After last week’s Expanse gave extra space to one of this season’s most devastating farewells, episode eight finds time to see what all the other characters are up to on Earth, Luna, and various points around the Belt. As you might guess, nobody in “Hard Vacuum” is having an easy time of it.
As we saw in episode six, Amos (Wes Chatham) and Peaches (Nadine Nicole)—now so comfortable with each other that they’re taking open-air pee breaks together—have gathered enough supplies to hasten their journey back to Baltimore. But they both know that getting the hell off Earth (where Peaches is marked as an escaped killer, and Amos’ moral compass is beginning to waver) is the real goal. The post-apocalyptic planet’s become a dangerously chaotic place.
Aboard the Pella, the one scene we get with Marco (Keon Alexander) and Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) Inaros this week is a doozy. With Naomi (Dominique Tipper) presumed to be floating dead somewhere in space, the Belters are left to mourn Cyn (Brent Sexton), whose fatherly concern for Naomi wasn’t strong enough for him to take a stand against Marco—but it did inspire him to try and save her from what he thought was a suicide attempt. Marco and Filip are genuinely torn up about Cyn’s death, but the mood shifts when Marco starts grilling his son about what happened in the airlock. “She wanted to die. She didn’t have to kill Cyn,” Filip says. Marco, who always knows the most hurtful thing to say, whips back with “She didn’t kill him. You did.”
But hey, guess who didn’t actually want to die, you assholes, but was desperately trying to escape and save the Rocinante (again) from certain doom? Naomi is in bad shape, but she’s alive—though there’s no room for triumph once she takes a look around the Chetzemoka and realizes all the controls are disabled and the entire thing is rigged as a bomb. If that wasn’t bad enough, she soon realizes Marco has simulated her voice on a distress call, pleading with whoever hears the repeating message to tell James Holden (Steven Strait) to come and rescue her. Since the Chetzemoka is unable to send messages—though it can receive them, a detail that will be important later—she has no way of warning anyone about the deadly ruse.
Aboard the Rocinante, Holden notes that there’s no trace of the protomolecule in the blast left behind by the Zmeya, and since Bull (José Zúñiga) doubts the Belters had time to hand over the sample before the Roci caught up to them, it sure seems like the protomolecule problem has been solved. (As I said last week, chances are very good we haven’t seen the last of the blue goo; Marco is definitely up to something, and there’s no way the Expanse would tie up such a huge plot thread so nonchalantly.) Holden’s next move is to chart a course for the Razorback to help Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) track down Naomi, but Bull doesn’t have the same priorities. “I’m not going on a suicide mission just to save his girlfriend,” he mutters to Monica (Anna Hopkins).
Meanwhile, the members of Team Drummer are on edge after their forced entry into the Free Navy. Their latest salvage mission leads them to a Belter ship filled with dead bodies, all hailing from a faction that refused to align with Marco. “We’re not salvagers, we’re scavengers. Marco kills those who defy him and we pick the bodies clean,” a weary Drummer (Cara Gee) says. Elsewhere on the decimated ship, Marco’s envoy Karal (Olunike Adeliyi) slinks around with her sinister blue lipstick, barking orders on behalf of her boss. Oksana (Sandrine Holt) assumes the role of de facto peacekeeper, but everybody knows it’s only a matter of time before Drummer’s famous temper shows itself.
Oksana tries to calm Drummer down, pointing out that if they hadn’t joined Marco, some other Belter crew would be finding their dead bodies and salvaging their ship. “We will get through this,” she says. “I’m not sure I can,” Drummer—whose signature eyeliner is looking especially goth this week—bleakly replies. Her despair transfers over to everyone else on her crew, but a snarling exchange in the ship’s kitchen soon turns goofy when someone spills water into the air and everyone starts slurping up the bubbles. It’s a much-needed moment of tension relief, but it’s brief; the giggles taper off as reality settles back in, and the mood turns decidedly melancholy. These guys really do love each other, but they’ve been through hell—and they all know there’s still hell to come.
On Luna, newly minted UN Secretary-General David Paster (Sugith Varughese)—hastily promoted after everyone else in the line of succession died in the asteroid attack—nervously gives his first big speech, with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Admiral Delgado (Michael Irby) lending their support from the sidelines. The address is full of rousing promises to track down Marco and company and make them pay because “the future of humanity demands it!”
