The Expanse Season 6 Episode 5 Recap: “Why We Fight”

Drummer looks tough even checking her messages.Image: Amazon Studios

There is not a moment of wasted space in “Why We Fight”, like the vastness delivers a penultimate entry that puts everyone in position for next week’s final. The main line of the episode is: avasarala‘s full-court press to get Drummer‘s help in the fight against Marco, but there are several other big moments along the way, with zombies, brothels, emotional reunions and much more.

As predicted, Cara carried the dead body of her brother Xan into the forest, where certain “strange dogsare known for demonstrating uncanny resurrection powers. After dozing off, she is awakened by the sound of her parents frantically searching for her… and then she sees Xan. He’s alive! But something isn’t right. “I feel weird,” the boy says. “Everything looks different.” He mentions “being in substrate,” a term readers of Expanse books will recognize as related to the mysterious alien civilization that created the protomolecule. But that’s not really important to understand; what’s crucial here is that a) Xan was dead and now alive with the help of the Laconian “dogs”, who certainly have a deep link to the protomolecule, and b) although naive Cara can’t see it, we know Xan is not really Xan.

But first, remember that strike force that Mars decided to deploy with the intent to take control of Medina Station, even after Avasarala said it was a bad idea and wouldn’t help the UN? Turns out Medina, which is controlled by the Free Navy of Marco Inaros with weapons assistance from Laconia-based Admiral Duarte, has mounted a series of huge rail guns on the surface of the Ring… permission. Needless to say, the MCRN doesn’t stand a chance.

On the Pella, Marco takes up news stories about how he and the Free Navy are losing favor, especially after Drummer’s big announcement that he would raid his hidden supply depots and take them to the desperate Belters on Ceres. As always, Rosenfeld – whose job here is actually “Inaros Family Counselor” – is ready to reassure him, plug in a plug to get Filip off the dump and remind him that the goal is to go to Medina . Once they’re through the Ring and tucked safely behind the defensive firepower of those rail cannons, they’ve essentially won.

In the next scene, during a joint Ceres briefing for Mars and the UN, we learn why those weapons are so tough: They’re Mars-designed and “made of a metal we’ve never seen before.” These people know they can’t let Marco escape through the Ring, but how are they going to stop him? Even together, they don’t have enough ships to take on the Free Navy. Avasarala says that if they want to send more people to fight to the death, they should at least give them a fighting chance to win.

On the docks of Ceres, the newly repaired Roci’s are given new hull plating with a special type of metal on behalf of UNN engineers. Clarissa calls it “some new armor,” but also tells Holden that its creation came from her father’s research into protomolecules. Jules-Pierre Mao was a highly problematic man, who knows Clarissa like no other, but he also believed that “the protomolecule was the key to ensuring the survival of our species.” Sadly, she adds, “Things like this make him right.”

Back in episode threeHolden mused that he knew someone who could help him and Naomi puzzle through the disturbing phenomenon of ships disappearing as they pass through the Ring. And of course it’s their old friend from the dangerous adventures of season four on Ilus: dr. Elvi Okoye! Through a video message, she tells them that her research has uncovered a “mass-energy threshold that precedes or perhaps triggers these events, which would obviously have serious implications for future use of the Rings.” While Holden tells him to show the information to Avasarala (“This is bigger than the war”), Naomi sees a news report about Drummer bringing the supplies she freed from Marco to Ceres and smiles. Much less fortunate is the hero himself, whose delivery is held up by bureaucracy thanks to suspicious inners – until Avasarala breaks into the exchange and welcomes her to Ceres as long as there are no ‘disruptions’.

Somehow it’s the first time these characters meet on the show and the moment is as charged as you’d expect; Avasarala clearly hopes to form an alliance with Drummer to fight Marco, while Drummer is only interested in delivering the supplies and getting out of there… with one more important task: a doctor’s visit for Josep. His severed arm does not grow back properly and he is in agony; he has to have it amputated and replaced with a prosthesis. While Drummer is recording this, she leaves a call from Naomi unanswered; later she checks the message and it is a request for them to meet while they are both on Ceres. (If you’ve checked out Amazon’s “X-Ray” supplemental shorts that go with this season of The Expanse, you’ll know that Naomi has been trying to contact Drummer for a while, with no response.) Later, Michio says she’s staying with Josep on Ceres, even if it means living submissive to the inner self. Drummer has a war to fight, and she – the last two members of her family – can no longer help her in that battle. “I never loved you because you were fighters,” Drummer says as she leaves. “I loved you because you were builders. I wanted us to build something together.”

