The Expanse season five has somehow already reached episode six with “Tribes,” a somewhat calmer installment that’s still packed with action and incredible character work, especially for Cara Gee’s Drummer and Wes Chatham’s Amos. Tensions are sky-high as the season enters its second half.
If you haven’t watched “Tribes” yet, stop right there and go see why Amos’ surprised face and naked torso are covered in blood. You won’t be sorry! Then we can talk all about it below.
It’s time to check back in with Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who wasn’t in last week’s episode but is still worried sick about her husband, who hasn’t responded to any of her messages since the asteroid strike near New York. Her vigil is interrupted when a visitor bursts into her office: Minister of Transportation David Paster (Sugith Varughese), who is now, thanks to a lot of dead people in the line of succession, acting in the late Nancy Gao’s stead as UN Secretary-General. It’s his first time off-planet, he’s having trouble adjusting to Luna’s gravity, and he awkwardly blunders around Avasarala’s obvious anguish—but at least he knows to ask her to join his team of advisers. She agrees, of course, but before she heads into the meeting, we get a rare glimpse of Avasarala at her most vulnerable (in a lovely moment from Aghdashloo) as she adjusts her giant, bejeweled necklace with trembling hands and gathers her composure. It’s time to compartmentalize her grief, however temporarily, and get back out there to fight for Earth.
Speaking of which, that’s where we head next, to find Amos (Wes Chatham) and Peaches (Nadine Nicole) taking stock of their situation: a frozen landscape, a lack of supplies, and the presence of cops who view Peaches (still shaking off the effects of her blocker drugs) as a deadly threat. Amos suggests they head to Baltimore—“I know some people there, the kind you want to be around in times like this,” he says, glossing over the fact that Erich (Jacob Mundell) warned him never to return—so they strike out into the post-apocalyptic wilderness.
On Tycho, Holden (Steven Strait) is overseeing the re-repair of the Roci in the wake of the Free Navy’s failed sabotage attempt when Monica (Anna Hopkins) barges aboard and announces she’s coming on the protomolecule hunt. Holden and Bull (José Zúñiga) are immediately against it (Bull’s literal reaction is “No fucking way!”) but Monica is persuasive, arguing that she’s the only reason they have any idea where the stolen sample is going, and also pointing out that if she stays on Tycho, she’ll likely be targeted by kidnappers yet again.
It works. Monica stays. But Holden’s got other things on his mind besides the protomolecule, namely Naomi (Dominique Tipper), especially since the only message he’s gotten from her—the one that saved the Roci—ended with her screaming about being held prisoner by Marco (Keon Alexander). We see that he has a saved but unread message from her, sent as she departed on her journey to find Filip (Jasai Chase Owens). The subject line is “IF SOMETHING GOES WRONG.” He stares at it, guessing what’s in it but not wanting to accept that things have gone “wrong” enough to hear its contents.
Last week’s cliffhanger finally gets resolved after the opening credits, as we see the Razorback, which holds Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams), is being boarded by the pissed-off Belters who’ve just lost one of their Martian ships to Alex’s reactor maneuver. Make that almost boarded, since Bobbie emerges in her power armor to blast all intruders, while Alex sneaks over and plants a grenade on their ship. It’s dicey but they slip away just in time as the ship explodes; per Alex: “Suck on that, motherfuckers!”
There’s a decidedly less jubilant mood over on the Pella, where Marco is furious to learn that the Roci (“a grand symbol of inner-Belter unity”) has not been blasted into oblivion, but is instead in pursuit of the Zmeya, the ship carrying the protomolecule. Filip and Cyn (Brent Sexton) hang their heads, feeling responsible since Naomi sent the warning, to which Marco has a simple solution: “Space her.” Cyn ain’t having it and gets right in Marco’s face about it—if Marco wants her gone, he can take care of it himself—and Marco makes Filip choose. When the kid decides to spare her life, Marco announces “My son has a kind heart,” with total disdain, as if it’s the worst thing he can imagine.
Filip marches to Naomi’s cell to yell at her— “You deserve to die for what you did!”—and is surprised when she smiles in relief. His anger has given her proof that she succeeded, and the Roci didn’t explode. A tense conversation follows, and they argue over Marco: “He’s a visionary, doing what no other Belter has ever done!” “He made you a murderer. You ended millions of ordinary lives. You haven’t felt the price of it yet, but someday you will.”
Meanwhile, on their wintery trek to Baltimore, Amos asks Peaches about her famous father while he rummages through the belongings of a corpse they find on the trail. She admits she doesn’t know if Jules-Pierre Mao is alive or dead; after she went to prison he never contacted her. “Schrödinger’s parent,” she says. “A parent you never hear from exists in a quantum state, both dead and alive until you check up on them and the act of observing makes one of the two states true.” Amos guesses he might have a dad out there, but that he’s not interested in ever finding him. “Then does he actually exist at all?” Peaches asks, making her point.
