The third episode of Beacon 23 is out now on MGM+. Following last week’s stellar two-episode premiere, events pick up with Aster (Lena Headey) and Halan (Stephan James) licking their wounds following a traumatic encounter on the beacon. But of course, things can’t stay calm for too long. A new arrival ups the drama and danger once again, complicating matters even further as new questions and revelations arise.
This review contains SPOILERS for this week’s episode of Beacon 23.
Beacon 23 Episode 103 review: “Why Can’t We Go On As Three?”
If the second episode of Beacon 23 slammed the gas pedal with its wrecker incursion onto the beacon, “Why Can’t We Go On As Three?” slows things back down again in order to dig into the minds of our characters. Aster stabbed Battle (Paulino Nunes) to death with a kitchen knife in a shockingly brutal scene. Halan stood and fought to help her rather than run when he had the chance, only to then be knocked unconscious by a strange reaction to the unknown element in the mysterious rocks. These were big moments, and Beacon 23 spends enough time on the fallout that it makes them feel like they happened to real people who would need to process them, rather than to caricatures who shrug it off and move on to the next.
That emphasis on character continues to be one of the show’s biggest strengths. Halan and Aster finally start to let their walls down, in part thanks to the high they get from leaning against the beacon’s gravity wave machine. That’s a fun touch that builds this fictional world out a little and allows for some heart-to-heart conversations in a very cool set. The special effects remain very strong, whether it’s the celestial display in the windows of the gravity wave machine room or the sweeping shots outside of the station.
But of course, the good times don’t last. Another person mysteriously shows up on the beacon, which leads to a fistfight with Halan before Aster can intervene and inform him it’s her business partner/lover/boss Coley, played by Sandrine Holt. If that description of who Coley is sounds a little complicated, it’s because the relationship between her and Headey’s Aster is complicated. At first it seems like they’re lovers who also work together, but it soon becomes clear it’s nowhere near that simple. There are layers of toxicity between them; Coley is jealous and forceful about uncovering Halan’s past, while Aster is hesitant to show her too much affection in front of him. It’s an emotional morass that’s confusing and compelling in equal turns, and Beacon 23 navigates it well.
Complicating things further is the AI Bart (Wade Bogert-O’Brien), who wakes up after being taken offline by the wreckers with all of his strangely aggressive behaviors intact. Halan initially asks that Bart be kept unable to communicate vocally, which leads to a fascinating argument between his little floating robot avatar and Aster’s personal AI, Harmony (Natasha Mumba). Later, Coley co-opts Bart to dig up dirt on Halan. I’m really intrigued about where the show is going with Bart, because my stomach drops every time he pulls some of his shenanigans. I mean, he’s just an AI who oversees all the systems on the beacon and seems to have a homicidal vendetta against Halan…what could possibly go wrong?
The episode climaxes with a dinner between the three characters that goes off the rails when Coley reveals her ugly side, verbally abusing Aster and needling at Halan over his desertion from the military. That’s the quiet part of the climax, which brings things to a head for these characters.
“Why Can’t We Go On As Three?” is all about these sorts of character moments…which just makes it all the more shocking when the final moments of the episode take a brutal, terrifying turn. Aster discovers that the ISA set her up, planning for the explosion of her ship that stranded her on Beacon 23. Coley sedates her with the intention to go kill Halan when he tries to go down and retrieve some of the rocks. Then Aster arrives just in time to kill Coley in a slow, heart-breakingly intentional way. That last shot of Lena Headey’s shocked face has haunted me long after watching. It reminded me of Breaking Bad, with excellent performances and stone-cold portrayals of violence. I’m so excited (and scared) to watch more next week.
Beacon Bullet Points
- Aster discovers that the rocks seem to have a symbol on them which matches the necklace her mother gave her as a child. These stones are the big mystery of the season; what are they, and how do they connect Halan and Aster?
- Speaking of the rocks, one thing that’s bugging me: why doesn’t anyone wear gloves when they handle these mysterious, previously undiscovered space rocks? You’re on a space station! With space suits and 3D printers! We know you own gloves, Lena Headey and Stephan James!
- The pacing still jars me just a little at times on this show. Beacon 23 tends to move very fast. Not necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve noticed it.
- After Aster confronts Coley about knowing the ISA set her up to have her ship destroyed, Coley insists Aster was never in any real danger. Which…man, what a lie. Aster was seven minutes away from dying, if Halan hadn’t intervened. These characters have flaws.
- Halan had a pretty suave robe during breakfast on the beacon! It’s kind of fascinating how scarcity isn’t really a problem for them on the beacon, which feels like the opposite of how a sci-fi show would normally handle this kind of story. Instead, it’s all about the effects on isolation on mental health. A refreshing change.
Beacon 23 dials things back a bit this week only to pull the rug out from under us in the episode’s final moments. The overall story is getting very twisty, but by remaining focused on the outstanding performances of its two leads, the show retains a very compelling throughline. If Aster’s actions in Episode 2 have haunted her, I can only imagine how much worse the fallout from this week’s episode will be. I need more Beacon 23, stat!
Episode Grade: A-
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