SyFy’s winter space drama darling The Expanse is back this week with the double episode season 2 premiere, “Safe” and “Doors & Corners”! If you haven’t watched the first season, get on it and join the crew the Rocinante, the ship with the coolest name around! Also, check out SyFy.com’s awesome interactive solar system map and show guide at http://www.syfy.com/theexpanse/enterthefuture/inside
When we left off in season 1, Earth, Mars and the Belt were about ready to go to war over the mysterious happenings on Asteroid Eros and the fallout over the destruction of the spaceship Canterbury. Earth and the Belt were having it out over workers’ rights, with the Belters feeling like a slave labor class, and Earth and Mars were having it out over territory and weapons development. The mysterious rich-girl-turned-political-activist Julie Mao had disappeared, and the functional alcoholic Detective Miller (played by the consistently cool Thomas Jane) took the case, drinking and sleuthing his way across mining asteroid home base Ceres and then the solar system finding her on the far flung asteroid Eros, along side the reluctant captain of the Rocinante, James Holden. Together they discover her dead along with many others as a result of the Protomolecule, a mysterious substance of unknown origin. On Earth, UN politician Avasarala is trying to piece together the mystery and keep the Solar System from erupting into chaos over the stealth ships of Mars, the Canterbury‘s destruction, unrest on Ceres, and the mysterious death of Julie Mao. We leave off with her finding out that much of the chaos is being orchestrated by none other than Julie Mao’s father!
We open this season with Martians in Halo-like Spartan suits doing kick ass combat training on Mars. (Quite the awesome scene, with excellent action and special effects!) Led by Bobbie Draper, they complete their exercises and daydream of a completely terraformed, paradise Mars, with a desire so fervant, it really explains the vicious Militarism of the Martians, as they have a lofty goal to achieve.
We then get to see Miller and Holden recovering from their exposure to the Protomolecules on Eros, and with the rest of the crew, are trying to decide what to do with their samples and experience. They all have differing opinions, however. Through heated, combative and, in the case of Holden and Naomi, lustful, dialogue and interaction, they eventually decide to hide their Protomolecule sample instead of destroying it in the Sun, so that they might get someone to make a vaccine against the deathly sickness it causes, as the crew has discovered it was used deliberately against Eros as a bioweapon test, presumably because the Belter workers on Eros were unknowns and “expendable”. They also come to blows over Holden’s decision to kill Sematimba to survive, but the eventually smooth things over and move forward, with a surprising and most welcome amount of humor and cohesiveness as a crew, despite all that faces them in such a dark time for the solar system. The characters have really been set up well in the first season, and now that we are more comfortable with them and who they are, they can really shine, be themselves, and grow. There is an amazing depth to these people. They aren’t just another cookie-cutter space crew.
Meanwhile, on Earth, UN Undersecretary Avasarala (played by the incomparable Shohreh Aghdashloo) survives an assassination attempt aimed to stop here from preventing the war that Julie Mao’s father is trying to incite for whatever reason. The Martian fleet is massing, and one ship is heading toward asteroid Phoebe research station for reason’s unknown, and the Belters are verging on revolt. Earth is feeling the pressure to act first, but Avasarala is trying to get Earth to stay calm. However after Phoebe’s destruction she suggests a measured response. Avasarala is quite the politician, playing both sides of the issues, with a wonderfully nuanced performance by Aghdashloo. Avasarala ends up using her spy to send word to the OPA (Belter rebels) of her actions, which is tantamount to treason.
We get to see Gunny and Bobbie pissed they didn’t get to land on Phoebe before it was destroyed, and express just how much they will do in order to dominate Earth for the sake of terraforming Mars, and we leave off with the Rocinante crew in a good old fashioned fire-fight and assault on Spin Station, trying to get info on the Protomolecule. They find out there is already work on a vaccine, along with using the Protomolecule for unlocking unknown human abilities and potential, like crazy experiments like hive-minding human brains together!
This show uses science and political drama to draw out some major ethical questions in the first episode, and in combination with awesome action, special effects and character development and portrayal by the cast, leaves the viewer hungry for the next episode. The only criticism I could give is that there is almost too much going on in the opener, and things get a little hard to keep track of as you watch, almost verging on soap opera levels of complication. I worry that that they will do too much too soon in the season, and get into “plot fatigue”. But I remember feeling similarly midway through the first season, so I will believe in the writer’s abilities to pace things out to a nice resolution. The Expanse season 2 is looking, well, expansive, and promises to be something special, akin to a successor to SyFy’s success with BSG. Stay tuned!