Bobbie Draper is alive and well, thank goodness. Okay, so maybe “well” is a stretch. The survivors of the Scirocco find her on Ganymade and patch her up, but the experience has left her shaken and confused; and while her initial memory of events seems to support her long held desire to take the fight to Earth, further examination reveals a darker, more complicated story. Which is cool, and not entirely unexpected. I mean, that’s pretty much the way it always works out on this show—there’s the version that people want to believe, which is simpler and usually useful for whatever side you’re trying to promote. And then there’s the truth, which is twisty and awkward and rarely convenient for anyone.

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What’s so fun to watch now is just many different narratives are floating in the air right now, and how each one of them feels just about to explode. Back on Earth, everyone’s blaming Mars for the Ganymede attack; Avasarala manages set up a peace summit, but they’re operating on the assumption that the Martians initiated the attack—just as the Martians are operating on the assumption that Earth is to blame. The show has managed to keep things at a boiling point for what feels like ages now, without the tensions ever falling flat or becoming contrived.

That’s true of pretty much everything that’s happening right now, and it generates one of the best feelings you can get from serialized television, something that mimics that charge you get from reading a book you just can’t put down. Not every moment in “The Seventh Man” has people making life or death decisions, but there are enough moments that do to make it feel as though every scene is of vital importance. That’s been true since the start of the second season, but I still get a giddy sense of pleasure from watching it all come together. Every new episode represents a certain level of risk, and every time the writers manage to keep their balance, I enjoy myself a bit more.

But I suppose we should focus more on the episode than on how much fun I had watching the episode, eh? Putting aside the crazy Mars stuff, we still have our heroes back on Tycho Station; in a clever touch, they’re dealing with refugees from Ganymede, which serves as yet another reminder of just how interconnected all these people really are. As annoying as Holden is with his speeches about how “there are no sides!”, and as good as the show is at not tipping its hand one way or the other, each week we seem to be getting a new reminder of how none of these groups are alone. It’s naive to think that everyone can just get along because they ought to, but if they don’t find someway to cohabit, they’re all going to suffer.

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The latest development has Anderson Dawes arriving on Tycho push his vision of the OPA’s future. In a meeting of the group’s various (and, one senses, not entirely friendly) factions, Fred Johnson lays out his plan: he wants to get Belters a seat at the table when Earth and Mars meet for Avasarala’s peace summit. He’s going to use the 30 missiles he pulled from the mass fired at Eros to make this happen. It’s not a bad plan, but Anderson isn’t a fan. While he agrees with Fred (and with Holden, Tycho’s answer to a question nobody asked) that turning over the missiles would be the best way forward, he’d prefer to sit out on the summit. He thinks war would ultimately be good for the Belters; Earth and Mars can wipe each other out, and leave space to the people who live there.

It’s not a great plan—for one thing, it’s doubtful that Belters would be able to stay out of a war completely, and for another, well, we already know that the situation is being manipulated by forces Anderson can neither control nor understand. But it’s a plausible plan, at least for this character, and it’s ambiguous enough that we can’t be sure if the man is truly trying to do what’s best for the OPA, if he’s motivated by some megalomaniacal self-interest, of if it’s a combination of the two. That means Anderson stays interesting, and it means he has a good reason to do what he does next: kidnapping Dr. Coyzar.

We knew the protomolecule was going to come back into this eventually, and the sample that Naomi failed to destroy last week is the most obvious threat. Anderson doesn’t exactly know what happened on Eros, but he knows something did, and he also knows that Johnson and the others are hiding something. That’s enough to drive him to start asking questions and probing for weaknesses. Which is what helps push the story on to the next stage of “Oh no we’re fucked.” He grabs the (not) good doctor, Alex and Naomi give chase on the Rocinante; we get a suspenseful chase scene that gives both Alex and Naomi a chance to show off their skills, but ends with Diogo in custody and the real danger still at large.

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Which is probably more true than even Naomi (who must be feeling pretty silly about leaving the protomolecule torpedo floating around right now) realizes. Because Bobbie really did see an alien, and that alien—the “seventh man” of the title—is what laid waste to both sides on Ganymede. There’s a threat here that no one on Earth, Mars, or the Belt can see the end of, which leaves everyone on edge but without the information necessary to make effective decisions. Bobbie’s bosses tell her to say it was all the fault of her and her marines, not because they believe it, but because they don’t want war with Earth. But while that may serve as a temporary bandage, it’s not going to fix what’s really wrong. Whatever’s pulling the strings is doing a damn good job of stay just hidden enough to bring out everyone’s worst impulses.

It’s all very satisfying to be sure, plotting that keeps the ball rolling without ever feeling like we’re being stalled or held back from the real story. I don’t know how faithful this show is to the book series, but purely on a structural level, this is a good to great adaptation because it consistently uses individual episodes to contribute to a sense of building catastrophe. That might ultimately fizzle out when everything comes to a head, but I have confidence in what we’ve seen so far that where we’re going is at least as interesting as the trip it’s taking to get there.

Stray observations

  • All of that, and there’s still time for some solid character stuff with Amos. He upsets some people while handing out packages to the Ganymede survivors, and goes to have a talk with Dr. Coyzar about what it’s like to not have empathy. It’s an unexpected pairing, but not, in retrospect, a completely surprising one; out of everyone, Amos was the first person to figure out how to get to the good doctor, and he’s probably the most unpredictable person in the Roci’s crew. That makes him fascinating, and the deeper glimpse we get here is great, if a bit abrupt.
  • Holden was definitely going to go shoot the doctor in the head in cold blood. Anderson was right: he is like Miller.
  • I miss Miller.
  • Avasarala’s storyline still doesn’t feel like it’s kicked into gear yet, but the fact that Bobbie Draper is headed to Earth to tell her story (a story she’s increasingly confused about, despite the Martian high command’s determination to take the blame for what happened) hopefully means she won’t be on the sidelines much longer.
  • I honestly didn’t realize the Martian marine was named “Bobbie Draper,” and it’s freaking me out a little.

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