The Expanse: Pyre
March 18, 2017 9:27 AM - Season 2, Episode 8 - Subscribe

Naomi tracks down signs of the protomolecule; Fred Johnson's control over the OPA collapses. Enter a new character: Prax Meng. Also: WTF Amos?
posted by fiercekitten (62 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
 
Stone cold Drummer, god damn. Also I loved watching Amos's face as he's trying, in his Amos way, to defuse the fight. So much going on with his expressions.
posted by zippy at 10:16 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I don't know why, but I didn't work it out until the airlock opened. I was thinking "why such an emotional soundtrack to a short separation for characters we've only just met?". And then, oh...
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:45 AM on March 18 [4 favorites]


My husband called the airlock before I figured it out. He said, "anytime refugees are being separated by race, something terrible is about to happen."

But a problem is that how would the guy even know Prax was a belter? In the show, there aren't any obvious physical differences.
posted by corb at 11:31 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


Yo, this just got way darker than the books, all of a sudden.

I sort of saw the airlock thing coming, but I did not think they would do it. We're getting into Battlestar Galactica territory here.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:42 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


how would the guy even know Prax was a belter? In the show, there aren't any obvious physical differences.

They've been running into this as a limitation of TV/visual mediums. But they suggest that the ship people know Prax is a belter in their his conversation about his missing daughter with one of the freighter crew.

In one of the Syfy podcasts about the show, the authors of the books talk about how they've had to change things visually. (No book spoilers, just adaptation stuff here). Like in the books the Marines are in hulking armor, but when making the show they realized that the nearest analog, Robert Downey in Iron Man, in those movies he can't actually move in his armor during filming. And they wanted to be able to film actors acting, rather than doing all the Marines scenes entirely with CGI or visual effects.

They also wanted Marine armor that could fit the through doorways on ships.

With the Belters they have to do something similar and indicate Belterness in various ways. Like some of the Belters aren't slendermen but have tattoos (angry Black Sky belter on Tycho). Or are not super tall but speak Belter in a way that they read as Belter to others (Naomi).
posted by zippy at 11:47 AM on March 18 [3 favorites]


I figured Prax' accent and haircut read as Belter.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 11:52 AM on March 18 [2 favorites]


A friend of mine who's recently binged Season One has noted the similarities to C J Cherryh's Downbelow Station and the later prequels. That came particularly to mind for me in this episode, recalling as it did the opening scenes in that book of the overcrowded and squalid refugee ships arriving at Pell Station.
posted by Major Clanger at 12:04 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


But a problem is that how would the guy even know Prax was a belter?

Facial recognition and omnipresent databases?

I mean, in this very episode we saw Naomi and Jim use Roci to (1) find everyone on Ganymede who had ever worked for Protogen, (2) go into their backgrounds to limit the search to people with advanced bio degrees, (3) find photos of their subject, (4) identify all other people in photos with their subject, and (5) locate those people accurately enough to know that Prax was currently on-station.

It's reasonable to think that while Roci still has fuck-you scale processors, she probably can't access Martian intel systems anymore, so whatever databases they're using are probably available to OPA-affiliated merchant ships too.

That specific guy right then probably just had a list of people to get and Prax wasn't on it.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 2:08 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Belters have fragile bones from growing up in low-g. They also tend towards taller. Paxoniski ("Shorty") is an insult towards inners. But yeah, grab a belter by the upper arm, then grab an inner. Absent neck/face tattoos, that's how you tell.

We may not be able to see the difference at a glance, but belters can. In-group/out-group is cooked into the language the way social hierarchy is cooked into Japanese.

Case in point: beltalowda ("belters") & inyalowda ("inners") are plural pronouns. Tumang is Earther & pomang is Martian (lit. "duster"). Beltalowda conveys the contextual message "us belters", because nobody outside of linguists and U.N. intelligence agents speaks lang belta who isn't themself a belter.

The the fact that belters have a collective plural pronoun for all inner planets folk says:
-They recognize their own
-The difference between Earther & Martian is not of great importance to them.