As for Avasarala, we see her meeting with Holden next. They both have agendas: he’s there to give her the information about the newly discovered dangers of Ring transit (and to tell her to share it with Marco, an idea she dismisses as ridiculous); she tells him about the rail guns on the Ring and asks him to use his influence to bend Drummer to her cause. He’s skeptical, but she’s hopeful that even Drummer, who hates Earth almost as much as she hates Marco, will be able to change her mind.

Elsewhere on Ceres, Amos and Bobbie—both urgently needed to blow off some steam—run each other while getting drunk at a local watering hole. But it’s the conversation rather than the booze (and brothels, in Amos’s case) that really matters in this scene; Amos tells Bobbie the truth about the “dud” missile and he says he’s not sure he’s going back to Holden and the Rocinante. Their conversation revolves around what makes someone ‘bad’ or ‘good’, and Bobbie makes a compelling point: ‘In the end, all that matters is fighting for who’s covering your flank. It doesn’t matter if they’re saints or bastards. It’s your people – they look after you and you look after theirs, or you have nothing.’ Something clicks in Amos’s mind and he knows he’ll be going back to the ship… after another brothel visit. “Would you like to come?” he asks Bobbie. “With you? Or with you?” asks Bobbie. “Whatever,” he shrugs. (We never learn what came of that.)

On the Pella everyone celebrates the victory of the Free Navy over the MCRN on the Ring. Everyone except Filip, who, to his great surprise, finds Tadeo, his new colleague, in jail; It appears he was caught trying to send a message to his missing brother on Ceres, a violation of wartime radio silence policy. On the bridge, Rosenfeld and Marco talk about battle strategy: “They have size, we have numbers; whatever they do now, they can’t engage us everywhere at once.” (Then she shows him Philip’s short speech from the end of episode four. “Nice to see that kind of fire in him,” Rosenfeld says. “I wonder where he gets it from?”) As they talk, the fiery Filip uses his communication privileges to learn of Tadeo’s brother’s sad fate. The news is devastating not only because his brother is dead, but also because – as Tadeo admits in tears – he was on the team that planted the bombs. “They said no Belter would get hurt,” he sobs, clinging to a stoically horrified Filip.

Back on Ceres, Drummer’s emotionally heartbreaking day continues as she is singled out as she passes a checkpoint, and the UN guard waves her through for being “pre-approved.” She resists at first, but then agrees, and of course Nico shows up with a handheld terminal, films the whole thing and mockingly, “How does it feel to be the inners’ favorite pet?” Then Naomi waits for her at the Tynan, and their uneasy reunion quickly comes to a head when Naomi asks to meet Drummer’s family. “They’re gone,” Drummer replies, then ticks off what happened: Two left after Drummer helped save the Rocinante (as seen last season), one was killed by Marco because of that Roci thing, and, well, we just saw what happened to Josep and Michio.

Naomi apologizes for her part in all that, but Drummer knows she didn’t come to her to say sorry. Instead, she’s there to push Avasarala’s agenda and ask Drummer to join Earth and Mars in fighting Marco. Drummer is horrified and offended, but this is bigger than her feelings for Naomi. The way she sees it, she has two choices: “I can choose to wait until the bounty is high enough for someone to kill me, or I can choose to put a collar around my neck and put my hand in the leash. This universe has no room for me.” Naomi understands the feeling of being caught between the two and she tells Drummer, “All we can do now is assist the people we love. What else is there?” Drummer is perfect, I’m frustrated, but I know you’re right, “Fuck you”, over and over as they cry and hug.

And now we finally get The Expanse’s first-ever face-to-face meeting between Avasarala and Drummer – two forces of nature who are going to join forces to (hopefully) take down Marco once and for all. “The system is filled with Belters’ graves who trusted inner people,” Drummer says. “And my planet is now covered in the bodies of people who paid the price for it,” Avasarala counters. Ending the war before more people die is the goal here – they both agree on this – but Drummer wants to make sure: after Marco is dead and the war is over, “Will you remember the Belters who bled for you? victory?” Avasarala says she knows why Belters hate her, but also that they have no reason to consider her a liar. “My people won’t take orders from you,” Drummer says, and Avasarala replies, “I don’t expect them to.” An alliance that seemed impossible in pre-Marco times is sealed with a handshake… and we’re on our way to the series finale!

The Expanse will be streaming on Amazon Prime on Friday.

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