The Expanse “Space Opera” is a very high quality program with production values have made each episode a delight to view, and review! So much so, we have therefore decided to “stretch” our analysis of episodes nine “Critical Mass” and “Leviathan Wakes”, although written, over the next couple of weeks. Why the “stretch”?
Frankly, this reviewer misses new episodes each Tuesday evening. Doing a “stretch” allows me to conduct additional “Bein’ Fun” season one marathons, and to analyze additional details I plan to include in our base analysis. After all, new episodes of The Expanse will not air on Syfy and Space Channel until 2017, so why not join WHR to savor each second of the series!?!
During the last episode of The Expanse in “Windmills” we found out that our heroes James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) had avoid being boarded in deep space by using “Donkey Balls”, secret MCRN access code words, that allowed them to continue their mission.
In episode eight, “Salvage”, after playing the “Donkey Balls”, The Expanse excelled with the same high caliber entertainment and human experience, containing several analogs to human behavior and philosophy experienced throughout time and recorded history.
The creators of The Expanse have done a masterful job in this regard, bringing all of us full circle to a fateful series of meetings and a horrendous discovery at episode end setting up the series season one two episode finale on Tuesday February 02, 2016!
Perhaps most enjoyable aspect of “Salvage” is the link up of our heroes James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal, Amos Burton with Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) in a surprise encounter in the garbage dump of the twenty-third century solar system, Eros Station.
All five characters in search of the only survivor of the Scopuli disaster. All five are seeking a person we are certain is Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) traveling under the assumed name of Lionel Polanski.
The Expanse fans will recall the previous episode “Windmills” found all of our main series characters traveling in different directions from different locations to get to the bottom of the recent spate of disasters that resulted in the abandoning of the Scopuli and the destruction of the Canterbury and the Donnager.
The meeting between the five protagonists occurs at Blue Falcon Hotel on Eros Station where Miller suspects an ambush is underway after being bailed out of Eros detention facilities by Inspector Sematimba (Kevin Hanchard).
In a fun scene, Sematimba wants to know where in the hell HIS hat is that he lent to Miller for his mission on Ceres with Star Helix Security!
This ambush is per the orders of Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) discussed in episode seven, “Windmills” and reiterated during “Salvage” during a meeting at the United Nations.
Much to the dismay of Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who had hoped to bring James Holden back to Earth to extract information from his directly after learning from his mother (Frances Fisher) that Holden does not appear to have terrorist leanings.
The ambush is preceded by the escape of the nefarious Kenzo (Elias Toufexis) who is able to restore his cybernetic communications capabilities upon arrival at Eros Station, no longer shielded from doing so when he was aboard the Rocinante. Kenzo is warned off scant seconds before all hell breaks loose at the Blue Falcon Hotel.
In the meantime, Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) is seeking answers while monitoring the activities of the Rocinante and Eros Station remotely.
Simultaneously as his workmen scramble to complete the humongous space ship known as the “Nauvoo” under construction at Tycho Station for the Mormon space travelers who are about to embark on a 100 year mission under God’s guidance.
This editor is hopeful that all five will escape Eros Station together aboard the Rocinante during the upcoming two episode season one finale “Critical Mass” and “Leviathan Wakes” in order to ascertain the facts about the self aware biological weapon virus allegedly destroyed at Phoebe Station by the MCRN.
We here at Team WHR are also certain that Kenzo, who we think is brilliantly portrayed by Elias Toufexis, will ultimately be captured and perhaps escorted to an airlock, or some other equally frightening fate during the season one finale “Leviathan Wakes”!
The eighth episode opens with our former Star Helix employed Detective Miller on his flight to Eros Station. Miller is seen sitting across from a rather clean cut looking gentleman (as compared to the other passengers) who this editor suspected is a Mormon headed for a 100 year journey on the Nauvoo.