An Earth boot and a Mars boot feel them same on the back of the neck.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:52 PM on March 18 [10 favorites]


And that reminds me, beltalowda is the most misused lang belta word on the show, according to the guy they paid to come up with the language.

It's a plural pronoun, but they use it like an ethnic descriptor. When the freighter guy says "You lucky, beltalowda", that's not proper lang belta . What he seems to have been meaning to say was "You lucky, belta. Naomi uses it when speaking to Miller on Eros.

I asked Nick if they were using the plural pronoun when addressing a single person as some sort of expression of solidarity, & he said that was reasonable.

But it's not how the language was designed. Which is annoying, because sci-fi fandom is detail oriented. Tell us there is a real language w rules and grammar and internal consistency, and we're in! Being haphazard about it is totally misunderstanding the fan base.

The ones who buy merch, like official lang belta guides and the such.

Hey, milowda ta ge wa S3, wit serí-un-teng épisot!*, more chances to get it right!

---
* "We got S3, with 13 episodes"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:14 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


SEASON 3.

*endless squeeeeeeeee*
posted by Justinian at 3:40 PM on March 18 [6 favorites]


Perhaps Avasarala can carve Bobbi into a 3D rendering in the show when she finally reaches Earth...

Great casting for Prax -- he has an extremely sympathetic, yet socially isolated aura about him. Nice to see him and Amos establish rapport on that lizard brain level of "your daughter is missing and I'll help you find her."

Goes nicely with the theme of finding people throughout:

Prax looking for Mei
Amos tracking down Lydia
Holden & co hunting the rogue Protogen scientist/pediatrician


There are only two stories: a mysterious stranger comes to town and a hero sets out on a life-changing journey. I'm so pleased this series is telling both stories simultaneously as well as superbly.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 4:25 PM on March 18 [1 favorite]


Google "Terry Chen actor Tattoos". Reportedly he spends boo-coo time in the make-up chair. He's also known as an actor who plays ass-kickers & gangsters, so seeing him play the vulnerable refugee with the lost daughter shows what kinda range the guy has.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:38 PM on March 18 [7 favorites]


It's not clear to me why Fred Johnson banished the Roci crew. They just saved his life, and he agreed that Eros had to be destroyed.

Is it just desparation? Now that he's lost Alcazar, he needs a protomolecule sample to regain an upper hand?
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:30 PM on March 18


I'm confused by that also - I was wondering if there was something that I missed that would explain it, but now I've rewatched it and it still does not make sense to me.
posted by Golem XIV at 7:20 PM on March 18


Is it just desparation? Now that he's lost Alcazar, he needs a protomolecule sample to regain an upper hand?

I think it's something like that. Non-book reader here, but it seemed to me that if Dawes had protomolecule knowledge, Johnson wanted to get there first. Other possibilities include that he wanted to be able to get peace via MAD, or find a way to neutralize the protomolecule if it were deployed again.
posted by mordax at 7:28 PM on March 18


"You lucky, beltalowda"

Yeah, this line bugged me too.
posted by zippy at 7:55 PM on March 18 [2 favorites]


Does anyone know who is singing in the opening theme? Or the words they are so singing? It's haunting and lovely.
posted by esto-again at 1:13 AM on March 19


It's not clear to me why Fred Johnson banished the Roci crew

I didn't understand the motivation for this, either. I thought he was trying to keep Roci and crew as an asset or under his control to some degree, and safe harbor/repairs at Tycho was really his only bargaining chip. But that seems pretty weak to me.
posted by snofoam at 5:42 AM on March 19


Fred's still smarting from the humiliation he suffered last week. The protomolecule was his last chance at power and when Holden said no, he acted out of anger. Nobody wants to become irrelevant.
posted by merelyglib at 5:59 AM on March 19


I read it as Johnson, having just survived a coup, isn't willing to tolerate any powerful actors around him who aren't as explicitly on his side as Drummer is.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:29 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


That spacing scene really upset me. It was the casual cruelty of it. Also the shot of the woman's dying body floating in space. I also liked the slow reveal to it, the line about how the inners were being lead to the best spaceship... I felt something was wrong when Prax and the woman were doing the hand-thing on a piece of glass. And it's a single piece of glass, not two, the inners weren't in some separate space-worthy chamber. (Surely they would have realized that?)

