“We have an emergency.”
While not ideal in most real-world applications, there’s nothing like certain death to tamper down strife between two tribes and force them to cooperate. Just as things on Ilus reached the proverbial fever pitch, with Holden unable to reach either Murtry on the Belters, Naomi has even worse news. One of the islands on the other side of the planet exploded like a thermonuclear reactor and the fallout — an earthquake, 200KPH winds, and tsunami — will all hit the settlement over the next day or so. This sobering news situation stamps out the squabbles on land rights better than Holden ever could as both the RCE folks and Belters get ready for a trip into space…
And that’s when the news gets worse.
If there’s one rule to depend on when the protomolecule and the Builders are concerned is to expect anything. The laws of physics are no longer immutable and act more like guidelines. Whatever holdover tech is buried under the surface has cut down any and all fusion drives the fusion drives in orbit, possibly taking them as a threat on par with the explosion. Worse still—talk about elevating the stakes—is when one of the Israel’s shuttles is vaporized when it hits the atmosphere and, possibly the most insane in a line of insanity is when one of the moons begins to melt. This is sobering even to Murtry’s continued efforts to one-up Holden and the Belters. But as mentioned before, he’s not the only one at fault; even Carol (Patti Kim, Sacred Lies, The Killing), the Belter’s community leader, showcases an impressive (though decidedly less murderous) stubbornness. She only agrees to evacuate when Holden promises to speak to Avasrala’s on their behalf. Still, it all takes a backseat to the much greater threat.
The seamlessness in which “Displacement” shifts the tension from a situation born of human confrontations to the unnatural phenomena is part and parcel to the genius of The Expanse. Our main cast may be safe but the heart-pounding anticipation and worry are still there. When Holden slides into the artifact ruins (the only viable place of safety for the colonists), it plays like a darker adventure film where we know the hero will live but the danger presented is so believable that even if sequels are to follow (or in this case, more episodes), it doesn’t diffuse the gravity of the events.
The same idea of risk is also present in Medina Station where, after the UN Tripoli’s Captain (Kerry Griffin, The Beaverton, Designated Survivor) informs Ashford and Drummer that his ship will remain in Ring space as a deterrent should Marco Inaros and other OPA terrorists have designs on hijacking more UN ships… or something worse. Again, Ashford sees this incursion for what it is; the first salvo in removing Drummer from her position of Medina captain. The thought of having her command stripped away lights a fire for Drummer and she looks to track Marco down for the second time and thanks to some intel from the Tripoli captain, she pinpoints Marco’s next destination as Pallas Station. Though not as overtly physical as the happenings on Ilus, the Drummer/Ashford dynamic is the best pairing in “Displacement”. David Strathairn has been phenomenal as Klaes Ashford since day one and Cara Gee has given life to her character from the start in the most unexpected and satisfying way. Her conviction on sparing Marco to avoid the fracturing of their factions was admirable but stands to cause more trouble than it was worth.
Finishing up with Bobbie’s arc, she’s become intelligent muscle for Martin’s shadowy enterprise. After finishing their first job, the briefest grin of joy slashes her face, perhaps for the first time in months. Bobbie’s felt out of place for so long that even the finest tincture of performing her duties, even illegal ones that are a far cry from her former life, brings with it that joyful feeling of purpose. In addition to work, she’s allowed herself to enjoy the more intimate aspects of life. Her dalliances with Thomas (Michael Xavier, Northern Rescue, Bitten), another former marine is reminiscent of someone whose high school life was a rigid structure of discipline, and when expectations relaxed, that person fell into the pleasures they never really got a chance to enjoy. But as much as she’s having fun, it’s only going to be a matter of time before Bobbie grows weary of fulfillment from illicit affairs.
Another installment of The Expanse, another exceptional out. I feel as if, at times, I’m repeating the same phrases when talking about this show but the genuine love and amazement the series pours forth is as honest a praise as I can give it. Nothing ever seems forced and very little is wasted, with even small, emotional beats like Ashford watching a vid of his son before the fire that scarred his body, adding important layers to an already complex character. “Displacement”, as opener to the second half of the season, is that first step towards the end, giving us even greater danger, decisive actions, and a new threat to the colonists in the form of a mysterious infection taking root in their eyes.
Tilting at Windmills
• Though she remains a secondary player, Avasarala’s story beat leads directly into the intel Drummer’s provided by the Tripoli’s Her worry over Holden and Ilus is both because she understands the importance of what this conflict represents—something made worse by lagging communications with the world soon after Carol’s decree of Ilus belonging to the Belters.
• After wanting to embrace death last episode, Lucia has regained her strength of purpose. Even Felcia’s (Kyla Madeira, The Mystery Files) angry disappointment after discovering Lucia’s role in the shuttle explosion did not deter the doctor. Alex may have helped pull Lucia out of her lowest place, but now it’s up to her to make the best of her second chance.