This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 1 Episode 9
Sometimes a finale hits you like a freight train, and the answers to questions you’ve held onto all season long are almost overwhelming in how much they reveal all at once. Such is the case with the two-hour season 1 finale of The Expanse, which delivered thrills, gore, action, and emotion in a torrent of information that threatened to drown the viewers rather than quench their thirst. Whether the experience leads to wide-eyed shock or unbridled glee, though, it’s bound to have left the Syfy audience gasping for breath by the end.
The first hour began wonderfully with a flashback to the tale of the Scopuli and Julie Mao’s part in the great mystery. Perhaps it’s not surprising that much of Julie’s motivation for helping the OPA keep tabs on the new bio-weapon being developed on Phoebe is that her father is the CEO of the company responsible for its development. The devastation that the glowing blue goo wreaks on both the Scopuli and the Anubis is horrible enough, but inciting war between the inner planets and the belt to cover up its release is nearly unfathomable.
The most interesting new detail in this finale comes from the reveal that the bio-weapon appears to be a living entity of some sort. As the Mengele-like scientist, Dresden, says to Jules-Pierre Mao after extracting the infectious fluid from his daughter, “We can only learn by letting ’it’ learn.” Whatever goal these researchers have, it is shocking to see what lengths they will go to to let the organism have free reign.
The massacre on Eros is truly disturbing – perfect for a finale! The herding of civilians by hired thugs into enclosed chambers and transit pods is reminiscent of the death camps and packed cattle cars of the Holocaust. Not to mention the immediate danger the show’s protagonists are placed in almost erases the comparatively mild shootout in the motel last week. Miller and Holden are especially endangered as the search for a way to the docks while fighting the excruciating symptoms of radiation poisoning.
The Expanse finds time for character moments even in the midst of such tragedy. Naomi reveals herself to have OPA ties, which is no big surprise, but her tenderness in dealing with the refugees they encounter is truly endearing. Her distaste for leadership notwithstanding, she displays her loyalty to Holden and her ability to command beautifully in the face of extreme pressure. Speaking of loyalty, the juxtaposition of Amos’ agreement with Inspector Sematimba’s decision to get rid of the infected refugee with his fatal reaction to the Eros cop’s threats towards his precious Naomi was priceless. Kudos to Wes Chatham for playing Amos’ psychosis with such deadpan expertise.
Perhaps less effective but still quite powerful were the interactions between Holden and Miller, the latter of whom became somewhat predictable in his hallucinations of Julie and his blithe acceptance of the violence needed to survive this atrocious experiment on Eros. Holden’s do-gooder personality clearly gave him trouble in dealing with the indiscriminate killing, but the emptying of his gun while rejecting assistance from the Earth spy was quite telling. Holden may come out of this ordeal more damaged than radiation can account for.
And what damage will Chrisjen Avarasala endure on Earth? Her decision to play it safe and pretend to go along with what is surely a U.N. conspiracy is a wise one, but it’s gratifying to see she isn’t fooled. Although it’s not entirely clear how she knew the secret plans for the stealth ships would be hidden digitally on a wooden pencil, her discovery – and Fred Johnson’s confirmation – that Earth was behind the warmongering was quite a shock. Errinwright’s complicity with the unrepentant Mao puts a face on the enemy that has been in the shadows all season. Perfect for a finale!
Johnson’s speech confirmed that neither the OPA nor Mars was responsible for the attacks that started the war, and it’s not surprising that he would be framed for the whole thing. It was a little disappointing that the Mormon’s generation ship he helped build will have to wait until season two to have its moment to shine, but many of the details left unresolved in the end are perfect material for future story development. Meanwhile, the harried escape aboard the Roci and the mysteriously life-like behavior of the energy-sucking creature on Eros made for a perfect ending to a stellar finale.
Let’s face it: The Expanse knocked it out of the park in its freshman outing. Although the pacing seemed a bit slow at first and almost frantic in the end, the rich world the story is built upon along with the interesting and varied characters that inhabit it have been undeniably entertaining from one episode to the next. With hardly a clunker in the bunch, these ten episodes have given viewers quite a ride.
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.