I'm a bit confused about the divergence between the show and the books, Prax' story is unfolding very differently. The important pieces are still in place though so it's fine.
posted by Nelson at 6:48 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


The spacing scene just seemed off balance, no shortage of cold cruelness in the solar system but I'd think the coldest guard that notice a relationship between two people would have hurried the save one down the hall to at least obscure the killing. A off guard glance would have been more horrifying than the hands against the glass.
posted by sammyo at 8:58 AM on March 19


the inners weren't in some separate space-worthy chamber. (Surely they would have realized that?)
They were in the ship's airlock expecting another ship to dock to it.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:43 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


I saw it coming, but that made it worse, I think. The worst moment of all was when the drive cut off, and they were in free fall. As I've read elsewhere, free fall can cause euphoria, and her smile showed that. One moment of pure joy and --
posted by Mogur at 9:46 AM on March 19 [2 favorites]


I loved Alex's whole thing this episode, with the hand terminal donations for the refugees and lecturing Amos about how people in a society help each other. This on top of his repeatedly re-running the Thoth station attack simulation to get good enough to save more people next time. It's refreshing to have one of the heroes in a show like this just have straight up decency as their defining factor and still be treated as an interesting and central character, no gritty darkness​ or hero complex or comic relief role or whatever as a clichéd hook for the audience. Alex is like a Trek character plopped down in the world of BSG and it totally works.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:03 AM on March 19 [20 favorites]


I guess it being an airlock makes sense. "Here just wait in this airlock and a ship will be along for you shortly" still seems pretty crazy, but these folks were desperate and confused. I thought the guard not caring how Prax felt was the cruellest, most true note. To him the inners are sub-human. He doesn't care about them and can't imagine that Prax would care either, despite the obvious affection on display. My only question is why he left a loose end there, but maybe it's because he wanted to be sure everyone knew the inners got spaced.

Speaking of loose ends are we still meant to be unsure of Drummer's loyalty? I thought at first the whole coup went down perfectly for her, somehow she manages to get the drop on the bad guys and then get captured anyway, all without anyone firing a shot. But then she gets shot and then she shoots them. So that's a whole lot of shooting just to establish her loyalty, if that's what it is. Maybe taking out the hotheads is part of Dawes' plan.
posted by Nelson at 10:04 AM on March 19 [1 favorite]


My only question is why he left a loose end there, but maybe it's because he wanted to be sure everyone knew the inners got spaced.

It seems like all of the radical belters are completely incapable of thinking two steps ahead. We'll just space these people in front of a witness, we'll launch nukes at Earth and it'll just work out, we'll give the protomolecule to the Belt and somehow not have a disaster on our hands...

I just started the first book a few days ago and (no real spoilers here) Miller makes a great point trying to drum into Holden's stupid idealistic head that "you ask yourself what happens" when making these decisions and I wish he could lecture the whole OPA on that.
posted by jason_steakums at 10:16 AM on March 19 [3 favorites]


I think the status quo has been shitty for Belters for 200 years, so anything that goes against that feels like a positive. That's not rational, but these are people who tried negotiating once over basic human rights (the miners and their kids growing up disabled because of hypoxia) and they all were massacred. I mean he'll it's not impossible to imagine that many of the belters grew up in similar awful conditions. Not everyone is born on Ceres, which is a gem of a place as belter habitats go, and even that place the air filters don't always work in the poor neighborhoods.

