The Expanse Will Rip Your Heart Out and Make It Feel Good

Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) has gone through it this season.
Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) has gone through it this season.
Image: Amazon Studios

The end is near, Screaming Firehawks, and with just one Expanse episode to go after this week’s blazing “Winnipesaukee,” the stage is set for a finale full of questions that need answering, conflicts we hope to see resolved, and a reunion we’ve been waiting almost all of season five to see. But first: PUNCH IT!

Illustration for article titled The Expanse Will Rip Your Heart Out and Make It Feel Good

“Winnipesaukee” opens with Marco (Keon Alexander) getting an update on a recent Free Navy battle, which resulted in some Martian and UN ships destroyed, but also multiple Belter deaths. “The Free Navy mourns our allies who died in this valiant effort,” he says diplomatically, before adding with a grin, “But it was worth the price.” His smarm dissipates when he gets a message from Karal (Olunike Adeliyi), his eyes and ears in Drummer’s fleet, and she lets him know that something odd happened with the fake distress call he set to broadcast from the bomb-rigged Chetzemoka: the message changed. As he listens to the stop-start edit, in which the simulated voice of Naomi (Dominique Tipper) says she is “in control,” rather than having “no control,” Marco realizes his own precious control is once again slipping away, and he punches the console in disgust.

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Unsurprisingly, Karal and Marco are not the only ones wondering about Naomi’s message—and especially the mystery of why it suddenly changed. The Razorback (now re-named the Screaming Firehawk) and the Rocinante are both en route on a rescue mission to the Chetzemoka, and both crews agree something odd is going on. Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams), and Holden (Steven Strait), Bull (José Zúñiga), and Monica (Anna Hopkins) run through scenarios: maybe it’s a malfunction? Maybe Naomi is injured, or there’s some other reason she can’t access the comms? There’s cause for concern, but the mission is still very much a go, with the Screaming Firehawk set to arrive first. (As for Naomi, she’s deteriorating physically, but her determination remains undiminished, as we’ll see later in the episode.)

Erich (Jacob Mundell) and Peaches (Nadine Nicole) trying to get the damn shuttle to fly.
Erich (Jacob Mundell) and Peaches (Nadine Nicole) trying to get the damn shuttle to fly.
Image: Amazon Studios

Meanwhile, on the perma-frozen Earth, Amos (Wes Chatham), Peaches (Nadine Nicole), Erich (Jacob Mundell), and Erich’s gun-toting crew have arrived at Lake Winnipesaukee, which we see from the aerial approach is full of lavish yet abandoned mansions, all covered in snow. The property they pick does indeed have a shuttle that can get them to Luna, but there’s a problem, according to the estate’s winter staff (who are very startled by their unexpected guests): its reactor needs to be repaired before it can fly. Since food supplies are running low and it’s only getting colder outside, it’ll take the combined brain trust of electrical and mechanical experts Amos and Peaches, and tech whiz Erich, to get the shuttle up and running—fast.

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When Erich suggests maybe the ship’s software has some kind of security protocol in place, he says he can tinker around and convince the ship that Amos is its rightful owner. “You can fake an ID like that?” Peaches says, impressed. The amused glance that Erich and Amos exchange right then is telling; without any words exchanged, you just know that these two guys have been through a lot together, including (but not limited to) faking IDs. Probably tons of IDs.

The moment is interrupted by word that a group of strangers has appeared outside the mansion—housekeepers, chefs, and other desperately worried local employees who’ve been stranded in the area. They spotted Erich’s helicopter arriving and are hoping to be rescued; without assistance, their chances of survival are grim. Erich and Amos don’t want to help, considering their own situation is already precarious, but Peaches, who’s proving to be quite the peacemaker, steps in and convinces Amos to let them ride along to Luna...if the shuttle ever gets fixed.

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Speaking of Luna, you have to assume anyone who works with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) for any period of time is used to being greeted with a shouted “YOU SON OF A BITCH!” and Admiral Delgado (Michael Irby) gets that reaction when Avasarala encounters him moments after seeing a news report that the UN has destroyed Pallas Station—a retaliatory move against the Belt that she was not in favor of.

