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The Expanse: Season 5, Episode 8 (“Hard Vacuum”) Recap and Review

Last week’s episode of Amazon Prime’s The Expanse was tense, focusing on character development and torn relationships. This week took a different turn, relying on tension drawn from impending doom and one character’s attempts to stop it.

As usual, spoilers below! 

 

Naomi 

Again, Dominique Tipper’s Naomi carries this episode in her frost burnt hands. Last week, I mentioned how her leap into space would have physiological repercussions, and she is clearly hurting with her swollen and burned hands, burns on her face, labouring breathing, and bloodshot eyes. The whole time I kept thing, “girl, you need to sleep!”

But she can’t. She arrives on the Chetzamoka to find it wired up to explode with an automated, false distress call luring Holden to it. Inaros’ crew also stripped the ship of all food, water, and tools. Naomi is forced to work through the pain of her injuries to try everything she can to stop the message or send out a real one, as it’s clear she won’t be able to dismantle the bombs. Her engineering background and years in space give her the foundation to work out several solutions, but her grit and determination are what get it done. This episode was nail-biting.

The best part about Naomi’s section is how we’re not entirely sure what she’s doing as she does it. She’s one step ahead of the viewer, MacGyvering her way through various tactics and working off instinct. She uses all her strength to rescue a tool needed simply to snip wires, traverses the outer hull without oxygen to get said wiring to try and link her helmet to the ship’s computer, manages to splice a battery into the helmet and make a real message, but without luck. In the end, she’s making one oxygen-less trip after another to cut the transmission lines, so the false broadcast now reads: “Tell James Holden I’m in control.”

That she is. She deserves that nap. And water. And a vacation.

 

 

Drummer 

Naomi’s intense self-discipline contrasts thematically with Drummer’s growing lack of control. Drummer is a writhing ball of fury this episode. She argues with her crew, almost attacks Karel, and binge-drinks McGlinton’s whiskey. 

For the past five seasons, I wondered whether Drummer’s eye makeup was tattooed. In this episode, we finally see it blurred after she finishes a good deal of the liquor. This doesn’t only clear up my (oh-so-important) question but shows that despite all the other situations Drummer has been in (including getting her back crunched), she never lost control. But now the stress and inner turmoil of being forced to work with Inaros is becoming too much for her to handle, and she’s starting to slip.  

I really want Drummer and Karel to have a fist-fight. 

 

Avasarala 

Avasarala doesn’t say much in this episode, but it’s clear she’s using someone else to speak for her. How much of Secretary-General David Pastor’s speech was written by her, I wonder? Her outfit says it all: it’s a subdued black and gold. It’s powerful yet not too bold. 

We’ve seen rousing speeches like Pastor’s in many shows and movies …

… but “the beginning of the reckoning” optimism is undercut by the following scene discussing “proportional response tactics.” Are they going to bomb the crap out of a Belter base in retaliation, or not? It was great to see there were arguments against such a move. The likely collateral damage would be high, given how many Belters on Pallas Station are civilians not affiliated with Inaros. Unfortunately, it appears Delgado’s arguments towards a swift and brutal response are swaying Pastor. It’s a sadly relevant question today too: if Delgado’s job as the top military general “isn’t to assess morality,” then whose job is it?   

 
Amos

Clarissa and Amos did not use that secluded cabin to their advantage, leading me to wonder whether my ship will go up in smoke? Or does the couple who pee together stay together? (that scene made me laugh).

We were likely all wondering how Amos and Clarissa would escape Earth, and, thanks to Clarissa’s wealthy upbringing, she knows of islands in New Hampshire that have sub-orbital shuttles. Amos appeals to his old buddy, Gangster Erich (Jacob Mundell), for help to get there, offering to take him along. Clarissa, using a disturbing anecdote, convinces Erich to take the blank slate they are offering him. Eric was intriguing from his initial appearance in Episode 2, so I’m interested in what angle he will bring to Amos’ story.


Final Thoughts

There was lots of drinking in this episode. Drummer’s (impressive) pounding of that bottle, Naomi struggling to wrestle water from an abandoned vacu-pack, Amos and his tequila, and Drummer’s crew and the delightful anti-gravity water globule scene (that added some much-needed levity). I hope they cleaned that all up – those sensitive electronics! 

We’re still ramping up to what, I suspect, will be a massive explosion. Will it take out the Roci? Drummer’s ship? The Razorback? Will Naomi find a way to send it into Inaros’ ship? And would she do it with Filip on board? Or will they launch the Chetzamoka somewhere else to blow up? I can’t wait to find out.

T. S. Beier is obsessed with science fiction, the ruins of industry, and Fallout. She is the author of What Branches Grow, a post-apocalyptic novel (which was a Top 5 Finalist in the 2020 Kindle Book Awards) and the upcoming Burnt Ship Trilogy (space opera). She is a book reviewer, editor, freelance writer, and co-owner of Rising Action Publishing Co. She currently lives in Ontario, Canada with her husband, two feral children, a one-eyed pug, and a Shepherd-Mastiff.

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