605: Why We Fight

Plot points

  • On Laconia, the strange dogs resurrect Xan.
  • The Martian strike force is destroyed by Marco’s newly installed railguns around the Ring station.
  • Drummer gives the supplies she took from Marco’s depot to Ceres.
  • Drummer loses her remaining family, Josep and Michio, and sees Naomi again.
  • Avasarala and Drummer strike an alliance against Marco.

Continuity

Opening credits changes:

  • The structure around the Ring station are complete with the railguns in place.
  • Lots of callbacks to how the characters have evolved. With just the finale left and a lot of plot, this is perhaps the last chace we’ll get to sit and look back at character.
  • Avasarala muses that she has “gone soft”, looking for ways to minimize deaths instead of ordering around military strikes. She is definitely not the same character that used to gravity-torture Belters for information (she refers to that event here, “On Earth, I once put a Belter up on hooks, to suffocate him”, 101): “that is who I was. It is not who I am now.”
  • It’s a well-known fact that Amos is all sex and booze when he has free time (203). Amos was also drunk when he was unsure of himself and who to follow (208), here it’s because he’s been disappointed at Holden’s decision to disarm the missile that would have destroyed the Pella.
  • “Then what difference does it make if you’re good or bad, then?” The discussion between Amos and Bobbie, on finding one’s own family/tribe and standing up for it, is similar to the discussion between Amos and Clarissa (at the survivalist’s hut, 506): both end with Amos realizing that he has a reconstructed family on the Roci and longs to return to it.
  • As for Bobbie, her definition of family is expressed in military terms, as if she were talking about her long-lost Marine platoon (206): “In the end, the only thing that matters is fighting for who’s covering your flank”. It is about her platoon, but it is no longer about Mars, she is no longer a nationalist. She tried politics and she still hates it.
  • Clarissa is reminded of her father Jules-Pierre with the applications of protomolecule research: new hull plating. Clarissa has come a long way, from defending her father’s legacy and family pride when fist introduced (307) to seeing value in cooperation (313) to rejecting everything she and her father stood for (504) and finding a new family in Amos and the Roci (seasons 5 and 6). She has been humbled by many things. Seeing a positive aspect in what her father believed in and being receptive to that is another step in her maturation.
  • Avasarala and Drummer’s physical meeting is preceded by a virtual meeting. “Fred Johnson spoke well of you”: Avasarala previously exchanged with Fred (about Jules-Pierre Mao’s research, 203) and Fred previously acted as an intermediary between Drummer and Avasarala (warning of Marco’s attack, 503).
  • Another returning character in a season full of returning characters! Elvi Okoye was a main character during season 4 and was last seen in a video message in 501, detailing her research on the mysterious ‘red dragon’ protomolecule-destroyers. As per the display, she is at a lab on Europa (a moon of Jupiter). This season has accomplished so much and condensed so much plot with video messages and displays and quick lines of dialogue!
  • “You said that every time you transit, you can feel those entities getting angrier”: a reference to Holden’s perceptions enhanced by the protomolecule from the end of season 3 (313) and throughout season 4 (until proto-Miller was destroyed by those same entities).
  • The doctor that treats Josep has his clinic “in Midtown, outside Green Zone”. Midtown is one of the Ceres metro stations, Miller was there at the start of 107.
  • Drummer to her remaining family: “I never loved you because you were fighters. I loved you because you were builders.” A line full of positive energy, full of hope for humanity — but war got in the way. Similar to Fred Johnson to Holden (501): “My life really didn’t begin until I stopped fighting and started building.”
  • Naomi and Drummer had a video call in 401, but they haven’t actually been in the same place since season 3 (313)!
  • “Archangel is in the dock”: “Archangel” is Avasarala’s code name among UN security (first mentioned in 201).
  • Bags of red beans and rice in the Ceres dock: up for some red kibble?
  • Drummer left Medina station telling Ashford that she didn’t want anything to do with politics anymore (410). Well, that didn’t work out!

