Warning: spoilers ahead for episode five of season five of “The Expanse”
After the heart-pounding calamities that dominated episode four of the fifth season of “The Expanse,” it was to be expected that the show would take its foot off the gas pedal and primarily focus on the aftermath of recent tragic events on Earth and Mars.
Episode five, named “Down and Out,” indeed comes off downright placid following its predecessor. Yet, aside from a ghastly update informing us that Marco Inaros’s asteroid attacks on Earth have killed at least 2 million people, we’re left waiting at least one more week to find out how the remaining leadership of Earth and Mars will respond to what now amounts to the largest coordinated terrorist attack in the history of mankind.
Unfortunately for Earth, it appears the 2 million body count will rise dramatically in the days to come, as power grids fail across the planet — reaching as far as Holden’s family property in Montana — and Earth’s already stretched resources are pushed to the breaking point.
Chrisjen Avasarala, Admiral Delgado, and any remnants of the U.N. high command are off-screen this episode, as is any real Martian content save Alex and Bobbie inside the Razorback (camouflaged as The Screaming Firehawk). We do, however, receive confirmation that the attack on the Martian parliament was some sort of bombing, and not an asteroid attack like those that have crippled large swaths of Earth.
Quick shots confirm the locations of the first two asteroid hits (near Philadelphia and Senegal) and give us a fairly good indication that the third asteroid struck somewhere in the Gulf of Bengal off the eastern coast of India. Season five’s creative team is putting in an extra dose of effort to update the opening credits of “The Expanse” at the start of each new episode, a la “Game of Thrones.” The attention to such tiny details does not go unnoticed by the fanbase, and it’s much appreciated.
In the Chesapeake Conservation Zone in northern Virginia, Amos and Clarissa “Peaches” Mao awake in what’s left of the U.N. penitentiary known as “The Pit.” The aftershock from the Philly asteroid has leveled the facility and threatens to bury the duo alive, along with the handful of others who survived the cave-in due to working on the deepest levels of the prison.
There’s nothing wrong with calmer, “set-up” style episodes, but I’d be lying if I didn’t say this week’s episode felt underwhelming, especially when compared to the barnburner that was episode four. With two exceptions — Alex and Bobbie’s thrilling “hard g” piloting sequences, and Naomi’s near assassination of Marco — “Down and Out” features more than a few wasted or partially unfulfilled opportunities.
Case in point: Amos and Clarissa escaping “The Pit.” What was set up to be a horror-filled, intense escape through dozens of cybernetically “modified” murderers and rapists turned into cutting back-and-forth between breaking into an elevator, and finding, then climbing, a “maintenance ladder” nonsensically hidden behind a metal panel with no opening mechanism.
Instead of Amos and Clarissa wading through numerous threats, we get one, the only named inmate from episode four: Konecheck, a massive, “modified” man who Amos dryly and derisively keeps calling “Tiny.”
When they finally near the end of the ladder out of the elevator shaft, Mao begins to realize the level of devastation that awaits them on the other side. “How can that be daylight?” she exclaims. “There’s a whole building up there.” Well, not anymore. The impact of the Philly asteroid and its aftereffects has utterly leveled the compound. This means, sadly, that Amos has apparently now lost the blue mug from his childhood, Eric’s expensive bottle of tequila, his Oni pin, and the bag he stole from Murtry.
In a terrifying moment, Konecheck kills one of the guards helping them get out, and a brutal fight ensues. Just as Konecheck appears to be seconds away from brutally killing Amos, Mao activates her own modification implant, and juices up.
The viewer expects a showdown between her and Konecheck. Instead, using a brilliant moment of misdirection, Rona — the lead security guard assisting them — fires two rounds into Konecheck’s chest. Amos seizes the opportunity, temporarily stuns Konecheck by kicking him where the sun doesn’t shine, then suplexes him down the elevator shaft to his doom. It’s a wild moment and almost vindicates the tedium getting to that point.
Wes Chatham demonstrates once again that he was about as perfect casting for Amos Burton as one could hope. Chatham has the quiet intensity necessary to make Amos intimidating, yet also possesses the physical gravitas to unleash mayhem when the situation demands it.
On Tycho Station, while still reeling from the shocking death of Fred Johnson, Holden and Bull attempt to interrogate Sakai, Marco’s devilishly grinning “inside girl” on Tycho. She fails to reveal anything, however, and Holden and Bull leave to track down the OPA ship Zemya, which holds the last known sample of the deadly protomolecule.
Fortunate for Holden’s temporary Tycho crew of the Rocinante, Naomi discovers the Roci has been fatally sabotaged, and if the ship’s reactor is fully powered before takeoff, it’s game over. She gets in touch with Holden just in time to prevent disaster.
One does wonder why the Roci didn’t get a full look-over since Holden knew Sakai oversaw its repairs. It’s possible that the specific sabotage used (similar to what the OPA did back on Augustine Gamarrah) would be hard to spot for someone outside of Marco’s team, but if so, this could have been made more evident.
The episode concludes with Alex and Bobbie discovering rogue Martians aren’t just selling weapons tech to OPA terrorists, but entire warships. When the pair are spotted, Alex is forced to use every trick in his arsenal of piloting experience to get them out alive. The episode ends with things not looking so good.
Although not as exhilarating or dramatic as “Gaugamela,” the episode was still a delight to watch and featured several reminders of the show’s depth and quality. The next episode is called “Tribes,” which may indicate that we’ll get the juicy showdown between Drummer’s nascent OPA faction and Marco Inaros that seems, at this point, to be inevitable.