The Expanse Raises The Stakes As It Reaches The Halfway Point Of Its Final Season

"This feels like a trap." 

That's what MCRN Admiral Kirino (Krista Bridges) says to Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) as the UNN-Luna-Martian fleet lands on Ceres free of any Free Navy. Kirino is right, of course, as we find out over course of "Force Projection," the third episode of "The Expanse" season 6.

This episode is the last of the first half of the last season of "The Expanse," (trying saying that three times fast!) and the momentum has picked up accordingly, both in the solar system and on Laconia. There's also a cameo or two that will be a nice touch for many a fan.

Read on for a breakdown of what happened, including some commentary from the show's cast and creative team. And warning: major spoilers for "Force Projection" lie ahead.

Meanwhile, on Laconia ...

Like the episodes before (and presumably the episodes after), the start of "Force Projection" begins on Laconia. We see Cara (Emma Ho) and her brother Xan (Ian Ho) in school, where we get a bit more exposition about the Laconian colony — the human residents may have come from all over the system, but they're all Laconians now and are under the rule of the Martian faction that broke away from Mars and is helping Marco on Medina Station.

With the exposition over, Cara leaves her brother and goes back to the woods to check on the little bird creatures. She doesn't see them at first, but noticed her drone is fixed (and tinged a bit blue) and then sees one of her "dogs." Behind the dogs, however, we see that mama bird again ... alive! Alive, yes, but different — also tinged with a blue that "Expanse" fans will easily identify as protomolecule. Cara is excited about this and rushes home to tell her parents. When she gets home, however, she finds out her brother is dead.

We leave Laconia then, and man, what a bummer note to end on! Given the setup, however, we can see where things are going. Will the dogs fix Xan? And if so, will he be the same afterwards, or some weird protomolecule version like Miller (Thomas Jane) was in season 4 or the bioengineered children from season 2? We'll have to wait until later episodes to find out, as the rest of "Force Projection" focuses on the war raging in our solar system.

In the Belt, Marco Abandons Ceres ...

The next sequence has us back in the Belt with the Earth-Luna-Mars fleet landing on Ceres. Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) and the Free Navy have left the station and taken everything of value with them. Avasarala doesn't get it at first, but the former head of the station lays it out for her: There is nothing on Ceres except a million Belters and only enough food and air for three weeks. Inaros has given the Inners a humanitarian crisis to deal with, bogging them down once again. All it cost him was a million or so lives of the Belters who still remain on the station.

This decision is a harsh one, and one that Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) is having a hard time squaring. The relationship between Marco and Filip comes to a head this episode. Filip first confronts his father about abandoning Ceres and Marco seems to sway him back over. "Belters on Ceres are not like us," Marco says to his son, adding that he and Filip were meant to be in the darkness, which takes on literal and metaphorical meanings. Filip appears to accept this at the time, but you can see the doubt remaining in his eyes when they hug and make up.

That doubt spills over into anger by the end of "Force Projection." Marco has Filip take the guns when they go after the Rocinante, a ship Filip knows his mother is on. I can't swear in my columns, so I'm going to channel the auto-correct on my iPhone when I say it's completely ducked up that Marco does that to his son. And yes, Marco has done a lot of ducked up things, but this one is incredibly personal and incredibly harsh. 

Filip has had enough. After the Rocinante fight, he yells at his father, who was trying to place blame for their failure on everyone else except himself. Filip calls him out on it and Marco tells him to get off the bridge. The hold Marco has on his son is cracking, though neither Marco nor Filip know what the result of that will be.

... Attacks the Rocinante ...

Back on the Rocinante, the crew is getting to know each other a bit bitter. Holden (Steven Strait) and Clarissa (Nadine Nicole) have a bit of a bonding moment, and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Amos (Wes Chatham) grow closer over some food.

Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Holden also talk about Naomi's PTSD episode and Holden's ongoing interest in ships disappearing through the ring. He asks Naomi to analyze the data he got from Bobbie about ships passing through, a request which not only forwards that whole subplot but also provides a nice character moment, in which Holden is trying to distract Naomi with an interesting problem.

This moment between Holden and Naomi also tees up something Holden does in the fight between the Pella and the Rocinante near the end of the episode. After managing to power down the Pella, the Roci has an open shot to destroy the ship. Holden gets Marco up on video to ask for his surrender, and Marco unsurprisingly refuses. During the exchange, we see Filip in the background and witness Naomi's reaction to seeing her son on the ship the Rocinante is about to blow up. It's a devastating situation, and when Holden secretly disarms the nuke Bobbie shoots at the Pella, you understand why he does so, even if you don't agree with his choice. It's a moment with enormous repercussions, and one that will no doubt reverberate through the rest of the season in ways large and small. 

... And Blows Up Ceres

Meanwhile, on Ceres, Avasarala's plan to have Monica (Anna Hopkins) broadcast stories to make Belters feel bad about killing Earthers seems to be going well. (Example: We see Michio on the Tynan feeling bad for Earthers when she watches Pastor Anna [Elizabeth Mitchell] describe the situation on the planet.)

Monica is off to take footage on Ceres, something that seems to be going smoothly until explosives on the station go off, killing several and jettisoning air and water out into space. Marco's plan was more insidious than Filip realized.

So we end the episode with Ceres in even worse straits than before, and the Pella going after the Rocinante and almost getting blown up in the process. It's both a win and a loss for Marco, and while the episode ends with Marco in a huff in his quarters after his very public fight with Filip, we see him get some good news: Some military equipment is coming through the Laconia ring to Medina, giving that station another advantage if the Inners attack.

Things are escalating and coming to a head, both in terms of the larger war and for the characters. We have three episodes left, and it feels like things will only get more heated from here on out.

Other Thoughts and Tidbits

  • Apparently the Laconian siblings Cara and Xan are twins in real life! This surprised me since Xan seems several years younger than Cara, but that's what IMDb and The Expanse Writers Twitter account are saying.
  • We got two cameos this episode: Prax (Terry Chen) and Pastor Anna. These two moments are brief because this season only got six episodes. "It was actually one of the things that changed when we realized we were only going to get six episodes," showrunner Naren Shankar told me during my interview with him. "We had planned in a larger season to do a whole episode about Prax and a whole episode about Anna." The impetus behind having these two additional episodes was to show that solving such devastation takes many people all doing what they can to make things better. "When you condense it to six episodes, you can't really do that," Shankar explained. "But what we arrived at was if you show these people in tiny little moments, you can make the same thematic point and play it through ... they're not just simple cameos, they serve a purpose."
  • We didn't spend as much time this episode with Drummer (Cara Gee) on the Tynan, but it's good to see their plan for attacking one of Marco's supply depot is moving forward, and that she's gotten other Belter ships to join her cause.

New episodes of "The Expanse" drop on Amazon Prime Video on Fridays.