The Expanse: Retrofit
January 13, 2016 1:33 PM - Season 1, Episode 6 - Subscribe

The crew of the Rocinate negotiate with Fred Johnson. Detective Miller & Anderson Dawes have a chat. Avasarala schemes.
posted by leotrotsky (35 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
 
You forgot: Amos gets a shotgun!!!!
posted by Mezentian at 2:41 PM on January 13, 2016


io9's review (which calls it Rock Bottom).

Oh yeah, and Alex busts out a bit of Martian bar wisdom, with this Texas accent.
posted by Mezentian at 2:44 PM on January 13, 2016


I still think the show's version of Avasarala lacks a little of the joy (or at least the insouciance) that I associate with her character in the books. However, they are absolutely making up for it with her outfits, which are becoming increasingly fierce with each episode.


I really like that Fred Johnson is even more of an ambivalent figure on the show, and that there is even more tension between him and Rocinante's crew. It was especially interesting that Anderson station was shown to be more of an unambiguous massacre in the last episode.


I have now fully bought into the show's version of Ceres, and the stuff with the OPA was excellent this episode. They have done an excellent job with belter linguistics, and even the accents when speaking a more standard English are really well thought out. The head OPA guy has something that sounds to me like a cross between a Singaporean and and Afrikaner accent when he's speaking with Miller. It was also kind of interesting that they took the whole "parts of Mars were settled by Texans" thing even further, by having a legit redneck cop hassling those belters at the end.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 3:41 PM on January 13, 2016 [3 favorites]


I did find the Anderson station scenes a bit out of sequence as I did not see an indication that it was a flashback.
posted by sammyo at 3:45 PM on January 13, 2016


iTunes calls it Rock Bottom, as well.

Dark episode, for sure, with the kid getting tossed into space by his uncle and Miller losing everything, balanced by the successes of Holden and his crew.
posted by Mogur at 5:48 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


Dark episode, for sure, with the kid getting tossed into space by his uncle

.. his uncle who just created a mass driver (if that's the correct term?) and blew up a RMCN vessel with an indiscrimate weapon which is headed where, exactly?
posted by Mezentian at 6:46 PM on January 13, 2016


a RMCN vessel with an indiscrimate weapon which is headed where, exactly?

Per physics, almost certainly nowhere at all. Space is big, and he was aiming at the 'splodey ship. It'll perturb the orbit of the asteroid (now an expanding cloud of scrap) but not much.
posted by BungaDunga at 9:03 PM on January 13, 2016


Aha! But per plot, surely this is Checkov's Mass Driver?
posted by Mezentian at 9:29 PM on January 13, 2016 [2 favorites]


From the didn't-read-the-book peanut gallery:

I was still confused here (what did the Uncle and Nephew miners have to do with anything?) but this episode moved things in the right direction:

- Hat Cop getting fired and knowing he's on the right track

- The Rocinante heading out to finally find out what happened to the Scopuli.

I really liked the contrast between Earth (people meeting in a huge Aquarium and sitting in fancy offices with ships flying by in the windows) and the Belt (people getting beat up and spaced).

I did find the Anderson station scenes a bit out of sequence as I did not see an indication that it was a flashback.

I thought that was last episode? Or was there an Anderson Station scene in this one?
posted by mmoncur at 11:21 PM on January 13, 2016


Aha! But per plot, surely this is Checkov's Mass Driver?

Maybe! I hope not though- it would be kind of out-of-keeping with this series' attempts at plausibility. Plenty of time for 'splosions from other, more personal and/or thrilling directions.

I was still confused here (what did the Uncle and Nephew miners have to do with anything?)

