The Expanse remains one of my all time favorite genre shows and is easily the only one that stands up to Game of Thrones in any sort of artistic or production value capacity. It also seems to be sticking to the landing considerably better. Mind you, it’s stopping a couple of books short but the Expanse novels have always been more self-contained than the works of George R.R. Martin. They’ve also been completed with the recent release of Leviathan Falls. Either way, I think most fans will be content with the way the story is being set up to include.
Ironically, the weirdest thing about Azure Dragon is the fact it’s setting up a bunch of elements from the final two books that the remaining four episodes have no way of resolving. They are adapting the story of the novella “Strange Dogs” and that is meant to apply to the Laconia plot that is, bluntly, resolved in the two books they are not adapting.
In this case, we get a nice bio-physics lesson with the episode opening up with a young girl discovering that the animal life of Laconia can’t digest the food from Earth. Likewise, human beings are incapable of digesting the life found on Laconia. Really, the Protomolecule aliens gave us a bum set of goods since they gave us a bunch of inhabitable planets that are extremely hostile to live upon. Still, I’ve always liked these details as it means we’ll never have to worry about being invaded by aliens since our world is utterly uninhabitable to any differently evolved species.
We also get to see Marcos bail out his son, Filip, from murdering his best friend in a drunken rage. It’s one of the few times that we actually see the otherwise perpetually affable Marcos genuinely furious and disappointed with his son. It’s also one of the even rarer cases where he’s entirely justified. Filip is a character who has participated in the murder of millions, if not billions, and would be irredeemable if not for the fact he seems at least vaguely aware what he’s done is wrong. Still, he’s so repulsive that its hard to feel like he deserves a second chance.
Bobbie rejoins the Rocinate crew this episode and it’s hilarious to see the difference in her attitude compared to the ragged crew after months on the frontlines. Bobbie is suddenly the chipper one and having justifiable confusion at the presence of former archenemy Clarissa Mao onboard the ship. It also nicely foreshadows more plots that go beyond Marcos Inaros, which, again, is confusing given this is meant to be the last season. What is eating those colony ships? We may never find out!
The actual attack on the Azure Dragon, one of the Free Navy’s most powerful vessels, is thrilling and used for emotion as well as spectacle. Naomi being unable to deal with the memories of her last time on a Free Navy vessel while Clarissa picking up the slack is particularly notable. She is becoming a true member of the crew and that is great to see.
The episode is full of action, suspense, and character development but we’re still far from getting Marcos finally dealt with. He’s such a deliciously hateable villain that I am really looking forward to his end and things settling into a new status quo. The Expanse has made numerous changes from the books but, generally, has stuck to their spirit and they remain one of the few shows I think actually improved on their source material’s plot.