The following contains spoilers for The Expanse S5E9 “Winnipesaukee” and assumes knowledge of all preceding episodes and seasons of The Expanse, but contains no book spoilers.
The Expanse S5E9 “Winnipesaukee” largely sets the board for the upcoming Season 5 finale. Plenty of things happen, but they are mostly at the level of shifting power dynamics and characters learning information that the audience already knew. This is not a complaint; it is merely to note that in terms of the broad strokes of the situation at hand, things are not that much different at the end of S5E9 than they were at the end of last week’s “Hard Vacuum”—and given the way that left me most invested in what happens to Naomi, I have to say I do feel a bit teased by the way that “Winnipesaukee” ends. Naomi presents a question that I don’t know the answer to, whereas it was no surprise to see Avasarala ascend back to power, or for Amos, Clarissa and Erich to get off of Earth, gunfight notwithstanding.
This storyline really forms the core of S5E9 and of course is also where it gets its title, as Timmy and company head to Lake Winnipesaukee in order to find a shuttle off the planet. The wealthy residents have apparently fled, leaving behind only servants and rent-a-cops for our friends to encounter. It is interesting to me to see how little the society of Earth has changed in the future world presented by The Expanse. Sure, the UN is in charge and there is talk of human rights and so on, but there clearly remains a large gap in wealth. Baltimore was presented to us in a way that brought to mind The Wire, and now in “Winnipesaukee” we’re presented with working class folks who have just been abandoned when push came to shove, left to be exploited by those who can exert power with their guns.
Or at least they would have been if Peaches hadn’t shown up. Erich and Amos, even, would have been happy to push these people aside, though they also would have been happy to kill the rent-a-cops when they came a-knocking the first time, so it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I’m tempted to say that Clarissa has misunderstood what Amos said about tribes, but I’m also tempted to think the way that she does, at least about the workers they encounter. Maybe we don’t know what use they’ll be to us, but we should value them anyway.
The real trick would be to value people directly because of their humanity, irrespective of any thought about the ends they might serve, but maybe Amos is right in his cynicism about such claims to morality. When it comes down to it and we’re in the churn, can we truly imagine anyone who would hold to such a universal way of thinking? And worse, doesn’t the way Clarissa approaches that almost get them all killed when the bad men with guns come back?
Is He Our Role Model Now?
David Paster took Delgado’s advice and attacked Pallas. But as he and others contemplate attacking Ceres here in S5E9, Avasarala resigns her cabinet position, and is followed by multiple others. Surely they are right to refuse any complicity in the slaughter of innocents on Ceres, but it is striking the extent to which Avasarala’s argument is strategic—everyone who lost someone on Pallas now wants blood the same way she does for the death of Arjun. Really she just wants to be sure to kill the right people (see: Marco Inaros) and to get to that result efficiently. Of course she also doesn’t want innocent people to die, but I think that is somewhat secondary, or perhaps the moral question cannot be disentangled from the strategic one for our friend Chrisjen. I’m not sure that would be a fault.
Either way she sees the dangers that lie in the direction of a desire for retribution, and abjures the tu quoque fallacy that so many fall prey to, not only in a fictional world like that of The Expanse, but in the real world we live in. It seems to be a lesson that humanity stubbornly keeps failing to learn, that you cannot simply bomb and kill your problems away.
Delgado thinks his joke used to be funnier because the punchline requires laughing down your nose at the Belters, who have now been punching up. I’d speculated that it would be about the hubris of Earthers, but we learn here in S5E9 that the joke itself is an example of that hubris, and it exemplifies an attitude towards the Belt that you could only claim isn’t racist by asserting that beltalowda is not a race.
What, though, of Marco’s threat to use the protomolecule on Earth? The events we’ve seen with the Zmeya seem to indicate that he does not actually have it, but does the UN know this? I feel like there is not quite enough discussion of this issue. Neither is there of Mars in this whole thing. We know that they have been providing Inaros with weapons and even ships, and Avasarala knows this. But is it the government of Mars or just some handful of corrupt individuals? And, again, either way, what do they get out of it?
These are big unanswered questions that I can only hope we get further clarity about in the season finale.
Oksana finally reveals what she knows about Naomi to Drummer, but only after she has taken away Camina’s gun and (emotionally) forced her to say that she loves the #PolyAmBelterFam as much as she loves Naomi. Oksana may believe this because she wants to believe it, but Drummer’s body language indicates to me that it isn’t quite the truth. It’s not a fair question, though, and I don’t think the truth is as straightforward as the contrary claim that she cares about Naomi more. It’s the implicit claim that Camina is not able to accept: that loving Oksana and the others means that she must follow Marco’s orders. It may be true that if they don’t Inaros will have them killed, but there is a real question here of whether love can or should move one to swallow their conscience, or submit to such logic.
Take the others away from the situation and it would be easier to laud Drummer if she refused to submit and fought back, even if she died as a result. This would have the structure of martyrdom. But when one’s decision about such a thing has an immediate impact on the lives of others, well…does Camina have the right to decide that they all won’t submit to Marco? Is this a family, or is she the captain? As much as one might buck against hierarchical structures of authority, one thing that Drummer’s story in Season 5 of The Expanse should make us think about is whether and when they have their place—though it’s not clear that this would make the situation much easier to navigate.
As expected, those aboard the Rocinante and the Screaming Firehawk receive Naomi’s altered message in S5E9, and they don’t know what to make of it. Of course they think they’ll figure it out when they get there, not realizing that the whole point is that Naomi’s ship is a bomb meant to kill them. “Winnipesaukee” ends with Alex and Bobbie approaching the Chetzemoka. Naomi’s joy quickly turns to despair as she realizes they have not understood enough. And I have to admit I can’t figure out what she plans to do next.
I am fairly certain we’ll find that out next week, and I hope the season finale brings together all of the various threads I have been noticing throughout Season 5 in order to tie them together. That is, I hope the climax of this arc isn’t just in what happens to Naomi, the Chetzemoka, and Rocinante but plays with the bigger stakes of the interplanetary politics of the world of The Expanse. But we shall see. Let’s just say that given the way that Season 4 ended, my dreams are not small.