The Expanse: Down and Out
December 29, 2020 4:20 PM - Season 5, Episode 5 - Subscribe

Amos and Clarissa are trapped in a collapsed building. Naomi contends with her old family. Holden assembles a new crew on the Roci. Alex and Bobbie make a dangerous discovery in the Belt.

(Note: new episodes drop on Amazon Prime on Wednesdays 00:00 GMT, or Tuesdays 7pm EST/4pm PST)
posted by ShooBoo (38 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I got strong Poseidon Adventure vibes from the penitentary escape.
posted by Mogur at 5:47 PM on December 29

My thoughts are all from the perspective of a filthy book reader, tho I’m obviously avoiding outright spoilers.

Interesting choice to have Peaches (try to?) activate her mods in the background of the prison surface altercation, then have it not needed. I don’t recall that from the book. As with every other departure from the source material I’m left wondering if it’s just for texture or if it’ll have plot ramifications later.

I grok that it’s hard to show-not-tell stuff that is mostly driven by inner monologue in the book, but I think Naomi’s “they’re going to use my reactor kaboom code” epiphany was pretty slapdash and may confuse show-only viewers (?). Could’ve used a couple more bits of dialogue or set dressing to connect the dots better.

They streamlined how she got the message out (was a much longer sequence of on the sly engineer futzing and no assaults), but it worked, and I suspect also ratcheted up the tension between her and Cyn.

The reasoning for piling a temp crew into the Roci is different from the books, but it follows well from the other changes in Holden’s arc (the increased emphasis on the stolen protomolecule, including Marco’s public threat to use it, which was NOT in the books.) May change some other bits too...

Lastly, I’m honestly disappointed in the “1-2 million” casualty figure. Even having it be millions instead of billions was a big change in scope, I find it super hard to believe the tsunamis alone wouldn’t be impacting tens or hundreds of millions of coast dwellers given the world building.

Sure, one act killing even two million people is insane, but one of this setting’s strengths is its realism/scope. Dropping rocks in a spacefaring society is a HUGE DEAL, and on such an overcrowded Earth it’s like shooting fish in a barrel. Killing a nontrivial fraction of the system population really hammers home the shock and horror in the books, but feels far weaker here.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:10 PM on December 29 [8 favorites]

“they’re going to use my reactor kaboom code”

Certainly, and the timing was sex-ed up also. Naomi would have sent the message hours(?) before the Roci received the signal.

Yes, curious that Peach's activated - they should have either shown it (more clearly) "not booting up" (because the drugs were still active) or her coming down after not needing to frenzy.

Love how the Razorback looks (and the whole idea of a space racing yacht). Without a reactor core, it's got very little in the way of being able to change delta V now?
posted by porpoise at 6:50 PM on December 29

> Lastly, I’m honestly disappointed in the “1-2 million” casualty figure.

I thought that figure was just the estimate from the latest impact that was being shown on screen. Surely billions must be dead.
posted by guiseroom at 7:31 PM on December 29 [3 favorites]

Yea the message timing was jarring but when they didn’t do anything to call it out (eg “oh shit she must be close by”) I just assumed we were meant to infer the events on the Pella happened N minutes before those on Tycho. But still an odd slip.

(Can’t take the) Razorback: think after a reactor core is dropped they’ve got emergency batteries and MAYBE some way to drive the RCS (attitude thrusters) but that’s still effectively “adrift in whatever direction the blast sent them”.

Re: my earlier notes about casualties: I’ve seen talk that it’s intended to represent “initial confirmed casualties, which in any wide scale emergency situation is always a minuscule fraction of the total count early on”. We’ll see how they play it in the next few episodes...EDIT: guiseroom - that’s another framing I hadn’t thought of. Still a tad confusing.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:32 PM on December 29

Latest impact/ "confirmed casualties" makes a lot of sense.

