Force Projection is the third episode of the truncated sixth season of The Expanse and continues the build-up to the final confrontation between Marcos Inaros and the Rocinante crew. In fact, this episode could have been such a confrontation and would have been a satisfying conclusion if not for the fact they pulled back at the last minute.
The premise is that Marcos has evacuated Ceres station and left them as a humanitarian crisis in the making. They’ve stripped the station of everything valuable and all of their food, leaving only what the people personally possess. Earth now has the decision to feed and clothe the Belters despite their own overstretched resources or leave them to starve, which will only play into Marcos’ cause.
I happen to like these moments in the Expanse because they reflect real-life terrorist strategies like provoking attacks in order to maximize civilian casualties on your own side. That is one of the best ways to “win hearts and minds” for extremists. Chrisjen Avasarala knows this and is desperate to find a way to break the cycle of violence because so many have died that, right now, it looks like the only solution is genocide to one faction or the other.
Drummer is working on her own attempt to turn the Belter nation against Marcos, which is becoming easier and easier the more the Free Navy proves itself to be a bunch of psychotic scumbags. You’d think the genocide of billions would have already proven that but Marcos’ incompetence and willingness to abandon anyone he doesn’t consider a “true Belter” (which is anyone not utterly loyal to him) is certainly helping her plan.
Filip Inaros continues to question Marcos and starts developing a spine. Unfortunately, it’s a bit late for this character development as he’s crossed the Moral Event Horizon numerous times. It’s a bit like trying to redeem Kylo Ren after he murdered Han Solo, participated in the destruction of Hosnian Prime, and rejected redemption multiple times. Yes, it’s still possible but it’s not nearly as dramatically satisfying as it might be.
The big highlight of the episode, though, is the space battle between Marcos’ flagship and the Rocinante. Marcos is obsessed with killing the man who took away his girlfriend, showed him up repeatedly, and has the audacity to be an Earther who claims to care about Belters. Marcos enters the battle with every advantage but still manages to come within inches of death due to his arrogant belligerance.
Fans are going to debate whether or not Holden made the right decision in sparing Marcos’ life given he’s proven to be an existential threat to not only Earthers but human life in general. However, Holden can’t bring himself to kill Marcos due to the fact it would also kill Naomi’s son Fillip. We’ll see if this act of mercy pays dividends in the end.
Oh and Laconia is now going to give Marcos some more gifts. Uh oh.
In conclusion, the Expanse continues to ramp up the tension as well as deal with the political fallout of the Marcos’ attack on Earth. There’s still a lot of build-up for dealing with the alien threat but there’s no way to handle that in three episodes.