SPOILER ALERT-Do not read if you have not seen episode 11 of The Expanse season two.
Quote of the Week- “How come I’m always the one who gets shot?”
The title of this episode, Here There Be Dragons, refers to a phrase on a 16th century globe to denote unknown lands and creatures. Maybe the Protomolecule is the actual “draco” or the unknown monster from an unknown land.
The episode opens with another beautiful shot of Jupiter before the camera focuses on Ganymede and the wreckage above the station. Dr. Strickland, Mei, and Umea (a female colleague of Dr. Strickland) are walking down a corridor. Umea is commenting on the loss of protocol and controls in the experiment. The most amazing aspect of their conversation is their total lack of empathy for what they are discussing in front of Mei. They are literally discussing experimenting on children in front of one of their test subjects. Their lack of empathy is truly monstrous. Perhaps the most chilling part is how charming Strickland is to Mei, considering that he plans to experiment on her using the Protomolecule. Why beware of dragons or monsters at the end of the world, when they live among us?
As they proceed through the corridors to their pickup point, Umea and Strickland continue to discuss the fiasco that is Ganymede. Strickland has to give Mei her medication, which Mei initially refuses. Strickland uses a leaf with a chrysalis as a means to illustrate to Mei how she will have to struggle to fly someday. Strickland uses this illustration only to convince Mei to come with him willingly. He continues by telling Mei that she is on a grand adventure to learn the secrets of the universe. She takes the shot and the capsule is expelled onto the ground. They finally reach their destination. It is a room where children are individually strapped to medical gurneys. Mei is strapped in with the other children.
Meanwhile, the Roci crew and Prax are in pursuit of Mei and Strickland. Amos questions Holden as to why he did not stop Amos from bashing in the head of the information broker. Holden says that he is learning from Amos. Amos thinks he just beat Holden to the punch. This small conversation between Amos and Holden reveals a bigger issue that illustrates the continuing change in Holden as he hunts his white whale, the Protomolecule. Holden is willing to make significant sacrifices to stop it. Perhaps he might even be willing to sacrifice the idealism that makes him who he is.
Naomi tries to prepare Prax for the possibility that they may not find Mei, or that she might be dead. Prax refuses to believe that Mei could be lost. He tells Naomi that she does not understand what it is like to lose a child. Naomi surprises him with a confession; her baby boy was taken from her. She tried desperately to find him but she could not do so. Prax asks her if she would have listened to anyone telling her to stop looking for him. Naomi only gives a small nod of approval. Naomi’s confession to Prax is a major revelation! She has a child. For those who have read all of the books, this harkens back to something Naomi said in the first season. This bombshell is incredibly important for later seasons!
During their exploration of the abandoned part of the station, they find the discarded capsule that contained Mei’s medicine. They see scavengers looting wiring to sell to buy passage off of the station as the station continues to fail. Eventually, the crew comes across a door leading to a room with sounds of activity. They bust open the door to find Umea and some of her Protogen team eating. There is a standoff until Prax, who has seen Mei’s backpack, points his gun at the Protogen crew. He demands to know where Mei is. A firefight erupts! Some of the Protogen personnel are killed but Umea and others escape. Amos is injured. In the next room, Prax makes a horrifying discovery. There is a child frozen in a capsule. It has been horribly mutated by the Protomolecule. It is not Mei. Holden destroys the capsule with the child in it.
Back on Earth, Bobbie is still under house arrest. Captain Martens badgers Bobbie about the lapse in her testimony. He tells Bobbie that she will no longer be a Marine because a soldier follows orders, which she has not done. When the transport arrives to take Bobbie to the orbiting spaceship, it is prevented from landing due to a security scare over a possible OPA bombing threat, which delays Bobbie departure from Earth.
Bobbie makes a decision that she wants the truth. She asks to speak to Captain Martens. When she meets him, Bobbie debunks that Captain Martens ever knew her father well and demands the truth from him about Ganymede. He refuses to tell her the truth and she attacks him. She beats him until he eventually gives her access to the video feed of the incident. The entire encounter was a test called Project Caliban. It was an unrehearsed battlefield demonstration of the Protomolecule hybrid against the Earth and Martian marines. Bobbie is both horrified and angry that her squad was used as cannon fodder for the test of this “weapon’s system.” Bobbie escapes with the information about the test and seeks asylum in the UN HQ.
