This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 1 Episode 6
To the credit of the writers of The Expanse, this week’s episode did an artful job of fleshing out characters and sharing details of the setting without sacrificing any of the storytelling. With plots moving forward on Tycho Station, Ceres, and Earth, there was still time to learn more about the class structure of the solar system and the lives of those from different backgrounds. Perhaps most notably, the show seems to be pushing its audience towards a sympathetic stance with the downtrodden Belters.
But does that mean the OPA has as its only guiding force the freedom of the oppressed? As an important man in the organization, Fred Johnson, played masterfully by Chad L. Coleman, is quickly becoming one of the most interesting characters in the show. On the one hand, Johnson is willing to use Holden’s testimony about the destruction of the Canterbury and the Donnager as a way to get the OPA a seat at Earth’s U.N. Security Council. On the other, he allows Holden and his crew to helm the very important mission of retrieving the lone survivor from the Scopuli. And don’t forget the chip he extracted from the dead Martian officer! Johnson’s easy command and casual self interest are juxtaposed brilliantly.
The side story also added a nice jolt to the action of the episode, simple as it was. The destitute uncle and nephew mining a distant asteroid provided a nice context for the second-class status of those not living on a planet, especially given the political atmosphere after the destruction of the MCRN flagship. It was exciting to see how easy but desperate it would be for a miner to rain destructive material down on a ship or even a planet, with devastating results. Mass and velocity are powerful weapons!
The discussions between Miller and Dawes also added weight to the crushing burden placed on the low-g residents of the solar system. Dawes’ harrowing tale of a life of poverty which forced him to kill his own sister to save his family garnered sympathy from Miller and viewers alike. In fact, with the hard life on Ceres, it seems remarkable that Miller and his fellow cop, Muss, have only killed once in their careers. Nevertheless, Miller’s near-death experience with the airlock produced a humorously awkward and intimate moment between the two.
The small tidbits shown about the survivors of the Canterbury were subtly placed as well. Certainly, the fact that Amos was reminded of his childhood by the nightclub scene didn’t carry much importance, nor did Alex’s washing out of the MCRN, but both details added flavor to the already rich characters. Most intriguing of all, though, was Naomi’s final request of Fred Johnson to help her find someone: “Someday I’ll come to you with a name – no questions asked.” Naomi’s depth knows no bounds.
It was nice to see Chrisjen back to her conniving ways this week. She skillfully reminded viewers that her captive belter was carrying stealth components, lending credence to the theory that the OPA is behind the small powerful fighters that destroyed the Canterbury and the Donnager. Sure, Fred Johnson is building that big ship at Tycho Station, but can it be that simple? Chrisjen may be following a red herring along with the audience; who knows?
Despite having sung the praises of this episode’s expert characterization moments, it might now be time to ramp up the conspiracy, especially given the video that got Miller fired from Star Helix. When will the storylines converge? What will the newly-disguised Rocinante discover in its search? And is the bio-weapon from Phoebe tied in with that strange, amorphous blob viewers saw in the premiere?
For more speculation and discussion of The Expanse, check out Den of Geek’s new podcast, Sci Fi Fidelity! The inaugural episode contains discussion of this great show (27:08) as well as an interview with Naomi Nagata herself, Dominique Tipper (47:54). Check it out below and subscribe on SoundCloud, Stitcher, iTunes, or TuneIn.