The Expanse S6E3: “Force Projection” — Conscience Has a Cost

Bobbie stands with arms crossed, in front of an open circle with plants in it

The following contains spoilers for The Expanse S6E3, “Force Projection” (written by Dan Nowak and directed by Jeff Woolnough) but no book spoilers

I know it’s unlikely to land for me to call James Holden a beautiful soul (again). I don’t mean it as a compliment by any means, but in the sense you’ll find in Hegel—the beautiful soul is concerned above all with its own moral purity, and is thus reduced to empty conviction that fails to become actual in anything concrete.

It’s here that I think Holden is paradigmatic. He’s constantly convinced of his own moral rectitude but afraid to ever get his proverbial hands dirty. He’s afraid to get his conscience dirty, and while you might think that having a clean conscience is a good thing (because it is), the problem is when it comes at the expense of actually doing anything.

This is what we see when James secretly disarms the warhead the Roci fires at the Pella in The Expanse S6E3. He’s clearly swayed by seeing Filip in the background as he’s talking to Marco on the comm, and he knows what it will do to Naomi if they kill him—how she won’t be able to live with herself. So he undermines the missile Bobbie fired on the sly, passing on an opportunity to kill Inaros and end the war. But even if it is something he hides from the others, it is all too easy to imagine Holden going on a rant in his own defense, holding forth about how it isn’t who they are, how they are better than that, and so on.

Empty talk.

Marco wears a spacesuit as he looks at the camera, with Filip in a suit behind him

Marco, on the other hand, knows that he’s evil and does as he pleases to pursue his desire. In this regard, he’s the more honest. Here in “Force Projection” he practically tells Filip that he doesn’t care about the lives of the people on Ceres. Abandoning them was a solid tactical move and that’s that.

And indeed, it was a solid tactical move. Stripping the station of virtually all of its valuable resources and leaving them with only enough to survive for three weeks amounted to handing the UNN a humanitarian crisis on a platter. If they hadn’t moved to help the Belters on Ceres, they would have demonized themselves by precisely being the Inners who don’t care about the Belt Marco has always said they are. But by committing themselves to helping, they’re instead stuck in a situation that is a bit of a quagmire, diverting their energy and resources away from the war effort in order to help those they arrived perfectly willing to kill.

It’s brilliant.

Avasarala looks concerned

I’m pretty sure this is all supposed to make me dislike Marco even more, but it doesn’t, perhaps because of the honesty I referenced above. On the other side we have Monica carrying out Avasrala’s propaganda campaign, and though it seems to have some effect on Michio, it’s clear most Belters will react more like Josep.

As well they should. And as I said last week, it’s not because the report is lying. It’s rather there in Monica’s remark that they can edit out the ill-advised comment made by one marine to another. It’s not lying, but it’s not honest either.

Michio watches Anna on a screen in the Tynan

Mixed into all of this, The Expanse S6E3 gives us some nice moments with our friends on the Roci. Holden and Clarissa bond over their regrets. Holden and Naomi bond over being too hard on themselves. Amos and Bobbie bond complaining about the food.

Then Amos receives a message from Prax about a newly developed yeast that can help feed humanity. During the part he expects Amos wasn’t able to follow, Prax says something about the yeast developing along the lines of the protomolecule, which is intriguing, but should also raise a flag.

Amos and Bobbie stand looking at a message from Prax, who appears on a comm screen

Meanwhile, on Laconia, it appears that the strange dog was able to bring the strange bird back to life, and that we’re on the cusp of this being tried on a human. I’m sure that will go well.

The Expanse S6E3 ends with Marco getting a message about Laconia, which sounds like they are on the verge of some kind of test. I wonder what they’ve been doing and if it involves shooting the protomolecule into various planets to see what happens. If so, the combination with the strange dogs who can apparently resurrect things should be fun indeed.

The strange dogs on Laconia, seen from behind

For a second, I truly thought Marco might die in “Force Projection.” It would have been fitting for it to have come at the hands of the Rocinante in a fight he didn’t have to choose, his obsession with the ship pushing him beyond tactical rationale to bring on his own demise, and for it to happen not as the result of some grand plan but in the seizing of an opportune moment.

Having declined on that possibility, and having already used the move of the protomolecule posing such a threat to the solar system that everyone can’t help but put aside their squabbles, I am immensely curious how The Expanse will resolve the Inaros plot arc.

I assume we’ll get there by the end of the season, no matter how many threads may be left dangling around the edges.

Written by Caemeron Crain

Caemeron Crain is Executive Editor of TV Obsessive. He struggles with authority, including his own.

Caesar non est supra grammaticos

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