. Is it just because that’s all she’s been hearing it 24/7, or was she covering up her roots during her time on the Roci?
- Martians Alex and Bobbie share a nice ship-to-ship moment; she’s checked on his family back home, and he’s happy to see she’s back in the Marines. But... does that mean we’ll be seeing a lot less of Bobbie going forward?
- Speaking of people we might not be seeing much of anymore, Prax, Amos’ “best friend in the whole wide world,” is back on Ganymede with his daughter. Godspeed, badass botanist.
- And speaking of Alex, he’s has moved on from making lasagna to “Mariner Valley Stroganoff,” which somehow looks even less appetizing than it sounds.