Tensions are high in this week’s episode of The Expanse as Holden and crew clash with Bobbie and Avasarala and Errinwright pushes for a preemptive strike against the Martian Congressional Republic
Last week’s episode of The Expanse raised the stakes and left us wondering what would happen to Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) after she suffered injuries from sustained high-g burns. “Assured Destruction” continues not long after the events of last week. As Avasarala recovers, Holden (Steven Strait) and the rest of the crew of the Rocinante (currently renamed to Pinus Contorta) argue with Bobbie (Frankie Adams) about going to Io to look for Mei. Bobbie insists that the Roci crew give Avasarala’s mission priority. Holden says point blank that Io is the destination. Eventually, Avasarala recovers enough to make her case for the importance of her mission and what’s at stake.
On Earth, Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) continues to push for Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker) to escalate the conflict with Mars and urges him to order a preemptive strike to knock out several Martian satellites. Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) initially calms the situation and causes Sorrento-Gillis to rethink things. In the end, Errinwright convinces the Secretary-General to order the attack. The attack itself is successful but a Martian nuclear missile gets through the UN defenses and hits South America, killing at least 2 million people.
Cotyar (Nick E. Tarabay) survives the destruction of the Guanshiyin (but not without a lot of blood loss) and is brought onboard the UNN Agatha King, the UNN flagship. Admiral Nguyen (Byron Mann) threatens to charge Cotyar with treason unless he reveals the location of Avasarala, who he also accuses of treason. Admiral Souther (Martin Roach) doesn’t buy the story that Avasarala would commit treason and gets the truth from Cotyar. Nguyen removes Souther from command and the Agatha King continues to Io on its classified mission.
Project Caliban continues on Io as Dr. Strickland (Ted Atherton) pushes the project through its next phase. As the children begin to exhibit more serious side effects of the protomolecule and Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) has a face-to-face talk with Mei (Leah Jung), Mao decides to put a stop to the tests on children. But will that actually stop Dr. Strickland or the project from progressing?
With part of the the UNN fleet and the Roci headed to Io and Earth escalating the conflict with Mars, we’re left with far more questions than answers. Let’s meet our guests for the week and discuss “Assured Destruction!”
Belinda (@Jetcitygirl1) – Love sci-fi, animals, the universe, underdogs and The Expanse!
Jamie (@jamerz3294) – I did the typing, so you can do the reading.
Pirate (@OaktownPirate) – Da Pirata im rowmwala ere wowk, Belta ere kori (“Pirate is a bartender at work, Belter at heart”)
Brando (@trancelot) – A multi-talented marketing professional, space nerd listening to trance music. My imagination is bigger than yours.
MJ (@MjLupin22) – Aspiring artist, world traveler, coffee lover
1. Avasarala and Bobbie didn’t have the smoothest of first encounters with the crew of the Rocinante (aka, the Pinus Contorta). Did that go better or worse than you were expecting it to go? Would you like to see the two of them stay onboard the ship for an extended period of time?
Belinda (@Jetcitygirl1): The meet up on the “Roci” went a little better than expected…so far. I’d love to see Avasarala and Bobbie stay on board at least through Io arc. Book readers have been waiting for this moment a long time!
Jamie (@jamerz3294): Naomi and Avasarala will never get along well! Each woman has a different world view and conflicting loyalties. Plus they are both very strong-willed, and willing to work for what they want. I think it would be fun to watch them argue, but this will only be a minor subplot.
Pirate (@OaktownPirate): Mi xop imalowda xalte ere da kapawu. Im gut fo vedi da Avasarala na ere da pelesh da natet im. (I hope they stay on the ship. It’s good to see Avasarala outside her comfort zone.)
Brando (@trancelot): I’m not really sure what I expected, but I’m not surprised Holden tried to get out of helping them. He is the biggest unknown for me at the moment. I feel like I know where everybody stands and for which side they’ll fight; however, I still can’t figure out what he is thinking.
MJ (@MjLupin22): I was surprised how Bobbie charged in and started to take over. The crew of the Roci/Contorta were surprised as well! It fits with her character, though. She is a Martian and she knows her way around those types of ships. In a way, it feels like home to her – comfortable and familiar. I’d love for Bobbie to continue to stay aboard the ship and see more interactions between her and Alex.
2. Alex sent a heartfelt message to his ex-wife in the season premiere, and he received an understandably cold response in this episode. The pain of that response seemed to push him to try to make things right with Naomi. What are your thoughts on all of this? Do you think the crew of the Roci will become his actual family or is he simply trying to fill that void in his life? Was reaching out to Naomi despite his anger a good move on his part?
