The Expanse: Helping Others

Title: The Expanse Season 3 Episode 2: “IFF”
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama, Science Fiction
Platform: TV – Syfy
Director: Breck Eisner
Writers: Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck
Rating: TV-14
Release: April 18, 2018
Cast: Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Cas Anvar, Wes Chatham, Dominique Tipper
Feature image: Source


“I know you do sweetheart, but you’re a big girl, and big girls don’t cry, do they?” Dr. Lawrence Strickland – The Expanse

Mei Meng (Leah Madison Jung) is having a happy dream about her father Prax (Terry Chen) who is in his garden; her dream turns nightmarish when it switches to the lab she is in and it ends with a Protomolecule creature charging towards her. Mei screams in her tube. Dr. Lawrence Strickland (Ted Atherton) opens the tube and says kindly, “Oh, did you have a bad dream?” Mei [crying], “I want my daddy.” Strickland: “I know you do sweetheart, but you’re a big girl, and big girls don’t cry, do they?” He plays on her naivety and quiets her down. Once he hands her off to a nurse, his good guy act fades away. There is excitement in the facility, Jules-Pierre Mao (Francois Chau) has arrived, and he isn’t in a good mood.

“No, I’m a Marine. Pilots carry me to kill things.” Bobbie Draper – The Expanse

The United Nations escort ship is scanning the debris of Yao’s yacht. Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) is doing a passive scan of the area. She can’t do more in fear of the escort ship detecting them. Her passenger, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) asks if she’s detected the jump ship carrying Cotyar. Bobbie hasn’t, “I’m sorry about Cotyar.” Chrisjen dryly replies, “Did you kill him…then forget about your sorry[s].” The escort ship detects them so the Razorback has to make a run for it. Bobbie tells Chrisjen at their distance a good pilot could avoid the escort’s ships missiles. Chrisjen: “Are you a good pilot?” Bobbie: “No, I’m a Marine. Pilots carry me to kill things.” The increased speed is affecting Chrisjen. They can’t go as fast as they need to be.  A radio transmission for help will be impossible because the escort ship can jam it. They do have one way to get help; Bobbie can use her suit to send an IFF to any Martian ships in the area. The Pinus Contorta [Rocinante] is heading for the Jupiter moon Io. Naomi Nagata (Dominque Tipper) and Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) are talking about fuel consumption when they receive the IFF from Bobbie.

“I want the people of this planet to feel that God is on our side.” General Secretary Esteban Gillis – The Expanse

Back on Earth, protestors are protesting in the front of the UN about the war. The MPs whale away at the protestors when they breach one of the barriers. One MP (Sean Connolly Affleck) is severely beating one of the protestors, Colin (Rehan Suleman). A blond woman (Elizabeth Mitchell) escorted by UN personnel tries to intervene. One of the MPs hits her across the head. This doesn’t stop her. She stops the MP who is beating Colin, and she checks on the protestor. She introduces herself to him as Anna. She orders the MP to take Colin to get some medical help, now. The MP isn’t happy about it, but he follows her orders. Anna is there to meet with Secretary-General Esteban Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker). Gillis introduces Reverend Doctor Anna Volovodov to Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) as an old friend. He asks Errinwright to leave, making Errinwright suspicious right away. After a few pleasantries, Gillis asks Anna to help him write a speech he is going to deliver to the general assembly about the war. Anna: “Esteban, you haven’t needed my help in a long time.”  He needs her now, “I want the people of this planet to feel that God is on our side.” Anna isn’t eager to help him, but she strikes a deal, “Support my clinic for a year, I’ll help write your speech.” He gladly agrees to support her clinic.

Alex excitedly tells James Holden (Steven Strait) about the IFF. Holden denies the request to rescue them, “There are people dying all over the system Alex.” Alex reminds them that even though he doesn’t wear the uniform any longer, he took an oath to help other Martians in need. Naomi becomes excited because the transmission came from Julie Mao’s racing ship. Alex is ready to rescue the Martian Marine, but Holden doesn’t see how that changes anything and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) agrees with him.  Holden just wants to get to Io to find Prax’s daughter.

