In this week’s episode of The Expanse, Avasarala and Bobbie fight for their lives as Errinwright’s UN escort ship continues to pursue them
Last week’s season premiere of The Expanse ended with Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) onboard Julie Mao’s racing ship, the Razorback. “IFF” starts with the two of them continuing to flee from the destruction of the Guanshiyin, with Errinwright’s (Shawn Doyle) UN escort ship pursuing in an attempt to eliminate them. Avasarala begins to have difficulties under the sustained high-g burn and Bobbie sends out an encrypted distress signal that only Martian ships will be able to understand.
The crew of the Rocinante (currently renamed to Pinus Contorta) picks up the distress signal but Holden (Steven Strait) opts to ignore it in favor of continuing on to Io despite the crew being highly conflicted about it. Eventually, Holden holds a vote and Prax (Terry Chen) breaks the tie. After exhausting most of the ship’s PDC rounds and numerous torpedoes, the crew disables the UN escort ship and brings Bobbie and the seriously injured Avasarala aboard.
On Earth, Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell) meets with Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker), an old acquaintance of hers. The Secretary-General requests that Anna help him write a speech to help sell his war with Mars to the population of Earth. She agrees but only if she gets a full year of support for her free clinic from the UN. Anna is horrified by the apparent lack of morals and ethics on display in the UN leadership.
Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) visits his decommissioned facility on Io and meets with Dr. Strickland (Ted Atherton). Mao tells Strickland to destroy all of the remaining hybrids since the protomolecule can’t be controlled. But Strickland informs him that he believes it can be controlled. Children with Myers-Skelton Premature Immunosenescence, a condition some suffer from on Ganymede, have a unique problem with their immune systems, which Strickland believes will allow for the protomolecule to be controlled. Mei Meng, Prax’s daughter, is one such child. Mao tells Strickland to do what must be done.
We thought the season premiere was a wild ride, but “IFF” somehow dialed up the suspense even more. Now that we are breathing more calmly, let’s discuss the episode with our roundtable!
T.J. (@ohplzlol) – Busy mom, reviewer, loving science and anything science fiction.
Gaius Greene (@GaiusGreene) – Lover of nature, SF, fantasy, history, mythology, and too many other things to list. Writer-in-waiting.
Jamie (@jamerz3294) – I never knew what I wanted to be when I grew up, so I retired instead.
Kiddle (@kiddle) – Lover of cats, photography and smart (or witty, or simply entertaining) television
Carlos (@carlostk1) – #TheExpanse contributor and member of the #ScreamingFirehawks
1. “IFF” introduced Elizabeth Mitchell as a new character, Annushka “Anna” Volovodov. What do you think of her so far? Will she be able to prevent Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis from doing something catastrophic and help balance out Errinwright’s manipulation?
T.J. (@ohplzlol): Anna is strong, charming and able to overrule Errinwright, but also has her own family to protect and she knows they will use them against her if necessary.
Gaius Greene (@GaiusGreene): a) Loving Anna. b) I hope so. c) Unsure. Errinwright is even better at manipulation than Grima Wormtongue!
Jamie (@jamerz3294): Anna is a great character! And yes, she will certainly try to lessen Errinwright’s manipulations, but I think that will come with varying amounts of success, and at a great cost to her personally. But I do think that she will be able to expose some of Erringwright’s evil for what it is. The intriguing question will be how much of her own morality can she hang on to?
Kiddle (@kiddle): First, I love Anna, she is a religious person who is not in your face about it. In the dinner scene, she was clearly the only one with a conscience in the room. The glee from the other politicians was disgusting. Errinwright/SecGen are pretty committed to war – that train may not be stoppable. She gets people to do what she wants because she calls on their ethics and commands a great deal of respect. She also seems to be pretty conflicted about what she’s doing. That dinner might have done it.
