Seriously, how perfectly timed was The Expanse Season 2 Episode 3 to offer parallels to some serious, present-day, world-order issues?
The show creators tick a ton of boxes: xenophobia, anti-immigrant backlash, patriotism, military aggression, vigilante justice, corporate ethics, bioterrorism, genocide, secret back-channel communications between government officials and an alleged terrorist group, and a religious order offering salvation to a lost soul.
But they were intertwined in such a way that it doesn’t at all feel as if the pertinent issues are just boxes being ticked. The impeccable timing and solid execution — with some breathtaking visual effects — combined to deliver another strong episode.
Meanwhile, big, bad Protomolecule was slithering and oozing all over Eros asteroid and, as Cortazar, the captured Protogen scientist excitedly noted, was “building something.”
But some of the most interesting action wasn’t taking place on the Rocinante or on Tycho Station. It’s on the Scirroco, the Martian military vessel.
Did that Earth-Mars tension remind you of any recent political campaigns, campaign promises or the raw emotions expressed after the attempted delivery of one of those promises?
It’s easy to feel for the aggrieved Martian Marines, such as Pvt. Hillman and Sgt. Draper, who were irate about Earth’s blasting the Martian moon, Deimos. After 17 of their planet-mates were killed in the attack, those Martian warriors were baying for blood.
But it’s equally easy to identify with Pvt. Travis, who revealed on The Expanse Season 2 Premiere that he immigrated to Mars from Earth with his parents when he was five. Travis’ siblings in arms were constantly scrutinizing his every move and treated his loyalty with suspicion.
Travis constantly feels pressured to prove his “Martianality” and it convincingly boiled over in his confrontation with Pvt. Hillman, his constant tormentor.
She knocked Travis’s planetary roots, even calling him the e-word, “Earther.” He mocked Hillman’s Martian-born economic privilege and her military merit.
Pvt. Travis: ... your hometown’s only named after you because your family infested it like some hyper-breeding rats.
Pvt. Hillman: ...we needed more real dust-eating Martians. Too many Earthers as it is.
Sgt. Draper: Hey!
Pvt. Travis: What? I see the way y’all look at me. Hmmm? Like I don’t belong here.
Sgt. Billie Draper: No one’s questioning your patriotism.
Pvt. Hillman: Simmer down there, cowpoke.
Pvt. Travis: You know something, I earned my iron, Hilly. Your family just bought your way into the Corps.
Meanwhile, Miller's selfishly smoking Dr. Dresden last week, the Protogen scientist who his could’ve spilled needed information on deadly Protomolecule to his strike force colleagues, didn’t exactly make him a team player in their eyes.
You almost feel sorry for Miller when he’s in a Tycho Station bar, self-medicating with a bottle of hard liquor and brooding over being banished from the Rocinante, while commiserating with Amos.
Before Capt. Holden added Miller to the crew, Amos was the ship’s reigning bad boy. So as Miller was pouting, who better than Amos to offer him some perspective?
Amos: Captain always gets a little jumpy when you kill people without talkin’ it over first.
Miller: Yeah, I’m sure you would’ve asked for permission, too.
Amos: Well here’s the thing: You and me, we’re a lot alike. We’ve been around. But the captain...he’s as close to righteous as it gets out here.
Ah, Amos, you poor sap. If you only knew Holden is righteously banging your girlfriend behind your back!
What nerve of Holden to mount his righteous high horse in a tender moment with Naomi, while ripping Miller a new one for his murderous impulsivity on Eros.
Naomi, who might be Miller’s best and only friend on the Rocinante, gently defended Miller’s actions. With Naomi bending Holden’s ear, you kinda get the feeling Miller may not have completely lost his ride around the stars.
Capt. Holden: We fought for nothing. People died. We nearly died. Miller...
Naomi: He got you out of Eros alive.
Capt. Holden: He shot an unarmed man, right in the head.
Naomi: An unarmed mass murderer.
We know there’s no way, when we watch The Expanse online, that the show's creators will separate Miller from the Rocinante crew anytime soon. There’s just too much voltage between him and his newfound shipmates.
Characters are too passionate one way or another about him to fully ditch Miller — even when he’s being a royal pain in the ass. Isn’t that part of the attraction?
