The Expanse: Gaugamela
December 22, 2020 10:25 PM - Season 5, Episode 4 - Subscribe

Marco's grand plan shocks Earth, Mars and the Belt
posted by ShooBoo (43 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Really, really good episode. Yes, there were a few points that were overly coincidental (Amos being with Julie Mao as an asteroid cracks The Pit; the UN jet being in the same airspace as an impact), but I felt it worked narratively. I was concerned that breaking up the team would leave too many frayed storylines, but it's all coming together very nicely. (Unlike, in contrast, the version of The Stand airing on CBS right now, which is all over the place, possibly due to a hasty edit in response to the current unpleasantness).
posted by Bora Horza Gobuchul at 1:37 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I've been really looking forward to this season since the last season when it was clear the tv adaptation had the luxury and privilege of moving pieces around to make a tighter story and four episodes in, I'm really glad it seems to be on track for that. Really enjoyed this episode, and gutted that Fred has to go. Does this mean Jared Harris will properly be back or will Dawes continue to be an off-screen presence?

The scene with the UN folks in Luna looking over the asteroid about to hit Earth (and successfully decimated by their planetary defence, finally) gave me chills.

That said, idk why Naomi's storyline isn't vibing with me emotionally, though intellectually I'm on board. And hats off to Dominique Tipper for making Naomi's Belter dialect/accent visibly stronger - i really appreciated the attention to codeswitching there.
posted by cendawanita at 3:06 AM on December 23, 2020 [3 favorites]


Where the hell did Marco Inaros get that ship? It's big and clean and bright and laid out in straight lines and right angles like no Belter ship ever. If he has more of them like he says he does, there is a major industrial power sponsoring him, either Earth or Mars or both. I know, why would Inner corporations, no matter how evil, sponsor genocide on their own planet? (sarcasm) I mean, that's never happened in all of human history. (/sarcasm)


PS That Terminator-spider-drone that came for the proto-molecule aso looks like Inner-built. It had a corporate logo on the side that said "Savage" - I'll be looking for that on other equipment going forward.
PPS Earth gets nine multi-megaton asteroids, and Mars gets a single bomb at the Parliament building? I thought the OPA hated dusters. What gives with the disproportionate attacks?
posted by Mogur at 7:25 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


The ship looked a lot like the Roci and other Martian ships we've seen so I'm guessing it's either "surplus" or they have Martian shipbuilders making them stuff off the books, and likely not having the full picture.

We haven't seen Amos in a situation where he isn't the toughest, most violent person in the room so it'll be interesting to see how he fares trapped in jail with all the modified prisoners.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 7:53 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Seems like Mars is already hollowing itself out - there's no need to hit them as hard. Also, Earth is probably a bigger symbol.
posted by kokaku at 8:36 AM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


I think that was a "Savage Industries" logo, a hat tip to celebrity fan and Mefi's own. See for example here.

It was a really enjoyable episode, but I think I actually liked the first three better, for all the character moments they gave us. Outside of Marco-Naomi, there weren't any extended character vs. action pieces (and that one isn't registering greatly for me either. I don't know what Naomi could reasonably expect from Filip, and Marco is so one-note megalomaniacal sociopath, it's hard to picture the hold he once had on Naomi, even if I can intellectually conceive it.) I did like Avasarala going through the chef to get to the Secretary General, because it highlighted how she will use every last scrap of resources to accomplish her goals.

I am not complaining, this was the "wham" episode that kicked over tables and alters both the rules and the stakes for everyone. I just find myself liking "Churn" the most so far.
posted by stevis23 at 8:42 AM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


This was a hard episode to watch. It recalled viscerally the trauma of living in NYC during 9/11. It brought to mind the ongoing cascade of distaster known as 2020. It was extremely good television, and I'm very happy to be watching it, but it was hard.