Belinda: Alex got what he gave. Truth is a double edge sword. Ouch! The Roci crew is definitely Alex’s family now! I’m afraid Naomi might take advantage of Alex’s forgiveness.
Jamie: Poor Alex. He tried, in his own fractured way, to reach out to his (now ex) wife and daughter, but ruh roh. Alex feels things very deeply, so maybe his ex-wife’s reply did show him that his true family is on the Rocinante (it will never be the Penis Contorted).
Pirate: Da Alex ta du wok fong Mars da anyiye dedeya. Im natim ta leta da sheng de ere kori im. Xitim da Alex na kang vedi pash da sheng de namo. “Family” im lik “family” tili du. Ere kuxaku, da kapawu xalte to ere livit. Da kapawu im xom. Demang imalowda du livit ere xom to… dédawang “family” to. (Alex walked away from Mars years ago. He never took that truth to heart. Now he can’t look past that truth anymore. Family is as family does. In space, the ship keeps you alive. The ship is home. Those who live in your home…that is your family.)
Brando: As hard as it was to hear, Alex needed the message. Now he can move on from that chapter of his life. This crew is his family now, and he knows it. He is making up with Naomi because family forgives each other. We NEED the crew to fall in line. No more infighting, please. We’re at war, people. Get it together!
MJ: Alex does not typically share his feelings openly. I think sending that message to his family was his way of trying to explain why he left. Perhaps he has learned that it is better to speak your mind and try to resolve a conflict head on, rather than running away from it. Though he is still mad at Naomi for her betrayal, he realizes that she is now part of his found family. He wants to try to do better this time around. I think it was an important first step towards the reconciliation of the crew.
3. After multiple attempts to get the Secretary-General to launch a preemptive strike on Mars, Errinwright finally managed to get him to act. While all of the targets were destroyed, one of the Martian nuclear missiles made it through and hit South America, killing at least 2 million people. Do you think Errinwright feels any guilt for the deaths of those people or does he believe his hands are clean? Are they necessary deaths to prevent the deaths of billions?
Belinda: Errinwright has 0 consciences. Z.E.R.O. MF!!
Jamie: Ah, Errinwright. Such a slimeball. But a very accomplished slimeball! To him, everything is just a game, and a game he must win, no matter the cost. He doesn’t value people, so the death of 2 million is no biggie. I would like to know why he wants to destroy Mars so badly?
Pirate: Da Errinwright im xalte wit Earth. Im “feel” mal ke fo da 2M déteting? Fosho ya. Amash kéting im kang du? Mogut ke fo Earth gif pasa fo Mars du tung fosh? Im na “psychopath”, im “patriot”. Mebi dédawang momal. (Errinwright holds with Earth. Does he feel bad for the 2M deaths? I think he does. But what can he do? Should Earth let Mars Shoot first? He’s not a psychopath, he’s a patriot. Maybe that’s worse.)
Brando: Errinwright feels no guilt and knows no shame. He seems the type willing to sacrifice any number of humans to get what he wants. His only concern is pulling off this frame job on Avasarala, and he seems to be planning a takeover. Anna’s face leads me to infer she doesn’t trust him. Is she prepared for this battle of wits? I think so.
MJ: I was impressed with Shawn Doyle’s acting during these scenes! Clearly Errinwright is shocked and possibly horrified that one of the nukes hit earth. But he quickly compartmentalizes that feeling in order to twist the events to his benefit. He certainly believes his hands are clean and blames Anna and the Secretary-General for their hesitance. He is not someone to own up to an event that is mostly caused by chance.
4. Cotyar is alive! Unfortunately for him, Admiral Nguyen plans to brand him as a traitor unless he does as he wants. Now the UN flagship is on its way to Io, a mission Nguyen considers to be classified. Do you think Nguyen is working with Errinwright? Or are they operating independently for their own personal gain? Or is he a patriot trying to stop the war? How will Admiral Souther fit into Nguyen’s plans?
Belinda: Nguyen is most definitely working with/for Errinwright!! He knows exactly what’s going on! Souther is part of “Cotyar’s” plan, not Nguyen’s.
Jamie: I do think that Admiral Nguyen is working with Errinwrong! It explains how a UN gunship opened fire on JPM’s yacht and was also trying to obliterate the Razorback. The real question is whether the admiral is doing so for personal gain, or because he believes he’s following orders.
