Season 1 Episode 6: “Rock Bottom”
Detective Miller discovers that he can’t trust anyone, Holden and his crew have to decide if they can trust the only man who may be able to give them refuge, and Avasarala trusts no one, on the latest episode of The Expanse!
Actually, there also a 4th storyline running through this episode, but I’m not going to lie, at first it served no obvious purpose, engaged me not at all, and I literally had to watch this episode 3 times for any of it to make any kind of impression… except it very likely has far more significant meaning if it’s more than a character piece and a bit of world-building.
Spoilers, they follow.
So before I talk about our main stories, let’s consider the one I initially dismissed, because this show is starting to make me think I can’t do that for anything it puts on the screen. Our characters are Uncle Mateo and Diogo (Andrew Rotilio) — the latter of which we saw last stealing water — and they get to be both the medium of showing us that none of the governing bodies in the System are actually anything other than awful, and that what’s going to actually send those governments into actual war is the actions of ordinary people pushed beyond their limits.
At first, I was wondering what we are meant to see here, aside from showing that the Martian military is also full of awful people, despite the generally professional and vaguely noble crew of the Donnager. When Mateo’s ship is boarded by the Martian patrol, the soldiers are just awful, stereotypical jackbooted thugs, becoming progressively dickish as the scene goes on. It all leads to Mateo kicking Diogo off the ship to seeming death while Mateo suicides himself to destroy the Martian ship, and yet… we’ve had Diogo show up before, so odds are good he’s going to get rescued, and Mateo just essentially committed an act of war.
Think about it. Tensions between the UN, the Martians and the Belters are pretty much the worst, the destruction of The Canterbury has already nearly sparked a war, the attack on the Donnager made it worse, and now a Belter ship just killed a bunch of Martian soldiers, who probably just logged that they pulled over that Belter ship to board it. I’m pretty sure we saw the thing what starts a system-wide war.
Meanwhile, the folks who grabbed Miller off the street turn out — to no one’s surprise — to be the OPA, and we get another Miller/Dawes confrontation that shows off the skills of Jared Harris and Thomas Jane to great effect. What’s important about this scene is the back story we get about Dawes — killed his own sister to save the rest of his family — which establishes the thing we already knew, but had to have made clear to Miller: Dawes will do absolutely anything if he feels it’s the right thing to do.
This would, by the way, be the definition of a fanatic, and what people mean when they say that the difference between a terrorist and a freedom fighter is which side you’re on. Dawes is kind of exactly what you want when you are fighting for your freedom against an oppressive government that will answer rebellion with murdering miners and their families, but he’s like the Operative in Serenity… a “necessary” monster. Of course, like the Operative, he’s exactly what you don’t want if you’re on the other side, and Miller is a Noir guy, not a Mal Reynolds. Consequently, he gets beat badly and chucked into an airlock after Dawes tries to bring him over and find out what he knows, saved only by the arrival of Detective Muss. That Muss is pretty well traumatized by killing the two OPA members is a nice and realistic touch, as are the mixed messages between her and Miller. I don’t quite see the “love” for Julie Mao that Dawes thinks Miller has, but obsession? Oh yeah.
Not that it serves him well at all away from the OPA, because going to his boss pushes him even more into Film Noir territory, as she turns out to be… bought and paid for by the OPA. This gets him not only relieved of his evidence of the conspiracy but also fired, making him even more the future version of a 40’s private dick. In fact, at this point we’re just missing the voice-over, and it works surprisingly well, primarily because Thomas Jane seems to have broken down, world-weary drunk down to an art form.
The crew of the Rocinante are “guests” of Fred “The Butcher of Anderson Station” Johnson, and it’s clear that he’s a far better tactician than any of them, dancing all over their claims of having a squad of pissed-off Martian Marines backing them up. He’s pretty clear: they need him as much or more than he needs them, but they can work together to both get what they need. Johnson wants Holden to testify to the UN so the OPA can have a seat at the political big-boys table, but of course, negotiation isn’t all he has in mind. The Scopuli was Johnson’s ship, and he needs a gunship to go after it and retrieve its lone survivor, but Holden and his crew are too valuable as witnesses to risk.
Of course, Holden insists otherwise, because he’s carrying the guilt of responding to the distress call that kicked off this whole thing and blames himself for everyone who died as a result. He tries to keep the others out of the mission and do it himself, but nope! They rally around him after they all manage to nearly fracture themselves to pieces by the secrets and doubts they have about each other.
And on Earth, Avasarala takes a trip to the aquarium with her grandson so she can manipulate a former intelligence agent into giving her an in with his man on Ceres, and pull the strings on her other assets in the UN to find more leverage for Earth in the coming chaos…
As I’ve written before, I haven’t read the books the show is based on yet, but from what I hear, my previous understanding that these first 10 episodes are the first book in the series turns out to be wrong. It looks like the remaining four episodes will take us up to the big reveal that throws the entire System into that chaos, and Season 2 will deal with the fallout. What we’ve had so far, and especially here in this episode, is the moving of the pieces into place for that big reveal. We have our players and their motivations: Miller and his need for the truth; Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos and their need for both a family and a future; Avasarala, Dawes and Johnson and their need for a political solution to the rising violence between the System powers.
And at the core of it all… the mystery of what happened to the Scopuli and its crew. A mystery that we are on the cusp of discovering, and one that will change… everything.