Book readers are just as confused- this one is anyway. I took it to be another demonstration of the valid grievances all those pissed-off OPA Belters have, and the lengths they are willing to go when pushed.
posted by BungaDunga at 11:49 PM on January 13, 2016 [1 favorite]


I have only read the first book, and while I wasn't wowed by it, I liked it better than I've liked the series so far.
I am confused as to why they have made so many changes in relationships, in characterizations of the main characters, in plotlines.
I guess I'll just have to live with the idea that this is a pretty adaptation, rather than a faithful retelling.
It's space opera on TV, so i'll likely continue to watch, but I can't say I really like it much so far.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:20 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


"(which calls it Rock Bottom)"

Yeah, The Television Database, TMDb, and Wikipedia all list it as "Rock Bottom" and it's only IMDB which lists it as "Retrofit". You'd think that IMDB would be most reliable, but these days for television shows I'm not really sure that it is. I have my media server configured to pull metadata for television shows first from tvdb and then tmdb, if necessary.

"I still think the show's version of Avasarala lacks a little of the joy (or at least the insouciance) that I associate with her character in the books."

Insouciance is just the right word. They've included some of it, but the tv version of this character is not nearly as vivid as the book version.

"I did find the Anderson station scenes a bit out of sequence as I did not see an indication that it was a flashback."

This was in the previous episode, but yeah -- they did show a title that it was a flashback only the very first time they showed Anderson station. After that, they didn't. It's interesting that they didn't, especially because even though I was totally aware that they were flashbacks, I still found it disconcerting that they didn't signal this in any of the subsequent scenes. It's a nice example of cinematic grammar in that this is an apparent violation of contemporary custom. Almost always there is a device used to signal a flashback, even if it's been previously established. A title, music, a sound effect, something. Here, they established it once and then assumed that the audience would retain this information.

".. his uncle who just created a mass driver (if that's the correct term?)"

That wasn't a mass driver, not as that term is usually used. Mass drivers were mentioned in the battle with the Donnager as being surprising high-technology. What this belter did was about as low-technology a weapon as you'll find in space.

A mass driver specifically refers to a weapon or launching system that uses electromagnetism to accelerate a payload to high velocities. I think the first time I ever heard of them was when I read Heinlein's "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" when I was a kid in the 70s. They're a trope in science fiction, especially with regard to the Moon or other vacuum environments where you want to have a launching system that can move a large amount of material in smaller payloads at high speeds (up to escape velocity and beyond) at short intervals over long periods of time. Especially convenient for metallic ore.

Additionally, it can be a weapon system, as mentioned in the Donnager episode. This is something that, apparently, the actual US Navy is experimenting with. In this case it's smaller metallic slugs that are propelled at a very high acceleration along an electromagnet conduit -- sometimes called a "rail gun".

You can see why Naval ships would experiment with this and why it's also a staple of science fiction gunships. If power is not your problem, as it's not a problem if you've got a small naval nuclear power plant or if you have some futuristic spaceship that must have a very high density energy source to do the things they're usually shown to be doing, then a mass driver weapon makes a lot of sense. The projectiles are going to necessarily be dense and you'll hate to have to be using the energy to be hauling their mass around all the time, except that your driver can accelerate them to extremely high relative velocities, meaning that you really only need a whole bunch of tiny, dense projectiles that won't have that much total mass to carry around but when you accelerate them to extremely high velocities and aim them at a target, they have very high kinetic energy and will do a great deal of damage.

An asteroid reduced to a bunch of rocks as a kinetic weapon is pretty effective for things like planets and moons and space stations that can't move out of the way, and especially when they are accelerated over long periods of time from very far away and outside the plane of the ecliptic -- you'll never see it coming and it will be like a large thermonuclear weapon. I don't see how it would be that effective against another ship, unless it was totally caught by surprise.

One of the things that any SF story that aims to be realistic at all has to take into account is the simple fact that sitting down at the bottom of a gravity well on a planet or a moon makes one extremely vulnerable to anyone up above who has energy and basically anything with mass. Belters working in the asteroid belt would basically have the inner planets at their mercy if they had a big energy source (which they very well might, depending upon how technology has advanced and how much infrastructure they've built) and if the people who live on the inner planets don't have a swarm of tracking satellites and spaceships that can detect and deflect projectiles when they're still very far away. In other words, Earth and Mars would have to be be very aggressive about controlling space all the way to the outer planets in order to not be at an enormous strategic disadvantage. And if they lost control of that high ground, they would likely never be able to regain it and they'd be totally at the mercy of the people who control it. With a society that actually lives in the asteroid belt, you'd have a civilization that could pretty easily destroy most of the life on Earth or Mars. This is why the stakes are so high.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 12:45 AM on January 14, 2016 [12 favorites]