Carlos (@carlostk1): WOW! What a performance by Elizabeth Mitchell. Including her to the already fantastic cast has added a compassionate element to the mix. This is her first time on The Expanse but from what the writers are going for with her role looks like that she’s the only one capable enough to get Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis to see past Errinwright’s veil of lies and hopefully help him find a way that can prevent further escalation of the war.
2. Luckily for Bobbie and Avasarala, the crew of the Roci decided to respond to their distress call after a vote. What are your thoughts on the Roci’s rescue and defense of the Razorback? Did Holden originally make the right call? Will Naomi’s actions help her earn back the trust of the rest of the crew?
T.J.: Holden tried to use Prax and his situation to avoid rescuing a Martian! Lucky for Bobbie and Avasarala that Prax has such a big heart. The rescue had me on the edge of my seat. But, Naomi won’t win trust back this easy.
Gaius Greene: a) The rescue was amazing! b) Only after being outvoted. True democracy on the Roci/Contorta. c) Probably, although may take a while to earn their trust back.
Jamie: Interesting that it was Plant Guy who broke the tie with his vote! But yes, to not rescue the Razorback would have been to deny your own humanity. At that point, it didn’t matter who was onboard, only that they needed help the crew of the Roci could give. Also very interesting was Holden’s plan for the rescue. Once again he manages to pick a fight with an opponent that should have swatted him like a fly. Naomi is in uncharted waters (for her), and so it will take some time for the crew to really trust her, but they have a good history together.
Kiddle: Well, it seems originally Holden didn’t want to rescue them, primarily because Holden was committed to going to Io. Naomi’s actions have at least warmed Alex up to her, a bit. She’s got a long way to go there. The VFX, again(!), were stunning. The show is wonderful in its representation of the actual mechanics of space conflict, and stripping the engines off of that UN ship was AWESOME.
Carlos: Looks like democracy prevails. Prax voted for the rescue, so the crew was in agreement with a new plan. I can imagine those guys who do the VFX when they were told about the ship traveling around shooting torpedoes and Amos’s tools flying everywhere whilst defending the Razorback. I’m still wrapping my head around that scene and how it was done. It was brilliantly executed. And as far as Naomi’s trust, well what’s done is done. I’m sure things will work out for the crew and their feelings towards Naomi.
3. While it’s unclear what Jules-Pierre Mao’s grand plan actually is beyond making a lot of money on the protomolecule, it’s clear that Earth and Mars will try to destroy each other for it. What do you think Mao’s long-term plan is?
T.J.: Jules-Pierre Mao doesn’t seem to have a steady plan and he is a cold man who will stop at nothing, even if that means genocide.
Gaius Greene: a) No. He doesn’t want kill a potential customer like the MCR. It’d be “bad for business!” b) His long-term plan is only making more money.
Jamie: I’ve wondered about JPM’s plans for the past two seasons! Obviously he thinks he can make a ton of money (somehow), but I wonder if he really just wants to rule the entire solar system? All we have seen from his research into the Protomolecule has been along the weaponization of it. So, basically, JPM is a merchant of war, which is it’s own end game.
Kiddle: Whatever his long-term plan is, I’m sure it involves his being in charge at least of the moneymaking opportunities. It’s amazing and a little discouraging that there are people that greedy and power hungry, but history is full of these examples. What’s that expression? Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely?
Carlos: Jules-Pierre Mao reminds me of a man standing over an ant hill. He has the power to destroy it and would take great comfort in doing so. He is the most dangerous man in the system. He can do anything he wants, with whatever he has. And that includes the protomolecule. I don’t believe he would decimate the entire population of Mars, but he could if he sees them as ants. Selling the protomolecule is no longer an option for him. I think he’ll use it as a weapon to defend himself from anyone who attempts to stop him and his maniacal plans.
4. Prax almost gave up on finding Mei again in this episode but Amos told him to never give up on her. Amos being highly protective of children has been an ongoing part of his character arc. How far do you think Amos will go to protect and save Mei’s life if they find her? Would using extreme measures to save her and the lives of the other children be justified? Would Holden stop him?
