‘The Expanse’ 2.03 Recap: “You Keep Picking Fights with the Wrong People”

As much as I like ‘The Expanse’, TV shows that air on Wednesdays fall into an awkward part of my viewing schedule, which makes them difficult for me to recap in a timely fashion before the next new episode (which will be tonight). I’ll do my best to keep up with this one, but if I stop writing about the show, don’t necessarily take that as a sign of waning interest.

Following through on plans laid during the season premiere, Earth launches a missile attack on the Martian moon of Deimos, destroying a mostly-automated station there but killing 13 Martians. This riles Marine Sgt. Draper up for war with Earth even more than she had been, despite her commanding officer’s efforts to keep a cooler head. Draper is incensed when their ship, the Scirocco, is ordered on a routine duty to protect a farming moon. She’s ready to invade Earth right now.

Having survived the battle with the stealth ship at the unregistered communications station, the Rocinante returns to Tycho for repairs. The ship is in pretty bad shape. Despite winning the battle, Alex fixates on things he could have done better to protect the team in the Fed Ex cargo pod that was destroyed. He obsessively replays simulations of the battle over and over, trying to do it better so that he’ll be ready next time.

Miller is taken into custody for murdering the scientist, Dresden. Holden is furious with him and finds his action unforgivable. Fred Johnson is slightly more sympathetic, but still displeased. He releases Miller on his own recognizance, but tells him to pick a ship leaving the station soon and get on it. He’s not welcome there anymore.

Miller first wanders to a bar to drown his sorrows. He finds unexpected support from Diogo, the idiot Belter kid, who thinks Miller is The Man now. “You killed the biggest dick in the universe,” he enthuses. Because Miller has nowhere else to go while he’s on the station, Diogo invites him to stay with him. The accommodations are not exactly comfortable. Diogo is your typical obnoxious teenager, with photos of naked ladies taped to his walls and terrible music constantly blaring much too loud. Still, it’s a place to lay his head. During his time there, Miller hallucinates seeing Julie Mao.

After a fling they had in an airlock last week, Holden and Naomi are sort of a thing now, though they’re keeping it secret from the rest of the crew. Nonetheless, Naomi goes out partying with a female officer from the station and seems to have a lot of chemistry with her.

Johnson identifies Paolo Cortazar, the scientist captured at the communications station, as an employee of a company called Protogen Corp. During interrogation, he remains almost pathologically devoted to his project and wants to continue his work on the protomolecule. He expresses no remorse about all the people who died on Eros station. The doctor who examines him determines that he’s had surgery to remove the centers of his brain that control empathy, in order to make him more ruthlessly efficient at his research.

Amos, who’s a little off himself, suggests that the only way to get through to Cortazar is to give him what he wants – information about the experiment on Eros. First, he tells him about Julie Mao. Cortazar insists that she’s, “Not dead. Becoming.” In other words, exposure to the protomolecule doesn’t kill the victims, but rather transforms them into something else, something unknown. Next, Johnson lets him see a data stream coming from the cameras left behind on Eros. Strange noises in the recording almost sound like voices. Cortazar says it’s a countdown. Whatever is on the station now is building something there.

From Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala gets the secure line to Fred Johnson she requested. She sends him a message explaining that she knows he’s being framed for the destruction of the Donnager. She asks if he can provide her with any evidence that might help avert a war between Earth and Mars. Johnson ponders whether he can trust her and whether he should help her. Eventually, he sends her information on the stealth ships that attacked the Donnager.

Pondering what his next steps should be, Miller wanders into a Mormon recruiting center and learns about the Nauvoo, the ship currently under construction for a 100-year voyage to another solar system. This gives Miller an idea. He returns to Fred Johnson, still unapologetic about having killed Dresden. “I killed him because he was making sense,” he explains. Miller insists that Eros must be destroyed before whatever’s on there spreads. Johnson agrees, but points out that destroying a space station that size will be difficult. Miller says that they’ll need the Nauvoo to do it.

Episode Verdict

The relationship between Holden and Naomi feels a little forced and I’m not sure why the show (or the books they’re based on) would bother inserting a romantic subplot where one isn’t needed. However, perhaps I just need to let it play out and see what it amounts to before passing judgment.

Other than that quibble, this is another strong episode that deepens the show’s core mystery while providing just enough little tidbits of new information to string viewers along.

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