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THE EXPANSE Recap: The Epstein Drive Creates a Paradigm Shift

THE EXPANSE Recap: The Epstein Drive Creates a Paradigm Shift

Fair warning: this recap includes spoilers for The Expanse that go faster than you expect—don’t say we didn’t warn you ahead of time!

After the draining ride to Venus we took last week, “Paradigm Shift” was destined to be a breather while we press the reset button. Fortunately, this is one of those moments where The Expanse truly shines. It does not take its chess games lightly.

In order to pick up the scattered pieces, we went all the way back, 137 years ago, to when Solomon Epstein (Sam Huntington) first accidentally changed everything with the Epstein Drive. He meant to make a few minor adjustments to gain fuel efficiency, but as we see threaded throughout the episode, he invented a way for ships to go crazy fast without burning much fuel at all. To celebrate that achievement, one that changed the game for a rising Mars, he was crushed to death. It was both a parallel to the high G burn we saw the Roci crew bravely pull off last week and a thematic nod to creating something life-changing without knowing quite what you’ve done. After all, The Expanse is a show that orbits around an incredible force beyond human control.

Speaking of the Protomolecule (which is definitely a life form, right? Right??), Team Rocinante left a batch of it hidden away in space which they had to deal with. Should they destroy the sample, keep it hidden, or give to one of the competing powers of the galaxy? Are they sure that–following the Eros crash–theirs was the only sample left?

After a healthy debate, Holden (Steven Strait) decided the only way to win was not to play and ordered the sample destroyed by throwing it into the sun (because if you’re gonna do it right…). Naomi (Dominique Tipper) launched it…with a mysterious scowl on her face. What was really loaded on that missile? Did she leave the sample somewhere else? If so, why?

THE EXPANSE -- "Paradigm Shift" Episode 206 -- Pictured: Steven Strait as Earther James Holden -- (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

Yes, this episode left a lot of questions in its wake.

Naomi and Holden also had business with Colonel Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) after Alex (Cas Anvar) pointed out that 30 of the planet-buster nukes the Earth launched at Eros didn’t respond to the deactivation signal. Surprise surprise! Johnson shut them down and took control of them. There’s an exclamation mark there because, come on, it’s the least surprising development. It was too hard to turn down a gift like that–something that could really fortify the terrorist/freedom fighter movement.

Johnson confronted Holden about why they cut thrust after coming back from Eros the first time (when they were debating what to do with their sample, also for the first time), and Holden sold him a convenient lie couched in the truth about Miller’s friend getting killed and needing a proper burial “at sea.” As with all things on this show, either Johnson was convinced because he thinks Holden is more simple-minded than he really is, or Johnson pretended to be convinced because he’s a master manipulator.

Naomi can also be counted among those ranks, as she urged Johnson to help sell the story of Miller and Julie Mao as star cross’d lovers for people on Earth to empathize with in hopes of creating understanding and gain empathy for the cause of cross-cultural peace. It’s a stellar idea that was doomed to failure from the start.

THE EXPANSE -- "Paradigm Shift" Episode 206 -- Pictured: (l-r) Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala, Shawn Doyle as Secretary Errinwright -- (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

Back on Earth, the U.N. proved its bureaucratic inability to move mountains. Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is so, so, so much better at playing the game than everyone else that, again this week, she shifted thinking on what they should do regarding Mars and followed it up by putting Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) in his place and putting Mao (François Chau) in his place through Errinwright. Good God of War, she’s a joy to watch. She’s gonna ruin the whole family and burn them to the ground if Mao doesn’t come in from the cold.

The U.N. contemplated whether Eros was proof that Mars was on the cusp of powerful tech that would shift the balance in their favor. Colonel Janus (Conrad Pia) argued that it was the only thing that made sense (no doubt stung by the historical example of the Epstein Drive), but Avasarala was (as ever) playing with secret knowledge and straightforward common sense. Why would Mars want to test their cutting edge weapon inside a biohazard zone of their own creation? Seriously. Nice try, Janus. Take a knee.

We also finally caught up with the Martian Marines led by Gunny Draper (Frankie Adams) who’ve been MIA from the most recent, no-fat, high-adventure episodes. They were sent to the boring old farming moon of Ganymede last we saw, they’re still there, and they were still pissed about the assignment.

After U.N. Marines appear to charge toward them near the DMZ border, after Overwatch loses communications with them, and after the ship is blasted out of low orbit by bullets blazing, the crew probably stopped thinking they got the short end of the action stick.

We’re left with Draper, who shifted her team into battle gear, semi-conscious, suffering some serious damage. After all the high temperatures and necessary cool downs, war may have just broken out on the remote edge of the farm. Something about the look on Draper’s face tells me that this genie isn’t getting shoved back into the bottle.

SOME STRAY THOUGHTS: 

  • Diogo scored a nice little cult following there. It’s also nice to know that airbrush art is still popular this far into the future.
  • The way creepy Eros scientist was Minority Reporting his way through those ProtoWhispers makes me think he’s bound for a Gollum-like ride into the volcano at some point.
  • Why do the Martian Marines go on patrol with no supplies? They’ve got radios and everything built into their suits, but no one’s lugging any emergency gear or first aid or anything. Seems stark in that barren landscape.
  • You can just rent a room for, like, a week at a brothel?
  • What just happened on Ganymede??????

Images: NBC/SyFy

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