It’s finally returned—for just six episodes, but at this point any Expanse is better than no Expanse, and we are more than ready to see the Rocinante back in action. Season six kicks off with “Strange Dogs,” and we meet the title creatures even before the opening credits roll. Strange? Yes. Dogs? Well…
“Strange Dogs” begins with a “previously on” recap flashing on the biggest moments of season five, which means the first thing we see is an asteroid plummeting toward Earth. But before we return to that epic crime scene, we visit an alien planet filled with lush greenery and some very unusual animals, along with human settlers. Our introduction to this place comes through the eyes of a small girl who’s clearly an eager explorer. She spots an odd-looking “dog,” which resembles a gentle purple dinosaur, lurking in the bushes. However, her careless decision to toss a crumb of her snack to a native bird turns tragic when the creature suddenly takes ill; as she panics, the camera pans up to show us a structure in the planet’s orbit emitting flashes in a very distinctive shade of protomolecule blue. Titles tell us this is “Ring #673, Planet 2,” also known as Laconia.
On Earth, we get a montage of news footage reminding us just how many rocks managed to hit their marks, and how many millions of people have lost their lives. And the asteroids aren’t old news, we soon learn; Free Navy commander Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) is still firing them from the Belt at regular intervals, and though most of them are now being destroyed before they reach the planet’s atmosphere—a task that’s been keeping Earth’s military defenses running ragged—some are still breaking through; the damage has ravaged both surface and atmosphere. “Now Earthers know what it feels like to be Belters,” an elated Inaros supporter yells into the camera. Bundled up against the perma-winter, UN Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and her right hand, Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams), observe firsthand a former agricultural hub that’s now a frozen wasteland. “Every rock kills us a little more, even when they miss,” Avasarala says sadly… and angrily.
Meanwhile, our first encounter with the Rocinante this season finds our old pals—Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), James Holden (Steven Strait), and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham)—in the Belt, battling it out with a Free Navy vessel. Everyone’s locked in, doing their job, but you can tell they’re not enjoying any of this. Naomi especially looks haunted (no surprise after what she went through in season five, which by the looks of it wasn’t so long ago in The Expanse’s timeline). A few seeds of conflict are sprinkled into the terse conversation the trio has in the aftermath: Amos wonders if “Chrissie” might pay them more for every Belter they kill, to which Holden says “We’re not mercenaries,” to which Amos mutters “We’re not soldiers, either.” When Holden says he wants to go in for a closer look, Naomi warns they should keep their distance, because “the Free Navy loves improvised bombs and proximity triggers. They know it gets Marco off.”
They’ve won this battle, but the Rocinante is just as battered (structurally) as they are (mentally). As Amos shuffles off to start repair work, we’re reminded of the Rocinante crew member who perished last season (thanks to a lingering shot of Alex Kamal’s name on the ship’s plaque), as well as the new sorta-crew member who’s still finding her footing: Clarissa (Nadine Nicole), who Amos calls “Peaches.” She’s a talented mechanic, but as we soon see, Holden and especially Naomi haven’t warmed to her yet. Meanwhile, it seems the Belters have left something unexpected behind on a small asteroid, other than pieces of their wrecked ship: a drive.
While we’re left to puzzle what that might mean, The Expanse takes us to some familiar stomping grounds: Ceres Station, now under Free Navy control, and the current location of Marco Inaros. His son with Naomi—Filip Inaros (Jasai Chase Owens)—is more interested in hooking up with girls than learning the ropes from his father, something Marco and all the other Belter bigwigs, including stern new character Rosenfeld Guoliang (Kathleen Robertson), have taken disapproving note of. Filip saunters into a meeting between Marco, Rosenfeld, and Ceres’ head administrator, Nico Sanjrani (Joanna Vannicola), who’s been updating the group on the Belt’s agricultural situation. Much like their foes on Earth, they’re not exactly rolling in bounty, though that’s nothing new for the Belt. As they stride away from the meeting, Marco asks Rosenfeld if there’s been any update on his biggest enemies—anti-Free Navy Belter Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) and, of course, the Rocinante—and orders her to increase the bounty on both. When Marco leaps upon his soapbox… er, some shipping crates, to deliver a speech about how he considers Ceres to be “a home to me and to every other Belter,” the camera lingers on Filip’s petulant face as the crowd chants Marco’s name. One gets the feeling that Filip’s antics have less to with being his horny kid, and are more indicative of some deeper turmoil—and The Expanse doesn’t make us wait long to see how true that is.
