The war between Earth and Mars is heating up quickly in season 3 of The Expanse. “Assured Destruction” featured a number of difficult decisions for a number of characters: with this kind of start to the season, I’m excited to see how the rest of it turns out.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – “It’s gonna’ be Mei!”
Having rescued UN Deputy Undersecretary Avasarala and Bobbie Draper, formerly of the Martian Marines, from an explosive end at the hands of the UNN, Holden and the crew of the Pinus Contorta, which everyone aboard still calls the “Roci,” tell Avasarala that they are heading to Io to find Prax’s daughter Mei. Avasarala and Draper aren’t keen on this plan since they both want to return to Earth to help end the war by proving that Undersecretary Errinwright is a traitor working with Jules-Pierre Mao.
Avasarala makes her case by telling the crew about the protomolecule hybrid that attacked Ganymede and nearly killed Draper. Holden and his crew show their worth when they, in return, show Avasarala and Draper the recording of their battle with and destruction of a protomolecule hybrid. Draper is noticeably impressed.
Realizing that Holden is unlikely to take her back to Earth, Avasarala requests that they be allowed to send a tight-beam transmission concerning Errinwright’s guilt to Admiral Souther aboard the Agatha King. Holden denies this request, saying that sending a tight-beam would allow the UNN to locate and destroy them.
Avasarala tries to appeal to Holden’s quixotic nature, but her manipulative reference to Holden’s mother and childhood fall on seemingly deaf ears. Holden says he’s done fighting battles he can’t win.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – “Alas, poor Theo…”
Cotyar, Avasarala’s mercenary bodyguard, survived the explosion of the Guanshiyin, Jules-Pierre Mao’s space-yacht. But the drop ship that Cotyar and Theo Simibelli, a member of the Guanshiyin’s crew, are currently aboard has been detected by the UNN Agatha King, the flagship of the United Nations Navy’s Jupiter Fleet. And since the Guanshiyin was vaporized by the UNN, Cotyar is justifiably anxious about being rescued by the very organization that just tried to kill him.
Making a harsh executive decision before being picked up by the Agatha King, Cotyar elects to kill his fellow escapee from the Guanshiyin…poor Theo. Cotyar believes this is the best way to protect his cover story that Avasarala was killed by Mao’s mercenaries. Once aboard the Agatha King, Cotyar is questioned by Fleet Admiral Nguyen.
Nguyen doesn’t believe that Avasarala is dead, and he similarly doesn’t believe Cotyar — more likely, he’s in Errinwright’s pocket — when Cotyar tells Nguyen that Errinwright destroyed the Guanshiyin in an attempt to kill Avasarala. Admiral Souther, the Agatha King’s commanding officer, however, does believe Cotyar’s story.
Faking an electrical malfunction, Souther questions Cotyar without Fleet Admiral Nguyen present. Cotyar tells the seemingly trustworthy Souther of Avasarala and Draper’s escape from the Guanshiyin aboard the Razorback. But before Souther can take any action, Fleet Admiral Nguyen pulls rank and commandeers the Agatha King, setting a course for Io.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – “Katoa-Man, Katoa-Man does whatever a Katoa can!”
On Io, Jules-Pierre Mao and Dr. Strickland witness the effects of their protomolecule experiments. Although Prax’s daughter Mei has yet to be infected with the protomolecule, her friend Katoa has been, and the effects of it are showing in a big way. The previously sickly Katoa can now climb walls and jump around like Spider-Man.
Mao is pleased with the results of the experiment, and Mei is impressed by her friend’s newfound abilities, but after Katoa suffers a sudden protomolecule-related seizure, Mao demands that the experiment be shut down. Mei, it seems, reminds Mao of his daughter Julie who died as a result of exposure to the protomolecule, and the ethical implications of putting Mei in danger weigh heavily on him.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – The Gun Show
Meanwhile, His Excellency Secretary-General Esteban Sorrento-Gillis faces a difficult decision of his own. The treasonous Undersecretary Errinwright proposes a preemptive strike against Mars’s orbital missile arrays, which are moving into strike position. Although Sorrento-Gillis seems to be committed to winning the war, his conscience and his speech-writer Anna Volovodov suggest that he should minimize casualties.
Sorrento-Gillis first decides to act against Errinwright’s suggestion to preemptively destroy Mars’s orbital missile launchers since any firing malfunction would allow an opportunity for Mars to retaliate. However, after another discussion with Errinwright in which the undersecretary reminds Sorrento-Gillis of the threat of the protomolecule on Venus, Sorrento-Gillis decides to go ahead with Errinwright’s plan.
At the secretary-general’s command, the UN’s orbital “rail-guns” fire their deadly volleys at the Martian orbital missile launchers. But, one of the rail-guns misfires due to being warmed up and shut down when Sorrento-Gillis previously decided to call off Errinwright’s preemptive strike. Due to the malfunction, a single Martian missile gets away before the last launcher is destroyed. The missile detonates in South America killing two million people.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – Alex + Naomi
Alex and Naomi are also at crossroads, although the decisions they make in “Assured Destruction” have far lower stakes than any other character in this episode. Alex receives a message from his family: his wife and son have moved on and no longer want him around. His wife is glad that Alex has found something he loves more than them. But rather than make a desperate plea to be taken back, Alex just leaves things as they are, instead turning his attention to reassuring Naomi and convincing her to stay on board.
Alex knows that Naomi is considering high-tailing it to Tycho Station. She eventually decides against it, at least for now, and, in a rare show of camaraderie, eats dinner with the lonely and dejected Alex.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – Chrisjen Values
Naomi and Avasarala are unlikely to be sharing many dinners together, though. Avasarala is horrified to learn that Naomi provided Fred Johnson and the OPA with the protomolecule. Naomi fires back, telling Avasarala that she will do everything in her power to ensure that Earth never gets the protomolecule.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – Amoside, Life on the Street
Amos reveals a bit more about his personal history when he tells Prax that he’s from Baltimore, saying that the only way to get out of Baltimore is to die. When Prax asks Amos how he got out, Amos, rather mysteriously, replies that he died.
The Expanse Season 3, Episode 3: “Assured Destruction” – Final Thoughts
It’s good to see Mao acting like a human being for once. Although I have no interest in feeling sorry for the unscrupulous financier, it’s refreshing to see the humane side of any villain.
I felt like Alex’s story-line in this episode was a bit weak and that the way Amos revealed his past was a tad heavy handed. I want to learn more about these characters, but I don’t want their development to seem forced.
The massacre in South America really raises the stakes of the war, and I wonder what Earth’s response is going to be after the devastating attack. If the war-mongering Errinwright has anything to say about it, though, I’m sure it won’t be diplomatic.