With the miners, Diogo's dad's death and a million other cruelties, plus Eros and Ganynede in very recent memory, plus no positive experience negotiating, and not enough power to create a stable government, they've come to this. Stupid violent decisions.
posted by zippy at 10:44 AM on March 19 [5 favorites]


I think that the airlock scene is supposed to foreshadow events that will happen much later, possibly in season 5 or 6 (giant spoilers for the books and show so ROT13): Gur fznyy-fvmrq znffnper va guvf rcvfbqr jbexf nf n ceryhqr bs gur znff trabpvqr va Arzrfvf Tnzrf, jura n enqvpny sevatr bs gur BCN fgnegf qebccvat ebpxf ba Rnegu (nxn xvargvp obzoneqzrag), rkgrezvangvat ovyyvbaf bs crbcyr.
posted by elgilito at 11:32 AM on March 19


The belter version of the "wellwala speech" in s1e1 is
Detim da belowt im ere da wowl, sasa kemang to xalte wit ke?
"When the blood is on the wall, do you know who you hold/stay with?"

When Miller needs to rule up the CPM thugs against Protogen's soldiers (all earthers) on Eros, he says "Da blood's on the wall, beratnas ('brothers')!"

So the walls of their ships & stations get bloody often enough that's a saying. And the spacing was an example of it in action.

As he's walking Prax away, the freighter crewman says "Inners wreck da Belt. Belter life first from now on. You lucky, beltalowda."

They didn't leave a witness, they held with a member of their tribe.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:03 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Yeah, elgilito, which is why the whole nukes thing never really made sense for me, other than as a narrative for "old/inner" thinking and "new/outer" thinking.

The spacing of the inners was telephoned in a parsec away, but I thought it was effective in discriminating between the extremist belters and regular belters - but even the station administrator lady doesn't feel too much sympathy/empathy (in light of the refugee crisis) demonstrates the severance of belter culture, for lack of more eloquent words, from the planet dwellers.

(Mars gravity is 3.7m/s2; even Lunar gravity is 1.6 compared to Gandymede at 1.4m/s2.)

I remain as yet unimpressed with anything to do with Mars/Martians in this show. Bobby's series of debriefings especially didn't do very much for me.
posted by porpoise at 1:09 PM on March 19


Alex is like a Trek character plopped down in the world of BSG and it totally works.

I get the feeling that the MCR is like Starfleet if the latter dropped its classical pretentious and was more upfront about its militarism. Mars is a society that survived through collectivism, it makes sense he's focused on keeping everyone alive. Hopefully we get to see more of Martian culture through Alex.
posted by Apocryphon at 1:36 PM on March 19 [6 favorites]


Mars at the high level hasn't gotten much screen time relative to Earth, where we've seen some big power players and key decisions.

I'm hoping we see more of Mars soon.
posted by zippy at 2:52 PM on March 19


It's refreshing to have one of the heroes in a show like this just have straight up decency as their defining factor and still be treated as an interesting and central character, no gritty darkness​ or hero complex or comic relief role or whatever

Alex is a decent, but weak, man. He knows the right thing would have been to stay with his family, but he just wasn't able to do that. But the great thing of Alex is he doesn't then make up justifications. He knows it was wrong, he knows nothing he does can make up to them for that, and he knows he has to continue somehow.
posted by corb at 4:59 PM on March 19 [5 favorites]


Yeah, Alex is a good guy. He also walked out on his family for no particular reason.
posted by Justinian at 7:16 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


Is there a show-only wiki? I'll admit I'm getting mildly confused by which powers have had which bits of dirt blowed up at this point, to be honest.
posted by Kyol at 8:08 PM on March 19


Is there a show-only wiki? I'll admit I'm getting mildly confused by which powers have had which bits of dirt blowed up at this point, to be honest.

Phoebe Station - contaminated by the Protogen conspiracy guys, burned by Mars, ultimately destroyed by Mars navy to prevent an Earth navy ship landing there.

Deimos (Martian moon) - explodified by Earth navy as payback for Phoebe.

Eros - smashed into Venus by Julie and Miller.

Ganymede - not blown up, but solar mirror blown up (apparently Earth/Mars navy ships, but possibly by Protogen stealth ships trying to start a war), and domes destroyed.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:07 PM on March 19 [1 favorite]


And I suppose you can add Anderson Station, blown up by Earth navy (Fred Johnson)
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:17 PM on March 19


Mrs Kandinski and I keep waiting for Venus to wake up. I mean, surely all that Protomolecule didn't burn up on reentry, and is now populating a warm planet full of off-copies of Miller and Julie Mao.
posted by kandinski at 4:39 AM on March 20


I gotta say I was a little miffed at Naomi reading Jim the riot act about honesty and excess protomolecule when when she bloody well lied about saving the torpedo.

