It’s a small thing, but I appreciate how quickly Alex and Amos go along with Holden’s stories about Miller. Sure, they’re skeptical, and “Intransigence” gets at least one good joke about Alex doing his best to keep up, but they also don’t immediately dismiss him or assume he’s crazy. Partly that’s because they’ve already had evidence that Holden’s getting good information, whatever his source; his orders to slow down and head for the Ring are the only reason the Rocinante is still unexploded and uncaptured, although as the episode shows, that latter remains somewhat in doubt. But there’s also the fact that everyone on board the ship has seen a lot of crazy shit by this point. Once you know about the protomolecule, who’s going to balk at a possible ghost?
“Intransigence” keeps the pressure up on the Roci, dealing with the aftermath of last week’s massive clusterfuck as our heroes try and figure out what went wrong and what in the hell they’re going to do next. On the Behemoth, Naomi is at odds with both Drummer and Ashford, worried about her friends and suddenly questioning the decisions that brought her to the Belter ship in the first place. And on the Thomas Prince, Anna is trying to decide her future while Melba deals with the emotional aftermath of murdering Ren. This latter leads to a series of flashbacks that offer up a key piece of info on just how Melba got into this mess: it turns out that she’s Julie Mao’s sister, and is trying to get revenge on Holden for putting her father in jail.
That’s an interesting idea, and it’s nice excuse to get Julie back on the show for a few scenes (remember Julie?), showing a party that Melba threw for her sister that ended in a lot of arguing and family unpleasantness. But it’s also the weakest point in the episode, because it’s so detached from the larger concerns of the story. Jules-Pierre Mao is, of course, an important villain, the only villain still left with us from the first season, but as much as I like the actor who plays him, and as big an impact as he’s had on the plot, he’s still not all that compelling a character, at least not when set against the Giant Terrifying Space Ring Of Unknown Motives that the main story is focused on. Reminding us that humans continue to be dumb, petty, and selfish even in the face of the ineffable is a key part of the show’s themes, but giving this much time to explaining a character’s motives when those motives turn out to be so utterly pedestrian feels like a waste.
Besides, it’s not even Jules-Pierre we’re dealing with anymore, it’s his other daughter; and while the discovery that Julie had a sister isn’t a horrible twist, there’s just not enough to her to justify this amount of investigation into her past. The three part flashback offers few surprises past the most obvious one—as theoretically interesting as it is to see the Mao family before everything went to hell, the information we get here isn’t anything that couldn’t have been handled simply by waiting for Melba’s monologue at the end of the hour. I appreciate that the show wanted to make her more than just a stock figure, but finding out that she’s murdering people because her father didn’t love her as much as he loved her sister is a disappointment. It’s especially disappointing because Nadine Nicole is quite good in the role; there’s a contrast between the depth of performance, and the actual shallowness of her motives, that makes both aspects less effective.
It doesn’t help that a lot of the episode is spent either justifying people’s actions or explaining why they’re making decisions which, in retrospect, aren’t that surprising. None of these individual threads are quite as deflating as Melba’s (which is honestly not bad, it’s just not worth all the screentime; how many different scenes have we had of her feeling guilty about that dude she murdered?), but nothing we see off the Roci is even remotely as interesting as what’s happening with Holden and his crew. The fact that Anna finds a way to stay on the Prince even after Avasarala orders the civilian crew to be removed (in response to the bombing) would be a twist only if she was a new character being played by an unfamiliar actress—we already know she’s important, and booting her off so early in the storyline would be a waste of resources.
Having Naomi on the Behemoth is honestly the most surprising thing the show has done with her character since she sent Fred Johnson the protomolecule sample; and while it makes sense for her to go back, there’s no much dramatic motion made by the decision to return to the status quo after a brief excursion elsewhere. This is of course contigent on her actually getting back to the Roci in one piece—given that the ship’s comms are fried, and that everyone is inside the Ring at this point, who knows what could happen. But odds are, she’ll be fine, and it makes the whole time on the Behemoth look a bit like a narrative cul-de-sac.
These are all nitpicky structural problems. Overall, “Intransigence” is fine, and the stuff on the Roci is flat out great; I especially enjoyed Amos figuring out the cameraman’s sabotage almost immediately, and the way he chooses to handle that particular problem is a reminder of just how important it is to stay on Amos’s good side. It was necessary that we get a little more information on Melba, given how much she’s changed the course of the story and that she’s still an active player in events, and forcing Anna to choose to stick around in the face of common sense helps to make her a little more active. And Naomi’s friendship with Drummer continues to develop, meaning that her decision to leave the Behemoth (and Drummer’s decision to let her) will surely have consequences going forward. So yeah, it all makes sense. It’s just a little flat to watch, given what we’ve come to expect from the show.
- Apologies for the lateness of this—no screeners and a cable mix-up left me high and dry last night. It won’t happen again.
- I like that no one on board the Behemoth knows exactly what happened to the Roci; small reminders that this isn’t Star Trek (with its all knowing, all seeing sensors) are great world-building tools.
- Amos threatens to kill the reporter to make the cameraman talk, and when that doesn’t work, he sends them both out of the airlock. He’s nice, though—he gives them spacesuits, and presumably they’ll get picked up by the Martian ship (the Xuesen) that followed the Roci into the Ring. Alex asks them to put in a good word to the Martians, which is certainly optimistic of him.
- Miller makes a return at the end, telling Holden to investigate the “crime scene,” aka the small object that appears to be controlling what’s going on in the Ring. He’s more coherent now—apparently the signal is better this close to its source.