Thanks for that. I've read 'Moon' but can't remember the mass driver there, but I always fondly remember the Centauri bombardment of Narn in B5 when it comes to mass drivers.
My gods, *that* was a great scene. And terrible.
posted by Mezentian at 3:36 AM on January 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


On re-watch, the rabblerouser's words "...when rocks rain down upon them!" are what gave the captain his idea (btw, I choose to believe that the Martian captain was just that complacent that he didn't realize he had to dodge until literally the last second). I'm curious to see where this goes (haven't read the books) as I am positive that Dawes, for one, has thought about this a lot.
posted by Mogur at 7:24 AM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


I noticed this episode that Naomi's tattoo matches the scars that you got from older helmets, talked about in the interrogation scenes on Ceres. I imagine that's made explicit in the books, but I thought it was a great subtle character detail here.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 11:44 AM on January 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


I love the books but so far this show is striking me as way to heavy and somber. At least from my reading, they are missing like 80-90% of the spark and humor that are the main things I enjoyed about the story.

There's been a glimmer here and there, but for one thing I always pictured Holden as way more of a Gene Hackman in space... Not physically, but just decisive even to a fault and unbendingly sarcastic and funny... like a human being whose entire genetic makeup is just the part in Galaxy Quest where Tim Allen goes "And what you fail to realize is my ship is dragging mines"
posted by SharkParty at 12:05 PM on January 14, 2016 [5 favorites]


rocks rain down upon them

In the books, this is also an explicit threat made towards inhabited planets without breathable atmospheres, whose inhabitants live in domes. Indeed, more than a threat at least once.

I also noticed the tattoos/scars, yet another amazing level of attention to detail and giving-a-shit-ness. I love this show.

I became pretty much sold on Amos this episode. Seeing him with a shotgun did it.
posted by biscotti at 1:37 PM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


There's an intensity boiling inside Amos that comes through when he's laser-focused on either reading someone's personality and intent, or preparing to defend himself if Shit Gets Real.

I recognize that kind of hypervigilance, and it's something that comes from an abusive or neglected childhood, combat-related PTSD or having survived a long time by himself in unfavorable conditions.

The physical acting on this show is simply spectacular. Not everything important in a space-centric series gets conveyed through dialogue or special effects, and as a non-reader I feel like I should really be watching each ep twice for subtle plot clues.
posted by Unicorn on the cob at 1:44 PM on January 14, 2016 [6 favorites]


Hat Cop getting fired

I love that "Hat Cop" is a thing now.
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 2:18 PM on January 14, 2016 [3 favorites]


I don't remember the uncle/rocks bit from the books, so my best guess is that they're going to be flung at or near either Phoebe or the Scopuli to cause additional problems. Didn't Avasarala say something when she was lying on the roof about how she was afraid of people throwing rocks?

Alex and his Texan charm remains delightful. I'd forgotten (if they ever mention it) that Texas colonized Mars, but it does make me happy that space has a diversity of accents. The last show I remember doing that was B5.
posted by tautological at 4:33 PM on January 14, 2016 [1 favorite]


Rewatched the second episode and noticed the kid is the same one that got busted siphoning off water!
posted by dustyasymptotes at 8:15 PM on January 14, 2016


The Mariner Valley of Mars was settled by immigrants from China, India, and a small proportion of Texans.

And now everybody from there sounds like John Wayne , even if they've sever seen a real-live horse, and one can only imagine what direction BBQ went.

Also, if you're in the Bay Area next Wed at 5, Nick Farmer (one of the linguists who're developing Belter as a language) is gonna come by the bar I work at for Happy Hour. As we saw in last week's episode, there's rum in Space.

