“Age changes you in ways you don’t expect.”
With only three episodes left in Season Four, there’s not much room to leave narrative segments out and gain a satisfactory conclusion to the individual arcs. To accommodate this, “The One-Eyed Man” tackles all four plotlines and sets the table for what should be a fabulous final two.
After the disastrous Pizzouza raid, Avasarala is facing her greatest surge of scrutiny. To add to the flack from the news coverage and strikes by Gao, her political opponent, Avasarala is slammed by General McCourt (Benz Antoine, In the Dark, 19-2). He blames her for the tragedy, forcing action without gaining the proper level of intel. It’s a bad look from McCourt who provided the two options but never argued for or against either. Had he objected on the dangers of the breach, his castigation of Avasarala would have been justified; instead, he’s nothing more than a cowardly Monday morning QB who, if he had reservations about the mission, has an obligation to his men and the success of the mission to express them along with a more effective contingency. This oversight hamstrings the effectiveness of his confrontation with Avasarala but is quickly forgotten when she addresses families of the 12 marines at a memorial service.
Aghdashloo is brilliant here, able to get in touch with the scarring nature of Avasarala’s of losing a child to war. Everything about her delivery—from the pain in her eyes to going off-script of her speech—is authentic and that resonates with everyone in attendance, even Gao. But the truth is far more distasteful. After realizing Avasarala has leaked footage of the catastrophe on Ilus, Arjun confronts his wife only to find that she’s played everyone like a violin. Though the pain dredged up from losing her son was genuine, using it to gain the upper hand and emphasize her convictions of the dangers of colonizing these Ring worlds, is a new low for her and as Arjun all but shouts the respect he’s lost for her, I, too, am in the same boat. Though Michael Benyaer is passable, his intensity actually detracts from the power of this scene; it would have been immensely better had George remained and Avasarala would have truly felt the shame.
A few million kilometers away on Mars, Bobbie prepares for another job with Martin and his team. This time, they expect a windfall payday which instantly puts her on guard. She doesn’t trust Beltran (Tim Campbell), their military contact and approaches Martin with her concerns. What follows is a wonderful scene where Martin, who at one point also shared the “all-in for Mars” patriotism gives Bobbie the truth a loyal soul like her has done everything to ignore; the dream of Mars becoming a world with a breathable biosphere is over. “Mars died the moment they discovered those new worlds,” he tells her.
Though still not the best of people, Martin’s consigned resignation gives a bit more perspective into his motivation; primarily getting his family off Mars and onto one of the new worlds before the planet he loves falls apart. His matter-of-fact observation hits Bobbie harder than she would admit and she ends up taking it out on Thomas, who’s gotten a long-term assignment on Europa. He makes it clear to Bobbie that he wants her to go with him, a genuine plea that does not sit well with the independent former marine. She sees it as Thomas trying to save her and, on top of the already crushed feelings created by Martin’s harsh truths, Bobbie spurns him. With Thomas gone and a job she wants nothing to do with, Bobbie’s spiraled back into that hopeless malaise she was in earlier in the season. I believe now, more than ever, she needs to leave Mars behind and perhaps find a home on a certain ship that, at the moment is orbiting around Ilus.
As the episode title suggests, Holden is now the only person in the alien ruins on Ilus with his sight. Several Belters have died due to the poisonous slugs wandering around. Though the narrative focuses on Holden (Elvi serves an important role as well), it’s Amos who has the most significant emotional arc. A man not afraid of anything, his initial reaction when Holden told him everyone would go blind suggested a deeper trauma within the earther. Combine that with his quiet but combative behavior in “The One-Eyed Man”, even taking a panicked swing at Holden, and it was clear that Amos was fighting a rising tide of personal demons. In a moment of naked honesty, he shares the truth with Chandra about his childhood; the nightmares he would have as a kid, only to open his eyes to the darkness and the nightmare of reality that soon followed. Though we’ve never gotten the full story of Amos’s past, the snippets doled out over the years paints the picture of a childhood filled with the worst kinds of abuse. For someone like Amos to be near that breaking point, helpless as he was so long ago cannot be understated as to the strength of character shaped by Wes Chatham, The Expanse source material, and the series’ creative team. There’s a reason why Amos is a fan favorite and, after this season, that group will only get bigger.
Amos may have the strongest arc, but Holden isn’t too far behind. Run ragged over days with no sleep and being responsible for the safety of dozens of blind people while navigating the poisonous slugs, the weight of it is wearing on Holden, intensified by his personal feelings of guilt towards how everything has played out. He has remained true to his character though, sometimes acting when discretion and inaction would have been best. When Elvi discovers the truth behind his immunity (the anti-cancer meds) it’s a win for Holden but he’s still wary of Murtry’s duplicity and, more immediate, the visceral scream of the Miller construct that can only be a sign of bad things to come.
Finally, the tension continues to pile up on Medina. Fred Johnson’s (Chad L Coleman, The Walking Dead, The Wire) visit does not go over well with Drummer, who blames him for the Pizzouza kerfuffle as well as the UN watchdog presence on Medina. As fantastic as she is, Drummer lacks the experience and political acumen possessed by Johnson and Ashford. Ashford especially, who’s been hardcore OPA his entire life, has really changed since his introduction. In the year or so of being Drummer’s number one, he’s seeing the big picture more clearly, recognizing Medina’s importance to the Belt as well as the need to erase Marco Inaros from the board. He decides to go hunting and asks Drummer—who quits as commander of Medina Station—to be his XO. Though she refuses, leaving her fate in the air, the mutual respect and camaraderie shared by their goodbye is a prime example of the growth these two have made since last season, from their overt antagonistic conflicts to a grudging respect, now Drummer and Ashford have formed a near unbreakable bond where there are hints of something even deeper hinted at. Nevertheless, this pair’s onscreen chemistry will be missed as they both go their separate ways and towards the spirits’ calling.
There are so many balls in the air in “The One-Eyed Man” that, under a lesser capable showrunner and talent, it may have felt bloated. Instead, every plot line has a complete episode arc that moves them forward, readying us for the final two episodes. Whereas the happenings on Ilus remain rather straight-forward, the political scuffles on Earth and Medina are a bit more nuanced, with the aftermath reaching far past the end of season four.
Tilting at Windmills
- From a story perspective, there’s not much that goes into the Roci saving the Barb from a fiery atmospheric depth except to point out the gorgeous effects. The Expanse has always looked good, even on Syfy, but now (thank you, Amazon) the space scenes are even better. The visuals of this show offer a gravity (!) and tangibility that CG heavy productions (like movies) often lack. It’s just another notch in a wheel barrel full of praises the series has rightfully garnered by fan and critic alike.