I can't remember if it was from the books, but I recall something about how satellite spectral imaging of the concentration of airborne compounds like methane and cadaverine (above baseline) were used to estimate the number of dead bodies in populated areas.

dangit, now I have the "(Can't take back the) Razorback" earworm all over again! =)
posted by porpoise at 7:42 PM on December 29

This episode felt really short. I wasn't expecting that cut to the credits.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 8:14 PM on December 29 [1 favorite]

I will add "rampaging homicidal maniac with cybernetic enhancements" to my long and ever-growing List of Problems One Can Solve with a Judiciously Applied German Suplex.

We are rapidly approaching the point where it will be easier for me to maintain a List of Problems One Cannot Solve with a Judiciously Applied German Suplex.
posted by Parasite Unseen at 9:45 PM on December 29 [5 favorites]

Must have been quite a change of pace for Amos to be the leader trying to calm down a hairtrigger behemoth. :)

My theory about his repeated use of "Tiny", even after he knew it was irritating the guy - he knew a physical confrontation was coming, and he wanted the convict to focus on him, giving the others a chance to shoot the guy.
posted by Mogur at 10:36 PM on December 29 [8 favorites]

The reactor code epiphany seemed pretty clear to me, a show-only viewer. They reminded us that the code was a thing throughout the episode, and it seemed obvious that she figured it out when Filip told her that she should be grateful to him for bringing her because he'd "saved her life".
posted by confluency at 5:05 AM on December 30 [3 favorites]

Yeah, the casualty number seemed weirdly low. Maybe they were trying to be kind to us poor 2020 viewers. This season is so brutal and so brilliant. The early seasons were more focused on the cold war between Mars and Earth and how that affected the Belt. And that has blossomed into an allegory of Afghanistan and 9/11 that shocks me with the realization that that happened nearly 20 years ago and Americans still avoid reckoning with it.
posted by rikschell at 6:12 AM on December 30 [1 favorite]

I do like the fact that Holden takes a call from some random Belter as they're about to chase down a WMD pays off a line from a few episodes earlier:

"There was a button and I pushed it."
"Jesus, that's really how you operate, isn't it?"
posted by pykrete jungle at 10:29 AM on December 30 [7 favorites]

I think the low initial casualty estimates are reasonable. Remember when COVID-19 was "contained in Wuhan," and "only killing a few thousand people?" Even if that was never true, media and global politicians replayed that reassuring narrative for a while even as things were becoming increasingly dire.
posted by Alterscape at 11:09 AM on December 30 [3 favorites]

ME: Shouldn't they be worried that the Roci has been sabotaged? I mean, wouldn't that be an obvious concern, considering that the person repairing it turned out the mole?

(Two or three minutes later, in the show:)

NAOMI: The Roci has been sabotaged!

HOLDEN: Oh, shit!

ME: ...

MY SPOUSE: Naomi is smart enough to think of that. Holden isn't.

ME: Fair.
posted by kyrademon at 12:14 PM on December 30 [12 favorites]

Naomi would have sent the message hours(?) before the Roci received the signal.

Tycho station is between mars and jupiter, which means it's <43 light minutes from the sun. I have no idea where Naomi is but "not on the fringes of the solar system" is a fairly safe bet so I'd say she sent the message less than 90 minutes before reception. And yes, Holden is an idiot for not considering the very obvious possibility that the Roci was sabotaged. I think there's a character element to that, his sense of righteousness can make him hyperfocus; in this case securing the protomolecule is blotting out all other things on the horizon.
posted by axiom at 12:47 PM on December 30 [2 favorites]

To put another book comparison in here: in the book, Holden and Fred (who survived the attack) did in fact go over the entire ship with a fine toothed comb because of the head engineer's betrayal. Despite this, nobody thought to reload the reactor software from known good sources until Naomi's message arrived.

(As a software engineer and sysadmin, I'm slightly skeptical that after another 300 years of Everything's A Computer, doing so wouldn't be part and parcel of any systems check, but whatever.)

