Hi everyone, and welcome to another season of my Expanse reviews! Last year, Amazon did me dirty by dropping all the episodes at once and guys… I’ve got a toddler. I can’t binge. This year though, I can do the one episode a week thing.
Except, you know. Here we are with three episodes all at once. So I’m going to do them one at a time. Thankfully, Abagaderio has a bingers thread for those of you who’ve jumped ahead. By all means, feel free to jump in here, but be mindful of spoilers for the next week or so while us slowpoke catch up. Here’s Abagaderio’s post:
Two things before we begin
#1: The Expanse is back for this fifth season and then a sixth and final season. I have thoughts as to what this means for the scope and an endpoint, but I’ll save that for a later date, since it’s book-spoilery. Suffice it to say there’s enough material in the books to go FAR beyond two more seasons, so they won’t be going the whole way, nohow. But I’m grateful that the show is going to end with enough time to craft a real ending. No Pushing Daisies here.
#2: Cas Anvar. Trigger warning.
So I’m sure nearly all of you know, but this past summer, a string of accusations of sexual assault and harassment came out against actor Cas Anvar (Alex). There’s evidence in the way of screenshots, of predatory behavior from this man. Obviously this was extremely jarring and distressing for people to learn, especially those people who’ve been victims, or who have had loved ones who’ve been victims, of this type of violence. Anvar (and I guess, Alex?) won’t be back for S6, but he will be in this season, shooting of which wrapped before the accusations became public.
I don’t know how I’m going to deal with the Alex scenes, knowing what I know about the actor behind them. Alex has always been a favorite of mine. I suppose the thing to do is deal with his scenes as part of the narrative as much as possible. I don’t want to just say “ugh this asshole” every time Alex shows up and then ignore them. At the same time, if the dissonance between how I feel about Alex and about Anvar becomes too much, I’ll have to say something. I hope you all will share your thoughts of how to do this in the comments.
I imagine that some people won’t be able to continue with the show following these revelations. If that’s the case for you, I’m very sorry, and wish you the best. For those of us continuing on into the expanse, here we go!
THE REVIEW/RECAP STARTS HERE
Well okay. Every season of the Expanse has its separate but connected storylines, from way back when our time was split between Miller, Holden, and Avasarala. Now though we’ve got a new twist in that the crew of the Good Ship Roci are scattered throughout the ‘Verse. Okay, Holden and Naomi are together for this episode, but that’s obviously coming to an end as she goes haring off after her son Filip (last seen by us helping to kill Klaes Ashford and here murdering a bunch of scientists unlucky enough to detect one of their stealth asteroids on its way to… ??? (I mean, I think it’s pretty obvious, but I’ve read the books so I ain’t spoiling it.)
I’ll be honest, at the moment, I’m hoping that there’s more to Naomi’s arc this season than the tired old “fighting over the soul of a child” thing. While Nagata’s never been my favorite character, she’s had plots where her character was well used. I’m thinking of her brief time away from the Rocinante in Season 3, as well as in orbit over Ilus last season. Actually, come to think of it I guess Naomi’s grown on me a bit, and I’m just hoping that this season’s Naomi-plot comes with enough to invest in because seriously? I know Marco Inaros is the real villain of the piece, but that was some ruthlessness Filip showed on that ship over Venus.
Holden’s staying on Tycho Station, and thanks to the returning Monica Stuart, he’s gotten a protomolecule-colored bone to pick with Fred Johnson who (naturally) has some of the stuff held in reserve. And you’ve got to hand it to Holden, despite everything he’s seen and done, he’s still the same Damn The Torpedoes, Full Speed Ahead type, walking right into Fred’s office to yell at him about it.
I very much liked the conversation between Johnson and Holden, since Holden did manage to hold onto his temper long enough to pass on to Fred the knowledge of the… snaky cloud things* that killed the Proto-masters. And Fred, of course, is one to listen to reason. But this is clearly a table-setting episode for Holden (and everyone really). Apart from saying bye to Naomi (and clearly being very slow on the uptake that she’s going without you, Man), Jim felt like he was a bit on the sidelines this time around
*And I can’t recall if they were as clearly visualized as this by Nemesis Games. I do remember it from the latest book, Tiamat’s Wrath, though.
Last season, our favorite Martian held down the fort on the Red Planet with only tangential connections to the rest of the cast. This time, Alex is back in town, hoping to reconnect with his abandoned family. That all seems to be going pretty terribly, with his wife (again) calling him out on his bull, and rightly so. But Bobbi’s tracking of the smuggling of Martian military goods off-world, funded by Avasarala, is pretty clearly the main storyline here. And, though she tells off Alex the first time she sees him, apparently frustrated by his impenetrable optimism, it’s a safe bet they’ll be working together.
And that’s good, because I’d rather have Alex Kamal the pilot as wingman to Bobbi Draper the marine than try and invest a whole lot into sympathizing with the deadbeat dad who lit out on his family. At the moment, the Martian table is being set, and remains in a bit of a holding pattern, which brings us at last to Luna.
Clearly, the Expanse’s secret weapon is Wes Chatham, and his scenes of menace and violence were masterworks of economy in screenwriting. Of course Amos doesn’t need to be a man of more than a few words to communicate that he’s very good at violence, and the show doesn’t need to show us an entire choreographed fight to do what it needs to. With someone who wasn’t as much of a realized character, or a less self-assured show, the conceit of only showing glimpses of the ultra-violence might have felt a cheat. But it works here, and it works well.
What else works well? Chatham’s scene with the Expanse’s not secret weapon, Shohreh Aghdashloo. That scene guys. Just that scene. The reminder of the mag-boot lesson (one of my favorite little moments from Season 3. “How do you know what it’s like to walk in pumps?”)
Also? “I’m a member of Parliament, not your favorite stripper.” “You could be both.” It’s not often that the show gives the best lines to someone other than Chrisjen Avasarala, but seriously, Amos knocks it dead. Great line, perfectly delivered, with a perfect reaction shot from her. Flattered, offended, annoyed. I dearly want more scenes with these two actors, because they have phenomenal chemistry. Of course, Chatham has that chemistry with a lot of other actors, like Terry Chen (Prax), so maybe it’s just him but nonetheless I really want more of these two please.
And that’s more or less where we end episode one! I can understand how many of you got to the end of “Exodus” here and said “oh hell no I’m not stopping here.” I’m sure we’re going to get more of the OPA in the episodes to come as we haven’t checked in with Camina Drummer yet. And I’m very excited to see what happens when Amos goes down the well. Until next time (in a day or two I think; I’ve got to do some grading), thanks for reading and commenting, and hooray to having the Expanse back!
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