Pirate: KÉTING SABAKAWLA, COTYAR? Fosho im finyish du ting momal pash dedawang fo xalte da Avasarala séfesowng. Da Nguyen im xalte wit Mao unte Errinwright. Dédawang da radzhang im ando leta-go da Agatha fo Io. Da Souther im wa mang gut. Im gonya du deting gut. (WTF COTYAR? I’m sure he’s done worse things than that to keep Avasarala safe. Nguyen is with Mao and Errinwright. That’s the reason he’s taking the Agatha to Io. Souther is a good man. He’ll do the right thing.)
Brando: I thought Nguyen was working for Errinwright, but it seems old alliances are frail these days. Seeing the protomolecule in action caused EVERYONE to rethink their role in this. If he is loyal to Errinwright, it won’t last. At some point he’ll do the right thing for his people.
MJ: Nguyen and Errinwright appear to have the same goals, and may be working together. Nguyen, however, sees things from a more militaristic standpoint, and therefore doesn’t trust Cotyar. He is the lone survivor of a ship that was blown up by Nguyen’s own compatriots. I think Nguyen is valid in his distrust. It remains to be seen whether he will follow Errinwright’s plans or side with Admiral Souther.
5. The entire crew of the Roci got to interact with Bobbie and Avasarala in this episode. What were your favorite scenes and/or moments between Bobbie, Avasarala, and the crew?
Belinda: When Ava.thanks Bobbie and they take each other’s hand, lovely! “I didn’t always work in space.” Bobbie’s face! lmao When Avasarala started advancing on Naomi, “I’d say cry me a river but…” Oh sh*t! Holden to Avasarala, “Miller and Julie were heroes.” (Thanks, writers, for all the lovely Julie nods.)
Jamie: When Amos told Avasarala that walking in mag boots was like walking in pumps! I don’t know how the cast got through that without totally cracking up! “I didn’t always work in space” = Most classic line from the episode.
Pirate: “Mi na finyish du wowk kowltim ere da kuxaku.” Detím im ta maliwala, da Amos ta sabaka. Go to pensa ere da Amos da mali. Déting im ta vedi. Da we im finyish du wok fo da diye xiya. Da character da tugut ere TV xitim. (“I didn’t always work in space”. When he was a child, Amos was a sex worker. Think about little Amos. The things he saw. The path he walked to today. Best character on TV now.)
Brando: I was laughing out loud at Bobbie and Alex. Two Martians floating through space with Earthers and Belters. I can’t wait for more! Are they natural allies being from Mars? I can tell he likes her, but she’s a warrior on a mission. I’ve got so many different scenarios in my head that I have no idea what is next. Please start the time machine. Take me to next week!
MJ: I loved the interactions between Avasarala and Holden. She thinks she is better than all of them, but we, as the audience, know better. She is ruthless to a fault, but her reasons are valid. She wants to stop the war. Holden, however, has started leaning the other way. Holden now primarily wants to protect his crew and help Prax find Mei. I liked seeing Holden hold his own with Avasarala. I didn’t like the way Avasarala talked to Naomi, though. I think she could try to be a little bit more understanding of where Naomi has come from.
6. Katoa began experiencing more severe side effects from his protomolecule injections. Mei also came face-to-face with Jules-Pierre Mao. At the end of the episode, Mao told Dr. Strickland to stop the experiment on the children. Did Mei and Katoa get through to Mao? Will Strickland actually follow that order or will he continue the project regardless of what his boss says?
Belinda: I believe Mei did reach Mao. All he can see is Julie. Guilt and a broken heart. Both are savage beasts! Strickland will do whatever he wants, no matter what!
Jamie: We’re hopeful that JPM’s interaction with the kids got to him, but it could be temporary. And Strickland isn’t about to just give up his work either. Strickland is going to try very hard to persuade JPM to keep the research going.
Pirate: Da Mao im da sékripimang nawit sékrip. Imim ando du chesh da Mao. Im bera bossmanag ere nem xitim. Da Dresden na ta da “scientist” da pagal da solo. Kéradzhang mogut fo da Strickland pochuye ere da Mao xitim? (Mao is the money-man without money. Mao’s a hunted man. He’s only boss in name now. Dresden wasn’t the only mad scientist. Why should Strickland listen to Mao now?)
Brando: Something tells me it will end with Mei. Strickland answers only to the protomolecule, so I have a feeling he’ll inject her in defiance of Mao. She’s going to be Patient Zero, the first successful hybrid. It feels right, but I hope we can get to her in time to save her from being weaponized for the wrong team! We may need her to save us from Planet Julie Miller aka Venus 2.0.