Hypocrisy was not something really written into her character and I don't know why they did it this way.
posted by Thistledown at 5:20 AM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Yeah, Naomi's been written in a way that makes her hard to nail down, and I'm starting to worry that her characterization is taking a back seat to being a convenient source of crew conflict with Holden now that Miller's not there for that. I liked the "Belter with a shady OPA story in her past who is incredibly leery of the OPA now" thing she had going before and it felt kind of weird that she went from that to helping them reprogram the nukes, I hope there's an angle there we're not seeing yet.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:45 AM on March 20 [3 favorites]


how would the guy even know Prax was a belter? In the show, there aren't any obvious physical differences.

Haircut. In most cases you can instantly determine who is a Belter on the show by either their haircut (nearly everyone) or neck tattoos (Diogo, Drummer.) Or possibly scars instead of a neck tattoo, such as Dawes. Prax has the haircut but no visible neck tattoo or scar, so he's a Belter.

If a character has a full head of hair and no neck tattoo or scarring, they're probably an Inner. (Holden, Alex, etc.)

If the character has an entirely shaved head and no neck markings, they're an Inner. (Amos.)
posted by zarq at 12:57 PM on March 20 [4 favorites]


The haircuts give some subtle, symbolic depth to certain scenes. When Fred is having a conversation with Holden, that's two Inners (Earthers) speaking with each other. They are both outsiders on a Belter station and to some of the people they work with. When Fred's speaking with Miller, an Earther and Inner are conversing and Fred alone is the outsider.
posted by zarq at 1:05 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


Google "Terry Chen actor Tattoos". Reportedly he spends boo-coo time in the make-up chair. He's also known as an actor who plays ass-kickers & gangsters, so seeing him play the vulnerable refugee with the lost daughter shows what kinda range the guy has.

It was great to see him in this role, and it's definitely a nice change from other things I've seen him in, such as Continuum. (Anyone who's curious can see his tattoos here.)
posted by zarq at 1:09 PM on March 20


> Great casting for Prax -- he has an extremely sympathetic, yet socially isolated aura about him. Nice to see him and Amos establish rapport on that lizard brain level of "your daughter is missing and I'll help you find her."

Reading the books I pictured him older, because he has a bit of old-man in his personality-- lost in the clouds when he's researching, and resource-conservative like a granddad (but then all belters are resource-conservative). But of course it stands to reason that he's around 30 with a daughter that age. At any rate, I can work with this actor; I bought him as Prax pretty quickly.

I also pictured him as more Malay or Thai, with that name, but both in the books and the shows, the names bear little connection to the ethnicities, especially in the melting pot (or forge, really) of the Belt. (and I could be wrong about that name, too)
posted by Sunburnt at 5:38 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Also, Prax switches into Beltlish without a pause or hitch when speaking to the belta crewmember:
Prax: I'm looking for my daughter.
Surly Belter Crewman: *blank look*
Prax: Mi looking fo mi dowta, Mei. She xiya?
Surly Belter Crewman: Deya na child xiya, beltalowda.
posted by Lexica at 6:22 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I really liked the casting for Prax as well. Still can't get behind Strait's Holden though. Doesn't have the charisma and the chemistry with Tipper's Naomi just isn't there. I get an overwhelming sense of "trying too hard" whenever he's on screen (the squinting, the flexing of biceps, lol) and I just can't buy that the rest of the crew are ok with taking orders from him. Amos is following Naomi, that's understood, but Naomi and Alex? This Holden's just not a "hoss".

S'ok, though. I'm watching for Aghdashloo's Chrisjen and her wonderful, wonderful clothes right now. I feel like her clothing is actually it's own character and I'm ridiculously excited anytime she's on screen to see what she chose to wear that day. Bless the genius that hired Aghdashloo and the costumers for this show.
posted by longdaysjourney at 6:37 PM on March 20 [6 favorites]


I also pictured him as more Malay or Thai,

Yes, for some reason I had pictured him as South Asian, maybe Indonesian or Sri Lankan.

