There’s not a moment of wasted space in “Why We Fight,” as The Expanse delivers a penultimate entry that moves everyone into position for next week’s finale. The main thrust of the episode is Avasarala’s full-court press to get Drummer’s help in the fight against Marco, but there are several other big moments along the way, involving zombies, brothels, emotional reunions, and so much more.
As predicted, Cara has brought the dead body of her little brother, Xan, into the forest, where certain “strange dogs” have been known to demonstrate eerie powers of resurrection. After dozing off, she’s awakened by the sound of her parents frantically searching for her... and then she sees Xan. He’s alive! But something’s off. “I feel weird,” the boy says. “Everything looks different.” He mentions “being in substrate,” a term which Expanse book readers will recognize as relating to the mysterious alien civilization that created the protomolecule. But that’s not really important to understand; what’s crucial here is that a) Xan was dead and is now alive with the help of the Laconian “dogs,” who definitely have a deep link with the protomolecule, and b) though naive Cara can’t see it, we know that Xan isn’t really Xan.
But first: remember that strike force that Mars decided to deploy with the intention of taking control of Medina Station, even after Avasarala said it was a bad idea and the UN wouldn’t help? Turns out that Medina, which is controlled by Marco Inaros’ Free Navy with weapons assistance from the Laconia-based Admiral Duarte, has an array of massive rail guns mounted on the surface of the Ring... pointed at whoever dares to come through without permission. Needless to say, the MCRN doesn’t stand a chance.
On the Pella, Marco is taking in news reports about how he and the Free Navy are losing favor, especially after Drummer’s big announcement about raiding his hidden supply depots and taking them to the desperate Belters on Ceres. As always, Rosenfeld—whose job here really is “Inaros family counselor”—is standing by to reassure him, put in a plug for taking Filip off trash detail, and remind him the goal is to get to Medina. Once they’re through the Ring and safely tucked behind the defensive firepower of those rail guns, they’ll essentially have won.
In the next scene, at joint briefing on Ceres for Mars and the UN, we learn why those guns are so badass: They’re of Martian design and “made out of a metal we’ve never seen before.” These folks know they can’t let Marco escape through the Ring, but how are they going to stop him? Even combined they don’t have enough ships to take on the Free Navy. Avasarala says if they’re going to send more people to fight to the death, they need to at least give them a fighting chance to win.
On the docks at Ceres, the freshly repaired Roci’s getting a new hull plating using a special kind of metal on the orders of UNN engineers. Clarissa calls it “some kind of badass new armor,” but also tells Holden its creation originated with her father’s protomolecule research. Jules-Pierre Mao was a highly problematic guy, which Clarissa knows better than anybody—but he also believed “the protomolecule was the key to ensuring the survival of our species.” Ruefully, she adds, “Stuff like this makes him seem right.”
Back in episode three, Holden mused that he knew someone who might be able to help him and Naomi puzzle through the troubling phenomenon of ships disappearing as they pass through the Ring. And, of course, it’s their old pal from season four’s perilous adventures on Ilus: Dr. Elvi Okoye! Over video message she tells them that her research has uncovered a “mass energy threshold which precedes or perhaps triggers these events, which obviously would have dire consequences for future use of the Rings.” While Holden’s saying he needs to show the information to Avasarala (“This is bigger than the war”), Naomi sees a news report about Drummer bringing the supplies she liberated from Marco to Ceres and smiles. Far less happy is the hero herself, whose delivery is being held up by red tape courtesy of suspicious inners—until Avasarala breaks into the exchange and welcomes her to Ceres as long as there are no “disruptions.”
Somehow it’s the first time these characters have met on the show and the moment is as charged as you’d expect; Avasarala’s clearly hoping to form an alliance with Drummer to fight against Marco, while Drummer is only interested in dropping off the supplies and getting the hell out of there... with one more important task: a doctor visit for Josep. His severed arm isn’t re-growing properly, and he’s in agony; he’ll need to have it amputated and replaced with a prosthetic. While Drummer is taking this in, she lets a call from Naomi go unanswered; later she checks the message and it’s a request for them to meet while they’re both on Ceres. (If you’ve been watching Amazon’s “X-Ray” supplemental shorts made to go along with this season of The Expanse, you know that Naomi has been trying to contact Drummer for awhile now, with no response.) Later, Michio says she’ll stay with Josep on Ceres even if it means living subservient to the inners. Drummer’s got a war to fight, and they—the last two members of her family—can’t help her in that fight anymore. “I never loved you because you were fighters,” Drummer says as she leaves. “I loved you because you were builders. I wanted us to build something together.”
