The passengers and crew are in for more startling revelations in episode 3 of Avenue 5, as their true predicament sinks in and the situation further unravels. Mental health declines, leading to a sphincter-shaped guest towel, an emotional video sent from the guests to Rav, and a new assignment for Karen.
Judd, Iris, and the crew continue to work on new plans to get the ship back to Earth, ranging from an unethical fundraising vigil to an unethical method of reducing the ship’s weight. Ryan, the fake captain, continues to be shocked at the level of fakery on Avenue 5. Billie continues to be the lone voice of sanity and reason.
The 3 dead passengers and late engineer Joe continue to orbit the ship and frighten the passengers like 4 small, gruesome moons. Captain Ryan checks in with the bridge on the regular, comforted in the fact that while he might be fake, the hard-working, good-looking bridge crew know what they’re doing.
Mia and Doug continue to argue, loudly and profanely, without regard to their audience or the time of day. The staff’s morale has plummetted, no doubt because they’ve realized they won’t be able to leave their low paid, non-union work for years to come. A maid leaves a towel folded into a sphincter for Mia and Doug, who demand a change. The maid ignores them.
What are they going to do, fire her?
Matt takes a photo of it.
Karen’s husband receives the wrong breakfast order. She complains, loudly, but their server is unmoved, since what Frank received is similar to his order and is still nutritious food. Karen predicts that before long they’ll be eating swill from a trough.
Or each other. Someone is going to have to address the issue of finite resources, sooner or later. I’m surprised Karen hasn’t thought of it yet.
She calls Ryan and Matt over to complain to them, and has other passengers air their greivances with the staff at the same time. Matt tries to humorously downplay each complaint. Eventually, he offends someone when he talks about pigs, and gets sent out. Ryan takes over and tries customer appeasement. He’s impressed when Karen jumps in and makes a better suggestion.
Ryan suggests a private meeting between the two of them, to discuss how they can put her people skills to better use. He wants her on his side instead of the passengers’ side. Karen accepts and her husband, Frank, is excited. He says she was like Joan of Arc out there, but Karen notes that Joan of Arc was burned at the stake.
Billie and Cyrus visit Ryan in his quarters. Ryan’s door is stuck open a little bit, but the ship is so disorganized he can’t get anyone to fix it. Cyrus reports that his numbers have panned out and his course projection that it will take 6 months for all 4,500 of them to be close enough to Earth for rescue is for real.
Billie and Ryan are happy about the news but correct him- there are 5,000 people on board. Cyrus leaves to go over his numbers one last time.
Iris tells Judd that the ship is already 18% self-sufficient, because they turn their waste fluids into drinking water and grow bland but filling basic fungi in gardens.
Why does that sound like a typical nation’s climate emergency plan to me, one which won’t do much of anything in time to matter? Passengers are complaining about how their towels are folded and that their meals are chicken instead of sausage. How will they react to eating nothing but mushrooms for years and taking part in the work of the ship?
Judd uses protein balls to explain to Iris and Matt that they only have one shuttle, which holds 10 passengers, to bring people from the ship to Earth during the 48 hour window when the ship will be within range. Given the maximum speed of the shuttle, it will only be able to make one trip, so they’re going to need 500 more shuttles.
Except between the three of them, the explanation becomes nonsensical, because they have a hard time believing that science and math work together and metaphors are a thing. I would watch a Bill Nye type show in which they try to explain science and math concepts any day of the week. Children should not be allowed near it, though.
The nice NASA lady practically laughs in Rav’s face and tells her it’s going to take some serious sucking up for them to finance 500 shuttles for Judd after the way he insulted her and NASA. Rav’s assistant tells her about the towel scandal and shows her video of a vigil for the ship which includes about a dozen people. At that point, the NASA lady does laugh.
Matt the nihilist decides to expand on last week’s primal scream therapy with extreme venting, in which Doug and Mia say every negative thing that comes into their heads while Matt eggs them on and films it for Rav.
