It is a truth cosmically acknowledged that James “Jim” Holden and Naomi Nagata have the best reunion scenes on The Expanse. We hate to see them separated, but we adore their unions and though this one wasn’t as explosive as we wished it could have been, in its quiet moment of solace it left us entirely satisfied and in awe.
There is a lot to appreciate about these two as a couple and as a team, and a lot of it is due to the fact that in quiet moments, they often speak the loudest. They understand each other better than any other human being ever has and will, and beyond that, they care with such fervency that it is almost unbearable at times. As scene partners, Steven Strait and Dominique Tipper have layered their respective characters and thus, their relationship with such nuances that so much of watching them is understanding that there is always much more than meets the eye.
And that is the case with them in this particular scene where for the first time, words are doing the talking just as much as their physicality—their expressions. So much of the separation this time around came with uncertainties, even for us as viewers, knowing that Naomi does not die in the books, but wondering, fearing even because we have been burned by TV before that could she? Would they do that do that her? Therefore, to imagine just how horrifying it must have been for Holden to wonder, to fear, and to wake up every morning (if he could even fall asleep), wishing she could return home.
It is entirely understandable then that he would not playback her message—it was too hard on him because though missing her is always hard when parted, this time it was so much worse. And listening to the message would have meant that she is gone. This time it would have been too much, and today that task is harder, but now that he is with her, close to her–it’s different. And it’s her choice.
Thank you for the time we were together. And for letting me take my own risks. It means more than you can know. What we had together, our odd little family on the Roci, it was good. Truly good. But people come into our lives and they go out. Families change. It can be hard and sad, but we bear it as long as we don’t shut ourselves off from the new, wonderful things that come, and I know there will be more wonderful things for you. You can let me go. It will all be right. I will love you, and Amos, and Alex for as long as I love anything. But mostly you. Don’t waste that. Take what we had and build on it. In that way, I’ll still be there.
It is established as canon in the books that one of the reasons Naomi does not say “I love you too” is because she believes he already knows, and saying it directly as a response is not as strong as the feeling that is so very clearly there. But this is a huge moment for them as she allows herself the chance to be vulnerable in order for him to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that no matter what would have happened—if she did not come home, everything that they have had, everything that they have built has been the strongest force she has ever known. She loves him—body and soul, more than anyone, more than anything because what they have built has had a lasting impact.
She could have just told him she loved him right in that moment—safe in his presence, safe from all the darkness, but there is something even more powerful of playing back the message from a moment where she was most vulnerable. A moment where she was uncertain about a lot of things, but she was not uncertain about her love for him.
It’s the stunning way she watches as his body shakes ever so slightly while he fails to hold back his tears. It’s the way she mirrors his vulnerability with her own and the certainty she is filled with watching his reaction and knowing that for him, it’s mostly her, too. And it’s the way they both lose themselves to the tears a little bit more as her message says “but mostly you” and she puts her hand to his cheek as the physical form of solidifying her words.
The close up into both their faces. Their body hands and body language that the direction leads us into understanding that we are watching something precious, something cathartic and momentous.
It’s the way in which he can’t respond with words but does so through the subtle spectacle of overwhelming contentment in his physicality and the shattering vulnerability in his expressiveness as they embrace. Their love is resilient, it’s real—right there in his arms again, and it’s the best thing they both have. She loves him with all her being and all her might, and he echoes those feelings so strongly, that we know, more than anything in the world, losing her would be the darkest battle. He echoes those feelings so strongly, that for once, there are no words to convey just how profoundly he feels.
Her love is his strength and he is her home—it’s always been that way, but today, it’s more. It’s so much more–it’s tried, tested, and true.