Conventional wisdom says no way the writers of this show kill off Joe Miller. How could they?
No. Freaking. Way.
No way would they throw down the gauntlet on the tragically hip ex-cop turned space cowboy with the boxing pedigree of Mickey Rourke's "Barfly" and the deadliest one-liners since Chevy Chase's "Fletch." Miller's the guy fans of this show tune in to see every week — the guy we all ask: what's he gonna do or say this week?
But after watching The Expanse Season 2 Episode 5 — a heart-rending, gut-wrenching tear-jerker if there ever was one — what else are we to think, after watching the sentient asteroid he hitched a ride on, with the only love of his life (or at least her consciousness) at the controls crash and burn on Venus?
Miller has already cheated death a bunch of times, so maybe, just maybe (fingers crossed), it's premature to crack open a bottle of brew and pour some on the curb for our dead homie.
Say this, though, about Miller, if he did die, at least he went out while making out with the woman of his dreams. Or at least as he said, with "what was left" of the woman, Julie Mao.
So just what was that Protomolecule-Julie Mao mind-meld thing that made us recall Neo in the last "Matrix" movie when he was plugged into Deux Ex Machina, anyway?
The U.N. Earth defenses, the Martians, the Belters and the Protogen scientists were baffled, but not MIller. Once he was lugging around that nuke on Eros and starting hearing Julie's voice, it led him like a heat-seeking missile — a clumsy one — to the dive motel, the Blue Falcon, where he first saw Julie.
Miller: Naomi’s heat map...y’know where it’s leadin’ us? It’s leadin’ us right back to the Blue Falcon.
Holden: Where we found Julie?
Miller: I mean, what’re the chances, right? The voices are gettin’ louder, the closer I get to there.
Miller: And I think she’s still in there.
Holden: Miller, Julie Mao’s dead, we both saw her.
Miller: Yeah, but what does dead mean to a Protomolecule, right? I’m not talkin’ about her body. I’m talkin’ about her...her consciousness. I’m talkin’ about part of her that may be part of this rock.
Miller: Everything happening here is all built around Julie. Julie’s the first one to get infected. And it was right there at the Blue Falcon. The Protomolecule infected her...what if she infected the Protomolecule back?
How could he not be baffled? Because he was the bloodhound detective who sniffed out Julie's trail in the first place. He sniffed it out and fell deeply, madly in love in the process.
And to think, he never truly met Julie until she transformed from a diseased, barnacle-ridden carcass into an ethereal, blue-hued angel with a gentle voice and hair that looked like it was possessed by static cling.
Yes, the most magic moments in this hour — fittingly, if they're to be Miller's last on the show — totally belonged to Julie and Miller. Everything else, rightfully so, took a backseat.
An asteroid speeding toward Earth, potentially killing a few billion people? Meh.
Earth desperately shooting a heap of nuclear warheads at the asteroid, attempting to smash it into pebbles, with only its sworn enemy, Col. Fred Johnson and the Rocinante crew to trust to help guide those warheads to the target? Eh, not bad.
Johnson and his OPA crew intercepting and "pocketing" more than 100 of the Earth-fired missiles for safekeeping, to later be used as leverage for the beleaguered Belters against Earth and Mars exploiters? Pretty good, especially when it yielded a good laugh.
Col Johnson’s Second in Command: One-hundred and fifty live thermonuclear missiles under your control. I think that makes you the most powerful man in the system right now.
Col. Johnson: Oh really? Then go get me a cup of coffee.
But all that couldn't match the weightiness of what we're all suckers for — a touching love story.
Love for Julie made Miller, who some might say is a little crazy, do some seriously crazy things he'd never done before. Hunting for her made Miller quit his job as a cop. It made him become a space traveler for the first time.
It made him murder in cold blood, an unarmed scientist he thought was complicit in her death. Miller even volunteered to lead ground assaults and demolition missions to avenge her.
Not even the Rocinante's revving up to such a high G-force chasing after Miller — nearly frying the crew's brains in the process — can match Miller's passion for Julie.
But in his last-ditch attempt to save Earth from a galactic gut-punch the asteroid was packing, Miller once again turns martyr, or hero, depending on your point of view. He demanded that the Rocinante give up chasing Eros so he could turn on the charm to get the Julie-controlled asteroid to change course — and her mind.
Miller: Your crew is gonna die for nothin’. Just back off now. Find a way to divert those missiles.
Holden: And then what? What?!
Miller: I’ll try to reach Julie. If there’s any part of her still left...and get her to stop this rock. And if that doesn’t work, I still got my little pal here.
Holden: You’re gonna negotiate with a girl who thinks she’s a space station?
Miller: Well, when you put it like that, it does seem kinda crazy.
Of course it's a crazy idea. Meshuga. But crazy men who are crazy in love do all kinds of crazy things.
So naturally, Miller can casually talk a self-destructive she-asteroid down from the ledge, with his edgy charm, complete with a great introduction.
Miller: Hey, we never officially met. I’m Miller. Used to be a cop on Ceres. I was supposed to...find you. Bring you home.
Julie: A kidnap job?
Miller: Yeah...kinda cocked that up, y’know.
Julie: They left me here all alone and never came for me.
Miller: Listen Jules, right now, this station...this rock, is headed for Earth. Real fast.
Julie: I dreamed that I was...racing.
Julie: That I was going home.
Miller: Yeah, we’re gonna need to stop that, Jules.
What unfolds is as beautiful as is unexpected. Not just the most hopeless romantics among us, but also the most bitter, when we watch The Expanse online can't possibly come away without shedding a tear, or at least getting some goosebumps.
With the violins playing in the background creating a sweet soundtrack, Miller gets as close to mushy as a cynical, hard-bitten detective can.
Miller, played so convincingly by Thomas Jane, shows a side of the character we'd never seen — a tough guy turning tender. He knew this was the end of the line for himself. He knew he had to sacrifice himself not just to save Earth, but also to keep the Belters' fight going.
Miller knew he had to break Julie's heart by telling her she couldn't plunge herself into Earth.
As Miller became physically vulnerable, removing his helmet and vac-suit on the Protomolecule-ridden asteroid, he got emotionally vulnerable, spilling his heart to Julie.
Miller: I came an awful long way to find you. Because I believe in you. You’ve made a guy like me...believe in something. I know you’re a fighter. I know. You can steer this ship.
Julie: I’m done fighting. I just wanna go home.
Miller: You can’t go home, Julie. I’m sorry...I’m sorry. You can go anywhere else in the whole universe, but you can’t go home, honey. OK? But hey, I need you to know...whatever happens, wherever you go...you’re not gonna do it alone.
Of course, it is kinda hard to have that one last intimate conversation with a helmet and spacesuit on. Miller would've missed Julie saying the words he dreamed about her saying to him when her aura became firmly, figuratively implanted in his head.
Julie: What happens to us now?
Miller: I don’t know. We die, maybe. But if we don’t die, that’d be interesting. Whatever happens, happens to both of us. It’s gonna be OK.
Julie: You belong with me.
And of course Miller wouldn't have been able to smooch his sweetie.
Makes you think the Syfy folks should've bumped up this season's premiere so this hour could've aired on Valentine's Day.
Is Miller really dead this time? Or did he pull another Rasputin and again cheat death?
If he's really dead, how bummed out are you right now?
Type away! Hit us up with some comments.
Gil Griffin is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.