The credits for The Expanse “Gaugamela” spoil the triumphant return of Nadine Nicole as the imprisoned Clarissa Mao in this episode, which is too bad, because there was genuine suspense if you hadn’t read the books as to who Amos is visiting in the UN Penitentiary at the start of this episode. He got his clearance from Chrisjen, I guess, and she must have pulled many strings to get him to the Pit, the name the guards have given to the underground prison they work in day in and day out. Clarissa is on one of the lowest floors, for those who have body modifications. She’s hooked up to a considerable cocktail of sedatives, for some reason – I guess if she wanted to escape? She doesn’t seem like the type.

The words of “advice” that Amos gave her last season – “Take what they give you, give nothing in return” – come back to haunt them as she parrots them back to him. He clearly hadn’t realized how bad it was down there. He was her last call, after all. Nobody visits these people, it’s clear from the empty hall where visitors wait, and that’s kind of sad. Who knows where Clarissa’s father is? In a prison somewhere else, or merely floors above?

If he is floors above, then that’s bad news for him.

Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) is hooked up to all sorts of sedatives in "Gaugamela"
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao
Credit: Amazon Studios

We start “Gaugamela” back with the Razorback (renamed “Screaming Firehawk”), where Alex and Bobbie are on the tail of that MCRN convoy, but with no hints at any subterfuge or exchange of weapons. Bobbie is determined that the convoy is betraying everything Mars is standing for, but Alex isn’t too sure, not wanting to truly believe how far Mars has fallen, although he has repeatedly seen the evidence with his own eyes. Bobbie tells a touching story about her pet rat as a child, which she named “Mouse,” ha ha ha. Anyway, the rat/mouse died, and Bobbie grieved for a time, but only a time, as she learned that, “Even grief can get used up.”

Whether Alex will take that to heart is a genuine question, seeing as the Martian pilot rarely seems to give up past grievances. They’re interrupted by a news report about the asteroid impact on Earth, which was simultaneous with an attack on the Martian Parliament, which is certainly Bad News. They’re baffled by this, although I’m not sure why Bobbie would be – she knows stealth tech was stolen and sold to the Belters.

The reason I said that if Clarissa’s big bad dad was floors above is bad news is that, during Amos’s visit with Clarissa, the sky falls once more, this time making impact just outside of Philadelphia – which will almost certainly wipe out New York. The prison is located in the Chesapeake Conservation Zone, so the asteroid makes a dent in the prison, as well.

We see Chrisjen swearing up a storm (thank goodness), as her suspicions that an attack was on its way is confirmed in front of her eyes. Admiral Delgado and she convolutedly contact Nancy Gao, because it has to be convoluted since no one will take Chrisjen’s calls, still, for some reason, even though she was dead right. Nancy’s on a flight above Asia, and she thanks Chrisjen once Chrisjen gets ahold of her, which must’ve hurt – but not as much as what happens next, as UN One gets blasted by a shockwave from the third asteroid. Oops.

Later in “Gaugamela”, Chrisjen tries to get ahold of Arjun, and if he’s just refusing to pick up, it’s a real dick move during a global crisis, but it would seem he’s either injured badly…or very, very dead. It’s a sad moment for a marriage that was so stable until it wasn’t. And a terrible moment for Chrisjen, played beautifully by Aghdashloo. Admiral Delgado comes in and admits he didn’t do enough to convince his fellows in the UNN. Yeah, no kidding, buddy. He escorts her to a bar for UN officials where they watch as the asteroid spotters get their first asteroid, blowing it to smithereens. Earth is safe from further attacks…for now.

On Tycho, we get even more excitement, as it turns out the ship they were planning on trapping planned on ambushing them and succeeds, as Sakai (Bahia Watson), a fun Belter engineer for Tycho, shoots up Fred and helps Marco’s faction steal the protomolecule. It was in Fred’s office all along! It’s a good action sequence involving a very smart robot that will surely launch Holden on a mission to destroy Marco, especially once he hears that Marco’s got Naomi. Fred dies, which is really too bad…we’ll miss you, misguided guy. Betrayed by his people yet again, Fred never really got a break.

Sakia (Bahia Watson) in the aftermath of shooting Fred Johnson in "Gaugamela"

And then there’s Naomi, who at the end of “Gaugamela” gets to meet up with Marco again, and it goes about as well as you’d expect. Marco belittles both her and Filip when he says that Filip just wanted his terrible mother; Naomi’s terrible since she left Filip and Marco behind after Marco stole her tech to plan a terrorist attack. Marco declares on a broadcast that he has claimed in one fell swoop, the Belt, the Ring, and all of the planets beyond the Ring for the Belters, and that they are victorious…even if only three out of what, twelve asteroids actually made impact on Earth. He claims triumphantly: “…today we are free!” Well, seeing as you just painted a target on the back of every Belter, in your faction or not, I’m not so sure of that, Marco.

Chrisjen’s expression watching the broadcast, in particular, is the best part–she has a new mortal enemy, and we all know what she does to her mortal enemies…

Things I learned about the episode’s title, “Gaugamela”: apparently, this was a decisive victory of Alexander the Great’s…and we all know what happened to him. Oh, Marco, you’ve painted your own demise, and I’m not sure you know that.

Watch The Expanse Season 5 Wednesdays on Prime Video.

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