The excellent excitement of The Expanse continues unabated in the fifth episode of this superb science fiction Space Opera!
The Expanse is without doubt the best science fiction “Space Opera” drama of the late fall 2015 early winter season 2016. The Expanse episodes have been doing well for Syfy with a 0.2 or 0.3 share among adults 18-49 in the same-day ratings. We are pleased to report that The Expanse is approximately 1.6 million viewers in critical Live +3 rating class after the premiere.
The Expanse premiere was available online and on demand for several weeks ahead of its December 14, 2015 two episode debut. In addition to the relatively healthy weekly viewership, Syfy says released that some 4.5 million people viewed the first episode online or on demand.
The Expanse is a Space Opera set 200 years in the future in the twenty-third century. “Back to the Butcher” proves this program is not an exciting action and drama, it is the best new science fiction program, bar none! The Expanse revolves around the investigation of the disappearance of a young woman which leads to a far more complex conspiracy that spans across the solar system threatening the existing hegemony of The United Nations (Earth and the Moon), The Mars Congressional Republic, and the Outer Planets Alliance which is seeking statehood or independence.
For those who have yet to experience this outstanding entertainment offering by Syfy, and seen on The Space Channel in Canada, #TeamWHR suggests all science fiction lovers should become invested in The Expanse. Why?
The Expanse has exceptionally high quality production values including fine writing, superb story arc, acting from a great ensemble cast, awesome special effects, realistic sets, interesting costumes, a haunting music score, and much more including episodes and references that harken to the Don Quixote days of old and even fighting windmills (the name of upcoming episode seven)!
Back to the Butcher:
The episode opens on Ceres Station with Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) still seeking clues about the missing Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). Miller is taking some time to visit his partner Dimitri Havelock (Jay Hernandez) in the hospital after he was skewered by local OPA malcontents. The tension between Miller and Havelock is apparent when Miller berates Havelock for not being more careful.
Havelock has another visitor already in the hospital room when Miller arrives. It is none other than the lovely Gia (Sara Mitich) who has been his lover at the local pleasure center on Ceres. Miller does not like Gia for some reason, whom he insults when she tries to slap Miller when he accuses her of baiting Havelock to the area where Dimitri was attacked. This produces a reaction from Havelock “If you put your hands on her again, and you’ll see how fast I get out of this bed!”.
However, it is quite clear that a spiritual, as well as a physical bond has developed between Havelock and Gia, one that Miller would do better to respect in the future should he need assistance and support.
Such assistance from Havelock is a high likelihood in the future due to the persistent meddling Miller has been doing with local OPA leader Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris) is searching for clues to the disappearance of Julie Mao.
Next we are aboard the MCRN Frigate fighter space craft the “Tachi” with our heroes James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham).
Our heroes have once again narrowly escaped death in deep space when the mothership, the Donnager, self destructed rather than surrender to boarders from ships of the same design that destroyed the Canterbury. We observe Naomi tending to Amos’ injuries, who had been shot during the escape.
Blood is observed dripping onto Holden’s face inside the Tachi cabin atmosphere. The blood is from the former Donnager First Officer Lopez (Greg Bryk). Lopez appears to have not survived the escape from the destruction of the MCRN Donnager.
This editor was a quite saddened to learn that Lopez did not survive, having enjoyed the character, including the relationship that had developed with Holden. I had hoped that he would reveal more secrets about the MCRN Fighting Frigate, the Tachi.
We are certain to see Lopez at least one more time, albeit dead. How? The Expanse fans need to remember that Lopez has a Donnager data card in his uniform lapel pocket filled with information about the attacking ship designs and capabilities. This is certain to be discovered in a future episode during autopsy or before Lopez is buried!
Just prior to the opening credits, after placing Lopez in a body bag, our heroes, thinking they have escaped undetected, are disturbingly surprised to see that a message has been directed to their ship from Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson (Chad L. Coleman).
We move to a series of flashbacks to some eleven years earlier regarding Colonel Johnson. We will learn during “Back to the Butcher” that Johnson is nicknamed “The Butcher” for a ruthless act he committed at that time in the past.
It is during a series of current events with Johnson’s message, segueing back and forth to flashbacks from eleven years earlier that we learn about the tragedy of Anderson Station. Colonel Johnson, under command of the United Nations had confronted a group of working-class miners protesting the low-oxygen working conditions which resulted in their children to suffering from a medical condition referred to as “Hypoxic Brain Injury”.
The are children on board Anderson Station with their parent workers, the protesters who seem to think that having young people will offer them some measure of protection during their rebellion. Tragically this will prove to not be the case when Colonel Johnson takes control of the situation violently.
In the present day, Colonel Johnson has been promoted. He is now the head of operations at Tycho Station, where he will offer a safe port for our heroes on board the runaway MCRN vessel, the Tachi.
Naomi does not trust Johnson. Neither does Amos Burton. Holden and Alex vote differently when Naomi calls for a vote. Finally Naomi relents after admitting to Amos that they really have nowhere else to go without being identified as terrorists.