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And she’s also not in favor of what she finds at the next cabinet meeting; UN Secretary General Paster (Sugith Varughese), flush with new confidence, is now considering “follow-up strikes” on other Belter strongholds, including Ceres Station. “Inaros is an extremist, a rogue element, as much of a danger to his own people as he is to us,” Avasarala says. “And we cannot let him frame this in any other way.” She points out that as much as he’d like everyone to believe it, Marco doesn’t speak for everyone in the Belt—but that will certainly change if the UN starts blowing up more stations. She’d love to see Marco’s head on a spike as much as anybody, she admits, and it’s here we learn that her husband, who’s been missing since the asteroid hit North America, is confirmed dead. But “right now, everyone who loved someone on Pallas is feeling what I feel. For every partisan we killed, we made 10 more.”

Brb crying.
Brb crying.
Image: Amazon Studios
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Paster and Delgado don’t agree, but when they press ahead with their attack plans, she stands up. “I will not be a part of this,” she announces before resigning on the spot—and three other ministers immediately follow her lead, including one who tosses “We’re supposed to be better than this” over his shoulder as he leaves the room. Later, after we see Avasarala tenderly add her husband’s name to an ever-growing memorial for the disaster victims, she’s approached by another one of the ministers: Paster’s out after a vote of no confidence, and everyone wants Avasarala to step into her old job as Secretary General.

Naturally, she agrees, and the next scene, between her and Delgado, is a testament to the way The Expanse writers so skillfully shape their characters. Delgado and Avasarala have just butted heads over a major, galaxy-altering issue—but they’re old friends in addition to being old pros who’ve been through the political wringer many times over together, and they’re not mad at each other. “The once and future Queen,” Delgado calls her, but he chuckles at the offer to join her cabinet (“I trust you, and you’re not afraid of me,” she says)—not because they just disagreed so vehemently in their last round serving together, but because he’s already committed to joining a military mission. “Someone’s going to kill Marco Inaros, and I’d really like for it to be me,” he says.

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Meanwhile aboard the Dewalt, one of Drummer’s ships, Karal and Oksana (Sandrine Holt)—the only two aboard who know about Naomi’s distress call switching up its message—have a clenched-teeth private chat about it. Karal says the Chetzemoka hasn’t changed course, meaning that while Naomi may be alive, she’s still not “in control” as the message suggests. When Oksana says Drummer will insist they go see for themselves, Karal snaps back, threatening everyone aboard if the secret gets out. Marco will send orders soon, she says. “And when he does, you and yours will follow them. If it happens any other way, what happens next will be your fault.”

Oh ho, and what might those orders be? Delivered in a chipper video message, Marco informs Drummer and company that they’re to rendezvous with a handful of other Free Navy ships and destroy the Rocinante. That would already be a distasteful plan, but to Drummer it’s also a confusing one, considering she thinks the Roci is already heading straight into the Chetzemoka trap. Karal plays it off as PR for the Free Navy—it’d be a good look for them to take out the Roci, that dreaded “symbol of assimilation and compromise”—but Drummer remains skeptical. And, it goes without saying, boiling with rage just under her carefully composed exterior, something that Oksana recognizes well enough to make Drummer hand over her gun. Nobody’s a fan of Karal here, but killing her would make their position even worse.

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Drummer’s exchange with Oksana in the moments that follow? In a word: heartbreaking. She’s at the end of her rope with Marco—he killed Ashford, he killed Naomi (or so Drummer thinks), and now he wants her crew to gang up on Naomi’s friends and murder them. And Oksana, who’s terrified, won’t tell her everything she knows about the situation. “How much shit do I have to eat before you treat me with some respect?” Drummer wails.

Oksana, who might be the calmest character The Expanse has ever seen, quietly asks if Drummer loves her Belter family—who have everything to lose here—as much as she loved Naomi. Drummer says of course she does. With that reassurance, Oksana reveals that there’s a chance Naomi is still alive, and Marco’s orders are really an insurance policy to make sure that the Roci won’t be able to help her. Drummer is, of course, ready to whip into furious action, but Oksana reminds her if they disobey Marco, he’ll kill every last one of them.