We catch up with Drummer’s crew next. Unsurprisingly, given what Marco just said, they’re being pursued by Free Navy bounty hunters, but since this is Drummer, she’s got a plan ready that involves both her ships, the Dewalt and the Tynan, coordinating to blast her would-be captors out of existence. It seems airtight, but one of her crew members, Michio (Vanessa Smythe), accidentally pushes the wrong button at the crucial moment. That causes a scramble that eventually spells the end for the bounty hunters, but the Dewalt is also lost. Fortunately, its crew is able to escape just in time, but Michio’s crumbling under pressure shows us just how jittery and exhausted Drummer’s crew is. Drummer and crew mate Josep (Samer Salem) know Michio is devastated—and her family doesn’t want to push her away—but she’s a salvage worker and a med tech, not a warrior. Maybe finding a safer place for her to be is the kindest move.
Speaking of jittery and exhausted, Holden does a space walk to check out the mysterious drive up close while Naomi keeps watch from the Roci. They share a somber moment remembering Alex, when suddenly Holden realizes the reactor he’s literally standing right next to has unexpectedly started powering up. While Naomi shrieks at him to get out of there, he takes a tool and starts smacking it until it powers back down—a moment of sudden, extreme danger that allows The Expanse to show us, yet again, how everyone’s nerves are stretched impossibly thin right now. It’s maybe not the best moment—Naomi’s undereye circles are world-class at this point—but Amos has the urgent need to speak to her about Clarissa. Naomi resents that Amos brought her aboard in the first place, and he reminds Naomi that she’s also made some major, unpopular decisions in seasons past (like, say, that time she gave the protomolecule sample to Fred Johnson). This little chat does nothing to clear the air between them.
A little while later, Holden shows Amos something unusual he’s come across: intel about Free Navy assets, specifically regarding the Barkeith, the rogue Mars gunship we saw being consumed by red energy as it passed through the Ring in the season five finale. Holden says it reminds him of the entities that destroyed the protomolecule builders, and he’s worried about what it might mean for the big picture, especially since “the only reason the Rings are here is because of us.” Amos reminds Holden he’s there for one purpose: to kill Marco Inaros. He doesn’t want to abandon Holden, but Holden better not abandon him, either. Again, air not clear… but then Detective Naomi steps in with her own bit of information, gathered from the drive they just investigated. It seems the Earth rocks are launched using a specific transmission burst that’s coming from one spotter ship, the Azure Dragon—a target the Rocinante would very much like to find and destroy. Holden apologies to Naomi about the reactor thing and says he’ll be more careful in the future, but her response lets him know it’s more than that: “I tried for so long to stay away from the violence but Marco pulled me back into it, and now the people we’re hunting and killing are the same ones I used to call my own. I don’t know how much longer I can bear it.”
Back on Ceres, Filip and his buddy are doing their best to impress a couple of Belter girls—mostly through tales of Filip’s heroics as a part of the Earth attacks—when Filip suddenly stands up and stalks out of the room, his face an unemotional mask but with extreme “I’m teetering on the edge!” physical energy. He heads to Marco’s ship, the Pella, where his father and Rosenfeld are having a boring but necessary conversation about supplies for Ceres versus the more strategically important Medina station, which is located inside the Ring. When Filip tries to butt into their discussion, saying that the people of Ceres should get what they need—directly contradicting Rosenfeld’s observation that “we owe these people nothing”—the adults exchange dismissive smirks and walk away to continue their chat somewhere where Filip… isn’t.
He hasn’t earned their respect with his behavior, but it’s such a blow to his splintering ego that he dashes to the bar where they were meeting earlier to try his luck with the pretty bartender, who is similarly dismissive of him. It’s the last straw for a guy who was barely keeping it together to begin with, and when his pal suddenly pops back up to ask why he flounced out of their party, Filip snaps. Their argument turns physical but only Filip has a gun, and suddenly Filip has shot and killed his best (and only?) friend.
Aboard the Earth-orbiting UNN Zenobia, Avasarala is faced with a familiar foe of sorts: journalist Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins), who’s determined to get a scoop off the UN Secretary-General despite her tight-lipped attitude toward the press (her response is literally “that’s none of your fucking business,” because Chrissie gonna Chrissie) and the interference being run by an unamused Bobbie. In their next scene together, Avasarala tells Bobbie she knows she doesn’t like her job, but when Bobbie (who’s obviously been itching to rejoin the fight) quickly offers to quit, Avasarala tells her she has another assignment in mind as she reads over the information Holden sent her about Inaros’ Azure Dragon and is moved to make a little speech that sets up season six nicely: “We’re wounded, broken, trying desperately to keep ourselves going by pretending we’re not… little wins here and there will not hold us together. We need more than that. Something big. Something to give us a reason to hope.” It’s pretty clear that Avasarala and Holden have the same plan—track down that pesky Azure Dragon and annihilate it—and now, Bobbie’s going to bring her considerable fighting skills to that plan too.
The Expanse premieres today on Amazon Prime, with new episodes arriving every Friday.
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