While Amos already has handed out a beat-down to Miller once this season, Holden had to be restrained from doing it, and if death stares could cause bruises, Johnson gave Miller two black eyes.
That makes it even more intriguing that two other men who are polar opposites of each other also feel the Miller magic.
The first is Diogo, the gung-ho, wide-eyed, young OPA Belter who practically worships the ground Miller walks on. Especially after Miller busted a cap in Dr. Dresden.
Diogo, whose Belter pidgin English must be a closed-captioner’s worst nightmare, saved Miller a night from sleeping on the Tycho Station dock by putting him up in his pad. But will Miller, the cynic, clutch an idealistic youngster to his chest?
If the heart-to-heart the two Belter men had about planetary allegiance and it driving them to give their lives — while Miller went super-retro shaving his face with a straight razor — was any indication? Maybe.
Miller: The system rules you, kid. Always has.
Diogo: Even more reason I choose to fight.
Miller: You don’t choose anything. You’re born into it man, one side or the other. You play it out. You know in those inners, we figure out what’s on Eros that killed every last one of us to get it.
Miller: Belters. Us...Belters.
The other man drawn to Miller might be the most surprising.
Of all the people in the Belt, on Earth and on Mars, an elder in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints might be about the last one expected to reach out to Miller, the hard-drinking, quick-triggered, godless, loner.
And the serenity of a Mormon temple-ship docked to Tycho Station doesn’t exactly seem like a typical Miller hangout.
Or...maybe Miller’s just Elder McCann’s type to lovingly embrace as a reclamation project.
Maybe the Mormon vessel, the Nauvoo, shown in its immensity through killer VFX — offers Miller the peace and spirituality he’s never had.
After McCann invited him to take refuge aboard the Nauvoo and join the faithful on a journey to the stars that “not even the passengers’ grandchildren may live to see the end of,” even Miller admitted “salvation” might be just what he needs.
How outrageous is this? Just when we’re admiring Miller for humbling himself to seek redemption and soul-search, he convinced Johnson to offload the Nauvoo passengers, then launch the temple into the Eros asteroid to push it toward the sun, to deep-fry Protomolecule?
Come on! If you booked this voyage, how pissed would you be at Miller pimp-slapping you in the faith? How pissed would you be at Johnson going along with this cockamamie idea — after you contracted him to build the ship?
But Miller isn’t the only one seeking — at least temporary — redemption. So is Johnson.
The former U.N. forces colonel became OPA after Earth set him up to fire upon a Belter ship in a battle. Only Earth neglected to tell him that the battle was over and the Belters had surrendered. Oops.
The U.N. says it was Johnson, not Earth military, who destroyed the Martian ship, the Donager.
Johnson never came forward to clear his own name in either instance. But deep down, the stigma must be a pain he’s desperate to get rid of.
Why else didn't he tell U.N. Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala to go straight to hell when he got a secret, video communiqué from her?
Isn’t she the one who’s been talking so much junk about him?
Because Avasarala offered him — and herself, too — the same hope every flawed, troubled character on the show yearns for: a path to salvation.
The things you’ve no doubt heard me say, the things I’ve blamed on you...those words were lies, a façade to protect myself...because you were right. There are people in my government who are willing to take us to the brink of annihilation for reasons that I still cannot fathom. But like you, I want to stop this war. So now, I’m asking you for help. I need evidence...anything I can use to turn the guns of Earth and Mars away from each other before it’s too late. If you have any cards left in your hand, the time to play them is now.Chrisjen Avasarala
Johnson, Avasarala, Miller, Amos, Naomi, Holden and just about everyone else seeks it for all the sins and atrocities they’ve committed — real and/or imagined.
So just how will Johnson explain to Elder McCann that he's hijacking and desecrating their temple?
How will Elder McCann react when he learns it was Miller's idea?
Will the U.N. catch Avasarala committing treason by communicating with Johnson?
How long until Amos finds out about Naomi and Holden, pops a blood vessel in his neck and goes all Incredible Hulk on Holden?
What is Protomolecule building, anyway?
Got theories? Got predictions? Fire away!
Gil Griffin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.