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‘The Expanse’ 5.08 Review: Hard Vacuum

Naomi’s fight for survival has become very literal.

Marco (Keon Alexander) and Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) in 'The Expanse'.
(Image: © Amazon)

Our Verdict

This week's episode is an intense one.

For

  • 🌌Dominique Tipper gives an amazing performance this episode.
  • 🌌Every subplot explored in this episode is intense and engaging.

Against

  • 🌌It's not always 100% clear what's happening during Naomi's struggle. (That's by design, but might turn some people off.)

This article contains spoilers for The Expanse. Check out our review of last week's episode here. And check out our preview of The Expanse Season 6.

Well this week was a tense one, huh? With Naomi (Dominique Tipper) finally out of Marco’s (Keon Alexander) clutches and aboard the Chetzemoka, she is effectively out of the frying pan and into the fire. She’s injured and aboard a ship rigged to blow, broadcasting a signal designed to lure Holden (Steven Strait) and the Rocinante into an explosive trap. A huge chunk of the episode is devoted to Naomi’s silent, painful efforts to sabotage the distress call and warn away any would-be rescuers, and it’s a heart-stopping experience to see the lengths Naomi must go to in order to protect her chosen family from the machinations of her abusive one.

For as overrated as “pain acting” can be — I’m looking at you, The Revenant — Tipper is delivering some stellar work in this episode. At this point, Naomi is exhausted, beaten, and bruised from having survived in the vacuum of space in her escape, so much so that simple tasks are extremely painful and require more effort than her muscles should be able to endure. She is entirely without equipment or provisions, as the Chetzemoka has been stripped bare before being shuttled off as a bomb. All she has left is a spacesuit without an oxygen supply, which she uses to enter the airless space where the communications array is in the hopes of modifying the broadcast. Tipper gives these scenes the necessary weight to feel urgent even without words, and the sheer urgency of her literally breathless actions, even when we aren’t sure what exactly she’s doing, is entirely captivating.

Other characters are facing their own struggles as well, though nowhere near as personally monumental. Back on Luna, the new provisional Earth government is struggling with how to respond to Marco’s attack, and it seems that the alliance between Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Admiral Delgado (Michael Irby) might be at an end. While Avasarala is levelly advising that not all Belters are on Marco’s side and that civilian casualties could only further radicalize Belters to Marco’s cause, Delgado presents a predictably military perspective of retribution to the Secretary General, seeing civilian lives lost as a natural consequence of Marco using them as human shields. This conflict, while not nearly as action oriented as Naomi’s, has deep philosophical ramifications that should recall for viewers the similar failings of the United States in its pursuit of the War on Terror. How Earth’s provisional government will ultimately respond remains to be seen, but it’s troubling all the same.

Meanwhile, on Earth, Amos (Wes Chatham) and Clarissa (Nadine Nicole) reunite with Erich (Jacob Mundell) in Baltimore to offer him and his people a way to escape off planet, and we get our first real taste of how exactly the asteroid strikes are affecting the world beyond their initial impact. Earth is, in a word, devastated, and there are far-reaching environmental consequences that are forcing people out of inhabited areas with only whatever supplies they can stockpile. Only Clarissa’s wealthy connections from her pre-criminal life offer them an escape, and her conversation with the reluctant Erich only emphasizes the futility in clinging to the world that once was, even though that is the only option for so many without those connections.

Finally, we revisit Camina (Cara Gee) as she leads a salvage mission on behalf of Marco’s Free Navy. The choice to join him obviously sits sourly with her, and this is the episode where we finally see how it tears her apart at the seams of her loyalties. It’s a performance equally has heartbreaking as Dominique Tipper’s, for completely different reasons. With only two episodes left this season, time is running out for these divisions to be mended before Marco irrevocably tears the solar system apart, and Camina is promising to be a symbolic centerpiece to that potential for restoration. Only time with tell if she will follow through.