I didn't really notice this change, because it doesn't materially change the outcome or the tension, and as folks noted, it's easy enough to handwave away the lack.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 1:01 PM on December 30 [1 favorite]

Leaving aside my eye annoyance over stealthed asteroid attacks...

The problem with billions of casualties is that's getting into a total infrastructure collapse scenario, in which case you'd be looking at a fairly rapid 99% casualty rate, and Earth not being damaged, but completely depopulated. Its like the difference between a nuclear attack destroying a city, and total nuclear war.

I guess it depends on where or not we want to see Amos and Clarissa trade "dying in the prison" for "dying in the ruins of the surface".
posted by happyroach at 5:45 PM on December 30

I don't think we know how many billions live on Earth during the Expanse, but a hit that takes out a major megalopolis could easily do in a billion people, I imagine. Tsunamis alone could do that. My question is, how much does this throw up into the atmosphere? Are we talking nuclear winter?
posted by rikschell at 6:11 PM on December 30

Supposed to be like 30 gigafolk on Earth. Even Mars has >1 billion. Seems like you could hardly chuck a rock without killing a couple of million.
posted by rhamphorhynchus at 6:56 PM on December 30

So, in the books, (yea...yea. I know) - Earth is heavily overpopulated, I think it's supposed to be something like 30 billion? (And that's with mandatory population control, eg Holden's 8 parents - who, I'll note, live on a ranch in Montana because it's one of the last non urbanized landscapes - all scraped together enough Kid Kredits or whatever to have: Holden the only child.)

If the same % of humanity lives on the coasts in 300ish years as today (about 40%), that's 12 billion people at tsunami risk. Even if we knock that down a lot by assuming some post-sea-rise inland migration, only some coastal areas impacted by rock tsunamis, and some sub 100% fatality rate in such still seems pretty reasonable to expect a very large number of people dealing with a violent, involuntary baptism.

And then, to answer rikschell's question, yes - in the books, at least, the impacts were large (eg knocking down forests and infrastructure across hundreds of miles) and numerous enough (at least 3 hit) to cause a "nuclear" winter across most or all of the globe. I believe we were intended to see the beginnings of this at the end of the Pit sequence in S5E5 (notice how it's cloudy and snowing/ashing a bit).

Anyway, so in the world the books describe, it's quite reasonable that between impacts, tsunamis, grid failure, solar failure, food disruption, and disease (waterlogged corpses tend to get kinda gross) - billions die. Whether the show has tuned the numbers and/or the effects to be less devastating, we'll find out.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 6:58 PM on December 30

Continuing my effects complaints: It's been happening all season long, but cheez, the completely open-air, tack-sharp holographic displays are all _over_ the place this season, huh? They've been around in earlier seasons, don't get me wrong, but more often than not they were displaying graphics in _some_ kind of framed viewer, even if it was just the transparent acrylic PADDs. This season? Eh fuckit, making an aluminum arm for an iPad is expensive, computer generated effects are cheaper.
posted by Kyol at 7:02 PM on December 30

The privacy nut in me absolutely rages every time somebody reads a Super Important Future-Email on their completely transparent terminal. Seriously?

I give them the benefit of the doubt that it's both a lot of work to 'fuzz' the 'other side' of those, and a whole lot of shots rely on exactly this misfeature to show both an actor's face and some useful info, to the viewer, at the same time.

But still.
posted by cyrusdogstar at 7:04 PM on December 30 [5 favorites]

And yeah, I was pretty unconcerned about "when" Naomi sent the message. There's only one clock in the universe, and it's the observer's clock. If something happened 22 minutes ago on the other side of the solar system and it arrived at the destination just in time to be useful, then it was sent just in time, wasn't it?

