REVIEW: The Expanse Season Five Episode 8 – Hard Vacuum

The expanse

It’s Wednesday and you know what that means–more Expanse and we’re up to episode eight, titled Hard Vacuum, and given we last saw Naomi Nagata about to expire in an airlock after making a dramatic leap through the void, that’s what I call foreboding. As always, if you aren’t up to where we are, switch the afterburners on and scoot. Spoilers follow.

The ExpanseOf course, we start instead with Amos and Clarissa Mao who are making their way across a rapidly devolving countryside in the wake of the asteroid impacts on Earth. Clarissa is now mostly recovered from the anti-mod blockers and her exertions in making mince out of the prepper whose house they occupied a few days back. The pair find a load of elderly folk in body bags. Amos assumes the building was an old folks home and they were killed when they couldn’t care for themselves. Clarissa says she hopes it was done humanely and asks if it’s always going to be like this. Amos says it will be at least for a while. Clarissa says she knows where they can get a ship, but they’ll need help.

Onboard the Free Navy, Marco is eulogizing Cyn in quite touching terms. He asks Filip how Naomi died. Filip tells him that she wanted to die and Cyn tried to stop her, but she didn’t have to kill him. Marco cuts him off and blames Filip for his death.

Naomi wakes up on board her ship, the Chetzemoka, and is clearly suffering from the effects of her leap through the void. She finds the control screens are broken and the whole ship wired up as a bomb.

She hears talking rattling through the ship and finds a simulated recording of her voice calling out to the Rocinante for help.

On board Drummer’s little fleet, things are pretty awkward as they salvage from Belter ships that fell foul of the Free Navy. Meanwhile, Karal is listening in, very much there as Inaros’ agent.

David Pastor makes his first address as the new secretary-general. He gives Avasarala and Delgado their credit for stopping the attack and announces a manhunt for Inaros in stirring terms, and we find out afterwards that Crisjen coached him on this.

Amos and Clarissa get into Baltimore and try to get help from his old friend Eric who initially dresses Amos (well, Timothy) for coming back. They offer a way off the planet but Eric doesn’t want to leave after all he’s built up here. He gets talked around by Clarissa and speaks about how he watched the aftermath of the impact and the sea just swept so much of the familiar city away.

There is a security council meeting on Earth and Delgado says they need to make a strike, suggesting Pallas station be attacked. Crisjen argues against that as it’s attacking a civilian target, saying this will set all Belters against them, even those who don’t already support Inaros.

Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Naomi is desperately trying to stop the message baiting the Rocinante from broadcasting, despite being injured. She attempts to wire up the comms in a busted up spacesuit to send out a new message that the ship is a bomb and she has no control.

Things are still super tense on Drummer’s ship as some of the crew worry about working with Inaros and others see regret as looking back. The tension is alleviated for a moment by some antics with water floating in microgravity, but it soon returns.

Alex and Bobbie on the Razorback pick up a message from Naomi and transmit it to on the Rocinante. It’s the bait message luring them into a trap.

Delgado and Pastor again debate the morals of an attack on a civilian Belter installation.

Naomi gets a message from Alex on the Razorback, saying they’ll get to her soon.

She realises that her attempt to send out a different message has failed and realises she needs to go out into the Hard Vacuum of the rest of the ship to somehow alter the message as it goes out.

Drummer hears the original bait message and is set to go and save Naomi but Karal tells her Naomi is dead and it’s a trap. Drummer hits the bottle hard.

Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

Naomi makes over ten trips out into the ship, breathing out into her makeshift suit and risking asphyxiation each time, reciting the message in her head as she tries to blank out portions of the broadcast. Finally, she manages to change the message to say she’s in control.

On Drummer’s ship, Karal realises that the message has been changed. Oksana is also there and wonders if Naomi could be alive and have changed it and on that note, the episode ends.

Thoughts on Hard Vacuum

I have to admit that I was expecting a more explosive episode this week but Hard Vacuum played on the emotional weight of the previous episode to give us a tense portrayal of Naomi’s tenacity and determination to somehow save her chosen family from death at Marco’s hands, trying to save her.

Ultimately, Hard Vacuum is all about Naomi and everything else takes a backseat to a standout performance from Dominique Tipper. Even more impressive is that this week it’s not her poise, delivery, and code-switching that stands out as would usually be the case but her physical portrayal of desperation and pain and sheer bloody-mindedness.

So much of this season has been about building tension and emotional momentum and I can’t be annoyed at that being cranked up even further as we get to the final two episodes of the season, even if I’d been hoping for some more immediate thrills in this episode.

Image Credit: Amazon Studios.

At this stage we’ve got Naomi on a near-derelict ship, defying death while almost killing herself to save the friends who are now fast approaching with rescue in mind. We’ve got the tense atmosphere between Filip and Marco and also on Drummer’s pirate ship and lastly, we’ve got Amos, Clarissa, and Eric about to take some risks to take the ship off of Earth.

The stakes couldn’t be higher or more personal, the setting continues to get grimmer, and the likelihood of positive outcomes slimmer by the second. You love to see it.

What did you enjoy in Hard Vacuum and what are you looking forward to as the story continues?

Episodes 1-8 of Season Five and all prior seasons of The Expanse can be streamed via Amazon Prime  –  and new episodes are coming every Wednesday.

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Chris Napier

Chris Napier lives in Glasgow, Scotland with his wife, two young sons and a head full of utter nonsense. An ecumenical geek, he especially delights in stories of hope in dark places and finding beauty in desolation. In between writing his own stories and posting to his Chaotic Good Story Club, he attends the Glasgow SF Writers Circle and contributes to Big Comic Page and Grimdark Magazine.