DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Expanse episode “Force Projection” has spoilers. Proceed at your peril. 

Welcome back, Screaming Firehawks! It’s hard to believe we’re now halfway through the final season of The Expanse! “Force Projection” is the strongest episode of the season thus far, hurtling our Roci crew headfirst into the battlefield. It’s an explosive (literally), fast-paced and heart-pounding affair. The Ceres Station attack appears to be Marco’s doing, and I’m anxious to see the fallout from that. 

While everyone is on their A-game acting-wise, Nadine Nicole‘s brief time onscreen, notably her monologue to Holden, is a highlight. She imbues Peaches with admirable vulnerability and tenacity, and the writers nail her redemption arc on the show. Filip appears to be on a redemption path as well, and it looks like he has more of Naomi in him than Marco. 

“Force Projection” propels the seasonal narrative to new heights, never letting its foot off the gas. 

Ready to delve into “Force Projection”? Let’s get to it. 

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We open with Cara (Emma Ho) in class on Laconia. She researches sunbirds on her hand terminal until her teacher takes the device away. After class, Xan (Ian Ho) wants to play with her, but Cara forgoes playtime in favor of a trip to The Glade. She notices that someone (or something) fixed her broken drone. The strange dog reappears, and he’s accompanied by a mate this time. 

But that’s not all — the strange dog revived the dead sunbird, and we see its babies in tow. 

Cara returns home to find her parents, Gary (Daniel Jun) and Dot (Dianne Aguilar), distressed and inconsolable. Cara spots her brother Xan lying lifeless on the couch. 

Meanwhile, per Secretary-General Avasarala’s (Shohreh Aghdashloo) orders, the combined forces of Earth and Mars arrive at Ceres Station. They demand all Free Navy supporters and soldiers turn themselves over to the UN. Two soldiers survey the station for any antagonizers or potential traps courtesy of Marco Inaros. 

Still of Shohreh Aghdashloo in The Expanse Season 6 Episode 3 Force Projection

Pictured: Shohreh Aghdashloo in THE EXPANSE Season 6. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

After holding the Belters of Ceres at gunpoint, Nico Sanjrani (Joanne Vannicola) identifies themself as the one in charge. Thus, Avasarala’s soldiers take them captive for questioning. 

Avasarala sends orders to lift Sanjrani’s restraints and asks them if they know of Marco’s whereabouts. Of course, Marco left without a word. Sanjrani reveals if Earth and Mars plan to overtake Ceres, there’s not much to take. The station’s rations are scant since Marco seized everything. Plus, the Belters therein will only have enough supplies for three weeks. 

Admiral Kirino (Krista Bridges) offers to send MCRN officers to interrogate Sanjrani and get all the pertinent info they need. We know she wants to resort to violence, but Avasarala won’t allow it unless someone from the UN is present. 

Avasarala argues with her righthand man Gareth (Ted Dykstra), about their next step. Marco knew the UN would need Ceres to restock and refuel, so he raided the station’s stores, making it the UN’s problem. If they don’t help the Belters of Ceres, it becomes a humanitarian issue, leading more Belters to side with Marco. 

Next, we see the Rocinante speeding toward Ceres, wherein Holden (Steven Strait) decides to give Clarissa (Nicole) the reins. After Clarissa stumbles due to her weakened state post-mod use, she confesses to Holden she initially had the mods implanted because of him. 

Then, she tells him about Ren, the nice man she killed while working with him aboard the Seung Un. Clarissa sees his face every time she utilizes the mods, and she surmises that’s why she vomits. Nicole delivers a nuanced, touching performance here. Holden reassures her everyone aboard the Roci harbors remorse and carries ghosts with them. 

Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Amos (Wes Chatham) bond over the subpar food and talk about the highlights of Ceres. According to Amos, Ceres boasts fantastic noodle shops, unionized brothels and decent alcohol. That sounds like Amos Burton’s version of heaven: noodles, libations and brothels. 

Still of Wes Chatham in The Expanse Season 6 Episode 3 Force Projection

Pictured: Wes Chatham in THE EXPANSE Season 6. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

We see Naomi (Dominique Tipper) watching news footage on her hand terminal when Holden enters their quarters. She explains what happened when they captured the Azure Dragon. Naomi felt like she was aboard the Pella again with no suit, preparing to jump into space. I’m glad The Expanse explores Naomi’s PTSD and anxiety, and it’s not swept under the rug. 

Holden comforts her, and the pair share a sweet moment. He assigns her a task as a means of distraction. Bobbie followed through and provided Holden with data from the Ring Gate after he showed her footage of the Barkeith vanishing. Holden wants Naomi to extrapolate the data and figure out what happens to these ships passing through the Ring Gate. 

Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens) watches news clips reporting about a murdered researcher on Ganymede purported to be a spy for the Inners. Rosenfeld (Kathleen Robertson) and Marco (Keon Alexander) discuss their chances against Earth and Mars. Despite recent reports, Marco seems hopeful. 

Filip pulls his dad aside to chat about the news reports. He tells Marco that the Inners brand him a “coward,” but that doesn’t concern the Commander of the Free Navy. Additionally, Filip wonders why they left Ceres behind, mainly because Marco vowed to make it the capital of the Belt. 

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Marco explains that Ceres Belters aren’t like them — they serve the Inners and always will. He reminds Filip to remember what their surname means.

Essentially, they thrive in darkness. 

