Following the events of last week’s preliminary meetings between Earth and Mars things were obviously about to get dicey in this episode and they certainly do. “Cascade” acts primarily as a setup episode but avoids the common pitfall of feeling like a throwaway episode. In spite of it not being terribly heavy on action, the episode moves some of the pieces on the board and in doing so makes some really interesting reveals. The episode is also a bit of an oddity in that we spend the vast majority of it on Earth.
Early on in the episode Errinwright apparently has a change of heart as he tells Avasarala everything about his involvement with Jules-Pierre Mao. Interestingly, going back to last season Errinwright was initially set up to be perhaps the primary antagonist along with Mao but after this episode, that dynamic has shifted significantly. Though he shouldn’t have been involved in the first place, the writers – along with actor Shawn Doyle – do a great job of giving the audience the sense that while his actions may have been misguided he legitimately thought he was doing what was best for Earth. His decision to turn over all of the information he has on Protogen’s activities exemplifies this, considering that by doing so he is essentially sacrificing his career.
While the fallout from last week’s revelations may be surprising where Errinwright is concerned, it’s no surprise that Bobbie is in a heap of trouble with the MCRN for slipping up. Thankfully, The Expanse has done a fantastic job developing Bobbie all season long because this episode finally sees her disobey orders after pushing and prodding her superiors in the previous episode. In a rather reckless move, she removes a window pane in her room in order to escape and visit the ocean.
As Bobbie roams around aimlessly we’re treated to a pretty unique look at how common people live on Earth. To this point, Earth has seemed mostly glamorous considering that most of the scenes on Earth have either been set at the very sleek U.N. building or a well to do private residence. With Bobbie out and about in the world, we get to see aspects of life on Earth that we have yet to see, and it turns out the quality of life for the average Earther seems as bleak as that of a Belter. Sure, we’ve heard about some of these problems in passing references, but it has never really been visually illustrated to us as clearly as it was in this episode.
Most importantly, it provides Avasarala the opportunity to talk with Bobbie. Though their talk was brief, it did something really important in that the information Bobbie received from Chrisjen validates what she saw on Ganymede. Armed with that knowledge it will be very interesting to see what Bobbie does, especially as she seems to be getting more and more contentious.
Meanwhile, out on Ganymede station, Holden and the rest continue looking for leads on the whereabouts of Dr. Strickland and Prax’s daughter. The episode really felt bogged down by these scenes. They try to use these scenes to help develop a growing tension between Holden and Naomi, spurred on by the way the last episode ended with an innocent man dying due to their actions. Unfortunately, the emotional impact is lacking and leaves the scenes feeling hollow. Similarly, they continue to play with this ongoing thread of Amos acting weirder than usual, but with so much going on elsewhere it just doesn’t feel important enough yet.
Easily the most important and pressing matter is that Prax finds that the plants on the station are dying and will cause a cascading effect eventually causing systemic failure. In short, the station is dying and no one knows it yet. This feels like it will be the major event for the end of the season with this being an already delicate situation for Earth and Mars from a political standpoint.
On the whole, there was a lot that really worked well in this episode as there really were only a couple of scenes that bogged it down. It’s a good example of how to execute a setup episode because it was, for the most part, intriguing while shifting characters around and setting the table for events still to come.
GEEK Grade: B+
Get a quick peek at next week’s episode right here!
The Expanse airs on Syfy on Wednesday’s at 10:00pm.
Written by Dan Nowak
Directed by Mikael Salomon