This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 1 Episode 3
The Expanse doesn’t pull punches, and it doesn’t hold hands. It does, however, strategically withhold information. That’s not a criticism, although the lack of any real understanding of Mars or the OPA can be vexing, but the mystery of Julie Mao gets very little progression this week. Stealth technology seems to be at the heart of the broken stalemate between Earth and Mars, but there’s little information about possible suspects besides the obvious red herrings. Raised suspicions trump any real answers this week, and the waters (despite rationing) are getting muddied.
The situation on Ceres is the easiest to comprehend. The frustration is understandable with water rations and filthy air endangering lives and basic human rights. Detective Miller struggles to keep the peace, but it’s actually more believable that he’s not completely successful. In fact, it’s difficult to disagree with his captain who actively encourages him to close the Julia Mao case and move on; it’s now a matter of waiting for him to succeed in spite of everyone being against him. The situation is desperate, and although the Belters are perhaps too quick to blame Mars for their woes, their response is logical despite its emotional roots.
Clearly Earth has it better, trading greywater for wine, but it’s not as though the UN leaders are flying off the handle, gearing up for a fight with Mars. Chrisjen’s ploy to force the Martians into revealing their stealth development sites may have been ruthless in terms of betraying her friend, the UN ambassador to Mars, but at least it verified that Mars didn’t destroy the Canterbury. Earth may exploit the Belt, but its leaders are not hot-headed reactionaries.
So the focus shifts to the OPA, of which viewers know almost nothing. The Outer Planets Alliance seems to be mostly politically-minded Belters, but the name implies that the inhabited moons of Jupiter and beyond are also included. Details are needed for context and audience investment! Who will discover the truth? Miller? Holden? The Martians themselves?
At least the Martian Navy was painted in broad strokes, which somewhat satisfies the thirst for information. Clearly, something is happening on Phoebe, a moon of Saturn and home of a secret facility, that the Martians don’t want anyone to know about. Additionally, their attempt to pit the survivors of the Canterbury against each other is transparent albeit somewhat successful. Who can blame them after seeing Holden’s broadcast?
The most satisfying thing that came out of the interrogations, though, was a fleshing out of the ice-hauler characters. Shed’s droll spinelessness, Amos’ brutish defensiveness, and – most impressively – Holden’s checkered past with the U.N. Navy. Viewers may be reluctant to believe Naomi is an OPA operative just because she’s smart, and her accusations of prejudice against Belters hit close to home in today’s political climate: “We all know each other, and we’re all terrorists, right?”
Whether through impatience or eagerness, the urge to have more details increases the farther into the season The Expanse gets. The slight stalling of the Julia Mao case notwithstanding, viewers should be pleased with the deepening of character development and the broadening of the political landscape. A smart show like this requires the audience to put the puzzle together themselves, and god help anyone who loses a piece along the way.