As for Avasarala, we next see her meeting with Holden. They both have an agenda: He’s there to give her the info about the newly discovered perils of Ring transit (and to tell her they should share it with Marco, an idea she brushes off as ridiculous); she tells him about the rail guns at the Ring and asks him to use his influence to bend Drummer to her cause. He’s skeptical but she’s hopeful that even Drummer, who hates Earth almost as much as she hates Marco, is capable of changing her point of view.
Elsewhere on Ceres, Amos and Bobbie—who both desperately need to blow off some steam—run into each other while getting drunk in a local watering hole. But it’s the conversation more than the booze (and brothels, in Amos’ case) that really matters in this scene; Amos tells Bobbie the truth about the “dud” missile and he says he’s not sure he’s going back to Holden and the Rocinante. Their chat turns to what makes a person “bad” or “good,” and Bobbie makes a compelling point: “In the end, the only thing that matters is fighting for who’s covering your flank. It doesn’t matter if they’re saints or assholes. They’re your people—they watch your back and you watch theirs, or you’ve got nothing.” Something clicks in Amos’ mind and he knows he’ll be heading back to the ship... after one more brothel visit. “Want to come with?” he asks Bobbie. “With you? Or with you?” Bobbie asks. “Whatever,” he shrugs. (We never learn what came out of that.)
On the Pella, everyone’s in celebration mode over the Free Navy’s victory against the MCRN at the Ring. Everyone except Filip, who’s puzzled to find Tadeo, his new co-worker, being held in the brig; seems he was caught trying to transmit a message to his missing brother on Ceres, a violation of the wartime radio-silence policy. On the bridge, Rosenfeld and Marco talk battle strategy: “They have size, we have numbers; no matter what they do now they can’t engage us everywhere at once.” (Then she shows him Filip’s little speech from the end of episode four. “Nice to see that kind of fire in him,” Rosenfeld says. “I wonder where he gets it from?”) As they speak, fiery Filip is using his communications privileges to learn the sad fate of Tadeo’s brother. The news is devastating, not just because his brother is dead, but because—as Tadeo tearfully admits—he was on the team that planted the bombs. “They said no Belters would get hurt,” he sobs, as he clutches onto a stoically horrified Filip.
Back on Ceres, Drummer’s emotionally wrenching day continues as she’s singled out while passing through a checkpoint, and the UN guard waves her through because she’s “pre-cleared.” She resists at first, but then agrees, and of course Nico pops up with a hand terminal, filming the whole thing and sneering “How does it feel to be the inners’ favorite pet?” Then, Naomi’s waiting for her at the Tynan, and their awkward reunion comes to a head rather fast when Naomi asks to meet Drummer’s family. “They’re gone,” Drummer replies, then ticks off what happened: Two left after Drummer helped save the Rocinante (as seen last season), one was murdered by Marco because of the Roci thing, and, well, we just saw what happened with Josep and Michio.
Naomi apologizes for her role in all that, but Drummer knows she didn’t seek her out to say sorry. Instead, she’s there to push Avasarala’s agenda, asking Drummer to fight against Marco alongside Earth and Mars. Drummer is aghast and insulted, but this is bigger than her feelings about Naomi. The way she sees it, she has two choices: “I can choose to wait for the bounty to go high enough that someone kills me, or I can put a collar on my neck and hand inners the leash. This universe has no place for me.” Naomi understands the feeling of being caught between the sides, and she tells Drummer that “All we can do now is to stand by the people that we love. What else is there?” Drummer’s perfect, I’m-frustrated-but-I-know-you’re-right response: “Fuck you,” over and over as they cry and hug.
And now, we finally get The Expanse’s very first in-person meeting between Avasarala and Drummer—two forces of nature who are going to combine their powers to (we hope) take Marco down once and for all. “The system is filled with the graves of Belters who trusted inners,” Drummer says. “And my planet is now covered with the bodies of people who paid the price for that,” Avasarala counters. Ending the war before even more people die is the goal here—on this they both agree—but Drummer wants to make sure: after Marco’s dead and the war is over, “Will you remember the Belters who bled for your victory?” Avasarala says she knows why Belters hate her, but also that they have no reason to consider her a liar. “My people will not take orders from you,” Drummer says, and Avasarala replies “I don’t expect them to.” An alliance that would’ve seemed impossible in pre-Marco times is sealed with a handshake... and we’re on to the series finale!
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