The Expanse Recap: Paradigm Shift
By: Ally Stuart (@allyxstuart)
Paradigm Shift opens with a flashback to Mars, circa 137 years pre-series, where Solomon Epstein (Being Human’s Sam Huntington) is taking his new and improved rocket engine for a test drive. Everything goes horribly right, sending Epstein hurtling forward under heavier G forces than expected, with far greater fuel efficiency than the 4% he expected when designing the engine rocketing him through space.
Admittedly, it seems like an odd place to pick up after the end of 2×05, but the Epstein flashback is a nice bit of world building, providing us with insight both as to how the Martian Navy built their fleet and to how humanity spread from Earth to Mars and then from Mars to the Belt to become the system as we’ve come to know it thus far.
We jump from Epstein’s science to a scientific briefing at the United Nations, where Chrisjen Avasarala once again proves that she’s the smartest person in the room, even in the presence of top UN science brass. While the brass firmly believes that Mars is behind Eros, Avasarala knows what’s really up, as per usual. The briefing also introduces a new player, a scientist by the name of Dr. Michael Iturbi, who doesn’t really have much to say to Colonel Janus’ insistence that Mars is at fault and has created technology more advanced than the Epstein drive (the very same one that we saw Solomon Epstein testing in the opening flashback).
Elsewhere, Naomi and Holden are having as domestic a couple moment as can be had on the Rocinante (he writes home to his mother, they cuddle and weigh the pros and cons of destroying the protomolecule). Later, they confess to Alex and Amos that they’re together. Amos wins a bet between himself and Alex about the ‘when’ of Holden and Naomi’s coupledom, charitably choosing to give Alex a wet willy instead of the punch that they’d originally agreed to. After an awkwardly hilarious moment between Amos and Holden, which Wes Chatham and Steven Strait play beautifully, Alex takes Holden aside to let him know that that some of the nukes unleashed in 2×05 are missing.
The scene cuts away to another corner of space, where someone is catching the missing nukes with a net.
137 years in the past, Solomon Epstein is, to put it mildly, having a round day His attempts to shut down his engine emphasize exactly why the crew of the Rocinante needed those injections while chasing Eros in 2×05. The human body just isn’t built to withstand intense G forces, as evidenced by the broken arm Epstein gets for trying to reach his ship’s control panel.
Epstein’s trails are a startling contrast to the luxurious setting for Avasarala’s dinner meeting with Dr. Iturbi. He thinks it’s a date, but she “doesn’t do that anymore.” (Does that mean she did in the past or that they have a past that’s more than professional?) Dr. Iturbi wants desperately wants to be part of the Venus mission, to study Eros, and makes a deal to be Avaserala’s eyes and ears on the ground if she makes it happen. She can, and likely will, because Dr. Iturbi will make a good asset, but also because neither of them believe that Mars is behind the Eros situation.
The crew of the Rocinante get a much warmer welcome than they seem to expect upon their return to Tycho station. Turns out that they–and Miller–are being celebrated throughout the Belt. (Diogo, in particular, seems intent on honouring Miller’s last words.)
In Holden and Naomi’s debriefing with Fred Johnson and Drummer, Holden makes mention of the missing nukes. He is, after all, the one who vouched for Fred to be given control of them, so his concern about their whereabouts is understandable, as is his displeasure at finding out that Fred was the one behind the net we saw catching the nukes earlier. Turns out the OPA has been stockpiling them as a bargaining chip. (Anyone else get the feeling that assuring Avasarala that Fred’s a trustworthy guy is going to come back to bite both Holden and Avasarala later?)
You know what Belter ladies love? Space pilots with heart-pounding life or death stories. At least, that’s what Alex discovers in a bar on Tycho. Belter ladies’ significant others, though? Not really fans. One of them doesn’t take too kindly to how cosy things are with Alex and picks a fight. Luckily, Amos is bunking in the brothel next door, so it doesn’t take him long to come to Alex’s rescue. As usual, Amos takes things too far without realizing he has until Alex finally puts a stop to things.
Holden’s chosen a quiet night in over Alex’s night out, which leads to another conflict with Fred. Fred’s pragmatism clashes with Holden’s idealism, likely not for the last time, and he warns Holden that “[he has] to pick a side.”
We return to Epstein, trying in vain to reach out to his wife on Mars, so that she can help him. He’s in worse shape than when we saw him last. His attempt to get in touch with his life is a failure, leaving him with no further options for rescue.
Back on Tycho, Fred is in his office, watching the captured scientist go over the Eros data again when Naomi approaches him with the idea of marketing a version of Julie and Miller’s story. He’s reluctant to share it at first, but comes around when Naomi reminds him that Julie was an Earth-born member of the OPA, so her and Miller’s heroics will pack an extra punch, presumably for some of the people on Earth who aren’t fans of the OPA or its tactics.
Naomi’s loyalty to the Belt is made clear once more when she and the rest of the Rocinante crew gather to decide what to do with the specimen protomolecule they’ve been hiding. Alex wants to give it over to Mars, because he believes that their technological advancement makes them the best choice to handle it. Amos is in favour of shooting it into the sun, a plan that Holden supports, whereas Naomi wants to keep it for the Belt. Out voted, 2 to 1 to 1, the plan to shoot it into the sun moves forward.
At least, it would have if Naomi hadn’t disobeyed Holden’s order to do so and faked him out with a computer simulation of the protomolecule missile heading for the sun, anyway.
The final flashback to Epstein, the father of space travel as we know it in the Expanse universe, serves to illustrate that leaps in technology, like the Epstein drive, change everything. There are distinct parallels between Epstein’s development of his drive and Mao’s attempts to harness the protomolecule and the flashbacks are a clever way to make the point that advancement doesn’t come without cost.
Bobbie Draper and her fellow Martian marines, who’ve been missing thus far this episode, are patrolling Ganymede station. While the other marines don’t seem to have an issue with it, Bobbie is resentful that their training isn’t being put to good use. Travis notices something strange, but the patrol itself seems fairly routine and boring. (The visual effects team really knocks it out of the park here, with the sunlight-reflecting mirrors in orbit around Ganymede.)
Back on Earth, Avasarala meets with Undersecretary Errinwright and drops any pretense of nicety. She lays out how she’ll go about destroying Mao’s remaining family if he doesn’t come forward, knowing perfectly well that Errinwright and Mao had been working together. Her intensely delivered threat isn’t just for Mao, though. Errinwright’s actions have put him in her crosshairs and he’s left knowing what could be in store for him too, if he doesn’t fall in line.
All is no longer well on the Rocinante between Alex and Amos. Amos picks a fight with Alex, because he doesn’t always know how to interact with others, and letting Alex go at him is the only way he can think of to resolve the conflict he created by saving Alex and making him look weak at the bar on Tycho. The moment between them, when Amos explains that his worldview only includes people who are bad, people to be followed, and people to be protected, is a nice insight into Amos as a character, though it does little to resolve the issue at hand.
Naomi approaches Drummer in Tycho’s command centre, where the later is trying to disable the fail safes of the stolen nukes. The helping hand that Naomi offers is in contrast to her refusal earlier in the episode, tying into her suggestion that the protomolecule be given to the Belters.
Far from Tycho, on Ganymede, the Martian ships in orbit are engaged in combat. It seems like the UN has opened fire. On Ganymede’s surface, the Martian marines are likewise engaged, with their UN counterparts rushing them while their comms are jammed. Both battles go poorly for the Martians and Bobbie’s squad is devastated, with Bobbie as the only survivor.
The episode closes with a shot of a hulking, blue, glowing figure approaching Bobbie. She rolls away, fate unknown.