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Warning: spoilers ahead for episode seven of season five of “The Expanse.”

After this week’s episode of “The Expanse,” there are only three episodes left. If you’ve just found out about the best sci-fi show on television, you can catch my recaps here.

The seventh episode of the season is perhaps the most character-driven episode of season five. While we get a few brief scenes of Alex and Bobbie joking around, then notifying Holden that Marco has assembled a navy of various powerful Martian warships, there are really only two plotlines to follow.

The Rocinante attempts to find and intercept the Zmeya, the OPA ship that carries the protomolecule stolen from Fred Johnson earlier in the season. We get some fine scenes with Monica, as Holden spills the beans to her that his crew had a golden opportunity to destroy the last known sample of protomolecule before Naomi handed it to Fred in an act of Belter loyalty.

We’re also privy to some give-and-take between Holden and Bull. The showrunners have almost gone out of their way to make sure Bull is both interesting and likeable. At this point, knowing that Alex has to leave the show by the end of the season one way or another, Bull appears to be set up to take his place on the Roci.

The big payoff of the Roci plotline is a truly incredible space battle — the first we’ve seen the Roci engage in since way back in season three. Frankly, it feels long overdue. The CG work for the battle is superb, with the highlight certainly belonging to the Roci’s high-speed barrel roll while firing its PDCs like there’s no tomorrow. Of course, had the PDC fire not successfully intercepted all of the torpedos, it would have been the end for the Roci.

Luckily, for them, they rebuff the attack, charge up their railgun, and prepare to drone-sweep and then board the Zmeya. Before they can even release the scouting drones, however, the Zmeya explodes. Holden and his crew are stunned.

Yet, unbeknownst to them, they have even more reason to be shocked: the final torpedo released by the Zmeya in its failed attack on the Roci had a blue hue to it, likely indicating that it’s the protomolecule, and is now en route to Marco Inaros’s flagship.

Beyond the Holden and Bull joint brooding sessions and the cosmic combat, the Inaros family drama finally erupted in the episode. Indeed, the vast majority of “Oyedeng” is a beautiful platform for the remarkable writing of the show as well as the acting chops of Dominique Tipper (Naomi), Keon Alexander (Marco), Bretty Sexton (Cyn), and Jasai Chase Owens (Filip). It’s truly something that every actor onboard the Pella delivered such rich and nuanced performances when so many television shows have to rely on one or two good actors to shoulder all the heavy lifting.

While Marco plays cat-and-mouse with the Roci, we learn two heartbreaking, interconnected truths. First, Naomi didn’t genuinely leave Filip because, while she frantically searched for months before finally giving up, Cyn helped Marco hide him.

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Both revelations are tragic, and Filip’s reaction — a temporary moment of forgiveness and understanding with his mother — contrasts with Cyn’s inability to forgive himself for his role in fracturing Naomi and Filip’s relationship.

Of all the cast in this episode, Tipper’s portrayal of an utterly broken and crushed Naomi Nagata undoubtedly tops the list. Her dialogue revealing to Filip about the time she almost committed suicide out of her grief for him laid it all bare in brutal honesty:

I walked down to the docks by myself and went into an airlock. I remember feeling at peace for the first time since your father took you from me.

Contrasting Naomi’s resilient love for her son is how Marco treats Filip with a torrent of subtle emotional manipulation and psychological abuse. Nearly matching Tipper with his performance this episode, Keon Alexander has become Marco Inaros, a narcissistic, megalomaniac madman who seems ready to explode at any moment.

Indeed, every scene with Marco permeates with a sense of dread and fear — a testament to how much Alexander has come into the role and mastered the art of saying much while doing little.

When Filip earnestly tells his father, “I just wanted you to be proud of me,” Marco’s reply is ice-cold: “I know.”

For several episodes now, Marco has been repeatedly tearing Filip down and insulting him, only for the purpose of manipulating him back into shape. It’s awful to watch, and Owens, like Tipper and Alexander, completes the trifecta of excellent dramatic portrayals from the entire Inaros family.

The episode ends with a dramatic encounter between Naomi and Cyn. Just as we, and Cyn, believe Naomi is about to fulfill her deferred suicide from years ago, we receive a late twist. She escapes into the vacuum of space in a daring maneuver off the Pella and back to her ship, the Chet Zemoka.

With her Belter training and years of extra-vehicular experience, Naomi makes the leap of faith and injects herself with hyper-oxygenated blood (the same kind given to Monica earlier this season) before it’s too late. Safe inside her ship, Naomi is looking worse for wear, but she’s alive, and according to the showrunners, she’s not done proving she’s the toughest gal in space.



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