Which actually makes sense; whiskey, vodka, brandy, most spirits are distilled from things like wheat or potatoes or grapes, things that can be consumed as foodstuffs. Agricultural societies that distilled spirits typically did so w/ surplus stores, above and beyond food they could consume before it went bad & next years seed.

Rum* is distilled from molasses, which is a byproduct of industrial sugar production. It's not eaten, so converting it to alcohol is not taking food off the table. If they can grow sugar in space, rum is probably the beltalowda booze of choice. And I'm figuring that sweetener is gonna find a serious market among all those folks eating only what the hydroponics farms can churn out.

Whiskies, gins, vodka, all those other spirits I'm imagining would be premium imports from dirtside. Actually, Anderson Dawes is the one who ordered rum last episode, and he's a hardcore OPA partisan. He's not gonna order some high-priced imported inyalowda drink. He's gonna sip good belter rum, distilled from the finest zero-G-grown sugar.

Belters probably don't age their rum; used bourbon barrels would be too expensive to transport, take up too much space, so either they like it rough edged, or their doing something to it to take the edge off like spices or sweetener. Maybe "Belter Rum" is actually more like a blended cordial akin to a rum-based Drambuie

So yeah, booze & language in space next week 1/20 in Oakland.

----
* Rhum agricole is distilled from cane juice rather than molasses, a Francophone-Caribbean tradition ever since Napoleon moved to protect the French beet-sugar industry by banning imports of Caribbean sugar, which put the kibosh on their sugar production, and access to molasses.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:11 AM on January 15, 2016 [7 favorites]


The physical acting on this show is simply spectacular. Not everything important in a space-centric series gets conveyed through dialogue or special effects, and as a non-reader I feel like I should really be watching each ep twice for subtle plot clues.

We watched the first few episodes via the SyFy app (so, fairly low resolution, which would pixelate out at times when it got temperamental about the wifi), then bought the HD Season Pass from Amazon last night and re-watched the first episode. Holy smoke. The detail on this show is amazing, including (as mentioned) the physical acting. I find myself wanting to rewatch various scenes so I can concentrate on one character all the way through, or on the people in the background, or…

There's an intensity boiling inside Amos that comes through when he's laser-focused on either reading someone's personality and intent, or preparing to defend himself if Shit Gets Real.

I loved the scene where he realizes Naomi didn't tell him about Holden reporting the distress call because Naomi was afraid of him. Watching him realize that, watching him obviously having a strong emotional reaction to it, watching him recognize "anything I do or say right now will be the wrong thing and I need to get myself out of here as carefully and calmly as I can"… followed by the conversation with Alex at the bar… the folks in charge of casting on this show did an amazing job. Even characters who only appear briefly before they get killed — I was sorry Lopez didn't survive the escape from the Donnager. I would have liked to see more of that actor.

On the subject of language, I've been reading whatever I can find about the Belter creole. Nick Farmer (the linguist who created the language) is on Twitter and seems happy to answer questions and correct people's attempts at creating Belter sentences. (Touching on an earlier discussion, he's clear that hand gestures ≠ sign language.) A voice and speech trainer named Eric Armstrong worked out the details of the spoken accent (this interview includes an IPA chart for Belter) and choreographer Roberto Campanella created the gestures.

BTW, if you find yourself wanting to learn Belter, base it on the show, not the books. Apparently in an interview one or both of the authors have acknowledged that they basically make up Belter vocab on the fly when they need it; the version on the show is an actual creole with grammar and suchlike.
posted by Lexica at 11:26 AM on January 15, 2016 [11 favorites]


Haven't read the books yet, am enjoying the show greatly. So far I haven't got any inclination to learn Belter, but I really, really want to design and build a realistic-looking robot hamster that'll run on a wheel.
posted by asperity at 1:28 PM on January 15, 2016


Did anyone else really love Amos being sweetly, sincerely concerned for sex worker working conditions?
posted by corb at 2:58 PM on January 15, 2016 [19 favorites]


Amos is my favorite character so far. Ever since the ep where they were fixing the antenna and he told Holden that he'd kill him, but Naomi wouldn't like that, and, also, could Holden please pass him that hammer? The matter-of-fact "Thanks" at the end made the scene for me.
posted by Mogur at 3:14 PM on January 15, 2016 [1 favorite]


Amos asking after the sex workers made me love him. I wasn't sold before that.
posted by vibratory manner of working at 12:15 AM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Amos is becoming one of my favorite characters because I'm not sure I understand him.