MJ: JP Mao has shown a softer side that I was not expecting to see. He ordered the tests on the children to be stopped, but what does he want to do next? I still don’t trust him. Dr. Strickland is committed to this project and most likely has been working on it for many years. To see his hard work destroyed must be difficult for him. I don’t trust him either. I have a feeling he may try to do something dangerous to Mei that Mao will not approve.
7. By the end of the episode, Avasarala explained to Holden and his crew how high the stakes are for her mission. She even went as far as saying they should nuke Io to put a stop to the project. Do you think she wants Earth to have a sample of the protomolecule despite everything it has done? Or would she be okay with nuking Io and destroying the last known samples?
Belinda: Avasarala will definitely nuke Io! I. Have. No. Doubt. (At the appropriate time.)
Jamie: Right now she seems to be on the warpath (all puns intended) against the protomolecule and seems determined to wipe it out. But with Fred Johnson having a sample, the balance will shift.
Pirate: Fosho fosho da Avasarala im na xush fo pochuye da OPA imalowda tenye da protomolecule. Im ye wa xétamang ere kori. Amash, ya. Im wanya “nuke” im. (Avasarala absolutely isn’t happy to hear the OPA has the protomolecule. She’s still a hater at heart. But yes. She wants to nuke it.)
Brando: Avasarala is always thinking ten steps ahead. While I haven’t yet figured it out, I’m sure she wants some type of sample. I believe she would nuke Io, but she’s always got a surprise up her sleeve. She’s so smart and decisive. I’m hoping they’ll save Proto-Mei. I want her to be the most advanced proto-thing in our solar system. I want her to join the Roci crew. She can be the sample we need. Let’s go get her!
MJ: Avasarala does not seem to understand the difficulty of trying to contain the protomolecule. That being said, she doesn’t want anyone else to have a sample if Earth doesn’t have one. I think she would actually destroy Io as a way to prevent Mars from keeping their sample. She definitely wouldn’t blink an eye at the lost lives, because she is a big picture type of person. If Io is not destroyed, I think she will insist on obtaining a sample before leaving that area of the system. If she can’t level the playing field with the destruction of Io, she will not give up until she’s found another way.
“Assured Destruction” escalates all of the conflicts while also providing plenty of suspense, smart dialogue, and great character moments
The third episode of The Expanse’s third season, “Assured Destruction,” doesn’t have nearly as much action as the first two episodes, but it certainly isn’t any less intense or suspenseful. The continued escalation of the conflict between Earth and Mars takes a much larger focus this week as Errinwright convinces the Secretary-General to launch a preemptive strike against Mars. Shawn Doyle, Jonathan Whittaker, and Elizabeth Mitchell as Errinwright, Sorrento-Gillis, and Anna, respectively, are all in top form and play off each other beautifully. Mitchell continues to be a great addition to the already highly talented and diverse cast.
Whittaker’s portrayal of Sorrento-Gillis has become increasingly nuanced as the character becomes more and more conflicted and pulled in opposite directions by Errinwright and Anna. Doyle’s portrayal of Errinwright is equally layered and fun to watch (even if we love to hate Errinwright). Does Errinwright actually feel bad that millions died due to his actions? Or is he just putting on a show? The deaths of at least 2 million people on Earth as a result of Errinwright and Sorrento-Gillis’s actions show that The Expanse writers aren’t afraid to commit to the premise of an all-out war between two superpowers. A war of that nature has consequences, and we suspect we’ve only just begun to see what those will be.
The conflicts on the Rocinante are no less entertaining to watch unfold, even if they might be painful for the characters in question. Avasarala and Bobbie clashing with Holden and the rest of the crew feels natural and unforced. Any scenes featuring Amos (Wes Chatham) and Prax (Terry Chen) are guaranteed to be entertaining, and their scenes in “Assured Destruction” are no exception. The heartfelt scene between Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Alex (Cas Anvar) beginning to make up and repair the broken family is especially notable as well.
With so many well-executed subplots and scenes, it’s difficult to find fault with “Assured Destruction.” The action was dialed down some this week. Some may find that somewhat disappointing. But that’s more of a minor nitpick than a flaw with the episode itself. The Expanse has always held back on large action sequences until the proper framework has been put in place, and the third season appears to be continuing with that approach.
Whew! The Expanse has been at full burn all season so far and “Assured Destruction” doesn’t even attempt to decelerate. Instead, it accelerates. Let’s hope we have enough juice to get through the rest of the season!