Tuesday 17 December 2019

The Expanse - We're here to help.

The Expanse: 4x04 Retrograde.

I think as unique as Avasarala is, and as different as their backgrounds are, the closest to her cynical realism that any other character on this show comes (well, perhaps with the exception of Amos, but he's not much interested in big power politics) is Camina Drummer. She's worked her way up in the OPA, she's managed to help make the OPA a credible player on the political scene, one that can stand up to its great rivals and oppressors Earth and Mars, but this credibility comes at a high cost: a lack of credibility with the very people she represents. Belters have been oppressed and subjugated by the Inners for generations, they have seen the wealth of the Belt exploited, their hard labour stolen, without seeing any of the fruits of that labour. It is a long and one-sided history that this newly found association cannot paint over. When Marco Inaros is delivered to Drummer and Ashford, and they are ready to make short work of the pirate, in part because of their very personal grudges against him (Drummer) and because their allies demand that someone be held responsible for the dead colonists that were floated, it doesn't take long for Drummer to realise the extent of their burden. Marco is a revolutionary, he is the gift of speaking eloquently and convincingly of the struggle of the Belt, he is, ultimately, one of them, engaged in a fight that only a few months ago would have called a fight for freedom, rather than the act of terrorism that the Inners see. He does not accept that the Rings have changed anything about the situation of the Belt, if anything, he comprehends that they represent the same danger to the Belt's way of life that they do to Mars': a life downwell does not mix well with how the Belt has always lived, and the Belt has always been rich, without its inhabitants enjoying any of these riches. He argues, convincingly, that the appearance of the ring gates has not changed the former oppressor. He argues convincingly enough that two OPA factions agree that he should be freed after sharing his spoils with them. 
Ashford sees him as the danger that he is, and wants him dealt with quickly, by getting rid of him. Drummer ends up being the deciding vote, and in the most shocking moment of the episode, she decides to free him as well, because she understands how politics work. If she had decided to kill him, than the factions within the OPA, which is a fragile and precarious alliance of wildly differing groups, would have opened right back up. And she also knows that there is a good chance that Marco is right about the inevitable betrayal of the Inners. It's an interesting decision precisely because she hates him so very much personally for what he has done to Naomi (and, a sidenote, how great is it that The Expanse keeps hinting at how serious Naomi and Drummer were back in the day, up to where Marco mocks her for Naomi now not being with her, and instead siding with the Inners, pressing all of her buttons). It's the correct political decision in the moment, but also a very, very historical one, because who knows what Marco Inaros will go on to do now, especially after what he's hinted to Ashford is an alliance with the demoralised factions on Mars. 

This is the other side of the coin, right there on Mars, with Bobbie trying and failing to clean up the mess she made. Mars has lost its entire raison d'être after the peace treaty with the UN. It's two aspects that make up Martian identity: full employment through military expansion (Mars has always been shown to be a highly militaristic society, almost to the extent of Starship Trooper's "service guarantees citizenship") - a contrast to Earth's issues with having masses of its people unemployed and on Basic - and the prospect of terraforming the planet into a place that is habitable on the surface without the massive underground system that currently supports life. The former has ended because the peace treaty, the latter is now meaningless because there are endless habitable planets beyond the gates that do not require a generational effort. For the first time, Bobbie sees lines of unemployed Martians lining up to be placed in jobs, and for the first time, after quitting her job because all she finds when she commits to her crimes is people who want her to commit more of them, she herself is unemployed. It's a new world, one she does not recognise. And in the end, she finds herself in a cell, and is recruited for full-time work by Esai (except in the back of my mind I'm suspecting she's going undercover to figure out what's happening, and she'll be on the other end of discovering whatever alliance Marco was talking about). 

On Ilus, Amos, furious, tries to attack Mortry's team, and is arrested for the effort. Naomi tries to protect Lucia, who admits to her that she had something to do with the plot to blow up the landing platform (it's a nice mirroring of what Naomi, back in the day, did for Marco, without realising the extent of his willingness to kill people for his cause), and everyone makes it back to the Rocinante safely except Amos, who remains in custody. Everyone except Holden, who disarms Murtry (and what a decision, by the way, to have the equivalent of a violent and sociopathic colonialist be played by Burn Gorman) and goes back to do the freaking job an increasingly frustrated and politically under threat Avasarala gave him. And in orbit, Doctor Fayez on the RCE vessel Edward Israel discovers that there are a whole more machines buried underground on Ilus, just waiting to wake up from their billion-year slumber (and I'm guessing everyone's eyes are starting to itch, as well).

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