What to Watch Verdict
An emotionally harrowing episode builds to an all-timer of a climax.
☄️Naomi continues to be the emotional heart of this season.
☄️That conversation with Bull was nice.
☄️We're once again highlighting how little come cast members have to do this season.
The relationship between Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Marco (Keon Alexander) has long been taken as a given in The Expanse, but we haven’t had much of a chance to learn what exactly that relationship was like and what it means for the former lovers to be on the same ship again, one as the leader of a terrorist cell, the other as a captive brought by their son Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens). In what is increasingly becoming a battle over Filip’s soul, this episode gives us a lot of backstory for Naomi that informs some of the hardest decisions she has had to make, both in the past and the present.
However, there is more going on this episode than just the inner workings of Marco’s fleet. Holden (Steven Strait), in pursuit of the Zmeya and hoping to discover the location of the protomolocule and Naomi, comes within communication distance of Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) after their escape from the Martian Navy. The two ships trade information, the former relaying Fred Johnson’s death and the protomolocule’s theft, the latter revealing the Martians’ sale of warships to Marco’s Free Navy. It’s an efficient way to ensure the audience is caught up on the major developments at hand, especially because Alex, Bobbie, and Holden haven’t exactly been dominating screen time this season and have been consistently the least interesting plotlines in a given episode, even though they hold some of the most plot-driving information of the season.
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Also noteworthy is a brief conversation between Holden and Bull (José Zúñiga), Fred Johnson’s former right hand man. Bull has largely been a force of gruff stoicism this season, the muscle that effectuated Monica’s (Anna Hopkins) rescue and serving as another voice in the room as Holden and Fred clashed or collaborated. So it’s nice to see the two men share a moment of remembrance for Fred, slowing down for a moment to recognize the impact he had on them as a leader and the path he set them on for the future, whether they always agreed with him or not.
But as alluded to before, the meat of this episode is in Naomi’s story, and much of it is best experienced in the moment. A long conversation with Filip reveals hers and Marco’s tumultuous history and the terrible lengths she had to go to in order to escape him. Crewmate Cyn (Brent Sexton), who has also been feeling divided loyalties between Marco and Naomi, reveals his greatest regrets in siding with Marco in the past and struggles to reconcile those regrets with his complicity in holding Naomi prisoner. Marco reveals himself as a monstrous hypocrite and egotist to Filip, but it’s part of a pattern of emotional abuse so persistent that he still might not see the fullness of Marco’s evil. This is an episode packed with emotional conversations that build to a heart-stopping climax, built from those conversations and allusions to past events to create a moment that reflects the depths of Naomi’s pain, both as a mother and as a survivor of domestic abuse.
If Amos (Wes Chatham) has the most philosophically engaging plotline of the season, then Naomi most certainly has the most emotionally resonant, drawing a direct line between Marco’s abusive familial interactions and his genocidal ambitions. Now we can only hope that knowledge of his character is enough to stop him from doing even more harm.
Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.