Episode Grade: A-
Characters need flaws. Every writer knows this, it’s Storytelling 101. Early on, it looked as if Anna Volovodov’s flaw was merely to be her complicity in Sorrento-Gillis’ pre-show sins, and her regret over her role in them. Especially when compared to S-G himself and to Errinwright, who were her only foils, this was not a terribly interesting foible. Fortunately for the character, Elizabeth Mitchell’s nuanced performance has made her a joy to watch, but even so the last couple of episodes have done wonders for making Anna especially interesting, as opposed to just Mitchell’s portrayal of her.
The selfishness (or perhaps, self-absorption) which Anna displayed both this week and last has costs on other people. We don’t know yet how her wife and child will react to the knowledge that their loved one isn’t coming home now, and may never. But the young UN lieutenant who reached out to her in a moment of terror was rebuffed with distracted platitudes and, denied the support he needed to carry his burdens, including that of fear, has an accident with his sidearm.
What I like about this character study is that Anna’s faults are understandable and relatable: How many of use haven’t brushed off someone with a testy “yes, yes” when they needed something more from us? There’s no way she could have known what he was dealing with. And yet, Tilly isn’t right when she tells Anna that “it wasn’t [her] fault.” It may not have been done with intent, and also be perfectly understandable, but still: it was an error. And as Anna quite rightly points out, listening to others like that kid is her job, not only on board ship, but in this life. To someone like her, it’s all our jobs, but especially a minister such as her. And ironically, she’s also at fault, though not to blame, for placing Tilly Fagan in grave danger as she confronts Melba K–oh thank God they’ve revealed her real name.
If Tilly is harmed, Anna will feel even worse for encouraging Tilly to reach out to Clarissa than she already did for ignoring Lieutenant Nemeroff, the unfortunate Methodist whose concerns she pushed aside. The Expanse has enjoyed presenting the pastor as someone whose strong family values and healthy, modernist approach to faith doesn’t quell her insatiable appetite for the unknown. Her guilt over Nemeroff’s death and her focus on science and wonder rather than service to her congregants will likely inform her actions moving forward, a welcome enriching of a character that has sometimes felt detached from the main action of the series.
Luckily for us, Anna’s curiosity allowed the scientist, Kolvoord, to deliver exposition about the Ring’s “speed limit” and the perceived threat of anything that exceeds it. With the slingshot racer, the Martian probe, and the Behemoth’s missile all in stable orbit around the nucleus, each with its own purple glow holding it in place, the stage was set for what happened later to all of the ships inside the Ring.
Next, we see the UNN Thomas Prince is preparing to enter the Ring. Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell) is ecstatic at what this “miracle” could entail. However, not everyone is tickled pink. A man named Lt. Nemeroff (Matt Bois) nervously tries to engage in conversation with our favorite Reverend Doctor. He too is a Methodist, and tries to elicit comfort from Anna’s shared beliefs. Nemeroff expresses his fear of what may pass. Unfortunately, Anna politely brushes him off to get a closer look at the ship moving through the Ring.
Then, we learn that the Thomas Prince made it to the other side of the Ring. Success! Anna and Kolvoord (Chris Owens) immediately commence an animated debate regarding the Ring. They notice the nucleus, or “Station” of the Ring and examine it more closely on their map. Our duo spots the missing Mars probe, the Behemoth missile and dearly departed Maneo’s slingshot ship. It would appear the Station acts as a magnet of sorts, drawing these objects to its center. Hmm. Science!
Meanwhile, Anna learns that Nemeroff killed himself. She’s asked to craft a eulogy for his service. Anna is heartbroken, and feels an overwhelming amount of remorse for brushing off the nervous Nemeroff earlier. She joins Tilly (Genelle Williams) and informs her friend of the news.
Meanwhile, Anna delivers a powerfully heartfelt eulogy at Nemeroff’s service. Her speech brings to light the message of reaching out to those in need, of being a friend when someone asks for help. I can’t help but think of the recent suicides of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade while listening to Anna’s words. We could all stand to be that shining light in someone’s darkness.
Later, Tilly reveals to Anna her encounter with Clarissa/Melba. Anna urges Tilly to address her acquaintance, but from a loving perspective and not a confrontational one. Tilly takes that advice and runs with it.