'The Expanse' Episode 2: Did Somebody Say 'Protomolecule'? (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Amazon Prime Video

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse Season 4 Episode 2, "Jetsam."]

It must be a real bummer to be James Holden (Steven Strait).

Sure, the whole Roci crew has been through the ringer, several times over. But Holden’s on a whole other level of suffering; he’s blaming himself for the opening of the ring gate, Avasrala’s counting on him, specifically, to figure out what’s going on on Ilus, and he still has a detective in his head rambling about “clues” to a “case.” What’s the moralistic captain to do?

That’s the central question of The Expanse’s second episode of Season 4, titled, “Jetsam.” In the aftermath of the metallic swarm, it becomes very important that the group determines what that stuff was and where it came from. And, what do you know? Everyone’s least favorite (and very deadly) blue goo was in some way involved… which means Holden’s going to have to get involved.

(Amazon Prime Video)

An Act of War?

As the episode opens, the group on Ilus recuperates from the swarm. Holden tells Alex (Cas Anvar) to help the injured, and Murtry (Burn Gorman) and Amos (Wes Chatham) head off to investigate the Edward Israel’s crash site — the metal projectiles might be what brought down the ship. Holden, Naomi (Dominique Tipper), and Dr. Okoye (Lyndie Greenwood) head out to investigate the protomolecule monument Avasarala (Shohreh Agdashloo) showed him.

When Murtry and Amos take a look at the crash site, they come to the conclusion — based on the scorching on the ship and the blasting cap — that someone blew up the landing pad, and thereby crashed the Edward Israel. But of course, when Murtry brings those suspicions forward to the Belters back at camp, they deny everything. “You have until morning to get me the people who planted the bomb,” Murtry says. “Either they pay for this, or you all will.”

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Not Built for Atmosphere

Holden and crew reach the monument, and Dr. Okoye’s tech reveals it’s approximately 1.5 billion years old; it’s older than all the other life on the planet. Now there are three biomes on Ilus: whatever made the protomolecule, the local lifeforms, and the recent arrivals. “There’s no way to tell how they’ll mix,” Dr. Okoye says.

There’s one lifeform that’s not mixing well with Ilus’ atmosphere, and that’s Naomi. She seems just fine with Holden that night, but when they head back to the Roci, her deteriorating condition becomes apparent. She vomits, stumbles, and barely manages to keep her balance until she can get to the med bay. Alex discovers her, and she swears him to secrecy, insisting Holden “has enough on his mind already.”

(Rafy Photography/Amazon Prime Video)

A Return Trip

That seems to be true. Proto-Miller (Thomas Jane) visits him that night and says they need to go back to the structure because he needs Holden’s hands. There are new openings in the structure, and as Holden says, figuring out the protomolecule stuff is why they came to Ilus. Naomi stays behind while Holden and Alex return to the site, and Holden descends into the structure.

Amos meets Chandra Wei, one of Murtry’s people, at the Belter’s makeshift bar. They go from bantering to the bedroom pretty quickly, but they’re interrupted by the sound of Belters talking to her boss. When one of the Belters makes a threat, Murtry pulls his gun and shoots the man. Chandra’s exclamation — “F**k!” — seems apt.

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Chatham also teases a romance for his character, and talks the parallels between Amos and new antagonist Murtry.

Sending a Message

Meanwhile, Drummer (Cara Gee) and Ashford become aware of another attack on an Earther ship. Drummer insists there’s no gain in what the Belters involved did, but Ashford appears to disagree: “It sends a message,” he says.

The UNN sends more information about the attackers’ ship to Drummer and Ashford, along with some thinly veiled threats. “Medina station continues to exist because of the goodwill of Earth and Mars,” the UNN operative says. “It would do Belters well to remember that.” Since the Inners can no longer police the Belt, Drummer says they need to do it for them.

Drummer and Ashford trace the attack to Marco Inaros, a Belter well-known for his radical — and dangerous — ideas. They reach out to the factions that hate him the most and to Fred Johnson to bring him in.

Mars’ Enemy, Earth’s Lapdog

Bobbie’s not having a great time at her job or with anything else. When a former marine is found with his neck snapped in a cargo hold, she’s a prime suspect. Although she wasn’t involved, the woman interrogating her makes it clear she’s not held in high esteem by her former colleagues. “This is the way it’s going to be from now on, isn’t it?” Bobbie snaps, realizing now that she’s a dishonorably discharged civilian, the Martians will suspect her for anything that goes wrong.

Avasarala, who’s making her first journey to Mars, invites Bobbie to dinner. She’s shoved at the end of the table, and Avasarala’s husband is the only one who’ll talk to her. When Avasarala finds her later, Bobbie erupts. “You were using me tonight, playing some game I don’t understand,” she says. The diplomat counters by saying she wanted to show Mars Bobbie still has friends in high places, but Bobbie insists “all they saw was Earth calling its lapdog to heel.” Avasarala makes Bobbie a job offer, but she insists she doesn’t need to be saved.

Her night doesn’t get better from there. Her nephew, David, is involved in some sketchy stuff, as she finds out when she follows him to a laboratory. “Whatever he was doing for you,” she says to the others present, “it’s over.” She beats them all up and then makes her point again: “David’s out, for good. And next time, there won’t be a next time.”

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The Root Problem

As it turns out, proto-Miller needs Holden not for some extravagant purpose, but to get a root out of the monument because “it’s clogging up the works.” Naomi makes a good point: the last time he did something for Miller, he ended up in a coma. Nonetheless, he does proto-Miller’s bidding… and the whole structure starts to move. Holden is nearly crushed by it as it rearranges itself, but Alex manages to get him out in time.

Alex and Holden watch as the structure summons a series of brilliant lightning strikes from the clouds overhead. “What in the hell did you do?” Alex asks him, and it’s safe to say Holden has no clue.

The Expanse Season 4, Streaming Now, Amazon Prime Video