THE EXPANSE is always a joy to watch and “Cascade” is no exception. This episode doesn’t just balance all the Belter, Earther, and Martian plots against each other but it manages to leave enough time and space for the characters to process all of the world-changing events that are happening to them even as those events march on around them. Everything about this episode was so beautiful that I can’t even begin to cover it so I’ll just address my favorite things in no particular order.
Last week I thought I finally got my episode of Chrisjen and Bobbie playing politics. I figured they would leave it at that. “Cascade” is even more about Chrisjen, Bobbie, Earth, and Mars and it’s even better. Chrisjen refuses to give up on getting the truth out of Bobbie and keeps pressing the Martians for the full details of the Ganymede incident. I particularly liked the line about how the Martians were use peace as a distraction. Talk about some strange diplomacy! While my actual favorite part with Chrisjen involved her finding Bobbie, the other thing of note was that her fellow UN Under Secretary Errinwright came directly to her with all of his illegal and immoral activity. That’s something that could have been dragged out for an eternity, especially because Chrisjen investigating his activities provided so much of the intrigue on the Earth side. Instead, Errinwright has an understandable change of heart and brings everything to the one person who he both knows suspects him and who he knows can possibly make it right. I stopped reading the novels before I figured out what the crazy thing that attacked Bobbie and company was. I’m happy to report that the way they’ve presented the information here is much better than trying to string out a mystery and it’s also so nice to watch this show with fresh eyes again. I absolutely detest spoilers to the point where I can’t even watch episode previews of shows that I really like, so it was dumb of me to read ahead even a little bit in these novels.
Every single shred of Bobbie’s part in this episode was beyond amazing. She’s reprimanded for not sticking to the story she was told to tell, but she remains defiant even through the dressing down. When she’s told she’s getting sent back to Mars without seeing the ocean, she frickin’ pries out the window and runs away so she can see it. Her motives for running away, and her earnest desire just to get a glimpse of the sea are so innocent and idealistic that Bobbie brought me to tears at least four times watching this. While out and about, she sees the truly awful conditions that Earthers must endure and has to confront her preconceived ideas about people from Earth. That comes through especially well when she meets the man who is willing to help her if she trades her bone density drugs with him. She leaps to the conclusion that he’s a drug dealer but it turns out that he’s a man whose number never came up in the lottery to train for a profession and instead of preying on people he cares for everyone who the system forgot. So, while Martians talk smack about Earthers being lazy and not appreciating what they have, Bobbie gets to see the detrimental effects of combining advanced technology and overpopulation. It shakes her worldview in the best of ways. To add even more touchingly wonderful flavor: she does find the ocean and Chrisjen, in turn, finds her at the shore and is 100% open about sharing all the information about the attack on Ganymede. Bobbie already had depth and conflict, but now she gets to process the dissonance between what her beloved Martian Marines are telling her and the information that she’s getting from Chrisjen. Could this show possibly be better?
Because Bobbie and Chrisjen apparently weren’t enough, Amos continues to be one of my favorite things. I have character types and I feel like, with Amos, they’re pressing as hard as they can on my “amoral bruiser with a heart of gold” thing to see how far they can go until they break it. I’m not sure they can break it. Amos sees situations clearly, assesses them purely by how much harm the people involved could potentially do to others, and then acts accordingly. Anything more high level than that and it just doesn’t matter to him. I like that he’s not just protective of women and children which would be basic patriarchal nonsense. Instead, he’s protective of anyone and everyone who he sees is in danger or who is about to be taken advantage of. I mean, what is there to stop anyone from beating an exploitative scam artist to a pulp? Nothing except a moral code that the scam artist doesn’t adhere to. If your own code is simply “I use my strength to protect people who are being hurt” then it follows that using violence against someone actively hurting people is completely fine. I think I like characters like Amos because their moral scales of the universe are liberated from cultural ideas of what’s right and wrong; they simply follow their own judgment about risk and that tends to be right.
“Cascade” also has the Prax and his endearing scientific mind. Prax is from Ganymede and therefore knows the station the best, but he also is intimately acquainted with the way the station works and gives a succinct, beautiful explanation of both how the life support systems should work and how they’re failing. Prax gets moments of pathos while looking for his daughter and also while mourning the downward spiral of the station. It was a great way to note how important Ganymede is to the societies in the outer solar system and it’s refreshing to see a scientist who is both highly intelligent but also a warm, emotional human being.
As for the rest of the Roci crew, I quite liked that specifically Holden was peripheral to this episode. Sure, he got to be his gung-ho righteous self, but this was less about him and more about Prax and Amos. Holden, as group leader, was just structurally necessary. He also showed a bit of a dark streak when he forcefully held Naomi back from stopping Amos from beating in a man’s skull. Naomi is disgruntled with everyone’s less-than-upright actions, as ever, but Naomi isn’t nearly as sanctimonious about her ideals. Alex doing zero-g beer gymnastics was a brief moment of comic relief, punctuating by returning to the joke from Bobbie’s storyline about Martians having terrible music. He was in this for like two minutes but they were important for moving the story forward as he heard the call about the no-fly zone around Ganymede station. I appreciate the way this show only includes things that further the story. It’s quite well done in that regard. Overall, the Roci crew continued their mission on Ganymede to find Prax’s daughter and understand why traces of the protomolecule showed up there without monopolizing the plot the way they sometimes do. I appreciate that too.
“Cascade” was basically all of the best things about The Expanse distilled. Awesome, complex characters dealt with emotionally trying situations that allowed both the plot to advance and everyone to change and grow.
Season 2, Episode 10 (S02E10)
The Expanse airs Wednesday at 10PM on SyFy
Dana is a digitization archivist by day and a masked pop culture avenger by night. She spreads the gospel of science fiction and fantasy wherever she goes.
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Dana Leigh Brand | Contributor