The Tachi sets a course for Tycho Station. Colonel Johnson has provided a computer reprogramming procedure involving changing the Tachi’s transponder code to avoid detection by whoever has destroyed the Canterbury and left the ship on which Julie Mao was last seen, the Scopuli.
Part of the procedure also involves giving the Frigate the Tachi a new name. After some good natured banter, Holden christens their vessel the Rocinante named after is Don Quixote’s work horse in the novel Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes.
In many ways, Rocinante was not only Don Quixote’s horse, but also his double: like Don Quixote, he is awkward, past his prime, and engaged in a task beyond his capacities. Is this to be the fate of our heroes, engaging in tasks beyond their combined capabilities? This editor thinks they will rise to the task to help uncover the truth about the events in our solar system and beyond!
Back to Ceres Station, Detective Miller is continuing his search for Julie Mao as the rest of Star Helix Security tracks down Havelock’s attacker, whom has been identified on video surveillance as a local OPA hoodlum and malcontent.
Miller begins to examine the documents found inside the dead data broker. The data set contains a flight path for a ship called the Anubis. Miller, seemingly going on “the wagon” (no booze) is observed brewing coffee instead of his alcohol by Octavia Muss (Athena Karkanis). Muss cautions Miller than he needs to take his evidence “upstairs” to obtain support for his findings.
From the evidence available, which he has yet to reveal to his boss Captain Shaddid (Lola Glaudini), Miller concluded that a link exists between the Anubis and Julie Mao’s last known ship, the Scopuli.
Miller is beginning to understand all three ships we have seen in The Expanse, including the destruction of both the Canterbury, the Donnager and the Scopuli are all somehow related to Julie’s disappearance.
Without authorization from command, Miller tracks down a dock worker who got beat up by Julie Mao. During his time on the docks, Miller is visited by Anderson Dawes, who not only admits that Julie was indeed OPA, but that his OPA operatives control virtually all the systems on Ceres Station.
All they want says Dawes is to be treated with respect and be offered the same luxuries as “Earthers”. In return for being kept in the loop on Miller’s investigation, Dawes offers him access to Havelocks’s attacker seen on the Star Helix Headquarters video, a street fighter named Filat Kothari. Dawes states that the malcontent is being held at a local OPA safe house, but not for long unless there is an exchange of information.
Switching back to the past, after a series of threats from the United Nations Marines, the miners attempt to surrender. Johnson, seen in an airlock from space, blithely orders that the protesters be executed.
It is this “police action” that aptly earns Johnson his nickname “The Butcher of Anderson Station” for his vile act that will be remembered for all time by the “Belter’s”. The scene is accentuated for The Expanse viewers when we witness the protest leader father holding on to his daughter, dead, floating in space.
Miller appears to be content for the time being with Anderson Dawes cooperation. Instead of seeking revenge on Havelock’s attacker, Miller hunts down the dock worker, Neville Bosch (Rossif Sutherland) whom Julie Mao had hired to charter Neville’s ship.
It seems that the videos Miller witnessed prove she was a wild child, joining the OPA for kicks, literally hopping around the solar system using her wealthy father’s funds to do good deeds to help the “Belter’s” with their plight.
Miller inquires about Julie involvement with the OPA obviously became dangerous confesses Bosch who volunteers how one would go about scoring a data broker. Bosch informs Miller to go to a place called TechNoir and say he is “looking for a Sherpa.”
Miller goes to TechNoir, and is at first brushed off by the clerk. Miller grabs the clerk by the neck and is promptly taken to the “back room” However the so-called ‘Sherpa’ is nowhere to be found. Miller spots a half-repaired mechanical hamster similar to the one in Julie’s apartment.
The Rocinante, Holden, Naomi, Amos and Alex head to their next destination, Tycho Station. There is some concern voiced amongst our heroes that they seem to bring bad luck wherever they go.
Each of our heroes are praying they are not tracked resulting in Tycho Station being blown to smithereens by the as yet unknown antagonists with Alex looking at a picture of his family, Naomi in her bunk, while Holden and Amos have a beverage of choice.
TeamWHR at first suspected the antagonists are the OPA. However, it now seems the OPA is being manipulated by another group seeking to start a war to allow them to pick up the pieces to form a new hegemony in the solar system at the expense of Earth, Mars and the OPA.
In the final sequence of “Back to the Butcher”, Miller is motivated to return to Julie Mao’s apartment where he finds a data card that he hides in his hat for safekeeping. Miller leaves Julie’s apartment only to be jumped by two OPA operatives. The episode concludes when a bag is pulled over Miller’s head by OPA attackers who take him to whom this editor suspects will be our OPA leader on Ceres Station, Anderson Dawes!
We look forward to seeing you back here at our dedicated The Expanse series review site soon and hope you enjoy our evaluation and analysis of the this outstanding science fiction drama program!
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