The Expanse Review: S2E1 Safe & S2E2 Doors & Corners
I’ve seen people call The Expanse, Game of Thrones in Space. I definitely understand the comparison. There are a ton of characters, lots of political manipulation and maneuvering, multiple plot lines that seem independent but eventually converge, etc.
For me, The Expanse fills the void left when Battlestar Galactica ended. It brings the space thriller/drama back to my TV and I’m grateful. The double episode premiere of The Expanse’s second season picks up right where the first season left off and is promising to be even more enjoyable.
The Expanse is complicated. I don’t mean that to be a negative. I think most people who enjoy this show enjoy that complexities of the storylines. However, if there was one criticism I had about Season One was that it ended with a lot of unanswered questions that didn’t seem like they needed to be left unanswered. The start of Season 2 seems to be a direct response to that. By the end of Episode 2 of this season, we have a pretty solid understanding of what the crew is dealing with. I think overall, these first two episodes answered a lot of questions that probably didn’t need to be left hanging in Season 1. We finally get some answers on
- Fred Johnson going from hero to traitor
- A better understanding Naomi & Amos’ relationship (at least from Naomi's point of view)
- A clearer picture of the Earth-Mars tensions
- What the hell the protomolecule actually is and came from
That’s not to say that the complexities aren’t there. With some of these answers comes new complications plus the additions to the cast which promise to flesh out even more of the story. The new additions to the cast seem to flesh out more of the story.
Just when we thought we were getting a handle on all the characters on this show, Season Two starts off by introducing us to some new ones. Gunnery Sergeant Bobbie Draper is sticking with the tradition of great female characters on SyFy original shows. The opening sequence with Draper leading her squad through a training simulation not only proves her toughness but also that Syfy is sparing no expense on the effects for this show. Draper’s character gets some solid development in these first two episodes due to her interactions with Lt Sutton who is in command of the Scirocco. At first Draper just comes off as your typical Martian Marine who is eager to get revenge on Earth for the Donnager. But later we realize her hatred of Earth revolves around how the peace between Earth & Mars came at the expense of terraforming on Mars, putting that back 50-100 years. This really adds a new dynamic to the Earth-Mars tensions. A story about a Mars colony wanting to break off from Earth isn’t a new concept in Sci-Fi space stories. It was a major plotline in one of my favorite shows of all time, Babylon 5, and probably every other space story with a colonized Mars. Honestly it’s such a given that its approaching Skynet rules in that in real life, if we ever colonize Mars I’m going to remark about how this only ends in war and tears. The Expanse this season has added an extra wrinkle by showing that the cost of the peace between Earth & Mars is the deferred dreams of Martians like Draper who wished to see a terraformed Mars. Draper’s anger and frustration is understandable.
Avasarala’s Political Moves
I love watching Deputy Undersecretary Avasarala’s political maneuverings and this season is already starting off with a bang. I think the dangerous political maneuverings are where the comparisons with Game of Thrones come from. However, unlike Game of Thrones, the women on The Expanse are able to manipulate those around them and obtain power without being clichéd sex objects. In this premiere we see Avasarala survive an assassination attempt, play both sides of the Undersecretary’s push to start a war, get the real story on Fred Johnson, gets her own spy (Good to see Nick Tarabay again although I do want him to return to the CWverse as Capt. Boomerang) and is going to reach out directly to Fred Johnson.
The Crew of the Rocinante
Look, I’m a strong believer that Naomi should be Captain of the Rocinante. No disrespect to Holden, but Naomi is the real leader here. She’s the one that holds everything together. From giving Holden the pep talks he needs to step up, keeping Amos from killing anyone (else) even her getting Miller to open up about why he was so fixated on Julie Mao. She’s the rock of the crew and she’s one of my top 3 favorite characters. I don’t even mind the relationship that blossomed between Naomi and Holden. Mainly because Holden is clearly worried about how Amos would feel about it. Naomi does describe the relationship as more sister/brother but I also noticed that she didn’t really give an answer when Holden asked if Amos knew that.
The Amos/Naomi dynamic has always been interesting. Amos killing Sematimba in defense of Naomi last season leads to Miller & Amos bumping heads (understandably). Also leads to the most one sided fight in history. Obviously Amos killing his friend is a big part of the dislike, but I also feel like Amos & Miller are very similar. Amos doesn’t really fit in with others outside of Naomi and he would do anything for her, no matter what the consequences. When you think about it, Miller did the same thing with Julie, even though he never met her. It’s like both of them latched onto these women as a way of saving themselves. And I don’t think either likes looking at the other since it’s like putting up a mirror.
While it was subtle, I like the direction the show is going with Alex. He clearly felt some shame in not being able to save more people from Eros. First season, Alex was a bit of a mystery without a lot of explanation. But we're clearly going to get more of him beyond just being a good pilot. I think we'll see motivation from Alex for the fight ahead. You could see that the death of one of the survivors while trying to board the station affected him.
Storming the Castle
One of the best sequences this show has done was when the Rocinante took on the Stealth Ship and the boarding pods (FedEx…I see you). Beyond just the quality of the effects (Again, giving me my Battlestar Galactica space battle fix), I loved that Rocinante got to flex her muscles a bit. Most of the first season was spent with the ship disguised as a cargo vessel and not the gun ship she is. It was also nice to see Alex showing off his skills.
Miller’s actions on board make sense. He reminds me of Amos only the woman he’d do anything for is dead. While Holden, Johnson and others want answers, Miller just wants revenge. Julie’s given him a cause beyond himself and nothing is going to stand in his way.
The Expanse is back and I’m ready for what’s gearing up to be one hell of a season.