THE EXPANSE Review: “The Seventh Man”

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“The Seventh Man” is the seventh episode of ’s second season which I believe puts us over the halfway mark. Appropriately, it sets the stage for another story arc that promises new politics, intrigue, and mystery that builds on everything that’s come before.

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There is never enough Chrisjen in any of these episodes. Chrisjen as the voice of reason, seeking peace with Mars rather than provocation is a masterful scene. Chrisjen, like Holden, could come across as obnoxiously self-important in lesser hands, but the character balances flaws and virtues well enough that she’s likable and commanding rather than annoying. Unlike Holden, whose virtue is a flaw, what gives Chrisjen her gravitas are her firm grip on reason and the obvious enjoyment she gets out of pulling the strings of the entire solar system. She was only in this episode at the beginning and yet even in that short amount of time managed to save all of humanity. Chrisjen is a treasure. I was fully prepared for this to be an all-out peace conference full of negotiations, politics, prejudices, and more. I’m almost always expecting this to be space CSPAN. I suppose I have to wait until next week for that. Every single time an episode ends, I shout “NO!” at the screen. They make me want it that much.

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Instead of all grand, inner planet diplomacy between Earth and Mars, this episode was filled to the brim with Belter politics. That’s an acceptable substitute. Belters are socialist revolutionaries. If you pick apart the historical analogs, Earth is very similar to the British Empire, Mars is like the early United States, while the Belters are the exploited colonial labor. The similarities make for nice easy commentary that never preaches, just the way sci-fi should be. I love it so much. The return of Anderson Dawes—the O.P.A. leader from Ceres and a fairly prominent figure in the first season—ties multiple pieces together and provides a credible Belter-born figure to unite the O.P.A. and incite them to revolution against the inner planets. This episode sets an excellent stage for future conflict by sowing seeds of peace between Mars and Earth and seeds of war from the Belt. Both Fred Johnson and Holden try to calm Dawes’ talk of attacking the inner planets but since they’re both Earthers it just feeds the fire. I never get tired of people slamming Holden for his idealism, and yet also somehow I never get tired of his ideals.

In a similar vein, the conflict between Naomi and Holden is realistic without swallowing the story. Holden keeps spouting grand sentiments about peace and humanity while Naomi with her Belter sensibility is constantly forcing him to face the reality of situations and to understand the Belter perspective. I buy into their relationship (which is rare for me) and the believable tension between them enhances that realism. While Holden gets to play the big hero and Naomi is her usual buffer, Alex gets a fun chase scene at the end with the Roci and the rogue Belters. He takes so much joy in fancy flying that even though he barely had anything to do in most of this episode it still feels like he was present and got to play a significant part in the plot.

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I’m almost convinced they’re trying to kill me with Amos. The thing that finally cracked big, strong, Earth man with a weird emotional register is that he scared a little kid’s mom by accident. Help me? Not only that, the person he goes to to talk about his emotions is the creepy scientist who surgically had his own emotions removed. The whole speech about how you don’t really want your childhood back because you had to jettison it to survive touched a nerve for me. It also laid the ground for discussions of what the protomolecule is and what it’s doing. That was an excellent way to have both character growth and exposition at the same time. Wrapped up in that are the Belters stealing the scientist and escaping to find the protomolecule sample that Naomi neglected to destroy. So many threads! It’s incredibly satisfying to watch the consequences of characters’ actions play out whole episodes, or even whole seasons later. This is serialized storytelling at its best. It opts for plot and causality over manufactured high drama. It’s much more engaging to follow a story than for a series to constantly throw contrived twists.

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The last thread in this tapestry is Bobbie and the Martian Marines. They allow Bobby her emotions while letting her keep her grit and Frankie Adams nails every emotional tone. She’s angry, confused, hurt, and scared all at once and trying to tough her way through it. When she finally remembers what the hell happened to her, everyone is telling her to shut up and lie about it. At first she disrespectfully refuses then angrily consents. Let’s see if that consent stays in place once she makes it to Earth. And could there be a better person to send to an Earth/Mars peace conference than the war-loving patriotic Martian Marine? Talk about conflict! She has to go to the place she hates amongst the people she loathes to prevent the one thing that she’s been riled up for her whole life. I love this show. Also, two words: blood snowflakes. Bless the science in this series. They do it so well.

“The Seventh Man” tugs on a lot of threads, both old and new, to set a pattern for the story to come. It moves a lot of pieces around the board, but is so intriguing while it does so that you never get bored. What could be filler is instead informative and evocative.

TB-TV-Grade-A

Season 2, Episode 07
The Expanse airs Wednesday at 10PM on SyFy

Read all of our reviews of The Expanse here.
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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.
Follow Dana on Twitter: @DanaLeighBrand
Keep up with all of Dana’s reviews here.

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