But I was completely "wrong" to think so; Meng is a super Han Chinese name and Praxidike is a Greek goddess of judicial punishment and the exactor of vengeance.

It was probably Praxidike sounding vaguely like a S. Asian name in my addled head.

Terry Chen is an astute casting choice and he's really shining in it.
posted by porpoise at 6:38 PM on March 20 [2 favorites]


Still can't get behind Strait's Holden though. Doesn't have the charisma and the chemistry with Tipper's Naomi just isn't there. I get an overwhelming sense of "trying too hard" whenever he's on screen (the squinting, the flexing of biceps, lol) and I just can't buy that the rest of the crew are ok with taking orders from him. Amos is following Naomi, that's understood, but Naomi and Alex? This Holden's just not a "hoss".

It's that goddamn scowly growly whispery wounded "hero" affectation that's all over every piece of media that bugs me about him, I wish he got some different direction. I think it was last episode where I started to get real Billy Bob Thornton vibes from him but he's missing Thornton's ability to strike different tones in different contexts, and the character needs it. What little I've read of the books has a Holden who shows levity sometimes, and boyish clumsy romance with Naomi, and naïve idealism, and cockiness, and just a whole lot more than we're getting in the show, and I bet Strait could do it if that's how he was directed.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:51 PM on March 20 [3 favorites]


Still can't get behind Strait's Holden though. Doesn't have the charisma and the chemistry with Tipper's Naomi just isn't there. I get an overwhelming sense of "trying too hard" whenever he's on screen (the squinting, the flexing of biceps, lol) and I just can't buy that the rest of the crew are ok with taking orders from him. Amos is following Naomi, that's understood, but Naomi and Alex? This Holden's just not a "hoss".

The Holden of the books is an idealist who sometimes makes stupid decisions based on:
a) his assumption that people are inherently good and given the chance will make good choices to benefit mankind.
b) his assumption that transparency at all costs is better than secrecy
c) his assumption that everyone has the same ideals and belief systems that he does.

Despite massive evidence to the contrary.

There are times when it seems as if everyone he interacts with in the books is calling him out about it. There are scenes in the books where people tell him he's an idiot who starts wars because he can't keep his mouth shut. Miller tells him he's (paraphrasing here) an idealistic idiot who has no idea how the world works and as a result will probably get himself killed. Fred says he's naive, too. We saw a little of this in the first season when Captain Yao called him out about accusing Mars of blowing up the Canterbury.

But there's also a scene between Naomi and Holden early in the first book where she thanks him for making smart decisions and keeping the crew alive. She reassures him that they're behind him, because he's looking out for their best interests. Perhaps his naivete is part of the appeal of having him as Captain. They also know he'll make hard decisions, but will agonize about them.

That sentiment isn't something the show has conveyed well, which is in part due to the way they've rewritten things to turn the books into a screenplay. In part it's Strait's acting choices, which are likely due to the directing he's been given.
posted by zarq at 11:03 AM on March 21 [1 favorite]


Praxidike is also the name of an irregular moon of Jupiter. It seems like a poetic name for a Belter.
posted by Nelson at 11:56 AM on March 21 [2 favorites]


Am I missing something about Steven Strait? Has he been good in something? Have a reputation? I keep reading here that he could do this or he could do that if he had better directing or better writing. Maybe he's just a shitty one-dimensional hack who was cast for his obvious physical characteristics, none of which seem very much like the Holden I pictured from the book(s). He has shown zero range, and zero ability to take what he's been given and make more of it. he is absolutely the weakest part of this show by a long long measure.
posted by OHenryPacey at 11:48 PM on March 21 [2 favorites]


It could be, it could not. It could also be that he hasn't really read the books or dived into the character, and isn't taking it seriously. Remember the actor who plays Fred Johnson's improvement between Season 1 and Season 2? We've seen people improve. It's possible Holden will as well. I just can't say for sure.
posted by corb at 5:54 AM on March 22


