by Kbear on February 1, 2017
The Expanse is a sci-fi program that ran last year on the Syfy channel. It is Syfy attempting to go back to their glory days of Battlestar Galactica and Farscape. I didn’t see the show when it came out in December 2015. I had heard about it but like most programming, I didn’t have time to watch it. Luckily, it is now streaming on Amazon Prime, so I watched it over the holidays. I can’t say that it reaches the levels of Galactica and Farscape but at least it’s in the same zip code and could easily move into the neighborhood this season. The new season begins Wednesday, February 1; I’ll be covering it this season so I thought a quick review of Season 1 would get us ready. I must warn you that if you haven’t seen Season 1 this review will be full of spoilers. It might be more useful for people who have watched the first season but need a reminder of the characters and main storylines. I would recommend you watch Season 1 for no other reason but your own enjoyment.
The Expanse is set in the 23rd century. The human race has settled much of our solar system. The UN controls Earth. Mars is an “independent military power”. The Belt is the asteroid belt mined for materials. The inhabitants of the Belt, Belters, are the underclass of the solar system. Earth and Mars are in a cold war and the Belters represented by the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) are on the verge of revolt.
The show has three main storylines it follows: Earth, the Ceres station, and the Rocinante crew. Let’s start with mother Earth.
The main character for earth is quite a bad mother, in a good way. Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is an undersecretary with the UN. She’s a loving grandmother, but with people not named Avasarala, she can be a cold, political operative. Her main concern is protecting Earth and she’ll use any method at her disposal. She is torturing a Belter for information about a piece of stealth technology he was smuggling. Belters suffer from bone density problems so earth gravity is hard on them if you have them hanging up. One of the cool things about the show is they introduce scientific concepts people like me wouldn’t think of but make total sense for the show.
Way out in the Belt on the Ceres station is Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane). Miller is your typical hard – boiled, cynical, down on his luck, shady, but underneath it all a good guy detective we’ve seen in literature and film since Raymond Chandler. His boss gives him an assignment; find a missing heiress named Juliette Mao (Florence Faivre) so they can return her to her father. Ceres is teetering on the edge of exploding. The people are angry about Earth and Mars exploitation. Miller has a new partner from Earth who is trying to acclimate to Ceres. As he begins looking for Julie Mao, he finds out this isn’t just a simple missing rich girl case.
Aboard the Ice Freighter Canterbury, we meet the soon to be promoted Executive Officer James Holden (Steven Strait). We in fact meet him doing the nasty floating in the room with the ship’s navigator. The benefits of weightlessness. He’s your usual underachieving slacker who has potential if he applies himself. He’s promoted Executive Officer because the previous one gets space madness. The Canterbury receives a distress signal, the captain doesn’t want to reply since it will take them out of there way and cost them money. The navigator says they are required to respond. He tells them not to record it and go on their merry way. Later by himself Holden records the distress signal and forces them to investigate. Of course he doesn’t tell anyone he’s the one who did it. The captain picks Holden to lead a team to investigate; Holden, the ship’s medic (who dies aboard the Donnager), Naomi Nagata the ship’s engineer (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton a mechanic (Wes Chatham) and Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) the ship’s pilot. When they get there they find out it’s an automatic distress signal, no one is aboard. They see another ship and realize it’s a trap; the other ship fires a nuclear missile, they think the ship is firing at them but instead their target is the Canterbury. They can’t warn the Canterbury in time. This is the beginning of the survivor’s journey.
The destruction of the Canterbury sets off a chain reaction throughout the solar system. Holden and his crew are able to send a distress signal and the Martian navy’s flagship MCRN Donnager picks them up. Holden thinks the Martian’s had something to do with the Canterbury’s destruction because the ship that fired the missile used Martian stealth technology. He sends a signal out saying the Martian’s were involved. This causes riots on the Belt; Chrisjen begins her own investigation on Earth to find out. She tricks an old family friend who is an ambassador to contact Mars; they are in a panic wondering if someone had stolen their stealth technology. She knows Mars isn’t involved. The Martian’s interrogate Holden and his crew to find out if they were involved. The Donnager captain wants to place the blame on Naomi since they suspect someone as smart and qualified as her wouldn’t be an engineer on an ice freighter. They believe she is an OPA operative. We never find out why someone as sharp as Naomi is with them. The Donnager is under attack by other stealth ships like the one that blew up the Canterbury. To the Donnager’s crew surprise, these stealth ships are more advanced than they are. Boarded, the captain instructs Holden and his crew to escape on one of their gunships and tell people what happened. After Holden’s crew escapes, the Donnager self-destructs.