T.J.: Amos would put his own life in grave danger for Mei. Holden can’t prevent that…
Gaius Greene: a) All the way, even unto death. b) Yes. c) He might try to.
Jamie: Amos is the last of the undeveloped characters in this show! I think that still waters run deep, and Amos has depths. Of course he would go to drastic measures to protect Mei, or any other children. And once he gets a head of steam, I doubt that Holden, or Naomi, could stop him. Again, the entire crew has their own personal demons to contend with. He just usually buries his, or beats the crap out of someone else.
Kiddle: Crazy-eyed Amos would honestly likely tear someone’s head off when he is in a fugue state, especially about kids. I suspect Holden would have a cooler head, but maybe the real question is, could NAOMI stop him? Would she? Will the damage in Amos’s trust of Naomi continue to erode her apparent control over him? It already has in terms of his decision making.
Carlos: Amos is a very complex character. On the outside, his actions seem robotic. And on the inside, covered in layers of a troubled youth. His reactions are focused and he’ll follow a plan without hesitation. Amos will do anything to save Prax’s daughter Mei. Holden stop Amos? He’ll have better luck fixing that coffee maker.
5. Both Prax and Avasarala got to experience multiple high-g maneuvers in this episode. Which one of them handled it better? Do you think Prax will do a better job securing tools in the future? If Avasarala survives, do you think she’ll ever want to go into space again?
T.J.: Avasarala! She had to endure more. And she will survive and go into space again because her attitude is: Death? Space? F that! I think Prax will be more cautious in the future, I may hope…
Gaius Greene: a) Avasarala. b) Absolutely. c) No.
Jamie: High-g maneuvers, so fun! Prax came out of the experience in much better condition than Avasarala, but he also is much younger. Having your own tool chest barreling at you at 8 or 10 g’s was certainly a wake up call for him, wasn’t it?! And did you see that Amos got a wrench right there and didn’t even blink?! Yikes! Oh, and our dear Chrisjen never wants to go to space, not now, not ever!
Kiddle: At least the boys did NOT suffer Shed’s fate! Prax had the advantage of a protective suit. Although Avasarala had “the juice” she is older than Prax and Avasarala vehemently HATES SPACE. Too bad Earth is not really an option for her right now. I doubt Prax will EVER forget to secure a hold again. Tool missiles are not fun.
Carlos: This was Terry Chen’s episode. He stood out the most for me. Prax is clearly thinking about the health and safety of the crew with his improvised air scrubbers. But he clearly doesn’t belong in space and would have died if it weren’t for Amos’s quick thinking. Avasarala scared the holy hell out of me. It was terrifying seeing her being crushed at high G’s. When she passed out and when I saw that trickle of blood from her nose, I just couldn’t imagine losing her. I was on my feet with my fists clenched watching that scene.
6. Jules-Pierre almost had the hybrids of Project Caliban eliminated but Dr. Strickland discovered that children who suffer from Myers-Skelton Premature Immunosenescence allow for more direct control of the protomolecule. Do you think the next phase of the project will be successful? Do the hybrids have any humanity left in them or are they fully alien?
T.J.: They’re trying to control a power they can’t control. Playing with humanity will be Dr. Strickland’s downfall, because he has none. Even if the hybrids turn fully alien I’m not worried. Because aliens have feelings too!
Gaius Greene: a) Remains to be seen. b) The ones on Ganymede sure weren’t!
Jamie: Nothing is ever cut and dry with the protomolecule, is it? Just look at Julie Mao! I think there will be some humanity left in those children, but we will wait to see how much!
Kiddle: Although minuscule, Mao has more humanity left in him than Dr. Strickland, although he continued to let the kids be used. Ugh. They seem to have the technical ability to advance the research, God Help Us. Holden didn’t think that he saw any humanity in protomolecule man when he encountered it. It sure seemed to be simply operating on an instinctive basis. Very dangerous!