The conversation continues and Amos tells Peaches about Lydia, the only “parent” he ever knew, though he can’t quite agree with Peaches’ estimation that she must have been a good person. “There are ways that you can live a good life without being a good person,” he says. Peaches, who can relate, responds “I like that.” Later they come across a fellow survivor at a campfire, who drops a bit of info that there’s “one of these end of times fellas” holed up nearby who’s “offering to shoot anyone who comes too close.” The stranger seems friendly enough, but a cautious Amos hustles Peaches along; when they’re out of earshot, he says, “The thing about civilization is it keeps you civil. Get rid of one, you can’t count on the other.” She says it sounds like he’s speaking from experience, and Amos lets her know he grew up like this and knows how wrong it can go. “People are tribal. The more settled things are, the bigger the tribes can be. The churn comes and the tribes get small again.” He leads the way, and it’s in the direction of the end-of-times fella’s property. Seems Amos has a plan.
A different tribe is gathering in the Belt, as Drummer’s faction heads to their meeting with Marco—which feels more like an ambush at first, given the Free Navy’s growing fleet of Martian warships. Privately, Oksana (Sandrine Holt) worries that Drummer, still emotional over all that’s happened, will do something out of pocket. We start to worry too, when we realize the ship they’re docking with is the Pella, aka the ship where Naomi is being held. Oksana and Drummer quickly realize that Marco’s ship is populated with “tributes,” representatives from different OPA factions made part of his crew to keep their groups loyal.
Drummer’s first words upon seeing Marco are a sarcastic “No throne?” (reason number 5,767 why Drummer rules) and their exchange is testy to say the least. She brings up the murders of Ashford and Fred Johnson; Marco says they died “because they betrayed all Belters to do the inners’ bidding.” Oksana steps in to steer the conversation to the future, asking about how Marco plans to feed the Belt without Earth’s help. He has a plan along the lines of the Ganymede agriculture domes—what’s up, season two—that he explains with trademark confidence. But the main reason for this rendezvous is to secure Drummer’s loyalty. It’s very much a “join me or die” situation, though Marco doesn’t come right out and say it, and Drummer is not even a tiny bit surprised.
She is surprised, however, when Filip walks past. The smug expression on Marco’s face—he knows Drummer is aware of his past with Naomi, and that she recognizes Filip—is one more low jab at Drummer, made even worse by the fact that we know Naomi is so close. Back on Drummer’s ship, the group discusses how to respond to Marco’s offer. Though everyone’s in agreement that he’s a mass murderer and is not trustworthy, and not everyone wants to join the inevitable war with Earth, one crew member breaks through and says what everyone has been thinking: “We have to join. There’s no choice. Marco says it’s a choice, and we are all acting like that’s true. But it’s not.” Marco is on his way to doing what nobody before him ever could—uniting the entire Belt—and their only chance of survival is to take his side.
So they do, leaving one of their crew behind and taking one of Marco’s in exchange—and who better than Naomi’s prickly enemy Karal (Olunike Adeliyi) to be Marco’s eyes and ears aboard Drummer’s ship? Definitely going to be a rocky road ahead with her aboard. Marco can’t resist introducing Drummer to Filip before she returns to her ship (describing her as “a good friend of your mother” and noting that they served aboard the Behemoth together). Filip very nearly spills the beans that Naomi is nearby...but Marco gives him a look just in time. Intrigued by this rare mention of his mother’s heroic deeds, Filip goes to visit Naomi to ask her about her adventures on the Behemoth. It’s the first thing resembling a tender moment between them, and Marco seethes while—oh dear—fiddling with a map that definitely looks like it’s targeting the Roci.
Back on Earth, we’re finally getting to the gory scene that contains the image at the top of this post. Just as Amos and Peaches get to the survivalist’s compound, she has another round of icky drug-withdrawal cramps—so she sits tight while he goes to see what’s what. What’s what is the expected hostile greeting, as the guy emerges with a gun on Amos, not buying Amos’ story about wanting to trade weapons for a water recycler (which we know he doesn’t have). Since he’s also suspicious of Amos’ claims of being unarmed, the man orders him to strip in the snow, then declares he can just go get the recycler himself off the trail, without giving Amos anything in return.
It’s looking very grim for our underwear-clad mechanic until—hello, what’s this?—a powered-up Super-Peaches screams into the frame, attacks the man, grabs his rifle, and shoots him dead (splattering his guts all over Amos) all before he or Amos is able to realize what’s going on. The effort makes her collapse, but she’s back. And in case you forgot, she has the ability to be outright terrifying.
When she comes to, she’s groggy, but Amos tells her they’ve got everything they need for their journey, including transportation. Then he tries to reassure her since he’s heard her murmuring in her sleep about “monsters.” She explains it’s actually a poem she wrote in prison that’s become sort of a mantra: “I have killed, but I’m not a killer, because a killer is a monster, and monsters aren’t afraid.” She’s afraid, she says, of the things she did and how right she felt while she was doing them. Then she points out that what they just did—killing a guy so they could take his stuff—might have felt right, but that doesn’t mean it was right.
Peaches makes a good point, and it sinks in fast. “Yeah, Holden never would have approved a move like that,” Amos admits, realizing suddenly that he’s reverting back to someone he thought he’d left behind. “I need to get back to my crew.”
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