Now everyone’s in a panic about the Donnager. Everyone fears the Earth-Martian cold war is about to heat up. Holden and his crew re-christened the Martian gunship Rocinante. They receive a message from Fred Johnson (Chad Coleman). Fred Johnson AKA the Butcher of Anderson Station was an Earth marine colonel who massacred the striking miners on that station. He is the operations director of Tycho station but more importantly the head of the OPA. He offers them sanctuary. He wants to know wants to know what is going on out there, and Holden and his crew always seem to be where the action is.
Unlike everyone else, Miller’s attention is solely on finding Julie Mao. He finds out she wasn’t just some rich girl out there partying. She was concerned about the people in the Belt and was a member of the OPA. Discovering more about her kindness and courage, he finds himself falling in love with a woman he has never met. He meets the OPA Ceres operative Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris). Dawes is a charming, dangerous man. He tries to recruit Miller to the OPA. Later he has him tortured and beaten to find out what he knows about Julie. Miller soon realizes Julie might be involved with the Canterbury and Donnager incidents. When he brings this info to his boss, she fires him. With no reason to stay on Ceres, he jumps on a transport to Eros.
Chrisjen blackmails someone to get access to a spy they have on the Tycho station. She also visits Holden’s mother in Montana to try to figure out who this guy is. Many people think he is behind the destruction of the ships. She leaves Holden’s mother convinced he isn’t involved. Johnson comes to the same conclusion. He would like Holden to pick up a survivor of the Scorpuli, who we know is Julie Mao. Unbeknownst to them, the spy on the station who is now working for Chrisjen is a stowaway on their ship. After they discover him, he comes in useful when a Martian ship is ready to board their disguised ship. He helps them find a codebook on the ship, which makes the Martians think the Rocinante is a Martian black-ops ship. Using the coordinates Johnson has given them, instead of finding the Scorpuli, they find the Anubis, the stealth ship that destroyed the Canterbury. Julie had ended up on that ship when it destroyed the Scorpuli and captured her. In the first episode, we began with Julie on this ship. The Anubis was under attack by some blue thing. Somehow, she was able to vent the Anubis and leave it on this asteroid and escape on a shuttle and head for Eros.
The Rocinante crew arrives at the Blue Falcon Hotel where Julie Cho under an alias checked in. Waiting for them is a UN black op team sent to ambush them by Chrisjen’s boss Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle). Chrisjen isn’t aware of this. Her spy now working for Errinwright signals the black op team. Out of nowhere comes Miller to assist the Rocinante team. With their combined firepower, they defeat the black ops team. They go to Julie’s room and find a horrifying sight. She is dead, her body covered by the same blue substance they found on the abandoned Anubis. Wrecked by the discovery of the body; Miller is in shock. After they leave, another team led by a scientist named Dresden (Daniel Kas) find the body and run test. They harvest her infested blood and leave. Dresden works for Julie’s father, Jules-Pierre Mao. They have more dark deeds to perform this day.
Under the guise of a ship explosion and radiation leak, they are able to shut down Eros and herd the poor citizens of Euros into radiation shelters. They infest these citizens with Julie’s infested blood. They are using these people as incubators for the infestation. The blue substance is a ‘protomolecule’ that Dresden developed. It’s a bio-weapon possibly made from a living alien substance. As Holden and Miller try to assist the people in the radiation shelters, they get hit by a lethal dose of radiation. They along with the rest of the Rocinante crew are able to make it back to the ship and escape Ceres. Luckily, for Holden and Miller they have medication on board the ship to cure the radiation. Soon back on Earth, Chrisjen learns her boss is playing her. She doesn’t know the extent of the conspiracy but she plans to find out.
The new season starts tonight on the Syfy network at 10:00 eastern. The new season will introduce us to Mars and a new character Bobbie Draper. (Not Don’s son) She is a Martian marine and tough as nails. Since everyone on the show kind of knows what is going on, the season should be more exciting. I haven’t read the books so I don’t know what happens next, but I can’t wait to find out.