Analysis

  • Laconia prologue:
  • The strange dogs “waiting” for Cara and departing after “delivering” Xan to Cara reinforce the feeling that they are like obeying orders, like a biological-technological hybrid system run by the protomolecule.
  • Xan wonders: “What does it mean to be in substrate?” Substrate is, in biology, the surface on which, or the medium in which an organism grows, like soil for plants. Is this something Xan heard from his biologist parents while he was…dead? Is this new knowledge that he catches on with his new awareness?
  • “Everything looks…different”: I bet Xan is a bit like the protomolecule hybrids like Katoa (302-306). Only that he has blue-black eyes, instead of becoming a “monster” entirely.
  • “Never saw that before”: since everything protomolecule is interconnected, does Xan perceive the protomolecule aboard the structure orbiting the planet, beyond the trees?
  • Xan surrounded by those strage dogs: Pet Sematary vibes!
  • We finally learn what Marco has been receiving from Laconia and what they have been installing, teased since 601 and slowly revealed during the opening credits: a system of railguns on the alien Ring station. Definite Star Wars Death Star vibes! With six big railguns that can be directed towards any direction in the Ring space, Marco and Laconia have created a failsafe system to protect the “choke point” (as per Sauveterre, 502) and defend the access to 1300 systems.
  • More precisely, plasma railguns. The projectiles are plasma, not a solid slug.
  • “They mounted the guns on titanium bands laid right along the surface. The assembly holds itself together. And since the station has effectively infinite inertia, it’s a perfect emplacement.” As we know from 310, the Ring station uses physics humanity does not understand, when it changed the inertia of all items inside the Ring space (what became the Slow Zone). An object with infinite inertia is impossible to move: the Ring station is fixed in the centre of the Ring space. That also means that there is zero kickback from firing those railguns.
  • “The railgun is a Martian design, but it’s made out of a metal we’ve never seen before”: made by the Martians in Laconia but using additional protomlecule technology?
  • The six MCRN ships and their torpedoes approach the Sol Ring from the periphery, on a purpendicular plane to the Sol-Ring axis, and kept dark (no engine power) until the last moment, in order to avoid detection.
    “Plasma only, no nukes”: Kirino specifies not to use nuclear weapons inside the Ring space: she doesn’t want to awake the Ring station again (310) and threaten to destroy the solar system! Bobbie also explains this to Gareth later.
  • The railgun strikes on the MCRN ships lasts just a couple of frames. Insane!
  • Kirino meets her end with the raid on the Ring station. A sad end for such a fine strategist (see 305), going all in without knowing exactly what’s beyond the Sol Ring.
  • Without Kirino, we are left without a real viewpoint character for Mars. The new MCRN officer on the Zenobia is almost deferential to Avasarala, as if Avasarala were making the decisions for all Inners by now. In general, the show would have benefitted from having a Martian equivalent of Avasarala for a few seasons now.
  • “If Inaros gets behind the guns, the farms on Medina will be able to provision his forces indefinitely”: again, the food/resources theme. I want to see what Medina looks like inside now, that dream of the Mormons of a garden of Eden! (203)
  • Avasarala ignores the MCRN and all her UN advisors and doesn’t think that they should act as fast as possible to intercept Marco before he enters Ring space. Yes, the UNN and MCRN are spread thin, but it’s not clear what she plans to do to increase their chances. Bringing part of the Belters in the combined Earth-Mars fleet will take time, time that Marco will use to get settled and prepared at Medina station and the Ring space.
  • Thankfully, Drummer arrives with supplies, which frees the Inners from the “humanitarian trap” set up by Marco.
  • Bad news for Marco. “Iapetus declares neutrality, Inaros-Free Navy support down 63%”. Free Navy loyalists are killed or expelled. It’s just one station on a moon of Saturn, but it could be the beginning of a tide. Still, Marco persists, and indeed if he wins then he could “just” lose one system, Sol, and gain 1300 others.
  • “Was your father big in your life?”: Rosenfeld has a way of suddenly getting very personal while still meaning business, it’s almost comical how she gets away with it!
  • Filip feels for Tadeo and breaks the rules to find information about the fate of Tadeo’s brother on Ceres — will this data query result in the others pinpointing the location of Marco’s Free Navy fleet?
  • Tadeo about breaking the rules: “I wasn’t thinking about me”: this shows to Filip selflessness; would Marco have done the same for Filip, he must be thinking?
  • Once more, the two sides of Filip: on the one hand, we have a scene with Marco as a proud father when he sees the recording of Filip’s rousing speech from the previous episode; and on the other hand, we have a scene where Filip cries together with Tadeo because of more death, empathizing with Tadeo’s feeling of guilt in being behind this death. Where will this go? I wouldn’t want to be next to a radicalized psychologically tortured teenager when all this tension explodes.
  • How tragically ironic that Tadeo was in the crew that installed the explosives that eventually killed his brother on Ceres! That’s what happens in civil wars, family members killing each other in the name of ideology that makes complete sense to them right then, but are a source of regret after the fact.