This is also known as going on the internet. Mia accuses Rav of intentionally imprisoning her in space for years while her biological clock is ticking. Doug hurls insults and says he’s ready to leave any time.
Ryan has a video call with his husband, Stan and wife, Cris, who were already unhappy with him for taking a job that had him away from them for 8 weeks. When they find out that it’s going to be 6 months, they forbid him from taking another job that requires travel and complain that he’s drinking too much and not helping out with the housework. Hmm, is he normally the househusband?
These 2 video calls are intercut with a new character, Jordan Hatwal (Himesh Patel, Yesterday), doing a stand up comedy routine in a club, in front of a huge window, while one of the bodies floats by. The hand and arm have broken off into separate pieces, which are all orbiting together along with some other small bits, in a tidy little parade. Jordan stops talking while the body floats by, then tries to go on, but the mood just isn’t there anymore.
Maybe they should time the stand up routines according to the rotations of the bodies? Or put some curtains up?
Judd and Iris decide they need to raise money to pay for the shuttles rather than spending their own billions. They hatch a plan to hire non-union actors to participate in the vigil to increase awareness of the cause.
I look forward to the bi-continental rock festival.
Karen and Ryan meet in the Executive Stargazer Suite, which formerly belonged to Dead Mary, whi is now currently in rotation as a moon around the ship. It’s not much smaller than the atrium. Ryan offers Karen the suite in exchange for her taking the thankless position of Passenger Liaison Officer. They discuss the offer over the ship’s best food and wine, but Karen makes sure Ryan understands that sex isn’t happening.
Ryan enjoys the wine so much he drops his American accent for a minute. Karen is surprised, and in the course of trying to explain, Ryan also let’s slip that he’s not really the captain either. Turns out, before Ryan was an actor, he was a vintner. Karen has a brief anxiety attack while Ryan explains the insane way the ship’s hierarchy works and how he wants her to fit into it. Once she understands the whole system, she calms down.
Rav locks herself into the break room alone to watch Matt’s video. By the end, her staff find her on the floor, in the fetal position, just in time for a press conference.
As Ryan’s leaving the executive suite, he runs into Judd, who assumes Ryan and Karen are having an affair. Ryan moves on and runs into Billie and Cyrus next, who have some bad news. Cyrus forgot to figure the weight of the 500 passengers who were lottery winners into his calculations. So his 6 month estimate is actually in addition to the original 3 years, making it a 3 1/2 year trip in total.
Don’t try to make sense of it. It’s clear that the time it will take to get back to Earth is going to change every week. We probably have Star Trek: Voyager to thank for this.
Ryan asks if there’s any way to speed things up. Cyrus suggests spacing the extra 500 people. Billie and Ryan look convincingly appalled.
I’m willing to bet this won’t be the last time this solution comes up. It’s much too popular as a punishment on scifi shows, as is the need to reduce weight. They haven’t even begun to address their fuel issue- they should only have enough for an 8 week trip, not 3.5 years. Are they running on solar energy?
Karen’s first act as Passenger Liaison Officer is to complain to Ryan that the laundry isn’t getting done. Ryan counters by telling her she gets to tell the passengers that the new trip time estimate is 3.5 years. She amusingly faux swears for a minute, then sucks it up.
Rav gets to tell the press that dead human remains are orbiting the ship and the return time has been increased. She puts a smile on her face and spreads the information out as much as she can to soften the blow, then skips over uncomfortable questions. She wins the grace under fire award of the week.
Ryan takes his problems to the bridge crew, expecting them to be qualified spaceship professionals. They are as qualified as him. The Rebel Wilson look-alike who dramatically controls the lights (Daisy May Cooper) is a hand model. Ryan has a meltdown. He really believed in his A+ bridge crew.
Called that one. It’s a great nod to the Galaxy Quest scene where the crew, especially Sigourney Weaver, have to admit that they don’t do much of anything on the bridge.
The models and actors complain that they’ve been in character continuously for 4 weeks.
