Another episode, another new writer and director. Also, the opening titles are back. It’s also the longest episode so far (I’m pretty sure), clocking in just over an hour. Because a lot happens, and everyone gets something to do. However, the script (credited to Ed McCardie) compensates for its numerous supporting players by sticking Molly Parker in the space-camper for the episode. She’s recovering from injuries last episode, which heal really fast since the previous episode ended with cuts on her face, and they’re dirt this one.
She’s busy trying to decide whether to tell the other survivors the planet they’ve crashed on is going to freakishly burn up like David Marcus used protomatter in his equations. It’ll tie into Parker Posey’s arc, which has Posey trying to convince Sibongile Mlambo to lose her shit about the robot. Parker gets one really good scene; it’s opposite Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa; it’s too bad they don’t have Tagawa do more. He’s the best of the supporting players. Mlambo is the worst. She’s never had so much to do, and she doesn’t do much with it.
Though it’s a rough part—Posey, posing as a therapist, is trying to traumatize Mlambo to… do something. It’s not clear what. The audience knows what’s going to happen, and one presumes Posey has a plan, but when Mlambo gets around to lashing out, it doesn’t seem like Posey knows what’s about to happen.
Toby Stephens and Maxwell Jenkins have the least successful storyline of the episode. Stephens is trying to teach Jenkins how to take responsibility for the robot, having been a bad guy before Jenkins tamed it. They have a very physical and visual arc to show Jenkins is learning, but it’s an internal character development thing, and externalizing it, especially with so much sentimentality, is weird. Though it ties together nicely with the humdinger of a soft cliffhanger.
Mina Sundwell and Ajay Friese are off on a hiking date. It’s good stuff. Like, Sandwell’s a lot better with Friese than her siblings. Unfortunately, their subplot isn’t as much for character development as showing off more of the rapidly deteriorating planet. But they’re sympathetic, and there is one good character development moment.
The main plot has Taylor Russell and Ignacio Serricchio going on an expedition to get some fuel. If they find the fuel, Parker won’t have to tell everyone about the planet burning up, so it solves her problems too. Raza Jaffrey is also along on the plot to add some classism (everyone thinks Serricchio is mercenary, but then they’re leaving him on another dying planet, Earth, while they all go off to paradise). It’s an excellent episode for Serricchio, whose less flirty and more friendly with Russell, and all of a sudden, their character relationship has potential.
While Russell does get some character development towards the start, she ends up just supporting Serricchio’s arc. There’s also some drama regarding their suspicion of Posey, but it’s their secret at this point.
It’s got a very three-act structure, with Stephens starting out trying to sort out what to do about the killer robot and all the excursions getting planned out. Then the third act really echoes the first. The timing’s not great, like Jenkins and Stephens’s responsibility arc probably should’ve come sooner—or that aforementioned humdinger of a finale should’ve come later—but it’s a surprising, compelling episode.
The show seems very confident in its swings. Hopefully, it’s justified.