On the one hand, he's comfortable with violence. He tells Holden "I can't give you a reason why I should or shouldn't rip your helmet off and kick you off the bucket, except Naomi wouldn't like it". He's a man with enough self-awareness to recognize that he essentially has no moral compass. That moment, reminded me of a story about a guy who walked into a psych hospital saying "I've been doing some reading and I think I'm a psychopath, because I fit all the descriptions."

So when Amos has the "You're afraid of me" moment of realization, that was really powerful; the one person who understands what and how he is, the one person in whom he has vested the role of his moral compass believes at some level that his violence might be uncontrollable.

But his concern for the sex workers is interesting. I mean, I'm pro-sex-worker like whoa. But I was wondering, can a guy who is incapable of coming up with a reason to kill or not kill a crew-mate summon that kind of concern for a prostitute, even having grown up in brothels?

I've read that Stalin was sentimental, and that monsters often have a sentimental core to balance their monstrosity. Richard "Iceman" Kuklinski was a hit-man for the Mafia for years and racked up maybe 100 kills while going home to his wife and kids in Detroit.

So maybe Amos' sentimentality & casualness w violence isn't out of place. But damn, I have never met someone like that, and I hope I never do.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:12 AM on January 16, 2016 [4 favorites]


Did anyone else really love Amos being sweetly, sincerely concerned for sex worker working conditions?

His mom was a prostitute. At least in the books.
posted by biscotti at 3:40 PM on January 16, 2016


I will say this (for fear of spoilers), the bit about Amos' past in the books has stayed with me in ways a lot of scenes haven't.
posted by Mezentian at 8:03 PM on January 16, 2016 [1 favorite]


they did show a title that it was a flashback only the very first time they showed Anderson station. After that, they didn't. It's interesting that they didn't, especially because even though I was totally aware that they were flashbacks, I still found it disconcerting that they didn't signal this in any of the subsequent scenes. It's a nice example of cinematic grammar in that this is an apparent violation of contemporary custom. Almost always there is a device used to signal a flashback, even if it's been previously established. A title, music, a sound effect, something. Here, they established it once and then assumed that the audience would retain this information.

Late to the party, and this is about the previous episode no less, but the Anderson Station scenes were slightly pixelated, with the occasional digital glitch, hinting that what we were watching was the actual Historical Video Record of the event. It was a pretty subtle effect, but it's definitely visible projected at 720p. Maybe not as obvious on a smaller screen or at lower resolution.
posted by neckro23 at 2:14 PM on January 19, 2016 [5 favorites]


I'm somewhat liking this show but having such a hard time following the plots. I'm really lost at this point.
posted by octothorpe at 5:44 PM on January 31, 2016


What the hell did Uncle Mateo take out of his helmet, and why?

Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, I'll buy your rum thesis, but wouldn't it be as likely if not moreso that any spirits available are essentially tinctured white lightning? Now, where one might source oak chips to soak in your hi-proof in the Belt is another question entirely, but surely gin is available, and possibly made at home or in bulk by local establishments.

people of the book, what all do we know about Belter food agriculture?
posted by mwhybark at 8:39 PM on February 10, 2016


people of the book, what all do we know about Belter food agriculture?

Just finished a re-read of Leviathan Wakes to go along with watching the show—lots of their food seems to be fungus. Several references to eating vat-grown rice and fungus-and-yeast-based fake beans or various fungal-curds, and Miller is often drinking fungal-culture whiskey.
posted by JiBB at 2:15 PM on February 8, 2017


What the hell did Uncle Mateo take out of his helmet, and why?

Looked like a loose wire of some sort. Obviously not something that he couldn't do without and will need to fix later, but don't want it in his face.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:13 AM on February 11, 2017


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