Errinwright sends a message to Mao demanding delivery of the hybrids to him. Mao tells him he won’t do it until his accounts are unfrozen and his family released from custody. He turns to Strickland and starts complaining. Mao: “Earth and Mars witness a power that could turn an asteroid into a guided missile, deconstruct a ship down to its rivets in an instant and all they want to do is destroy each other over it.” He is knows that if he gives Errinwright the hybrids, he will destroy Mars.

“Those people cried out for help. I couldn’t ignore that.” Prax Meng – The Expanse

Bobbie can’t go faster because Chrisjen is having trouble breathing. Chrisjen asks does the increased Gs bother her. Bobbie: “I’m trained for this; I could do another 4 Gs standing on my head.” Bobbie is worried about Chrisjen passing out and offers suggestions like clenching her thighs and whistling. Chrisjen accepts the suggestions with her usual sarcasm. She gets serious for a moment and tells Bobbie that if she dies, she has to tell people what is really happening out here. Bobbie assures her that isn’t going to happen. Chrisjen passes out so Bobbie has to go slower; this gives the escort ship the chance to fire missiles at them. Bobbie tries to do maneuvers but all appears lost, Chrisjen and Bobbie hear the explosions around them, but they see something they can’t believe, a group of missiles escorting them. The missiles are from the Rocinante, the explosions were the Rocinante’s missiles intercepting and destroying the escort ship’s missiles. The missiles surrounding them are acting as a shield. Prax broke the tie and voted for the Rocinante to rescue the Razorback. Amos asks him why he would vote to help the Razorback when it could delay the rescue of Mei. Prax: “Those people cried out for help. I couldn’t ignore that.”

Anna is on screen talking to her wife Namono (Raven Dauda). She tell her about getting the funding for their clinic. Namono is happy to hear that. Anna isn’t happy about writing a speech supporting this war. She also can’t get over her anger at Gillis. She is always preaching to others about forgiveness but she is having trouble forgiving Gillis. Namono: “You’re not there to forgive him. You’re there to help people with your words. And maybe those words will change the Secretary-General’s heart too.” Anna thanks her wife for her wise words and says goodbye to Namono and their daughter.

“We picked this fight and we’re punching above our weight.” James Holden – The Expanse

The escort ship is now firing upon the Rocinante. Holden is developing a strategy to fight the larger vessel. Alex isn’t sure about Holden’s strategy, but Holden reminds him, “We picked this fight and we’re punching above our weight.” He asks if Alex has a better plan, Alex doesn’t, so they will go with Holden’s plan.

“That’s a question people who aren’t religious use to make fun of people who are.” Anna Volovodov – The Expanse

Anna’s at the table eating alone while the other UN officials discuss the war. She gets a video from Colin showing her his cast and thanking her. This causes her to laugh, drawing the attention of one of Gillis’ men. He goes over and tells her the building is buzzing about her arrival. Anna helped write the speech that put Gillis on the map. She was his speechwriter, something Anna doesn’t appear to take much pride in now. Errinwright comes to the table and calls her Reverend Doctor Volovodov; Anna tells him he can call her Anna and jokes, “Pastor Anna if you attend my church.” Gillis cheerfully replies, “There’s no chance of that with this bunch of heathens.” Errinwright continues, “Anna, what do you think of the Arboghast. Is that a sign from God?” Anna: “That’s a question people who aren’t religious use to make fun of people who are… [She continues] I think it’s a sign of things in the universe much bigger than us. Which is good to be reminded of now and then.” Errinwright doesn’t look pleased. The UN officials start making crass remarks about Belters and pressuring Mao’s kids to get to him. Anna reminds them a new testament was added since they are talking about punishing the kids of the sins of their father. Errinwright tells her during wartime these are some of the things you have to do. Anna: “Collective punishment is still a war crime, look it up.” Gillis tells them Anna offers a fresh perspective and they should get used to it. I don’t think Errinwright looks forward to that.

The escort ship is still trying to fire on the Razorback. On the Rocinante, the crew is in their spacesuits because they have turned off the oxygen for the space battle. Amos tells Prax to settle down and strap in. The camera pans to the tool drawer. Prax didn’t secure it and now tools are flying around Amos and Prax. One of the tools knocks Prax tube from the oxygen tank. Prax is gasping for air.