Carlos: Watching Dr. Strickland work boils my blood. He deserves to die in the worst way possible. His success with the protomolecule and his experiments have given Jules-Pierre Mao a reason to play God with whoever gets in his way. The updated version of the protomolecule hybrid will be completed and fail. Although the protomolecule manipulates life itself, there’s one thing Dr. Strickland doesn’t understand. Life finds a way.
7. Bobbie and Avasarala are now on-board the Roci. Out of all of the characters on the ship, which ones are you most looking forward to seeing interact? How do you see the dynamic changing now that Bobbie and Avasarala are on the ship?
T.J.: Too many egos in one spaceship. I’m looking forward to see Naomi saving that situation and thereby winning back trust.
Gaius Greene: a) ALL of them! b) Avasarala will want to be in charge; Bobbie and Amos may butt heads. Both are strong-willed and stubborn fighters.
Jamie: Whew! This is gonna be a whole, other powder keg, isn’t it? I think that we’ll see Holden and Avasarala really butt heads! Alex and Bobbi will get along fine, but Naomi will not. Right now, we have the crux of the entire series together, and sparks will fly! But, in the end, they will have to figure out some way to work together, or they will all be dead, and in short order.
Kiddle: It is so cool to have them get together!! Right now, I’m really enjoying Bobbie and Avasarala. But, I’m also looking forward to seeing how they ALL interact with each other. I think there is room for sparks between Avasarala and Holden. I hope that Cotyar isn’t gone forever. I didn’t like the “did you kill him” line, because now I’m wondering if he was supposed to have died in the Guanshiyin explosion! Waughhhhh!
Carlos: Avasarala and Holden have the most information about everything that’s been going on. They need to share everything they know with each other to get a clear picture about what’s been happening. Being that Avasarala is injured and Holden without coffee just adds an intriguing twist on how this conversation will play out. I’m aware of what happens next from the books but I love how the story is changed in a way that keeps me guessing without changing the overall plot. Things can only get more interesting now that everyone is together.
“IFF” is full of suspense, pushes the story forward in interesting new ways, and introduces a compelling new character
The season 3 premiere of The Expanse set a bar high for action and suspense, yet somehow, the second episode of the season, “IFF,” managed to dial those elements up to eleven. Avasarala and Bobbie’s continued attempt to flee from the UN escort ship, which leaves Avasarala’s fate up in the air, is handled spectacularly. The visual effects team really went all out to sell the entire sequence, right down to an impressive maneuver from the Roci. Written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (collectively known as James S.A. Corey), the episode also features an incredibly tense and brilliantly executed scene showing exactly what happens when tools aren’t properly secured while performing high-g maneuvers. Let’s hope that Prax has likely learned his lesson.
Elizabeth Mitchell’s introduction as Anna is a major highlight of “IFF.” Not only does Mitchell do an amazing job portraying the character, but Anna should help counteract Errinwright’s toxic influence on the Secretary-General. We don’t expect her to be a political foil like Avasarala. However, having an ethical, moral voice in the Secretary-General’s ear should hopefully slow down Errinwright’s plans to annihilate Mars. But we also fear for Anna’s safety.
Despite “IFF” having several important developments that will push the story forward in future episodes in interesting new ways, the Roci doesn’t make much progress towards the goal of reaching Io. This isn’t really a weakness of the episode since having Bobbie and Avasarala on the ship should make things highly entertaining going forward. But those who may have been hoping to see the crew reach Io this week will be disappointed.
Now that Holden and the crew of the Roci (sorry, Pinus Contorta) have run into Bobbie and Avasarala, we’re expecting the tenseness on the ship to escalate. How will Avasarala and Bobbie fit in among the rest of the misfits on the ship? Will they be okay with the detour to Io? Next week’s episode can’t possibly arrive soon enough!