This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 2 Episode 4
Holy shit, right? All sense of decorum in critical praise is now gone as The Expanse just continues to kill it; the vocabulary of superlatives to describe such a show is running low. In particular, this week’s episode has highlighted once again one of the key aspects of the show’s success: its respect for how big space really is. A story which is already awe-inspiring in its sheer audacity becomes jaw-droppingly breathtaking with the expert visual effects and unexpected scale of it all. It’s becoming increasingly clear why this show has such an “expansive” title.
Decisions about sacrifice that were already off the charts became staggeringly huge when the massive Mormon ship Nauvoo took center stage, but interestingly enough, when the solution to a problem is so glaringly large and obvious, it makes the difficult choice easier to make. Such was the case with Holden putting aside his anger at Miller to agree to the insane plan the detective and Fred Johnson cooked up. The audience can’t help but agree that the only way to ensure the protomolecule never leaves Eros is to destroy it (Naomi’s hidden sample notwithstanding), and only a collision with a miles-wide megaship will do the trick.
What a magnificent sequence viewers witnessed as the Nauvoo left Tycho! Has there ever been anything on television quite like the sight of hundreds of automated tugs maneuvering the gigantic generation ship into position as it left its berth? Having seen the vision the Mormons had for the vessel makes it even more staggering; a reaction shot of the displaced colonists watching from the viewports on the space station was the only thing missing from this incredibly impressive display. Miller doesn’t soften the blow much by asserting, “The stars are better off without us,” even though it’s probably true.
Repeating their entertaining performance from the two-hour premiere are the odd couple of Miller and Diogo, one an aging, rock-bound Ceres native, the other a idealistic, revolutionary youth accustomed to zero-G. The pair almost equaled the spectacle of the Nauvoo leaving dock as they jump from the ship to the jarringly differently-oriented walkways of the outer locks of Eros. Witty banter aside, though, the fact that Miller truly doesn’t know how to answer Diogo’s question about what he’ll do when all this is over is extremely telling.
Naomi is right: he’s doing it for Julie, but what then? No wonder when a sacrifice is required to keep the plan in place, Miller jumps at the chance. The bombs can’t blow before the Nauvoo rams the asteroid, so when Miller tells the Rocinante crew, “I have never been better,” he really means it. The viewer might even applaud his suicidal move had he been able to complete it. But let’s face it: the Nauvoo missing Eros altogether was the trump card that just swept the table. In an episode that was already filled with mind-blowing turns, the instantaneous course change of an entire asteroid just exploded whatever brain matter the audience had left.
And that’s before we even consider the choice that Holden had to make when confronting the pirates (or humanitarians, depending on whom you believe). Amos may have professed his love of this aggressive plan and the chance to say “Bombs away,” and perhaps he would’ve executed the possibly infected crew of the Marasmus immediately, but the decision couldn’t have been easy for the soft-hearted Holden. Plus the fact that debris from the destroyed ship was what put Miller in his self-sacrificial position will add to the captain’s guilt. The moral dilemmas certainly pile up in this episode!
Back on Earth, Avasarala has much less moral compunction regarding the entrapment of her boss and his protomolecule-loving partner in crime, Jules-Pierre Mao. Pushing the derelict stealth ship into traffic lanes was a great way to force the issue, and even though Mao is less oblivious to Avasarala’s manipulation of the situation, it was great to see Undersecretary Errinwright attempt to defuse the situation in which Chrisjen clearly had the upper hand. The political story in The Expanse is sometimes difficult to parse, but it’s always satisfying in the end. Besides, someone must pay for the atrocity on Eros!
There’s nothing not to love about The Expanse. The world-building is rich, the characters are compelling, and both the political conflict and the alien dangers put viewers on the edge of their seats. But when an episode includes visual elements of such enormous scope into an already tightly-woven story, it simply defies all attempts to express the full breadth of appreciation of what a wonderful series this is. Only one word suffices: perfection.