The Expanse 5×04 Review: “Gaugamela”
After the unbelievable cliffhanger that ended “Mother”, “Gaugamela” shows us the aftermath of Marco’s attack on Earth. We also learn that there was a similar attack on Mars. But of course, people don’t know it’s an attack yet. Thanks to the stealth technology Marco’s crew has acquired from the Martians, many just think these are rogue asteroids.
Chrisjen, naturally, knows the truth of what’s going on. But she’s burned through most of her credibility pushing this seemingly far-fetched theory. In “Gaugamela”, she resorts to using the actual staff members – in this case, the chef on UN One (think Air Force One) – in order to get in contact with Gao and convince her that this is an attack. Fortunately, Gao listens this time, and follows Chrisjen’s recommendations to pair the asteroid-spotting satellites with their stealth-detecting satellites. Gao is able to dispatch the order before the craft is caught in the shockwave of yet another rock hit and goes down.
Also caught in the shockwave of a rock hit is Amos, who decides that while he’s on Earth, he’ll visit Clarissa, who is being held in a high-security UN prison with a bunch of dangerous criminals with body modifications. I’m sure no complications will come from Amos being caught in a prison lockdown with cybernetic criminals, and I’m sure that Konecheck, the prisoner whose name was mentioned multiple times, will not cause any problems.
Meanwhile, Holden has to deal with a sudden coup on Tycho. His and Fred’s attempt to catch the Belters who were after Monica reveals a high-up traitor in the organization – Sakai, who kills Fred and then goes after Monica and the protomolecule hidden in Fred’s quarters. Holden races to stop them from stealing the protomolecule, but the scavenger robot just sort of slaps him away, and it’s up to Monica to save him from being ejected out into space. Now Fred is dead, Marco’s crew has the protomolecule, and things are looking sticky.
Naomi comes face to face with Marco for the first time in years in “Gaugamela”, and she is horrified to learn that he and Filip are responsible for the devastation on Earth and Mars. Marco is the worst kind of villain – a megalomaniac, the kind of populist ruler who believes what he’s preaching and uses nefarious means to get it. His speech at the end of the episode – broadcast to the entire galaxy and watched by almost all major characters (Amos is in lockdown in a maximum security facility so no communication) – is charismatic and seemingly logical, until you remember that he’s essentially justifying genocide.
Now that we’ve covered the basics of the plot, let’s look a little bit deeper and what happened in “Gaugamela”.
Marco launched nine rocks towards Earth. Rock #9 missed and went too close to the sun – that is the rock that broke up in “Exodus”. Three rocks struck Earth – one in North Africa, one in the United States near Philadelphia, and one presumably somewhere in Asia (since that’s where Gao was and she was caught in the shockwave). A member of Marco’s crew tells him later that three missed and the anti-asteroid system destroyed three of them. So if all nine are accounted for and none of them seemingly hit Mars, what destroyed the Martian Parliament?
This plot was heavily influenced by the events of 9/11. First, there is the shock at what you are watching, the sense of numbness in the face of catastrophe, but the overwhelming feeling that it was simply a tragic accident. Then the second attack, which makes it clear that this is intentional. Everyone is helplessly gathered around watching the news. Everyone in Lovell City on Luna (I missed that in the first three episodes – I love it) congregates around the window to watch and see if the Watchtower satellites will destroy the next asteroid.
Sakai oversaw most if not all of the repairs to the Rocinante, and even gave them a few upgrades for free. It makes you wonder if she sabotaged the ship somehow, or if she intended to steal the Roci and add it to Marco’s fleet.
Once she learns of Fred’s death, I fully expect Drummer to just go completely feral. Ashford’s death has greatly affected her, and after she discovered the audio recording where Marco outlines his plan, she looked fully ready to just run out and commit murder. I absolutely expect her to become a one-woman killing machine, going after Marco’s fleet determined to bring them all down. I suspect she’ll be the one to rescue Naomi, who is now imprisoned aboard Marco’s ship.
“Gaugamela” was an incredible episode. The acting was fantastic, the cinematography was stellar, the tension was amped to 100.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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