(See also the all the breathless real-world "the probe might have crashed 30 minutes ago!" sorts of reporting. Yes, and so? It's not like you could possibly know any sooner than the signals arrive where you're observing them, right? I recognize this is one of my first steps into crank-dom, to be fair...)
posted by Kyol at 7:22 PM on December 30 [8 favorites]

Also noting that in the long tradition of the Expanse hiring solid Canadian actors, Scary Prisoner Konachek is played by Boomer Phillips, who I first saw as the hockey player Boomtown in Letterkenny.
posted by pykrete jungle at 8:46 PM on December 30 [9 favorites]

I could be misremembering, but I think the books make specific mention that the reactor hack is extremely clever and nearly undetectable.

Also.... just as Prax’s idea of “the cascade” was a big deal last season..... it still is, only more so.
posted by schmod at 8:49 PM on December 30

posted by sixswitch at 12:20 AM on December 31 [2 favorites]

The Konachek *raging screaming* to "So… what's new" was excellent.
posted by monocultured at 2:41 AM on December 31 [6 favorites]

My theory about his repeated use of "Tiny", even after he knew it was irritating the guy - he knew a physical confrontation was coming, and he wanted the convict to focus on him, giving the others a chance to shoot the guy.

Oh, I really like this and think you’re right. It seemed a little weird he was provoking him. But I think less about giving the others a chance to shoot the guy and more a chance of making it him and not Peaches who is in no condition to fight.
posted by corb at 8:13 AM on December 31

From how Amos' story was set up I was expecting his story to be him and Peaches having to escape or take over the whole prison so it was a nice surprise that they were able to get out of there so quickly. He's still stuck on Earth but between his friends in high and low places I'm not too worried about him getting off-planet.

Also this might be a book-person question but are Earthers stronger than Martians and Belters? Earth's gravity was tough for Bobbie and Naomi would have died if she stayed on Ilus. I figure that Earthers' denser bones, muscles and more powerful hearts would be a big advantage for pretty much any physical activity, but also probably means they use up air, food and water faster too - was this mentioned in early episodes when they had to put some crew to sleep to conserve air? This would help explain how Amos, and even Holden, do so well in the fights they end up in.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 12:02 PM on December 31

So, in the books, (yea...yea. I know) - Earth is heavily overpopulated, I think it's supposed to be something like 30 billion?

You can tell the books were written in the 70s, before the notion of Demographic Transition hit. No wait, he really doesn't have that excuse.

But yeah, if a billion die, then the infrastructure collapses and 29.7 billion people die. At least.
posted by happyroach at 12:58 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]

Maybe I missed it, but what happened to the other prisoners down there? They let two out, but were there others who survived? That's a horrifying way to go, if so--I've been traumatized about the idea of being locked in a small space after a catastrophe since I read The Stand back when it came out.

Man, I am worried about Drummer going up against Belter Jim Jones.
posted by kitten kaboodle at 3:07 PM on December 31 [2 favorites]

I don't think it's exactly a book spoiler for the reasons you lay out, any portmanteu in a storm -- it's discussed in S2 that Bobby works out at one earth gravity (and yet her experience on earth is still fairly intense, even with that prep) and throughout S4 and somewhat in S5 that Belter bodies that have never been exposed to 1G can't stand up to earth gravity, so it makes sense that people raised down the well like Amos and Holden will be at least somewhat stronger than Belters/Martians. Of course, that muscle starts to atrophy as soon as you stop using it (ref: video of astronauts reacclimating to Earth after spending months on orbit in real life) so I'm not sure how much a prolonged advantage that is. In mythos, the advantage seems to be that Earthers are more likely able to return to 1G without ill effects. (I'm not sure how that stacks up in real life, but that's the book/show's logic).
posted by Alterscape at 4:46 PM on December 31

Yeah, that's a large part of my disappointment in casting/ CGing differences between Earthers, Martians, and Belters.

Marcos Inarios has far far far too much muscle for a Belter. In my headcannon, that kind of physique is "ugly" to Belters. All that myosin sucking up O2 and looking like someone who grew up in a gravity belt.