What resonated most was Bobbie's talk with Alex about looking at your whole planet, watching it die, building a coffin and moving forward. As an American, that really hit home. No matter what we do about politics and policing, the whole thing is on life support at best and we're just looking at the husk of the thing we thought we'd worked all our lives for.
posted by rikschell at 9:39 AM on December 23, 2020 [5 favorites]


I think that was a "Savage Industries" logo, a hat tip to celebrity fan and Mefi's own.
Yup. He also had a season 2 cameo getting disassembled with the Arboghast.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 10:51 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


My theory is that the Marcos ship was salvage from the earth/mars war; this was a crude take but white/blue lights read Earth navy today me. I’m assuming there was a glut of salvage from that conflict, and the belters easily could’ve poached a few larger ships.
posted by furnace.heart at 10:55 AM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


I thought it looked very much like the interior of the Roci, but much larger. Mars has been the source of all of Marco's tech so far. I expect Alex and Bobbie will uncover the direct connections in the next few episodes. (The wiki also points to a Martian origin.) Its name, Pella, and the title of the episode are Alexander the Great references.

I don't think the gang is going to be able to make anything better this season. The best they can do it just get as many of them back in the same place as possible, I'm thinking.
posted by rikschell at 12:01 PM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


What resonated most was Bobbie's talk with Alex

Yes. Also, the scene with Clarissa & Amos, dealing with loss at a smaller scale.
posted by kingless at 12:09 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


Mars has been the source of all of Marco's tech so far.

But then how will amazon provide me with the spin off series of a rag tag belter salvage crew with hearts of gold that get caught up in something far larger than they expect?
posted by furnace.heart at 2:08 PM on December 23, 2020 [3 favorites]


Good episode - I think the timing is pretty great to drop the first three, make us wait a week, then drop this "game changer" ep.

Can't wait to follow up on Peaches and Amos.

I really dig the CG for moving around the open spaces on the station - love the scale - but the lighting/ textures aren't convincing. Not enough patina, maybe, or unconvincing light sources.

A quibble - it looks like they're paying a lot less attention to the physiological differences between Earthers, Martians, and Belters. Understandable, due to the difficulty and constraints on casting, but the Belters are less convincing.
posted by porpoise at 2:54 PM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


Spiderbot, spiderbot, does whatever a spiderbot does
posted by BungaDunga at 4:38 PM on December 23, 2020 [10 favorites]


Holden's gotta be thinking while he's incredulously watching the spider bot take off with the protomolecule "Holy shit, me and Fred beein tight for how long now and apparently I'm the only person in the universe that doesn't know Fred Hides His Shit Under His Bed Always!?!?"
posted by some loser at 4:56 PM on December 23, 2020 [3 favorites]


Oh yeah and regarding the ships, forget that, how are they funding all this martian military tech like top secret national security level shit??? Is there just so much of it available for sale on the black market that prices have fallen to like commodity level or like... ? I guess I forgot how Marco got so rich he could finance all this nation level spending.
posted by some loser at 5:08 PM on December 23, 2020


There is a satisfying answer to the origin of Marco's ship, which would be a spoiler. Keep watching!
posted by Alterscape at 6:37 PM on December 23, 2020 [3 favorites]


A quibble - it looks like they're paying a lot less attention to the physiological differences between Earthers, Martians, and Belters. Understandable, due to the difficulty and constraints on casting, but the Belters are less convincing.

Similarly, there were a few moments with ships tumbling end over end as they dusted off that felt like the effects guys sort of forgot that these things aren't one ton corvettes, they're megaton spaceships, and yeah ok the Epstein drive makes them faster than we can imagine in a straight line, they still used to have reasonable limits on RCS rolls and loops.

Still, I'm a lot more invested in this season than I think I was by this point last season?
posted by Kyol at 7:52 PM on December 23, 2020 [2 favorites]


I know, why would Inner corporations, no matter how evil, sponsor genocide on their own planet? (sarcasm) I mean, that's never happened in all of human history. (/sarcasm)

It's more like, a corporation destroying 99% of ours market is a special kind of stupid. I mean that's even behind Silicon Valley stupid.
posted by happyroach at 9:52 PM on December 23, 2020


I mean that's even behind Silicon Valley stupid.

Nah. Real Estate.