Meanwhile, Drummer (Cara Gee) and Liang (Stuart Hughes) discuss the terms of their arrangement. They still plan to raid one of Marco’s supply depots but need more hands on deck to execute the said raid. Michio (Vanessa Smythe) watches Pastor Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell) deliver a passionate call for compassion amid these turbulent times. 

Josep (Samer Salem) scoffs at the footage, undoubtedly pieced together by Monica Stuart, citing that now Earthers know how Belters feel. Michio disagrees, and the pair bicker. Liang’s pals aboard the Saberhagen announce their allegiance to Drummer and vow to help with the supply depot mission. All hail Bosmang Camina Drummer!

Avasarala congratulates Monica (Anna Hopkins) on her latest docu footage with Pastor Volovodov. Our Sec-Gen orders her guards to watch Monica while they’re on Ceres. 

Still of Nadine Nicole in The Expanse Season 6 Episode 3 Force Projection

Pictured: Nadine Nicole in THE EXPANSE Season 6. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Later, Marco’s forces locate a drive plume and identify it as the Roci. Rosenfeld urges Marco to exercise caution, but he seizes the opportunity to shoot down James Holden. Plus, it’s one frigate against Marco’s army — the odds are in his favor!

Meanwhile, Bobbie and Amos clean the former’s Martian armor. I love when Amos asks her what composes the suit; Bobbie replies, “It’s made of Mars, honeybuns.” Their not-so-subtle flirting kills me. 

Suddenly, Amos receives Prax’s (Terry Chen) message on his hand terminal. The besties are reunited, and it feels so good! Prax explains the reason for his message: the Free Navy murdered his colleague on Ganymede, fueled by the suspicion that she was a spy for the UN. His coworker was researching a way to make food out of yeast, with little more than carbon dioxide and waste energy. 

Prax urges Amos to send this information to the higher-ups, a.k.a. Avasarala. He reassures Amos that he and Mei are safe. My babies

Amos forwards the vital intel to Avasarala, a.k.a. Chrissy, a.k.a. “the old lady.” 

Naomi divulges her findings to Holden regarding the data Bobbie collected. According to her, a pattern of rings appears, indicating when the vessels pass through the Ring Gate. However, discovering what transpires next requires more in-depth research. 

Still of Dominique Tipper in The Expanse Season 6 Episode 3 Force Projection

Pictured: Dominique Tipper in THE EXPANSE Season 6. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Clarissa calls Holden, telling him she spotted three ships barreling toward the Roci. She sends him the drive signatures, and Naomi notices one of them belongs to the Pella. Holden orders everyone to “strap in” for the impending battle. 

We see Earth and Mars providing supplies and much-needed rations to the Belters back on Ceres. Monica records everything via the miniature implant in her eyeball. Monica wanders off to chat with a solitary Belter and his cat. When Avasarala’s soldiers note her absence, we see a series of explosions rock Ceres to its core. Chaos ensues. 

Marco orders Filip to fire a torpedo at the Roci, knowing Naomi, Filip’s mother, sits aboard it. Bobbie joins Holden by the pilot’s chair to assist him with firing at the Pella. Amid the battle, Amos and Clarissa get up from their seats to aid the fight. 

The Pella receives a blow courtesy of the Roci, knocking their power out. Bobbie urges Holden to take the kill shot. Holden argues that Marco’s better as a prisoner than a martyr, but even Naomi believes Marco won’t surrender. 

Suddenly, we see Marco on camera, addressing Holden. He refuses to wave the white flag, citing that he’d rather die than live at the end of Holden’s leash. Marco shifts to reveal Filip is sitting beside him. He knows Naomi’s watching. It’s a clever survival tactic, albeit a dick move, because he’s only using his son to save his skin. 

Bobbie fires a warhead, but before it strikes the Pella, Holden surreptitiously disarms it. After surviving the attack, Marco orders his forces to retreat. Bobbie curses at getting a “dud” amid such a crucial moment. 

Still of Jasai Chase-Owens in The Expanse Season 6 Episode 3 Force Projection

Pictured: Jasai Chase-Owens in THE EXPANSE Season 6. Photo courtesy of Amazon Studios.

Marco demands he get a “new pilot” to replace Filip, “one that won’t s**t himself in battle.” Filip counters he did everything his father asked and accuses Marco of recklessness. They didn’t have to torment Holden. Filip calls his father out on his vanity. Marco, infuriated, orders Filip to get out of his sight. 

Next, Marco receives a transmission in his quarters from Medina Station, reporting that one of the vessels, RSRG6, made it through the Laconia Gate. So much is happening on Laconia!

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Marco’s cooking up more mayhem at the Ring Gate, and here’s hoping our heroes get there in time to put the kibosh on his nefarious plans. Keon Alexander also delivers brilliant work in “Force Projection,” illustrating Marco’s ability to influence whomever he’s speaking to and his untethered rage. He’s a versatile performer, and I can’t wait to see more of him in a post-Expanse world. 

This episode does an excellent job of stirring the pot and turning it up to a boil. Holden’s decision to disarm the warhead aimed toward the Pella will boast repercussions and potential fallout aboard the Roci. I’m not sure Naomi will appreciate Holden’s decision to show restraint around Marco, even if her son’s in the crosshairs. 

Finally, I’d be remiss if I left out Prax and Paster Volovodov’s triumphant returns. It feels like Season Three all over again! Someone get us more Prax and Amos scenes, please, for science. 

As much as I don’t want this show to end (although all good things must), I’m ready to see how this story ends. 

New episodes of The Expanse are available to stream every Friday on Prime Video. 

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Melody McCune
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