As for combat; all things equal, mass and strength are very large advantages. However, in low G/ zero G environments, growing up in those could give a huge advantage. But once a grapple has been engaged, pure strength (and bone density/ strength) wins much more often than not.

MMA could be super interesting pitting Earthers, Martians, and Belters against each other in different environments (Earth G Octagon, Mars G Octagon, Belter icosahedron/ hexekontatetradron/ fuckit sphere, etc.).
posted by porpoise at 8:41 PM on December 31 [1 favorite]

I've mentally let that go (the physical casting) since season ep 2 when it was clear it wasn't feasible in the production's consideration. The difference between the rest of the season and the pilot/ep1 was stark, and very much the cliche for a lot of shows.

But yeah, maybe one day... Or if Alcon has a George Lucas-type in their midst and the next decade or so spends it retooling the existing footage with fresh CG....
posted by cendawanita at 1:01 AM on January 1 [1 favorite]

As for combat; all things equal, mass and strength are very large advantages. However, in low G/ zero G environments, growing up in those could give a huge advantage. But once a grapple has been engaged, pure strength (and bone density/ strength) wins much more often than not.

There's a great example of this in Season 3, when Melba boarded the Roci looking for Holden and found Naomi instead. In the hand-to-hand that followed, we see Naomi leveraging her vastly great experience in microgravity to stay clear of Melba while trying to escape. It almost worked, but once Melba had a good grip on her, it was all over, short of some sort of persona ex deus.
posted by Mogur at 3:42 AM on January 1 [2 favorites]

it's discussed in S2 that Bobby works out at one earth gravity (and yet her experience on earth is still fairly intense, even with that prep)

Worth mentioning she did that because the Martian Marines were once training to possibly invade Earth, but that with the somewhat peaceful relations Bobbie was kinda made fun of by her fellow Marines for keeping to the old ways.
posted by sideshow at 9:15 PM on January 1

Marcos Inarios has far far far too much muscle for a Belter. In my headcannon, that kind of physique is "ugly" to Belters. All that myosin sucking up O2 and looking like someone who grew up in a gravity belt.

We get some insight into Naomi's perspective during her kidnapping in the books, specifically while Marco is working out: she knows he focuses exclusively on vanity muscles, and why: it's part of his whole manipulation/abuse/Alexander-the-Great-wannabe complex. But it's not unattractive in her opinion, just attached to so much psychological abuse/horror when it's Marco that the aesthetics don't matter.

Marco is definitely the guy who skips leg day.

My theory about his repeated use of "Tiny", even after he knew it was irritating the guy - he knew a physical confrontation was coming

From Nemesis Games, a few minutes after meeting Konecheck:
"Amos considered Konecheck out of the corner of his eyes. Still too early to be sure, but maybe sixty-forty that one of them was going to have to kill the other. Not now, but before it was over. He could hope for the forty."
I will say: "FUCK YOU, GOD! YOU MISSED AGAIN!" line is nowhere in the books and my wife and I bust out laughing long and loud. Show Konecheck was so, so much better.
posted by Ryvar at 7:34 AM on January 5 [2 favorites]

One notable thing about the asteroid attack; it's the Belters finally using one of their natural resources to their advantage. They're outward in the system, stuff falls inward. It's way harder throwing a rock out than throwing it in to Earth. There's a kind of.. not irony, but satisfying correctness to this sort of attack. A symmetry with how the Earthers attack Belters by attacking their supply lines.

The couple million dead on Earth so far is just the initial reports from initial impacts. As folks have reported, there's a lot of follow-on consequences that seem likely.

I continue to be impressed with how tightly this TV show is made. I loved the books but there's a lot of writing; boiling it down to essentials like this is not easy.
posted by Nelson at 11:59 AM on January 22 [1 favorite]

« Older Movie: Poltergeist...   |  Movie: Clouds... Newer »

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