Work conscientiously and someone will eventually notice. It’s an odd sentiment to process as a kid, but it’s true as an adult. The advice holds for The Expanse, a science fiction adaptation entering its third season on SyFy. It was never that the show wasn’t worthy of the praise its thriving fanbase dishes out on reddit, but the series is one big spaceship explosion away from becoming the most visually and narratively compelling work of fiction I have seen all year.
The Expanse began on The Belt, an asteroid colony the rest of the Sol system treats as second-class citizens. The series introduced new worlds, such as Mars, and slowly painted a picture of how civilizations in space might look. The story is told from the perspective of a ragtag crew flying around in a stolen spaceship. They’re actually the invisible hands who have been stalling an interplanetary war for two seasons, but in The Expanse Season 3, there’s no more war to prevent. It’s already started.
Spoilers for the latest episode of The Expanse ahead.
The race to weaponize a mysterious biological material known as the protomolecule has destroyed every chance of meaningful diplomatic efforts between Earth and Mars. On the upside, everyone seems to have forgotten about The Outer Planets Alliance and The Belt, who may have an advantage for the first time in this story. If the chess pieces move accordingly, this war gives The Belt an opportunity that could level the playing field and seriously shake up the interplanetary power dynamic.
United Nations Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala is the only person who knows the extent of Undersecretary Sadavir Errinwright’s collusion with Mao Mercantile and Earth-based research firm, Protogen. The Expanse season 3 episode 2, “IFF,” keeps Avasarala alive to tell her truth. Against all chances of being captured by either side, she and exiled Martian Marine Bobbie Draper end up aboard the Rocinante. The Roci crew has varying allegiances, but everyone has compassion for The Belt’s oppressed, working class. Placing Avasarala in closer proximity to the outer planets could force her to rework her political agenda.
Earth, Mars and the Sol system rely on the outer planets of The Belt for manufacturing and resources. When Earth and Mars "beat each other back to the stone age," The Belt can place themselves in a more influential political position. The Outer Planets Alliance leader, Fred Johnson, wants to be ready to capitalize on the situation. This war offers the Belt and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) a seat at the table.
Jules-Pierre Mao’s protomolecule research is far along. In “IFF,” Mao’s geneticist, Strickland, discovered a way for the protomolecule to inhabit humans. Mao wants to sell the dangerous, hybrid tech to the highest bidder on Earth and Mars, but his planet allegiance is still largely unclear. This leaves The Belt with an advantage. They not only have a protomolecule sample themselves (shout out to Naomi), but nobody even knows they have a sample.This is going to present an interesting power dynamic, especially since Avasarala is now directly in the picture. If Mars is able to strike a deal with Mao first, she’s quite possibly the only chance Earth has for survival in this war.
Avasarala would have to do the impossible to protect Earth from Mars--either acquire a sample for herself (unbeknownst to her there’s more than enough in the Roci’s floorboards) or somehow bargain with the Outer Planet Alliance. The latter option is doubtful considering it looks like Fred Johnson is ready to abuse his newfound power. Rightfully so, considering The Belt’s rough history with both Mars and Earth.
The Belters have never had any sort of advantage, so this is an interesting way to start the season. Fred Johnson’s story arc has always been a slow burn, and it seems Season 3 will follow that same blueprint. It’s in The Belt’s best interest to sit back and watch Earth and Mars for now, but the OPA’s moment will come. Johnson has the opportunity to develop the protomolecule unnoticed and gather intel, maybe even investigate what is really happening on Venus after The Eros Incident. Flying under the radar can go a long way in space. I’ll be watching you, Fred.
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