If you have offworld resources (energy, manufacturing), this is an opportunity (for trans-national corporate-level amounts of resources).

The rich get richer.

But I don't even know where this argument stream started. Marcos is a delusional genocidal criminal.

Mars is dying, best case scenario is to be the backwater/ outback. In the near term, a (limited) refuge for Terrans until Earth stabilizes, if it stabilizes, so maybe the terraforming dream might still live. Depends on logistics and how bad Earth is mucked and how cutthroat and Founders-First the colonies become.

But the absolute catastrophe on Earth makes the Belt+ another (albeit... what's bigger than exponential?) wild west land grab - with the attendant (robber) barons as history repeats itself.

But that's probably going to call down the peeps that want to kill advanced civilizations.
posted by porpoise at 10:44 PM on December 23, 2020 [1 favorite]


> Where the hell did Marco Inaros get that ship?

I blame this on the TV production's reasons-- Inaros' bridge was clearly a rebuild of the set used for such ships as the UNN Agatha King. I've been rewatching season 3 lately (which climaxes with the UN mutiny over Io), and the set elements are clearly common with that ship.

Presumably there are production ships out there for transport, and Belters of the books show plenty of competence at modifying their ships to add weaponry. Smart weapons like missiles can be added internally or in external boxes, since they don't need a launcher as such, just something or someone to throw them away from the ship. The railguns are the ones that have to be built into the ship (and the ship must be built to cope the recoil).

The MCRN bridge aesthetic (seen in Roci and the season 3 ship MCRN Hammurabi) has "The Hunt for Red October" written all over it; long and narrow, dark and red, rather than the brightly-lit boxing-ring format of the UNN flagship bridge, which Inaros' ship shares except for the fact that belters like things darker.
posted by Sunburnt at 1:55 AM on December 24, 2020


Click for non-substantive-spoiler answer re: Marco's ship
Marco's new ship is definitely a Martian frigate, the next major size category up from the Rocinante.

As Alterscape said, keep watching - how and why should be clear soon.

This season is my favorite book in the series and Amos & Peaches next little bit is why. Fingers crosse-HEY! I SEE YOU BACK THERE, 2020, DON'T YOU FUCKING DARE.
posted by Ryvar at 2:35 AM on December 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Okay, I'm feeling better about Marcos' ship, if it's a one-off. I agree that it looks Terran, but not Terran military (the Terran military ships we have seen all showed signs of 'lowest-bidder' renovations, with cables and wiring bolted to the outsides of panels instead of hidden away, etc). I shall wait for the reveal.

*Funding* is still a question, but not as bad as people might think - so far we've seen only one big (possibly salvaged) warship, a (possibly hijacked) freighter, and some skiffs. Add in a base somewhere, and a few million for bribes (he didn't go to the open black market, you can't get stealthtech there, anyway, he went straight to the MN suppliers and bribed key individuals), and it becomes quite doable, given a decade (at least) of suborning factions and pirating his ass off.
posted by Mogur at 5:22 AM on December 24, 2020


Oh, and one or two big-money (by Belter standards) donors.
posted by Mogur at 5:22 AM on December 24, 2020


Are there laws against unmanned drones being used for combat-type roles in the Expanse universe because otherwise why is this the first time we've seen one? Yes lives, especially Belter ones, are likely cheaper but as we saw a good drone/robot can complete missions that soft fleshy humans can't.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:04 PM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I think that's a fair question. Similarly, why do all these ships (anything smaller than Donnager-style battleships) with only a single central corridor for moving around not have simple automated turret domes covering that corridor? If you're worried about it being misused then put it on a mechanical breaker in the bridge that doesn't get flipped until the combat alert sounds. If you're worried about an internal ammo cookoff then mount it on the corridor-facing bulkhead of the ammunition magazine for the PDCs. For the same weight and probably expense as a single full-featured crash couch you could make boarding actions nearly impossible.
posted by Ryvar at 1:20 PM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


I'm curious about what the threat of the protomolecule is now. The Roci's went inert after Ilus but I guess that's because its mission was accomplished so that doesn't mean that the Belter protomolecule had to have gone inert too. But by itself the protomolecule so far has just wanted to complete its work, so if a torpedo of it was shot at Earth would it infect the entire planet or just absorb whatever it needed for the next phase and then build that? I guess if you're on Earth you don't want to take a risk on which way it would go but it would be fun to see Marco fire the torpedo and everyone freak out and then the next episode or season we find that it didn't do anything.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 1:48 PM on December 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


Are there laws against unmanned drones being used for combat-type roles in the Expanse universe because otherwise why is this the first time we've seen one?

