The Expanse: Season 1, Episode 6 - "Rock Bottom"

Elena Zhang

"Rock Bottom" marks a turning point in the journeys of our main characters, as The Expanse transitions to what promises to be an explosive second half of the season.

The Expanse

Airtime: Mondays, 9pm
Cast: Thomas Jane, Stephen Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 6 - "Rock Bottom"
Network: SyFy
Air date: 2016-01-12

So far, our little group of intrepid explorers on the Rocinante have been tossed and turned by a series of events, events orchestrated by something much larger than they can imagine. They started off as a humble crew of ice trawlers, and now suddenly they're the only witnesses to two ship destructions that could ignite an all-out war between Mars, Earth, and the Belt.

But as much as I've grown to love our rough-and-tumble crew, I'm weary of seeing them passively drift from one disaster to another. Thankfully, The Expanse agrees, and the crew is finally in a position to decide on their next course of action. Now, they can purposefully follow one disaster after another, as I'm sure that's where they're headed when they agree to take on Fred Johnson's (Chad Coleman) mission to rescue the Scopuli's Lionel Polanski.

The crew finally gets some reprieve on Tycho Station, as Holden (Steven Strait) works out the mission details with Fred. As they catch their breaths during this unexpected lull, we're treated to some more character-building moments that really strengthen their bond together as a weird kind of family, instead of simply being random strangers on a ship. The bonding moment between the two de-facto leaders, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Holden, was really very sweet, as we finally see Naomi crack a smile and let loose just a tiny bit.

Amidst all the relationship building comes Holden's long overdue confession to logging the Scopuli distress call and getting everyone into this mess in the first place. While his admission initially appears to drive a wedge between the crew members, his honesty instead further cements their trust in each other, as they all volunteer for the risky mission by Holden's side.

However, each crew member has their own reason for galloping off on the Rocinante. Holden seems the most altruistic, wanting to assuage his guilt for logging the distress call, and hoping to put an end to the crew's troubles once and for all. Naomi sees the mission as a favor to Johnson, and in return, she requests his help in finding a mysterious someone from her past. Alex (Cas Anvar) reveals that he didn't have what it took to fly big gunships (while once again alluding to having a family somewhere), and feels joyous when piloting the Rocinante.

As for Amos (Wes Chatham), well, we still don't know much about him, other than the fact that he grew up in a raunchy environment and is used to dealing with prostitutes. For all we know, he's joining the mission because the ship name reminds him of a woman he once knew. Let's face it: he's only going because Naomi is.

Giving everyone a different reason for joining this dangerous mission is a really smart way to lend depth to the characters while giving the audience a reason to care. It's certainly more believable than having everyone go for the vague motive of "doing what's right".

Speaking of flimsy motives, let's talk about Detective Miller (Thomas Jane). Did anyone else laugh out loud when Dawes (Jared Harris) suggested that the reason Miller is so interested in Julie Mao's (Florence Faivre) case is that he's fallen in love with her? I wanted to believe that Dawes made an error in judgment, or was simply goading Miller with an outlandish claim. Unfortunately, after seeing Miller subtly rebuff Octavia's (Athena Karkanis) romantic advances, I don't think that's the case.

Are we really to believe that Miller's raison d'etre, his willingness to risk career and his own life, can be reduced to a measly crush? A crush is all it could be, given that all he has to go on is her picture and some second-hand accounts of her political affiliations. It was only in the last episode that he learned that she sympathized with the plight of the miners. This is the kind of behavior I'd expect from a naïve soft-heart like Havelock, not Miller.

For all his professed cynicism and apathy, Miller should be the last person swayed by a pretty girl and a cause he doesn't even believe in. Oh, that's right, Miller doesn't even believe that Mao wanted to be OPA on her own accord. He thinks that Dawes manipulated her into joining. Because of course Julie’s just an innocent, hapless puppet who has no agency or free will of her own. Miller has an obvious savior complex, and given the fact that he doesn't even personally know Julie, he's reduced this independent woman to an idea in his head that he wants to rescue from herself. Because he's in love with her. Okay.

In other subplots, we finally check in briefly with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who is still using her ruthless and conniving methods to gather more information. The fact that she is being so overt about using her so-called friends emphasizes how much Chrisjen's struggling to get a handle on what's going on, and how much she hates being in the dark. Especially enlightening is the fact that the OPA killed her son, making this political battle extremely personal for her.

And finally, we're shown a vignette on two Belters who blew up an abandoned asteroid mine to sell the cargo. When a Martian ship catches them and leaves them without any fuel, the uncle throws his nephew out of the airlock (with his suit), and flings the cargo towards the Martian ship. It's a visceral way to show the escalating tensions between Belters and the inner planets, but still a little random to introduce a side story to a show that's already replete with disparate story threads. It's a reminder that The Expanse is based on a series of novels, and that there are probably dozens of side stories we're not privy to that build up this rich universe. It's a tricky balance to decide what should or should not be left out, and aside from this seemingly irrelevant plot, the show writers are doing an excellent job in adapting the book series.

Other Thoughts:

Anderson Dawes is doing a fantastic job in both making me sympathize with the OPA and disliking Miller even more. His story about killing his own sister was gut-wrenching, and makes Miller's apathy as a Belter seem even more despicable.

It appears that the OPA might be split into two different factions. Fred Johnson wants legitimacy with the UN, while Dawes wants revolution regardless of bloodshed and violence.

Johnson's motives might not be so pure, however, since he privately pulled a disk out of Lopez's (Greg Bryk) jacket. It seems "The Butcher" still has some secrets.

Julie Mao's mystery keeps unraveling, and now we know that Phoebe station was developing some sort of bio-weapon that the OPA was trying to steal. Someone else has it now, and is going through a lot of trouble to keep it safe.

Lionel Polanski has got to be a code name for Julie Mao, right?

Who was the man recording Holden at the bar, and to where did he uplink the video?

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