TL;DR – Everything so far this season has led to here, and it did not disappoint.
Gaugamela Review –
When you have set up a narrative to hit an inevitable crescendo, it can be dangerous because it becomes make or break. If you fall flat, all that hard work was for naught, and you can sink your whole narrative. This meant that I came into this episode with a little trepidation as everything from Exodus, Churn, and Mother led to this moment, and well, I am glad to say that it did not disappoint.
So to set the scene, during last week’s episode, Amos (Wes Chatham) decided that this was the last time he was ever going to come back down the well, which meant if he had any unfinished business now was the time to fix it. A couple of favours later and he found himself in The Pit, the place where the UN keeps its most dangerous criminals. He is here to meet Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) or as he calls her Peaches. However, as Amos is down The Pit, everything gets put into lockdown, and the room begins to shake. Now from here, we will be looking at the episode as a whole, so there will be some [SPOILERS] ahead.
All the way back in Season One, Chrisjen (Shohreh Aghdashloo) worried what would happen if one day someone decided to drop some rocks out of the sky, and this is the episode where we see that fear made manifest. We saw the first rock devastate Dakar last week, the next one dropped close to Philadelphia, and the third fell in ‘South Asia’ it is not clear but from the looks of things somewhere in India. Each impact ratchets up the tension and is used to elevate everything else that is happening in the episode.
We see this when Amos goes down into The Pit. He has to give up all his possessions and dive deep underground where he is at the mercy of fate. All of this is bad, but it is made even worse with the looming threat we know is coming, but Amos doesn’t. As Chrisjen is frantically trying to contact Nancy Gao (Lily Gao), you can feel the ticking clock, that every second wasted is a second closer to disaster. Indeed, if they had been even a moment later, millions more would have died.
That whole scene, where we get the flash of light, but it is the music that crashes not the sound, we see a naval officer rush to strap Nancy into her seat as the impact erupts in the background. But even as this happens, you know the shockwave is coming, and at that moment all of Nancy’s confidence crashes. Even then you think, this is UN One, the most sophisticated plane in the UN’s Navy, which is the moment we cut to the shockwave hitting, clouds being blown away, wings getting torn off, and the feed cutting to black. During all of this, you are just sitting there knowing if that one aid had not stonewalled them, the UN Security General’s life might have been saved. This whole sequence was constructed masterfully.
But it is not just on Earth where this tension of the rocks falling elevates everything, but in The Belt. As all of this is going on, James (Steven Strait), Fred (Chad L. Coleman), Bull (José Zúñiga), and Sakai (Bahia Watson) are waiting on Tycho Station setting a trap for the people that kidnapped Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins). But as the Zmeya comes to dock with the station, something does not feel right, which is when James realises that there is a trap, but they are the ones caught in it rather than being the ones setting it. Even then, no one foresaw Sakai not being loyal, which is why she can shoot Fred both literally and metaphorically in the back. As the chaos erupts around them, something crashes into Fred’s quarters, and we get a reminder of James’ single-minded focus when it comes to the Protomolecule. At the same time, Monica has to be the one kicking arse and saving the day. Also more shocking, we get the surprise death of Fred Johnson, the second head-of-state that Marco (Keon Alexander) took down that day (maybe third depending on what happened on Mars).
While all this chaos is taking part, the episode is bookended by two compelling and emotional scenes. The first is with Amos and Peaches down in The Pit. It felt like they were having a conversation in a brief window where the blockers would allow. It reminded me of talking to someone when they were on heavy medication for pain, and there would be these moments of clarity that you have to take because there is limited time. Here she repeats, and maybe throws back in his face, what Amos told her in Season Four, and reminds him that “not every stain comes out”. Goodness is Nadine Nicole great in this scene, and I am glad we will see more of her this season.
The flip side to this, or Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens) side to this, is when we get Naomi’s (Dominique Tipper) reunion with Marco and it is an understandably unhappy one since Filip kidnapped her. Also, Marco is an abusive narcissist with millions of innocent blood on his hands, and worse, the person who made sure that innocent blood was on his Son’s hands. Here, we get a real sense of who Marco is when just for a second you see how angry he is when the UN starts blowing up the rest of the rocks, but then he immediately turns it around and makes it a victory. He is a manipulator, full of slime, and will turn any situation into making himself look bad and then probably make a speech about given how much he likes the sound of his own voice.
In the end, do we recommend Gaugamela? Absolutely! This might be the best episode of The Expanse so far, and it is only the 4th episode into the season so far. Goodness, I cannot wait to see where it goes next.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Expanse
Directed by – Nick Gomez
Written by – Dan Nowak
Created by – Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Based on – The Expanse by James S. A. Corey (Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham)
Production/Distribution Companies – Alcon Entertainment & Amazon Studios
Starring – Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Frankie Adams, Cara Gee, Nadine Nicole, Keon Alexander, Jasai Chase-Owens & Shohreh Aghdashloo with José Zúñiga, Michael Irby, Brent Sexton, Anna Hopkins, Bahia Watson, George Tchortov, Olunike Adeliyi, Natalie Brown, Arnold Pinnock, Thomas Mitchell, Lily Gao & Chad L. Coleman