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On The Expanse, it's all about making connections

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There aren’t enough characters like Anna Volovodov on TV. I suppose that’s not entirely fair; part of the reason Anna is so compelling is that she’s played by Elizabeth Mitchell, and there’s only so much of her to go around. But on a show with its fair share of people trying to do the right thing—a show which, for all its darkness and violence, does appear to have a base level optimism about the nature of humanity—Anna still manages to stand out. Her kindness and warmth would normally relegate her to a backseat position, the sort of passive figure that other characters aspire to be more like while they galavant around having adventures. But she has also has an intense passion for discovery that drives her to stay on board the Prince even when all common sense (and the pleas of her wife) would suggest otherwise.


She’s dynamic, is what I’m saying, capable of being both deeply empathetic and kind, and also a little selfish—albeit in a completely defensible and entirely relatable way. She’s also optimistic, and while that optimism doesn’t always yield positive results, it’s a relief to see someone whose faith and hope legitimately does drive them to be a better person. When a lieutenant on board the Thomas Prince tries to reach out to her in his fear, she’s polite and supportive, but ultimately distracted; the lieutenant, Nemeroff, is awkwardly needy at the worst possible moment, and Anna’s “I’m just going to go over here for a second” dismissal is something any of us might do under similar circumstances. When Nemeroff shoots himself (the cover story is that his gun went off while he was cleaning it), Anna is asked to deliver his eulogy. She’s shocked, and despondent over her failure to connect with him; but she speaks on his behalf, and her message is about the importance of reaching out to one another, of staying connected.

It’s possible that the show is setting her up for yet another fall; Tilly Fagan, who recognizes Melba as Clarissa earlier in the episode, takes Anna’s sermon to heart and tries to reach out to the other woman at the worst possible moment. Clarissa takes her murder pill in response, and all that saves Tilly (for now, anyway) is something that happens deeper in the Ring, a sudden explosion of alien power that holds everyone in place. But she’s still likely to die, and if she does, the death will come back to Anna’s feet. Yet I don’t think the intention is to make us believe her eulogy was naive or foolhardy. Communication is still crucial if we’re going to make it as a species. It’s only that just because it’s a necessity doesn’t mean it’s ever easy.


Holden knows this better than anyone. While “Dandelion Sky” spends time on the Prince and the Behemoth (and a few minutes checking back in on Amos and Alex, and Naomi), the big draw here is Holden’s slow trip to the node at the heart of the ring, a large orb that Miller keeps urging him towards for reasons that never entirely come into focus. The Martians send a drop shift after him with Bobbie Draper and a team of marines, but they only succeed in making everything into even more of a clusterfuck, losing one of their own when he makes the very dumb mistake of throwing a grenade at alien technology.

Basically what it all boils down to is that everyone’s trying to figure out what’s going on, but no one quite agrees on the best way to go about it. The Martians want Holden because of the earlier explosion and faked video (which they don’t know was faked, although Bobbie at least believes Holden was framed); when Bobbie manages to get through to him, she hears snippets of him arguing with Miller, which convinces her and the other marines that he’s had some sort of mental break. Which pushes them even harder to catch up with him, and then, once they do, to take aggressive action to stop him in his tracks. It’s not hard to blame them. Given everything that’s going on, would you want a guy going through an apparent nervous breakdown to start mucking about with alien technology that’s capable of god only knows what?

Holden manages to get more answers from Miller, although nothing precisely concrete. We get another explanation for Miller’s existence—that he’s an illusion created by pushing several trillion of Holden’s mental buttons all at once. I have to work a little to reconcile this with the earlier idea that Miller is some kind of living being being created by the Ring; maybe it’s that there’s an entity that’s at least partially Miller that’s doing the brain button pushing? Regardless, this new Miller wants Holden to reconnect a circuit in the alien station, and Holden after a lot of reluctance, does it. And then we get a light show.

These sorts of story developments can be a little tricky; having a character do something irrational that’s obviously necessary for the plot to move forward can come across as sloppy or manipulative when it’s handled badly. (At worst, it can break a narrative completely.) I think “Dandelion Sky” more or less succeeds because it’s reached a point where Holden is desperate and out of options. It’s either connect the circuit or watch Bobbie and her friends get murdered as they attack him; and if he doesn’t connect the circuit, the best he can hope for is a Martian jail cell and being taken out of the action, possibly for good.


Still, it’s an awful lot to take on faith. Even Holden realizes it; throughout the episode, he keeps demanding for more information out of Miller, and what he gets is pieces and bits that suggest something but never quite come out and say it. What finally convinces him is when he gets to see just a little of the Miller he knew, the Miller who stayed with Julie as she died and tried to help her on her way. It’s maybe as much evidence as we’ll ever get that this new Miller at least still has some of the old Miller in him, whatever exactly he is now. And that’s enough to drive Holden forward.

None of this is directly connected with Anna, of course; her time in the episode is largely character work, reminding us she’s around, seeing how she reacts to the Ring itself. But her eulogy is another part of why Holden’s choice makes sense, even if he himself doesn’t hear her. Because as much as he’s pushed to move by fear for his own life and the lives of his crew, there’s that same optimism, that willingness to, well, take a leap of faith and believe that if something wants to talk with us that badly, it’s our job to listen.


As for what Holden actually hears (and sees, and experiences)... well, I’m not exactly sure. It’s a lot. At one point, I think the sun exploded. So that might be something to look into.

Stray observations

  • Ashford and Drummer remain at odds. Much as I love David Straitharn, I’m gonna be pissed if Drummer gets booted out.
  • Not a lot of Amos content this week, but what we get is choice. First he admits, “I haven’t felt fear since I was five years old,” and then he reassures Alex that, if the apocalypse happens, they can be murder-suicide buddies.
  • It’s a little disappointing just how flat Clarissa, aka Melba, is as a villain. It’s hard to care about someone with daddy issues with everything else that’s going on.
  • Naomi is still trying to reach the Roci, still getting no answer because the comms are down.
  • I liked the idea of Holden and Miller still chatting as Holden flies through space, but the visuals were pretty goofy. (Although I’m not sure how you could’ve presented that in a way that wasn’t goofy.)