The developments in these episodes pervade all aspects of the show, such that a spoiler-free review that discusses anything becomes more-or-less impossible.
The following review therefore assumes you have either watched the episodes or, alternatively, that you don’t care if you know about major, earth-shattering plot developments.
Titles: “Mother” and “Gaugamela”
Directors: Thomas Jane, Nick Gomez
Writers: Dan Nowak
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)
Steven Strait as James R. Holden
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Chad L. Coleman as Col. Frederick Lucius Johnson
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Bahia Watson as Sakai
Tim DeKay as Admiral Sauveterre
Jasai Chase Owens as Felip
José Zúñiga as Bull
Michael Irby as UN Admiral Delgado
Brent Sexton as Cyn
Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
Olunike Adeliyi as Karal
George Tchortovas Leveau
Caleb Ellsworth-Clark as Vedasto
Demi Oliver as Rico
Lily Gao as Nancy Gao
Sandrine Holt as Oksana
Stacey Roca as Lydia
Carlos Gonzalez-Vio as Cortazar
Danny Waugh as Dr. Alaoui
Jesse Buck as Galip
Kiriana Stanton as Rattana
Lara Jean Chorostecki as Lt. Babbage
Nazneen Contractor as Ashanti
Naomi travels in the hopes of seeing her son. As a result, she gets kidnapped by Marcos Inaro’s organization.
Carmina Drummer uncovers information about Inaros’s plan. While it is not her fight, she passes the intel along.
Draper and Kamal pursue the illegal sales of military tech, seemingly protected at the highest levels.
Amos Burton reconnects with Julie Mao—and finds himself under ground zero of an attack.
In a coordinated attack, Marco Inaros and his people bombard earth with stealth asteroids, set off a bomb in the Martian parliament, steal the last remaining fragment of protomolecule, assassinate Fred Johnson, and declare themselves owners of the Ring.
Although three asteroids have hit points on earth causing widespread destruction and millions of deaths, persistent action by Chrisjen Avasarala saves millions more from dying.
Events and the reactions would resonate with anyone who has lived through a major disaster or military attack, but one cannot help but note some rather direct parallels with 9/11. These do not feel exploitative. Art and literature allows us to process and examine events, and science fiction has a long history of reflective depictions.
The separating of the main cast puts each in a unique position to observe the story from a different perspective.
The final shot of “Mother” is a gut punch, while that final shot of Fred Johnson’s cell-type device in “Gaugamela” encapsulates our feelings about his untimely death in the midst of the slaughter of millions.
Low Point Petty Nitpick
These episodes are excellent, so I’m going to pick at a minor, easily-missed, but pervasive issue with SF: design details that seem inappropriately unchanged.
News broadcast layouts have changed multiple times in my life. Why do the news broadcasters/channels on The Expanse use a layout virtually identical to one we would see in 2020?
There. I do believe I win the award for the Least Significant Low Point in the history of reviews.
Acting: 5/6 The main cast prove equal to the challenges presented by these scripts.
Emotional Response: 6/6
Story: 6/6 This episode does an exceptional job of juxtaposing the everyday and the disastrous, build-up and reaction.
Overall: 6/6 Let the Nemesis Games begin.
In total 38/42