  • The UNN provides the Roci with hull reinforcement that is derived from protomolecule research. “Carbon silicate lace plating”, “new metallurgy”, “same stuff they’ve got on UNN One [Zenobia]”. Indeed, it was noticeable in 601 that the Zenobia has hull plating with a complex hexagonal pattern that is different from the plain metal hulls of the UNN ships we have been used to. It’s good that studying the alien technology of the protomolecule did not only result in weapons (the plot of seasons 1-3) but also new science put to good use, like this plating or Prax’s new way to produce food elements.
  • Avasarala mentions that Prax’s solution seems to be working (Avasarala does not name Prax — possibly Amos kept his identity secret). Together with Drummer’s supplies to Ceres, the food problem seems to become less acute (but I imagine that there will still be victims of famine on Earth…).
  • Naomi’s research into the disappearing ships is enriched by Elvi’s research. “There is a mass-energy threshold which precedes or perhaps triggers these events”: too much traffic and the ‘red dragon’ entities are awakened? It’s a good thing that these protomolecule-destroying entities allow some traffic, using the protomolecule Ring network, otherwise the series would have ended sooner! But this has huge implications in how much of an actual colonization effort and trade route network can be built across these 1300 worlds. “With 1300 systems and hundreds of colonies under your thumb, as much metal as we can mine, as many shipyards as we can build”: Rosenfeld might need to rethink that! The future of humanity might be closer to loosely interconnected islands instead of an interstellar empire.
  • In Elvi’s analysis display, there are several mathematical analysis graphs (correlation, regression) and there’s an x-y graph of the mass-energy threshold comparison, plotting “B.E. (eV)” versus “Intensity Normalized (??)” (on a log-scale). The meaning of the graph should be clear, the label of the axes not that much. BE (eV) could be Billion Electronvolts (eV), a measure of energy.
  • “Do you think they’re trying to get out?”: that’s a theory, but as far as we can tell they are not “constrained”. These entities destroyed the protomolecule and are since dormant and only awoke because of the active protomolecule that was brought over from the Sol System. They could be an automated system created by another race, in the same way the protomolecule is a technology, not the alien race itself.
    “This is bigger than the war”: a reminder of the existential threat of these things out there! Seasons 5 and 6 have focused on the human-political drama in the Sol System while the extraterrestrial mystery has taken a step back after all the revelations of seasons 3 and 4. Here’s to hoping for a season 7!
  • After the medical analysis in her One Ship extra episode, this is the second time that Avasarala’s health is brought up. She is under enormous stress (that moment when she enjoys the weightlessness in 601), both mental but also physical (the accelerations and maneuvers of space travel). “It’s just a stimulant” (yeah, right). “This is no time to worry about the swim back”: she is giving it everything she has. Is this foreshadowing that she won’t be making it out of this alive?
  • Amos’s characterization of Holden is spot-on and is up there with the best lines of the show: “Sometimes it feels like he’s trying to get us killed. Then a couple times, he saved the whole human race, so I guess it balances out.” Bobbie adds: “Not a man who does things by degrees.” This comes right after Holden runs to Avasarala about sharing information with Marco and get called “the most naive person I’ve ever met”! Holden has matured in some ways, but some things have remained the same.
  • “With you? Or with you?” “Whatever.” Oh wow, what a way to defuse all that tension ever since Bobbie came onboard the Roci! The Amos-Bobbie fight in their One Ship extra episode retrospectively feels like foreplay!
  • And look at Amos, all lipstick and scratches and glitter! A lot of bisexual vibes in this scene! As long as the brothel is union, they’ll be all right (Amos making sure the johns treat the prostitutes right in 106).
  • Future medicine can’t do miracles! Due to complications, Josep won’t be getting his hand regrown after all, he will have to settle for a cybernetic arm (some people prefer it this way, see Cant crewmember in 101!). That little embryo of a hand looked very creepy, like something out of Lynch’s Dune or out of a Cronenberg movie!
  • Michio chooses to compromise with a life even under “the Inners’ yoke” if it means that she will be there for Josep, the family that she loves. Josep understands that Drummer would rather leave for the war as soon as possible and he can’t follow. That shot where Michio gets up and stands at Drummer’s eyeline is Michio drawing a line for her; she is a stronger character than what we thought.
  • In her message to Drummer, Naomi puts back on her Belter accent, nice!
  • The reunion of Drummer and Naomi is an emotional highlight of the entire series, full of the weight of all the previous seasons and full of double meanings and unsaid things. It’s not just the dead-end Drummer finds herself in as a Belter, forced to choose to make an alliance with the Inners/Avasarala or wait to get killed by some bounty hunter paid by Marco, although the whole scene could be read just on this geopolitical level. It’s also the dead-end she finds herself in in her personal relationships: her family disintegrated, first with Serge, Oksana and Bertold (510), now with Michio and Josep (perhaps temporarily?). The other person she could turn to is right there, Naomi, all smiling and warm, but at the same time so distant, dedicated to Holden and unreceptive to anything that could go beyond just friendship with Drummer. Since their time on the Behemoth (307-309) and especially since the One Ship extra episode on her, we know that Drummer has strong unrequited feelings for Naomi, feelings that she hasn’t expressed. When Naomi tells her she’s there on Holden’s request and, ironically, tells her that “all we can do now is to stand by the people that we love”, instead of “I love you” all that comes out of Drummer is “fuck you, you self-righteous shit”. Fanfic fuel.