Outside the ship, they are used all the time, and are otherwise known as torpedoes. Why not inside? Good question - maybe remote controls are too easily jammed? We've certainly seen them used to scout wrecked vessels - why not put a gun on them?

Similarly, why do all these ships (anything smaller than Donnager-style battleships) with only a single central corridor for moving around not have simple automated turret domes covering that corridor?

This is also a good question. What is the Expanse standard doctrine for boarding actions? (I haven't read the books) We have only seen one boarding action versus a military vessel - the Donnager - and none at all during all the other Earth-Mars fighting. My conclusion: I think the Donnager was a special case (they had to beat the crap out of it and send in literally suicidal berserkers to even have a chance at success - and even then they all died), and boarding actions against prepared (and maneuvering) military vessels are extremely rare. The other successful boarding operations we've seen have all been against either civilians or ships that are practically destroyed and/or are in the process of surrendering.

Oh, and Thoth station, but the attackers took 50% casualties on the way in and almost took 100%.

So maybe internal guns are more trouble than they're worth?
posted by Mogur at 2:43 PM on December 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


In the books, they say the boarding action doctrine is to go for the bridge and the reactor, and the engineering crew's job is to either scram the reactor (so the boarders can't blow it up -- the Tycho crew mentions this in this episode) or blow the reactor themselves (to keep the ship from falling into enemy hands, which IIRC is what the Donnager's crew did).
posted by Alterscape at 3:26 PM on December 24, 2020 [2 favorites]


Bobby told alex that ships were missing, and military supplies. I assume Marco has one of those ships, right?
posted by rebent at 4:12 PM on December 24, 2020 [1 favorite]


No one has mentioned this, so...Nancy Gao's death (I assume she's dead) shook me the heck up. There were other things in the episode I did not expect, but that truly shocked me. I liked how they showed that she wasn't going to leave Earth; she was focused on doing what she could to help/save people until the last moment.

I mean, I guess it's possible that Amos will find her stranded somewhere. Not likely. Would be hilarious...
posted by rednikki at 6:26 PM on December 24, 2020


Watching Marco is so hard for me. Watching a charismatic person manipulate people through charm and inspiration is like watching a slow-motion, gruesome accident. Which is why I'm watching this season mostly to see the Further Adventures of Amos and Peaches.
posted by pykrete jungle at 10:55 PM on December 24, 2020 [3 favorites]


Fred Johnson...noooooooo :(
posted by supermedusa at 1:59 PM on December 25, 2020 [2 favorites]


I found Season 4 to be a bit underwhelming, with low stakes compared to previous seasons and several episodes where not much happened. After this episode, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to have the same complaint about Season 5.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 2:26 PM on December 25, 2020 [2 favorites]


Are there laws against unmanned drones being used for combat-type roles in the Expanse universe because otherwise why is this the first time we've seen one?

Bear in mind The Expanse is based on a Traveller game, which was a game based off of 1960s style sci-fi. So if you look at this series as being based on 1960s-70s SF, it makes a lot more sense. I mean receiving, from the hardy libertarian asteroid colonists, to a overcrowded dystopic Earth full of nonproductive consumers, to bring able to move asteroids without anyone noticing... all very much like something out of old issues of Analog.

So no drones. We're lucky the Expanse had things like cell phones, and not ship computers the size of houses.
posted by happyroach at 11:34 PM on December 25, 2020 [1 favorite]


I found Season 4 to be a bit underwhelming, with low stakes compared to previous seasons and several episodes where not much happened. After this episode, I'm pretty sure I'm not going to have the same complaint about Season 5.