Karen stands on a counter and spins a yarn about the new length of the trip. She tells the passengers that at first she was told it was going to take 5 long years. She had a word with the engineers and they counter offered 4 years. That wasn’t good enough for Karen, so she told them she wouldn’t accept anything longer than 3.5 years to get home. The engineers caved and agreed to meet her goal. Frank serves as sidekick and emphasizes everything Karen says to the crowd.
The crowd cheers. Karen is a hero for playing hardball and talking the engineers down from 5 years to 3.5 years. Only 1 man questions this story and he’s shut down quickly.
This is, of course, modelled after the Montgomery Scott Original Star Trek method of impressing your Captain with how quickly you fixed the ship by overestimating how long it will take, then doing it in half the time.
Ryan offers a king’s ransom for actual qualified spaceship personnel. Billie and Cyrus pick up a floor mat and open a panel. At this point, anyone who’s seen Snowpiercer knows we’re going to find an ugly truth hidden under the floorboards, probably a 5 year old child holding the entire ship together, a metaphor for the way capitalism sacrifices its children to corporate greed and allows the rich to live in unfathomable luxury while children live in extreme poverty and child slavery still exists. We even had a frozen arm break off of a poor victim early in the show as foreshadowing.
I’m not sure who the Chris Evans of this piece is, fighting his or her way from ignorance and brutality to heroic knowledge and self-sacrifice so the children can be free, but I’m sure they’re here somewhere.
Never mind. It’s not quite that bad. The panel just conceals the unhygienic, unattractive, but probaly very highly paid, real crew of the ship, kept out of sight where Judd can’t see them or find them. Since they are tech and engineering nerds, this is actually their natural habitat, so we don’t need to worrry about them much.
Seriously, I have to pry my husband the software engineer out of spaces like this and make him look out of windows. They’re fine. They’d only get angry if forced to interact with the passengers and answer questions. It slows down their math calculations.
Judd doesn’t know this section of the ship even exists and he can never know. The people in the room make a pact. Judd operates on a never-need-to-know-basis.
A passenger tour enters the bridge and everyone takes their places and plays their theme park role.
You have to wonder how much longer that will last. The highly paid engineers may still be working, but the story that isn’t being told yet is that the underpaid housekeeping and maintenance staff are on the verge of mutiny. I’m betting on Matt the Nihilist as their leader. His primal screams were quite intense on that video he made for Rav, too. He was the one who asked her what she was going to do to fix this.
Ryan and his spouses are a good looking trio, but another troubled marriage. Did he take the job to escape his marital troubles for a while? Are anyone but Karen and Frank happily married in this world? Are they happily married, or harboring secret resentments and about to blow? And does Ryan have permission to have sex outside of his marriage? He and Karen definitely have chemistry (and a big bed) and 3.5 years is a long time.
Is Rav actually married to either Mia or to Mia and Doug? Matt says, “Your marriage is like the Hindenburg, Rav.” Or something like that. It would be cool to see some poly relationships explored as a normal facet of life, especially Ryan’s F-M-M relationship and if Mia is in separate relationships with Doug and Rav. But not so much if the entire thing is going to be video calls of people complaining at each other.
Also, there are rats on the ship. Bets on who will eat who in the end, the rats or the humans?
Avenue 5 basically is Snowpiercer in space, a huge ship hurtling through the freezing cold, alone, with no help in sight. The show and the people aboard the ship have only just started to acknowledge the social stratification that will eventually have to be addressed. A ship that’s in space long-term requires a lot more upkeep than a ship on an 8 week cruise. There’s no reason why all of the work should be done by the original staff while the original passengers lie around. The distribution of resources will also have to be addressed. There’s no reason why the people on board should continue to think of themselves as segrated into 1st class passengers, staff and so on, with certain people only allowed to use certain facilities, eat certain foods, etc.
This episode was written by Peter Fellows and Ian Martin from a story by Armando Iannucci, Peter Fellows and Ian Martin. Episode 3 was directed by Natalie Bailey.
Image courtesy of HBO.