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SYFY WIRE The Expanse

'The Expanse': The Roci crew on Holden's Episode 3 choice and 'messy portrayals of human beings'

Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, and Nadine Nicole sound off the latest salvo from Season 6. 

By Brian Silliman
The Expanse 602 PRESS

Not everything is doom and gloom in the sixth (and final) season of The Expanse. Episode 2 found the crew of the Rocinante making a major breakthrough in the fight against Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), and Episode 3 finds James Holden (Steven Strait) and the crew pursuing him directly. 

Do they succeed? For over six seasons, James Holden has proved that he will make whatever choice he personally deems to be right. It doesn’t matter if every other character is against him, he’s gonna do what he’s gonna do. Episode 3 features what is likely his biggest choice yet. 

Via video, SYFY WIRE caught up with Strait, as well as the other members of the Roci crew: Dominique Tipper (Naomi Nagata), Wes Chatham (Amos Burton), and Clarissa “Peaches” Mao (Nadine Nicole). Did Strait defend Holden’s actions? Would Naomi have made the same choice? Does hope ever spring eternal for Amos? And has Peaches truly found her tribe? 

**SPOILER WARNING: From this point forward, there will be major spoilers for The Expanse, Season 6, Episode 3. If you have not watched yet, go to full burn and turn away right now.**

Right at the end of the episode, Holden has Marco's ship in a missile lock. The missile is fired. He sees Marco and Naomi’s son, the militarized Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens) on board. Does he let the missile blow up the cause of almost all of their problems? Of course not, he’s James Holden. He disarms the missile, and Marco (and Filip) survive to terrorize another day. In a show full of big James Holden moves, this might be the most “James Holden move” the show has ever done. Does Strait agree?  

“Yeah, I would. I think it's certainly one of them,” he said. “I mean, what I've always loved about the writing for James… it never shied away about going into unique choices and the different things that make up who one is. It's a very vulnerable moment for James and he comes to a place where he just, he can't do it, and it's always been a very different kind of hero arc for Holden than I think is typically shown.” 

Strait continued, “I think that moment and then where the season kind of culminates… it shows that he really has come to know himself for who he is ... and yeah, I think it was something I was actually really looking forward to, was playing a very, kind of unorthodox choice within a hero journey.” 

Tipper mentioned that is was “so rare to have a masculine presenting hero that unapologetically follows the intuition.” She added, “…he’s very in touch with his gut feeling and making choices from that place, and kind of, yes, they often feel like a car crash, but they always kind of, they’re actually kind of the right thing, intuitively. I think that's really rare.” 

Does Tipper think that Naomi herself was ready to let Filip die in that moment? “I don't know if she's ready for it… I don't think you can ever prepare for essentially killing your son in service of the kind of greater good,” she said. “And I think it's like one of the most morally difficult challenges, even for my own self to get my head around with this character. But I think that's what I just love about The Expanse… we always give you these very messy portrayals of human beings, which is true to how it is in real life. There is no direct kind of right or wrong way to do things. There never is.” 

Tipper continued, “We act like there is in society, but there isn't. It's always so gray. It's never black and white, really. And I just think that the messiness of that moment and that choice is so unsettling, but it's kind of like she had to do it, what other option is there? Let it all carry on for the sake of her feelings as she says? And she's not really someone that kind of believes in that. So yeah, I don't know. I couldn't really prepare for that. It's just like you do it and then you kind of fall apart afterwards and I think that's what she does.” 

The Expanse 601 PRESS

Things are messy, but there are still good people out in the mess, which surprises Amos in one of the episode’s earlier moments. Prax Meng (Terry Chen) sends scientific relief for a sickened Earth. Prax has no agenda for doing this, he does it because he’s a good person. This baffles Amos, a character who performs selfless acts all the time.  

“I don't think Amos is introspective to know that he is doing these selfless things,” Chatham said. “I think he's guided on a subconscious level… so when Prax reaches out to him and has this technology that could help the Earth… not only is he doing it from no benefit, he's doing a great risk to himself.” 

These are the kinds of acts that attracted Amos to Prax in the first place, as well as Naomi and Holden. As Chatham says, “He's really relying on people outside of himself.” 

“But in doing this, he ends up doing the right thing, but he doesn't really know what's motivating him,” Chatham continued. “He's just looking at what's in front of him, and his first action is always survival. And it extends to his crew, his tribe. He says in Season 5 that, 'We are tribal, and right now we're a tribe of two.' When he is on the Rocinante… that’s his family, that's his tribe. So he's looking at survival. And if you're looking at really taking care of other people, truly it always guides you to doing the right thing. He's not aware of that.” 

The “tribe of two” that Chatham spoke of includes the reformed Clarissa “Peaches” Mao, who he decided to make a member of the Roci crew without really asking anyone if they were okay with it. They aren’t romantically linked, but Amos is always looking out for Peaches. 

“I think that the amount of trauma that Amos suffered when was a kid, there's a lot of triggers within him,” Chatham said. “And so if he sees somebody that is truly vulnerable, that is truly lost, and basically going to have a hard time surviving… he really responds that. He really responds to kids, he really responds to people that have that true vulnerability.” This vulnerability started to include Peaches once he cut through all of the layers of her trauma. 

"She's been badly mistreated on a lot of different levels by her father,” Chatham said, “…he knows mentally where she is because he's been there. And he had people like Lydia and Naomi and Holden, and the Roci crew to support him and get him into a better place. And he knows that she's barely hanging on, so he becomes this lifeline of sanity for her.” 

Peaches herself was once someone we rooted firmly against, and now she’s one of our favorite characters. Is she proof that redemption is possible for everyone, especially on the Roci? Nicole definitely thinks so. 

“Of course, that's why they integrate, that's why they wrote Peaches in,” she said. “Actually Ty [Franck], one time he was like, ‘Peaches, is one of my favorite characters, and I really relate to her.’ Like, he birthed her. And I think we can all relate to her in some way, most of us, that vying for love and just being valued, being worthy. It's really easy to relate to on a level, especially when you're alone and isolated, what we're going through in the world and trying to find out where you belong and who your real family is and your core tribe. We're all doing that more and more and more right now.” 

Nicole continued to mention that the season includes “a lot of beautiful lessons with Clarissa in this journey” and loves that some fans hated her in the beginning. Peaches, as well as the rest of the crew, make their choices and go on their messy journey. 

As Tipper said of Naomi in particular, “Everything is a consequence of her choices and what I've always loved about Naomi is she unapologetically stands by the choices she makes and she is always so articulate in explaining and making everyone else understand why she's made them.” 

We’ll see how Holden manages to stand by his latest choice when this messy bunch of humans learns about what he did.

Season 6 of The Expanse releases new episodes on Amazon Prime every Friday. 

These interviews were edited for length and clarity.