Back on Io, Doctor Strickland is telling Mao about the first generation of hybrids. Mao wants to discontinue the program because they can’t control the hybrids. Strickland disagrees, “Actually sir, that’s not true. It can be controlled. These children are the key.” He explains that he discovered that these kids from Ganymede have an immunodeficiency that makes them idea for accepting the changes the Protomolecule wrecks on the human body. It will help them harness the Protomolecule. It might eventually help them control the situation on Venus. In the lab, Mei sees her friend Katoa (Jaeden Noel). Katoa: “Want to see something cool.” Mei: “Yeah.” Kato shows his arm which pulses with Protomolecule in it, “Pretty cool, huh?” Mao looks pleased and tells Strickland to continue.

“But what I do know is that a kid needs at least one person who never gives up on them, no matter what.” Amos Burton – The Expanse

Amos gets up to help Prax. It’s an ordeal for him as he is dealing with zero gravity and the ship maneuvering. He tells Prax, “Hang in there, I’m coming.” He is eventually able to get to Prax and connect him back to the oxygen tank. A drill heads towards Prax head but Amos is able to catch it. He hands the drill to Prax and tells him, “Hang on to that.” On board the Razorback, Chrisjen is stroking out. The missiles that were escorting the Razorback break rank and head towards the escort ship. When they explode near the ship, the Rocinante uses the explosion for cover to get close enough to disable the escort ship’s engines. The crew is excited that it worked, but Holden is a bit of a buzzkill. He reminds them they only have two missiles left, and they used 90% of their ammo. Even though they didn’t harm the escort’s crew, they are still in trouble with the UN. Holden: “We just declared war on Earth.” Amos asks Prax what is up with him. Why did he really vote to rescue the Razorback? Prax admits he’s afraid they are too late to save Mei. Amos: “I don’t know shit about parenting. But what I do know is that a kid needs at least one person who never gives up on them, no matter what.” He asks Prax that if he gives up on Mei, what does she have left, what does Prax have left. They extend the walkway to the Razorback; Bobbie carries Chrisjen aboard the Rocinante and asks for help. Holden recognizes whom Bobbie is carrying.

Bobbie and Chrisjen are trying to get away from the UN escort ship, but Bobbie can’t go at full speed because Chrisjen can’t take the increased Gs. She is a middle-aged diplomat, not a young, fit Marine. Bobbie sends an IFF [Identification, Friend of Foe] that Alex receives. Holden doesn’t want to rescue them because he wants to get to IO. The crew is divided, but the newest crewmember Prax votes for the rescue. He expresses a noble reason to Amos at first, but when pressed, he admits he’s afraid they are too late to rescue Mei. The ensuing space battle between the Rocinante and the escort ship is a thing of beauty. Holden’s instructor in space battle strategy at the space academy would be proud, except for the part that he is using his training against an Earth vessel. They are able to rescue Bobbie and Chrisjen just in time, but Chrisjen is in bad shape. I guess I won’t be travelling in space unless I can book passage on the USS Enterprise.

They need to get to Io as soon as possible, because that evil Dr. Strickland is moving ahead with his experiments. Mei is still human, but for how long I don’t know. Mao shows up, and you know Strickland is a POS when Mao isn’t the evilest person in the room. On Earth, we meet the Reverend Doctor Anna Volovodov played by Elizabeth Mitchell. She was my favorite character from Lost, so she is a welcomed addition to the show. She proves right away that she is a match for Errinwright, and she might be able to keep him from destroying the solar system.

This was a great episode, easily in my top 10 episodes of the series, maybe top 5. The tools flying around in the ship was a great set piece. Finally, my favorite crew is meeting up with two of my favorite characters, Bobbie and Chrisjen. This is even better than Miller meeting Holden. I can’t wait to see them interact with each other. We have a clearer picture what Strickland and Mao are doing. Can Amos assure Strickland a slow and painful death? Errinwright might be ‘eviler’, but even he isn’t as big a weasel as Strickland. If humanity can produce a trio like Errinwright, Mao, and Strickland, maybe the Protomolecule should take over our solar system. However, with people like Chrisjen, Bobbie, the Rocinante crew and Pastor Anna, maybe we are worth saving. They proved their worth again by helping others, even though they didn’t know if they were friends or foe. This is what makes us human. If you enjoyed the battle between the Rocinante and the escort ship as much as I did, here’s a clip of all the action.

Grade: A



Anthony (Kbear!) Nichols | Editor-in-Chief
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