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Meanwhile, in snowy Winnipesaukee, the shuttle repair is interrupted when another group drops by—and this time, it’s not another bunch of scared estate employees. It’s the island’s gun-toting private security force, there to intimidate, beat their chests, and commandeer the food supply—as well as Erich’s helicopter and anything else they can grab. The ease that Erich and Amos drop back into their old roles here is fun to watch; you can especially see how Erich, a criminal kingpin back in Baltimore, cannot contain his disdain for these rent-a-cop types. “This is the most pathetic shakedown I’ve ever seen—you must be new at this,” he sneers. Things almost turn violent, but Peaches (again!) jumps in to play peacemaker.

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The security guys agree to trudge off—but it’s pretty clear this isn’t over, and they make their return just as Amos has figured out how to start up the shuttle. The Expanse goes full-on action movie here as the crew struggles to get everyone aboard amid a hail of bullets—fortunately, lest we forget, Peaches is a secret killing machine underneath all that emotional growth, and she’s able to activate her implants and rip several opponents apart with her bare hands. (Erich: “I’m gonna be a lot nicer to her from now on!”) As they lift off, Amos, who has barely made it aboard as the doors close, heaves himself up for one last look at Earth through the window as they head into orbit before turning away. It’s clear he won’t be missing the place.

That could have been the end, but there’s one more duo we need to check in with this week: Marco and Filip (Jasai Chase Owens). Last seen telling his son that he was responsible for the death of Cyn (Brent Sexton), the O.G. crew member who followed Naomi out of the airlock, Marco’s come to apologize...but also to deliver some news that he’s carefully manipulated to play to his advantage (He’s very good at doing that, isn’t he?). He tells Filip that his mother is not, in fact, dead. What’s worse, “she didn’t walk into that airlock out of sadness or despair or remorse. She wasn’t trying to kill herself. She was trying to escape. She left us. She left us both, again.” Filip, who’s teetering every closer to a total emotional breakdown at this point, doesn’t take it well.

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Naomi, of course, was trying to escape—and we know she had some very compelling reasons for doing so that poor brainwashed Filip is unable to understand. Aboard the Chetzemoka, she’s able to MacGyver together a helmet screen that shows her that the Screaming Firehawk is indeed closing in on her position. After allowing herself a half-second of excitement (after all, she does desperately need to be rescued), panic sets in again; she doesn’t want the Chetzemoka bomb to explode and kill everybody. Suddenly, she has an idea, and we see her painfully drag herself back into the oxygen-deprived area of the ship to put it to the test. What is it? Will Naomi save the day once again? We’ll find out next week...in the season finale.

NAOMI!!!
NAOMI!!!
Image: Amazon Studios
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Random observations

  • Did you catch Holden’s look of death when Bull carelessly says “We don’t exactly have fuel to waste,” as if getting to Naomi as fast as possible would be a waste? Dude, you oughta know better by now!
  • When one of the estate staff recognizes Peaches as erstwhile socialite Clarissa Mao, she recalls a Thanksgiving when the Mao family came over and “you and your sister spent the entire time fighting.” As we’ve said before, we don’t get a lot of flashbacks on The Expanse, but the prickly Mao family dynamics were made crystal clear in season three, so that memory definitely tracks.
  • Delgado’s “a Belter, a Martian, and an Earther go to a bar” joke finally getting finished in this episode—with the punch line making fun of the Belt (“everything the Belt has to offer is terrible”)—was perfectly played. “It used to be funnier,” he muses. It’s certain nobody will ever underestimate the Belt again after what’s happened this season!
  • I loved the scene with Erich and Peaches in the shuttle cockpit. He’s been pretty standoffish to her, but their chat here, in which she explains why she thought it was important to include the stranded workers in their escape plan, helps him see why Amos has taken her under his wing: “If we decided to include everyone in our tribe without demanding they prove we need them, maybe people wouldn’t have thrown rocks at us in the first place!”
  • Another great scene: Amos passing the time with one of Erich’s crew, a self-described “street crook” who’s nervous about leaving everything they’ve ever known behind. “No one starts over, because no one ever really leaves anything behind,” Amos says. It’s something he’s learned on this return to Earth—which did bring him a certain amount of much-needed closure—and it’s something he’ll be carrying with him now that he’s left the place for a second time.
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DISCUSSION

ender21
Tommáso della Servo

Oof. It feels like there is so much left to tell before wrapping up this season. I can’t help but think we’re going to be left with so many loose ends that the 1-year+ wait for Season 6 will just feel like eternity.  Brilliant acting this season.