The Cold War Gets Hot on 'The Expanse'


So. Much. Happened. In. This. Episode. Upping last week’s mid-season send-off of Miller and Julie Mao was no small feat, but watching the Roci crew, the UN, Mars, and the OPA all redraw their battle lines to see where each side stood was plenty hectic. There’s no calm after the storm in Season 2; there’s just storm after storm after storm.

In last week’s episode, “Home,” everyone decided to play nice in order to avoid an extinction-level event from Eros. Earth launched their nuclear arsenal, Fred Johnson and Holden’s Roci crew agreed to pilot the missiles into the asteroid, and Mars backed off their military might. Everyone was friends for one tense moment. Unfortunately, it didn’t last long. It all led to actual live-fire combat at the end of “Paradigm Shift,” a possible prelude to solar system-wide war.

Earth’s erroneous intel says the Eros incident was supposedly a top-secret Martian tech test, and they want to send a recon crew to Venus to check it out. 30 of the nukes from the UN’s launch were conveniently unaccounted for, and when Holden brings that little tidbit up to Fred Johnson, he admits he was the one that scooped up the warheads to co-opt the cutting edge UN tech for the Belt. “Our first priority is to protect ourselves,” Johnson says, and later tells it to Holden straight-up: “You have to pick a side to survive.”

That’s exactly what Naomi did when she lied to Holden about getting rid of the protomolecule warhead they hid in the Season 2 premiere. “Belters have to help each other. No one else will,” she tells Drummer.

As of right now, Fred Johnson and the OPA have the upper hand in more ways than the disgraced UN marine knows about. He has the 30 AWOL nukes, but his Tycho Station squad will be busy stripping the Earth tech for themselves for awhile. He also has Dresden’s scientist Cortazar in his brig, and he’ll be hard at work extracting information from him. But Naomi’s move means he’s technically in control of the only viable protomolecule sample in the solar system we know about. Once he finds out, he’ll inevitably use that as another bargaining chip for leverage against Earth and Mars. But by the time he finds out, Mars might not even care.

This episode was the first time we’ve heard from Bobbie Draper since she was ordered to Ganymede for “farm patrol” in “Static.” But there isn’t much farming going on. Unseen UN marines attack by crossing the Martian border, decimating her squad, and someone begins firing on Martian ships in orbit above the Jovian moon.

Despite everyone’s teamwork, the solar system’s cold war just turned hot. But who did the firing? The UN’s strategy to recoup Eros, plus Jules-Pierre Mao feeling the burn of people like Avasarala uncovering his accountability for Eros, seems to indicate Earth is responsible. But when Bobbie looked up out of her busted battle helmet, the thing staring back at her wasn’t a UN marine. It was an alien. Earth, Mars, and the Belt might need to put aside their differences for a little longer next time.

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