The crowd seems convinced, but the inexperienced Paster’s still a little unsure of himself. “They saw the leader they needed to see,” Avasarala assures him, and they head into a cabinet meeting to discuss the Marco situation (there’s not much to discuss, since nobody knows where he is and nobody knows what he’s planning to do next) and mull over what Earth’s response should be. The military-minded Delgado thinks targeting a Belter station is a good move and he’s singled out Pallas, said to be full of Free Navy sympathizers, as his top choice. But Pallas is also home to thousands of civilians, and Avasarala points out that if Earth starts killing innocent Belters, they’ll radicalize everyone in the Belt who’s not already loyal to Marco’s cause.
She and Delgado—who were getting along so well for a hot minute!—exchange a look as Paster changes the subject to North American relief efforts. After the cabinet meeting, Paster summons Delgado for a private chat. He wants Delgado’s unvarnished opinion on what to do next, and the admiral is happy to oblige: “I think we should blow up Pallas station. Show Inaros and the rest of the Belt that they shouldn’t have fucked with us.”
Speaking of Earth, we’re re-introduced to Baltimore with a shot that mimics Amos’ initial arrival earlier this season, except now the city is waterlogged and in ruins. Erich (Jacob Mundell), last seen telling Amos to never show his face in town again, doesn’t greet his old friend with open arms, but he’s not entirely unwelcoming. And while he initially insists he wants to stay in Baltimore, he pays attention when Peaches explains she knows what it’s like to lose everything—casually using a brutal anecdote about a woman she’d met in prison who’d murdered all of her children—and makes the case for escaping Earth. “Starting over isn’t always bad,” she says.
Her plan: head to an island in New Hampshire full of ritzy summer homes, most of which have their own suborbital shuttles. She knows this for a fact, she assures Erich, because she used to spend summers there herself, being the daughter of scandalized billionaire Jules-Pierre Mao. (Erich: “Jules-Pierre Mao? The insane...” Amos: “YES. That one.”) Erich, who is a) obviously not a dummy, and b) has a helicopter that could easily transport everyone to the island, gives it a quick think and decides he’s ready for a change after all.
Aboard the Chetzemoka, facing odds that would make the average person seriously consider self-spacing a second time, Naomi “Engineering Superhero” Nagata is coming up with a plan. Tipper, so heartbreaking last week, turns in another outstanding performance in a very different vein; Naomi’s physically and emotionally drained (pretty much the only dialogue she has this week is various utterings of “Fuuuuck”), but her brain never stops puzzling together a plan—and her changing expressions telegraph her determination as she tries to jerry-rig some way, any way to bypass that goddamn automated distress call.
On the Razorback, Bobbie’s scanning the emergency channels when...guess what she discovers? Not realizing it’s a Marco-created lure of doom, Alex sends the message to the Roci so Holden can hear it, then transmits a chipper “we’re on our way!” back to the Chetzemoka. Naomi, unable to respond, quickly processes her horror before using the fresh burst of adrenaline to spring into action. She’s bloody, battered, and on the verge of collapse, but she did not come all this way to see Marco succeed in blowing up her friends, and by god, she’s gonna find a way to warn everyone that things are not what they seem aboard the Chetzemoka.
As it turns out, Bobbie’s not the only one who discovers the message; it also comes through on Drummer’s ship. Drummer’s just given the order to go after Naomi when Karal, who can barely contain her delight, interrupts to announce that Naomi isn’t aboard the Chetzemoka—it’s a fake message, you see, because Naomi is dead. (She also tosses in the cruel detail that Naomi was aboard the Pella when Drummer was there meeting with Marco, tee-hee!) There are a lot of ways Karal could have conveyed all of this information but she does it in the bitchiest way possible—as we know, she hated Naomi and she’s no fan of Drummer either. “Naomi was a traitor to the Belt,” she says smugly. “And now she’s dead.” It’s all Oksana can do to get Drummer to walk away without murdering Karal on the spot. Once she’s alone, Drummer screams in agony—Cara Gee, this week’s MVP—before grabbing the bottle of Scotch that Ashford left behind and taking a tremendous swig.
As we keep reminding everyone, though, Naomi is not dead. It turns out all her desperate fiddling around in one of the Chetzemoka’s oxygen-deprived corridors was so that she could crudely re-edit the distress call; now, instead of saying “I have lost control,” it says “I am in control.” When Oksana asks if it’s possible that Naomi is alive aboard that ship, Karal lets her tough-bitch persona slip and reacts with genuine surprise. “It can’t be...it’s impossible...she’s dead!”
- Amos, to Erich as they prepare to leave Baltimore: “It’s a long trip...I saw a case of that tequila...maybe we should take some of that?”
- Alex, to a dismissive Bobbie, when discussing making a return trip to his favorite cowboy-themed bar chain: “Not everyone needs to be a Compadre.”
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