The following contains spoilers for The Expanse S5E7 “Oyedeng” and assumes knowledge of all preceding episodes and seasons of The Expanse, but contains no book spoilers.
The Expanse S5E7 “Oyedeng” focuses primarily on character beats between Marco, Filip, Naomi, and Cyn, or different pairs from that group at different times. In a sense, these four form a kind of family unit, or at least they once did. If we are to think about tribes, this was one in the past that has become fractured, and it is apparent by the end of S5E7 that it is broken beyond repair.
Perhaps the best entry point is through Filip, as so much of “Oyedeng” has to do with his relationship with his father versus that with his mother. The Expanse has given us the story of what happened from the mouths of both Naomi and Marco in the past, and up to now we’ve been left to our own speculation about to what extent Naomi abandoned her son to get away from Marco and to what extent Marco stole Filip from her.
The truth seems to be both, and S5E7 paints a much better overall portrait of it, not only through the brief flashback scenes that give us a glimpse into this previous life, but through the exchanges that occur between the characters. We know what happened now, I think: Naomi split from Marco because of what happened with the Augustin Gamarra, he hid Filip from her with Cyn’s help, she came to the brink of suicide before realizing that this wouldn’t help anything with Filip (she’d lost him either way), and so she left. Marco thought she would come back to him because of her son, and Cyn claims that this was his sentiment as well. If we’re sympathetic (which may be easier with regard to Cyn than to Marco, I suppose), we might see this as a desire to keep the family together, and it is easy enough to see how Marco could blame Naomi for being the one who broke it apart. He thinks Naomi is weak for caring so much about the lives of the people they killed on the Augustin Gamarra, and he’s raised their son to similarly view this as weakness. So we still have the two perspectives, but in a more nuanced way, and one that makes it even easier to pass the judgment needed to be on Naomi’s side.
Unless you’re Filip, that is—the young Inaros remains caught between the influence of the father he has lived with his entire life, whom he has always wanted to please, and his mother now returned to him, who continues to try as hard as she can to get him to turn away from the life that has come to define him. So of course she fails. I predicted that Naomi would fail in this quest from the beginning, and it would have been implausible, really, if The Expanse had allowed her to succeed. Rather, Filip takes Marco’s words to heart after the latter blames him for their recent failures, and comes around to decide to let Naomi go, but only after they destroy the Rocinante. On the one hand, this tracks as a matter of Filip not wanting to see his mother die, but on the other it is an even harsher punishment for her and he knows it—to deprive her of her family in a way that parallels how he was deprived of his. It’s a twisted kind of retribution.
It is interesting that The Expanse continues to extol the value of found family, which we can see from the Rocinante crew to the #PolyAmBelterFam to Amos and Lydia. That is a positive message that it is easy to laud, this idea that the connections we make ourselves—those we choose for ourselves—are perhaps more important than blood relation, which can often be fraught and problematic. But boy does The Expanse tend to portray them as fraught and problematic, as it is hard to think of a single instance of a biological familial relationship in this story that feels healthy and good. Maybe there are some, but in the foreground we have this mess with Naomi and Filip and I can’t help but then also think of the Mao family, Alex being totally on the outs with his wife and son, and so on.
Regardless, it’s clear that Naomi chooses the crew of the Rocinante at the end of S5E7, as she is perfectly willing to let Cyn die as she opens the airlock to perform her incredibly implausible jump across the vacuum of space. He thought she was contemplating suicide again and was there to talk her down. He still cares despite everything. He feels badly about his role in keeping Filip from her years ago. He thought maybe this was his chance to make it up to her, and she said that it was, earlier in “Oyedeng,” but he failed to do so. I suppose he would have needed to do something far more drastic than he had in him. So she just tells him that he shouldn’t have come after her…and then kills him by opening the door. I can’t help but feel bad for the guy, but then I may be harboring more empathy for the Inaros faction than the average Expanse viewer.
Holden, Bull and Monica are on the Rocinante trying to track down the protomolecule and communicate with Alex and Bobbie, so some pieces are coming together in terms of what I expect will be the ultimate getting the band back together to take on Marco climax of Season 5. The more interesting things to note with regard to this plot, though, strike me to be the questions that arise in S5E7: what exactly happened with the Zmeya?; what exactly happened to the protomolecule?; and, what exactly do the Martians who have been giving warships to Inaros want?
It seems likely that the answer to the last of those questions is something along the lines of what Monica suggests: a faction of Martian muckety-mucks want to get their hands on the protomolecule, along with Paolo Cortazar to continue his research on it. However, if the protomolecule were to be the payment Marco gave for the warships, that would be in tension with his threat to use it on the Inners if they don’t cede to his claim to sovereignty over the outer planets and all of the worlds beyond the Ring gates. So I’m not entirely sure this holds up. Rather than speculating more, I am just going to cross my fingers and hope that the writers of The Expanse have a plan here in terms of this all holding together and ultimately making sense. Or I guess maybe what I’m hoping is that Marco isn’t a hubristic fool…he probably is, isn’t he?
Holden wanted to board the Zmeya in order to interrogate those aboard, but it would seem the ship self-destructed instead of allowing this. At least, this was how the scene struck me, so please feel free to point out if I am missing something. Regardless, what I find myself wondering about is the protomolecule, because if that was indeed on this ship it is very hard for me to see how they could have decided to destroy it, which makes me think that it was likely handed off before the Rocinante tracked them down.
I’m reminded of Sakai mocking Holden and the others after the protomolecule was stolen from Tycho in the first place, and how she said it was gone—“bye-bye!” The title of S5E7, “Oyedeng” is Belter for goodbye, and while we can surely see this theme in Naomi’s story as she breaks from Inaros and says farewell to her old friend Cyn in a way that ends his life, I’m led to tie that thematic thread back to this scene of the Zmeya as well. A Belter must be in the position of enunciation, anyway, and this makes sense to me as much as it makes sense to think of it as Naomi’s parting salutation to Belters in general.
Because this isn’t just a matter of leaving Marco again. Now he has all of the Belt rallying to his side, so to break with him is to break with them. I’ve asked what one should do in this new political landscape of The Expanse to be on the side of beltalowda, but I see Naomi here as deciding when push comes to shove to reject that question. She simply will not be on their side, but will be on the side of her Rocinante family, and on the side of humanity as a whole to the extent that she can be. But as for any loyalty to the Belt…