Behind the scenes, Avasarala has been busy. She stopped Bobbie from being shipped back to Mars by issuing a bogus security alert. She also informed Errinwright that he would be the prime witness in the investigation into Eros. Errinwright suggests that they can use Clarissa Mao to get to Jules. He leaves a device with Avasarala to contact Clarissa. Instead, this same device is later used by Jules to contact Avasarala. He proposes that they meet to discuss a way forward. Cotyar says that it is a trap. Avasarala agrees to meet Jules in spite of Cotyar’s warnings. For anyone who mistakenly thought Jules was defeated, they clearly know now that they were wrong. Jules went to the Martian government with the Protomolecule. Governments never seem to learn the lesson that you cannot make a deal with the Devil. The Devil always wins and you always lose.
On the Rocinante, Alex is talking to the ship, but the Rocinante is keeping her own counsel. The Martian navy blockade tightens around Ganymede so ships cannot leave or arrive. However, the Martian navy is allowing one ship to land. Alex immediately recognizes that the ship is probably black ops. He calculates a way to use the gravity of Jupiter’s moons and thrusters to make an undetectable landing on Ganymede. He assumes that the landing site for the black ops ship will be close to the Protomolecule and the Roci crew. His plan works, but he is almost caught as he slingshots around one of the moons, as there is a Martian ship hiding there. Fortunately, he and the Rocinante react in time to stay hidden. Alex takes the ship in on manual after the Martian scare.
Above Venus, the U.N.S. Arboghast launches two probes. They are destroyed before they can report anything from Venus. Dr. Iturbi suggests reinforcing the shielding of one probe by using the shielding from another probe. It works. On Venus, we not only see the remains of the other probes, but also incredible structures. The Protomolecule was not destroyed when it crashed on Venus; it is growing and building something.
Back on Ganymede, after the destruction of the mutated child, one of Umea’s soldiers tosses a grenade in the utility room with the Roci crew. Amos quickly grabs the grenade and throws it back into the loading dock with Umea and her people. There is an explosion, gunfire, screaming, and a horrible crash as oxygen is lost from the loading dock. The crew cautiously enters the loading dock. The place is devastated. Everyone is dead. Something broke out of a containment capsule and escaped out of the airlock by breaking through the airlock door. They hear Umea struggling to breathe. She gasps for their help and mercy. Holden demands answers but refuses to help her because of her absolutely heartless use of the children in the Protomolecule experimentation. Yet she is actually proud of what she did.
Alex arrives in the outer airlock to take them back to the Rocinante. Naomi decides to stay to help Melissa get the Weeping Somnambulist up and running in order to save as many people as they can on Ganymede. Naomi tells Holden they can’t stop the Protomolecule as it has spread to far. She is right, but Holden is unable to stop going after his white whale.
Amos goes with Naomi while Prax joins Holden and Alex. The hybrid is loose on the surface of Ganymede. Holden has a chance to chase his white whale in person. He is determined to stop the hybrid. But like all obsessed people, Holden has overlooked one fact: Umea and Naomi are right that Pandora’s box is already open. There is no going back. Eventually, Holden has to learn this for himself, or his obsession will destroy him.
This episode is one of the best of the season because so many questions were answered. We also learned many new facts:
– Naomi has a son!
– Mei is still alive.
– There is a Protomolecule hybrid on Ganymede.
– One of the hybrid creatures killed the Earth and Martian marines. It was part of Project Caliban that was a Mars sponsored weapons demonstration of the Protomolecule hybrid.
– The Protomolecule is building something on Venus.
– Bobbie knows the truth and she has sought sanctuary on Earth.
– Jules is still plotting and planning.
With only two episodes left this season, I think it would be wise to get new safety belts. I believe by the end of this season, we will know what the Protomolecule is building on Venus. The Epstein drive is just powering up to take us on a ride to the edge of the known world, hic sunt dracones.
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