THE EXPANSE – Season 6 Episode 1 – SPOILERS
In a circular forest clearing, a girl named Clara seems preoccupied with the local plant and animal life, which includes a jumping fish without fins called a gruncher, a slinkervine (fairly self-explanatory), and a family of featherless sunbirds with bat-like wings. Clara is surprised by a rustling in the bushes, and says, “Xan, is that you? It better not be. I told you to stop following me.” Then a snakelike head protrudes from the bushes and she says: “Hey. What are you?” The creature purrs. “Okay,” she says, “you can come out. I’m friendly, see. Are you a rock jumper? I don’t think so. You look like a dog, kinda.” More of the creature becomes visible and it does resemble some sort of stylized hairless dog. The sunbird raises an alarm and the girl tells it everything is all right, then runs off to get help.
The place is identified as Ring #673 Planet 2 in the Laconia system. (Martian émigrés must have named it out of admiration for the Spartans.) At the end of Season Five, renegade Martians who settled in that system received a protomolecule sample as payment for helping Marco Inaros defeat UN forces. They immediately used it to transform one of the planets. After that, we saw Martian Admiral Emil Sauveterre (whose last name literally translates as “save earth”) and Lieutenant Babbage go through the Laconia ring on the MCRN Barkeith and it appeared that the entire ship was systematically torn apart. The only thing known to be able to do that is the protomolecule, which would probably make something new and different from the materials. The last thing we saw last season was an unusual object, apparently orbiting the Barkeith‘s destination planet.
The rest of the episode is war news. Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), the leader of the Belt’s Free Navy, has been throwing asteroids at Earth for quite some time, and has all the UN forces tied up trying to minimize meteor impacts. On Earth, UN Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is stonewalling reporters, and in the best scene of the episode, journalist Monica Stewart (Anna Hopkins) confronts Avasarala, and asks if she’s reached out to Inaros to discuss a peace treaty.
STUART: “Has anybody in your cabinet proposed negotiations?”
AVASARALA: “The deliberations of my cabinet in a time of war are a matter of national security and none of your fucking business.”
STUART: “Madam Secretary General, the people of this planet have been through hell and it’s only getting worse. They’re just looking for honest answers. You owe them that.”
[Avasarala leaves and Draper steps in front of Stuart.]
DRAPER: “In case that wasn’t clear enough, we’re done here.”
STUART: “You know, Sergeant, if you want my advice you should try to impress upon your boss the fact that she has constituents, not subjects.”
DRAPER: “She’s aware of the distinction.”
STUART: “The one thing I always liked about you is that you kinda suck at lying.”
Avasarala compares the deleterious effects of the attacks on Earth’s biosphere to a nuclear winter. Earth is extremely overpopulated and its need for the resources of the Belt will only be increased by the continued bombardment, which will impair its ability to feed itself. The Belt is not self-sustaining either. Nico Sanjrani (Joanne Vannicola), tries to explain problems with the food supply to Marcos but he is not interested in such things. Stuart is right. Peace is in the interests of both sides.
On board the Rocinante, James Holden (Steven Strait) and the rest of the crew figure out that Inaros is attaching Epstein Drives to rocks and triggering their launches from a spotter ship in solar orbit. He relays this information to Avasarala, who tells her assistant Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) that she has a plan. (We don’t get to find out what it is yet.) “We’re wounded, broken,” she tells Draper, “trying desperately to keep ourselves going by pretending we’re not. Gutting through it all, wearing down. Little wins here and there will not hold us together. We need more than that. Someting big. Something to give us reason to hope.”
The only remaining Belter resistance to Inaros is led by Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) who is headed to the science station on Triton after nearly getting wiped out when her girlfriend Michio (Vanesssa Smythe) pushed the wrong button, and failed to fire at one of Marco’s ships. Josep (Samer Salem) persuades Drummer that it would be safer for everyone involved if Michio was kept away from the battle, and it is decided that she will be left behind on Triton until the end of the war. Michio is not pleased about this. This might be wishful thinking but it seems likely that Michio will redeem herself somehow and remain on the ship with Drummer.
Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), the son of Inaros and Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), is having trouble dealing with his involvement in the initial attack on Earth. His loyalties are divided between his parents, but he is on Marco’s ship, and cannot show weakness. As a result of this internal conflict, he kills his friend Yoan (Gabriel Darku) in a fit of anger, and there is at least one witness. Filip is the weakest link in Marco’s plans, and it seems likely that Naomi will find a way to exploit that.