I just think that poor performances aren't always the fault of the performer alone, especially when it's not a live performance and the director can try other takes and the script can be punched up before any of us ever see the final product - I don't know anything about Strait, but it's not just the performance that's one note, it's the writing for Holden as well, so I figure it's hard to judge him on performing material that isn't there. I've seen good actors do just as poorly with bad material (for an extreme case, see the Star Wars prequels), he could be good. I don't think he's secretly great, great actors can rise above bad material and direction, but he could be good. For all the things the creators of the show get right, they seem to want this Holden to be in the vein of Commander Shepard from Mass Effect, and that's kinda what we're getting.
posted by jason_steakums at 6:41 AM on March 22


Holden in the books is my least favorite character. He's the bland white guy, he exists to fill in the space left by all the more well defined characters. Captain-by-default is hardly a ringing endorsement. His one shining characteristic is that he seems to always speak the truth bluntly, without regard to consequences, and he keeps bumbling in to the center of the action. He is literally a narrative device.
posted by Nelson at 7:20 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


There's an interview with Strait on one of this episode's podcasts. He gives a pretty intelligent sounding read on the character, and says he'd read the books before hearing about the show being made.

I dunno, my take on it is that Holden's an audience insert for the boring nice guys that make up a lot of the likely audience for a show like this. I don't really buy him as the captain any more than I buy Chris Pratt as the captain in Guardians of the Galaxy, and for similar reasons, but I'm not sure it's the fault of the actors.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 9:32 AM on March 22 [4 favorites]


I dunno, my take on it is that Holden's an audience insert for the boring nice guys that make up a lot of the likely audience for a show like this.

He ain't bad to look at, either.
posted by dis_integration at 10:26 AM on March 22 [2 favorites]


my take on it is that Holden's an audience insert for the boring nice guys that make up a lot of the likely audience for a show like this.

That may be real. I feel like in the books there was much more of an understanding that James Holden might get shit done, but he's kind of a firehose and a tool, rather than being The! Heroic! Captain! - like, kind of more of an acknowledgement that he might think he is good, and idealistic, but his actual positions don't really pan out like that.
posted by corb at 10:26 AM on March 22 [3 favorites]


I just read this old blog post about the origins of The Expanse novels. It started as an MMO game concept! And then migrated into a forum-based RPG.
They key components of the larger story began to fall into place through various runs of the game, fleshing out the setting and testing out the logic of the world. Core elements of a narrative began to coalesce. Gamers developed the narrative’s central characters: Holden, Naomi, Amos, Alex and Shed, who navigated the solar system and the delicate balance of power around them, aboard the corvette battleship Rocinante.
posted by Nelson at 8:19 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


rather than being The! Heroic! Captain!

yabut in the books he is repeatedly described as extremely charismatic, to such a degree that he is irresponsible in his emotional interactions with those around him. his arc in the book, in the way in which his relationship with Naomi develops, is essentially the story of his maturation. his wrong-headed idealism stems from this as well. he is an actual avatar of white privilege, and does actually descend, in-genre, from The! Heroic! Captain!

One of the many debts the books owe to GoT is the authors' investment in inverting genre tropes, and I think that is the case here.

I think they cast him with the hopes that Strait could become another Timothy Olyphant, another actor whose roles have required a mixture of diffidence and bravado. I do wonder to what degree he might be recieving direction that keeps the character's charisma off screen. I would think that would not be in the show's interest - I mean, a friend compared him to Chis Pine in nuTrek and when I mentioned this take to my wife she blurted out, "that guy would be an improvement!"

Gotta be hard on the actor, I can't imagine he's unaware of the criticism.
posted by mwhybark at 11:36 AM on March 23 [2 favorites]


The latest episode of the Ars Technica podcast Decrypted has an interview with Steven Strait. Listening to it, it's clear that there's an intended character arc. I'm kind of "meh" on Holden but felt more positive about him after listening to it.
posted by Lexica at 8:41 PM on March 23


« Older Grimm: Where the Wild Things W...   |  Iron Fist: Snow Gives Way... Newer »

You are not logged in, either login or create an account to post comments

poster