Yeah, it's kind of funny really that Season 4 ended up with the same sort of high "universe destroyer" stakes as the end of the 3rd season and yet it didn't feel telegraphed like that at all. Oh no, a handful of scrappy colonists on this one backwater world that Our Crew on the Roci are involved with might just die to unexplained alien artifacts. I mean it's interesting, sure, but it's not protomolecule mystery or protomolecule body horror or (ultimately) protomolecule extinction from seasons 1, 2 and 3, is it? It's the sort of thing that I could see being more interesting in a book, with interstitial chapters describing the awakenings in ever more terrifying language, but that didn't really play out on television well.

And honestly I was sort of worried that they were going to make the comet into Chekhov's gun and just drag that out until the seventh or eighth episode - will the UN discover the comet? Will Bobbie's investigations lead to finding out that the OPA is making stealth comets? Will the gang at Tycho discover what the OPA are up to? etc etc etc.
posted by Kyol at 9:44 AM on December 26, 2020


Funniest moment was at 31:15, the guy in the bar going "can't even believe this is happening. It's devastating" but saying it unconvincingly that I'm sure he's just trying to get some griefnookie.
posted by monocultured at 1:15 PM on December 26, 2020 [2 favorites]


Agreed, Fred Johnson, nooooooo. I love Fred, he was one of my favorite characters. (I especially loved the Fred and Drummer show.) It might have been because he was played by Chad Coleman, but I just love a good personal redemption story.

Everything is happening too much. I don't know if my heart can take it. This is why I love spoilers, because it helps me manage my expectations, but I've never read the books so I don't know the possibilities of what might happen. I fear for other beloved characters. (I...would not be averse to memail if you're so inclined.)

Also agreed on not enjoying watching Marco Inaros sociopathically manipulate and destroy; this kind of thing is truly my least favorite and is starting to make last season look better. I found myself wanting Holden to wipe the smirk off that one woman's face, and that is so NOT a feeling I want to have in my enjoyment watching in this annus horribilis.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 11:58 AM on December 27, 2020


Minor book spoilers regarding Fred's death

I'll say it.

Fred's death was better in the books (he dies of a stroke during a high-G burn while the Roci is being attacked).

Yes, it was senseless and random, but that was why it was so effective. Space is terrifying, and I don't think the show has made those stakes clear (or, at least, hasn't shown the consequences of that).

Yes, the economy of storytelling is better with the assassination plot, but Fred's death was one of the moments in the books that I remember most vividly

posted by schmod at 2:32 PM on December 27, 2020 [2 favorites]


I got the impression that Amos was telling Peaches that he is also modified, that they have this in common and that is why he came to visit. I will have to watch that piece again.
posted by Oyéah at 9:01 PM on December 27, 2020


I got the impression that Amos was telling Peaches that he is also modified, that they have this in common and that is why he came to visit. I will have to watch that piece again.

I think the ‘people like us’ thing is ‘sociopaths’, not people with mods.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 5:52 AM on December 29, 2020 [9 favorites]


Well, Amos likes tough women.
posted by Oyéah at 6:58 PM on December 29, 2020


Amos is not a sociopath. Daniel & Ty NEVER EVER describe Amos as a sociopath. They derscribe him has having “attachment disorder”. People need to stop with “sociopath”, because it’s fundamentally not what Amos is about, and Wes has put soverign work into that chartacter.

The best analysis of Amos I’ve seens is that Amos is on the Autism spectrum in addition to suffering from C-PTSD after being sexually abused in a brothel from early childhood.
—-
New Lang Belta:
- TENSHA: TENYE DA XANTETING DETIM DA POT ANDO GO. (“Caution [‘attention’]: Hold the handrail while the pod is in motion”)

- WE FO DEK LEK (“Way to lower [‘leg’] dek”)

- TENSA FO PASA (“Be aware because of passageway”)

- CHEK XALTEWE (“status check”)
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 3:00 PM on January 5 [6 favorites]


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