  • Initially, Drummer and Naomi stand across the room from each other at first, with awkward pregnant silences; they progressively come closer, and finally Drummer breaks her composure — only once! — with that hug that means so much for her. So much tragedy packed in those moments. Wow.
  • “I wish there were another way. I tried to find one, but there isn’t.” “Then we have to make one.” Another statement of the macro-story of The Expanse: to build a way forward when the world serves you only with dead-ends.
  • Which brings us to the meeting of two of the most powerful characters and people in the System, Avasarala and Drummer, an event we have been waiting for for several seasons! I cherish every shot showing their body stance, every line of dialogue. These are two people who, years ago, would have imprisoned or killed each other (Avasarala’s “Earth must come first”, Drummer’s disdain of Inners) and who are still uncomfortable working with each other but who see that the circumstances call for cooperation — a compromise, not a betrayal. They have both lost their families in this ordeal (Avasarala her son and husband, Drummer her polyamorous partners). They are both pulled by forces not to compromise (see Paster’s administration in 506-509, Avasarala’s fears of “going soft”, Sanjrani calling Drummer out as “the Inners’ favorite pet”). Neither of them wants to appear to be the one being weak or in a position of begging: they meet in public, in front of people (and Monica’s camera eye), not in either’s ship. They stand their ground. They don’t care for the niceties of diplomacy, they go straight to the point.
  • “I have given your people many reasons to hate me, but none to think I’m a liar.” “My people will not take orders from you.” Handshake. History in the making. Goosebumps.
  • “When the last shot is fired, when Marco is dead, will you remember us?”: The powers that be are already thinking about post-war reconstruction, same as the Allied forces during World War II. Also, is that foreshadowing for Marco’s fate?
  • Avasarala is the one that first reached out to Drummer, and in order to do that she used Holden and then Naomi.
  • Drummer has won the respect of many a Belter, by standing up to Marco and delivering those supplies back to Ceres and the people. A Belter citizen urges her to bypass the Inner checkpoints, “Don’t waste your time on this, you have more important things to do.” Whereas Sanjrani, also a potential leader of the Belters, keeps her position of just wanting the Inners out of Ceres and out of the Belters’ way — Sanjrani is a stand-in for a large part of the Belters, that is not radicalized by Marco but doesn’t want to compromise with who has been their oppressor for centuries, it’s hard to blame them of being close-minded.
  • Frankly, I expected Sanjrani to play a bigger role in shaping the future of the Belt, they seemed intelligent (scientific background) and competent (pointing out Marco’s shortcomings in logistics in 601), instead of being sidelined like this. Maybe Dawes too, for whom they are a representation, would also have been too concentrated on pleasing their constitutents instead of making a leap of trust with the Inners in this dire situation.
  • “A century of oppression made Marco Inaros inevitable. If not him, there would have been another.”: this is a statement of what The Expanse is about, if there is one! Marco is an expression of socio-politico-economic processes that started before him; these processes shaped Marco’s character and produced somebody who would incarnate collective desires. Marco’s personal story, character traits, political charisma and means of resistance to the Inners are specific to him, but the Belters’ condition is such that if it were not for him somebody else like him would have emerged eventually. In Hegelian-Marxist terms, he was inevitable; but the Inners-Belters situation was not. The processes have also produced the likes of Avasarala and Drummer and another way forward is possible. This level of socio-political awareness, instead of just interpersonal drama for the sake of drama, is what makes The Expanse stand out not just among genre shows but TV shows in general.
  • This is reminiscent of a quote by John F. Kennedy on non-violent revolution: “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.” And that’s in the context of the Alliance for Progress between the USA and Latin America in 1962 — knowing how much the USA intervened in Latin American countries’ political systems throughout the 20th century, that’s rich, and tells you much about the complexity of politics!
  • Lang Belta moment: the PA message on Ceres:
    Fo ademeshang fo da Sonya Geríng imim mowteng xudzho valit, unte kowl Belta mowteng gif sif fo verifikashang ide unte sekáng sekuri. / Admission to the Green Zone requires a valid permit, and all Belters must submit to ID verification and security scan.
    Sili to mebi avita, imim gonya leta go to fongi fode. / If you resist, you will be arrested.

Behind the scenes

  • Title note: “Why We Fight” was a well-known piece of propaganda that explained to the public and soldiers why the USA was joining the Second World War, directed by Frank Capra. The episode definitely has an antebellum “calm before the storm” feeling. Is Monica’s report series also called that?
  • In front of Drummer and Sanjrani on the queue to enter Ceres is none other than the director of photography Jeremy Benning making a cameo!
  • This was the last episode of the series shot (606 shot with 601) — making that handshake perhaps the last scene ever shot.
  • Well, this is the longest review yet — and it is not the finale!

One thought on “605: Why We Fight

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