The Expanse: The Big Empty Review

A powder keg is ready to blow as factions in the solar system drop hints of a major conflict in this week’s The Expanse.

This The Expanse review contains spoilers.

The Expanse Season 1 Episode 2

The first tendrils of the interwoven storylines begin to show themselves in the latest episode of The Expanse, and the series overall is strengthened by such great storytelling. As unrest grows between the working class Belt, the aristocratic Earth, and the belligerent Mars, small indications of an impending uprising become significant in a wonderfully subtle way. Although nothing explosive has occurred yet, the sense that the delicate balance is about to shift dramatically keeps viewers leaning in towards their screens.

A good amount of the tension in this episode comes from the crew aboard the Knight shuttle, stranded after seeing the Canterbury destroyed. It’s refreshing to see that travel in space has real dangers which the show’s science fiction status doesn’t explain away with force fields and AI computers. The debris from the ship can and does actually cause major damage to the fragile shuttle. Likewise, the dwindling oxygen in the spacesuits realistically runs out; every risk feels authentic!

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The fraught situation on the shuttle is mirrored in other aspects of the show as details start to cross over with life on Ceres. Detective Miller investigates Julie Mao’s disappearance and the audience realizes that she was the girl shown at the start of the premiere aboard the Scopuli, the ship the Canterbury sought to rescue. Her hidden strengths are hinted at as a port employee mentions how she took down a guy who made a pass at her, and communication recordings make reference to a “Razorback” vehicle, the space equivalent of a sports car. Julie is no fainting lily!

Other portents of danger include the petty water thieves risking retaliation from the larger gangs on Ceres. What other activities might the criminal element be distracted by? The elevator operator with the OPA tattoo seems to suggest that many Belters sympathize with the supposed terrorist organization known as the Outer Planets Alliance. Suddenly the apparent paranoia of Chrisjen on Earth as she interrogates a supposed OPA operative isn’t so far-fetched!

The peek at Earth politics certainly gave us a unique look at Chrisjen and her off-the-book activities. The prohibition on gravity torture of suspects born in space suggests obvious parallels with current events, but the prisoner’s suicide by g-force was certainly unexpected! It’s still difficult to predict what shape the interplanetary conflicts will take, but clearly something is brewing that will link what’s happening in each of the three settings.

It was nice to spend a majority of the time with the wrecked shuttle’s crew, since there wasn’t really a chance to meet them and distinguish one from another last week. Now, a new dynamic is forming with the mechanic, Amos, showing loyalty only to Naomi, the engineer. Shed, the doctor, has trouble keeping his wits about him but plays the reluctant hero in saving the pilot’s life. And James Holden, the hot-headed officer who secretly forced the rescue mission that killed his girlfriend, Ade, provokes the power that is the Mars Congressional Republic Navy.

One thing’s for sure: The Expanse is about to get violent. Viewers have the sense that a tenuous peace is about to dissolve into chaos. Whether it’s Mars’ military tech, the OPA’s guerrilla tactics, Earth’s power plays, or the Belters’ oppressive unrest, something is bound to give. The buildup has been masterfully done; here’s hoping the payoff is just as grand.


4.5 out of 5