The Expanse: CQB Review

The Expanse is developing a signature look, and its battle scenes reinforce the established atmosphere of a difficult life in space.

This The Expanse review contains spoilers.

The Expanse Season 1 Episode 4

The “close quarters battle” referred to in the episode title was definitely a shift in tone for The Expanse, and the feel of it, as with the rest of this show, was refreshingly realistic and impressive at the same time. And although Miller is still stalled in his investigation, it’s not as frustrating as it was last week, since he has new puzzles to solve. Only four episodes in, this series feels mature, deep, and more expertly crafted than many of its spacefaring counterparts on Syfy.

It’s been said before, but the gravity work on this show is simply amazing. Exhibit A: Holden dealing with sudden weightlessness by using Newton’s third law, pushing Naomi away from himself to regain his magnetic footing. Exhibit B: Amos and Naomi tossing a sealant tool of some sort back and forth to block a depressurizing hole in the hull while Shed’s blood bobbles about in the air. Just brilliant! Where other sci-fi shows wow audiences with CGI future tech toys, The Expanse plays with physics in such a unique way, and it serves the story and the action very well.

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Then there’s the action in space, which just felt so different from similar battles we’ve seen on other shows and in film. The rail guns were particularly impressive, and the unpredictable nature of the small stealth ships heightened the intrigue of the situation. Who are these feisty hull-cracking pirates who took down the flagship of the Martian Navy like the maneuverable British fleet taking out the heavy vessels of the Spanish Armada? If the OPA doesn’t have the means for such advancements (which might be a wrong assumption), then who does? Even Chrisjen Avasarala on Earth doesn’t seem to know! This part of the mystery is quickly becoming the most compelling.

That’s not to say that Miller’s story isn’t intriguing; it’s just seeing less dramatic progress. However, the new detail of Bizi Betiko, the man Julie Mao agreed to meet through a dating service, somehow being both dead in the morgue after the riots and dead in space after failing his daredevil slingshot maneuver trying to set a speed record. Hopefully, the encrypted government files on the Betiko spoofer’s memory crypt will shed some light on what’s going on. How will Julie and her presence on the sabotaged Scopuli be involved?

It’s a relief to see that Havelock isn’t dead. His attempts at learning the ways of the Belters by paying a willing prostitute to teach him the subtlety of the creole speech and appropriate gestures was charming last week, and there isn’t much endearment in this series. Prejudice against the Belters seems to run deep, but that doesn’t mean Earthers always get a fair shake. The understated racism is an enjoyable cultural aspect of the show.

In fact, the Mormon culture seems to have snuck its way into the show this week as the Latter Day Saints are shown to have commissioned a massive generation ship to seek out a new home outside of the solar system. The character of Fred Johnson (played by The Walking Dead vet, Chad L. Coleman) is one to keep an eye on as his ties to the OPA seem more prominent than the average Ceres worker sporting a tattoo. What could his involvement in the larger story be?

And what about Phoebe station, which the abnormally insightful Navy interrogator seems convinced the Donnager’s invaders visited? There’s not much to go on there: just a lot of dead researchers and destroyed computer cores. In fact, the reasons for its destruction are as obscured as the venting of the Scopuli or the nuking of the Canterbury.

These are not shallow mysteries; they run deep, and the audience is expected to keep up. Rather than being confusing and obfuscating, The Expanse makes it fun to keep track of the puzzle pieces. The solar system and its culture that the show has presented are layered and filled with a wealth of potential conflicts and heroic characters, and so far, the glimpses into this future world have been eminently entertaining.

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4.5 out of 5