Frankly, Miller looks like he is going to barf. We learn that Miller has never traveled in space which accounts for his less than comfortable deportment. Across from Miller is the Mormon pastor who senses Millers discomfort, offering words of encouragement and some religious philosophy.
However, Miller seems to internalize his own mission to find Julie Mao is not based on cold hard facts, but his own faith that he is trying to do the “right thing”.
Our hero Miller asks a revealing question of the Mormon about the Nauvoo and the 100 year journey they are about to embark on; “What if you go out and you don’t find anything? Doesn’t that scare the shit out of you?”
The Mormon replies “Of course it does. But it will just reveal that our search isn’t over yet.” It is here that Miller comes face to face with his own fears; he may never find anything even if he locates Julie Mao!
The revelation reached by Miller is one that many in life come to, but may be unwilling to confront in the reality of life; That what we seek in life is often not what we may find, or want to find out about.
As they are scanning the surface of the asteroid, Naomi spots a visual anomaly in a crevice. Count on Colonel Johnson to have, if not ethics, reliable intelligence!
The configuration appears to be (is) precisely the same as the vessel that destroyed the Canterbury and attacked the Donnager. Before the opening credits, Alex warns the crew that “these things fire back!”
As the camera pans back, we witness a golden statue attached to the bow of the vessel. Zooming in, we are treated to various aspects of the Nauvoo culminating in Tycho Station itself where we find Colonel Johnson working to find answers to enigmas of the Canterbury and the Donnager.
Johnson is with his technician “Sam” Rosenberg (Alli Chung) in a computer laboratory who is laser scanning decrypting the MCRN Donnager Data Card “salvaged” from the vest pocket of deceased First Officer Lopez (Greg Bryk).
Later in the episode, they will be successful in “cracking” the encryption, learning all the intelligence Lopez was to have delivered to the Mars Congressional Republic. The scene is very well done from visual and story arc perspective as the ever information hungry Colonel Johnson seeks to maintain the upper hand in everything he is involved with!
Kenzo is still trying to break through the MCRN shielding of the Rocinante to transmit his observations about what our heroes are doing back to his “handler”, Chrisjen, and the United Nations on Earth. Kenzo is not having any luck in doing so at this point in the “Salvage” story arc. No worries, Kenzo will get his chance to stab our heroes in the back shortly!
The scenes with Holden and Kenzo are fun technologically, reminding this reviewer of “The Terminator” with visuals of computer geeked out Kenzo scanning to find some way to transmit his data. Unsuccessful at this point, with Holden unaware of what Kenzo is up to, Holden states “I need you to see something”.
The “something” is the raider vessel in the asteroid crevice. Kenzo says “I’m kinda busy” at which point Holden brandishes a blaster pistol. Kenzo sighs and accompanies Holden to the bridge where he asks “what is that”?
Back on Earth during a meeting with Admiral Souther (Martin Roach) and Errinwright (Shawn Doyle), we learn that an assassination squad is being sent to Tycho Station to eliminate Holden and his team for what he has been doing in a Colonel Johnson’s alleged stealth tech program.
Holden and our heroes will be killed in a supposed “random street violence” incident on Eros Station “the murder capital of the belt”. Chrisjen is none too pleased she is losing control of the situation!
Sadly, as Errinwright puts his foot down on what will happen to Holden and our heroes, we also learn, due to Chrisjen’s arm twisting of Franklin DeGraaf (Kenneth Welsh), her friend, and the former Ambassador to Mars, had committed suicide in his home!
Errinwright, always seen as a heartless bastard throughout each scene we see him, changes tact, offering compassion to Chrisjen; “we can finish (the meeting) later”. The truly heartless Chrisjen says “we can finish now”.
Docked at the asteroid, our heroes, with Kenzo under the watchful eye of Amos, discover that the stealth ship is named the Anubis. There is a bit of fun playing with the pronunciation of ship name “Anubis” between Kenzo and Amos.
Recall earlier in the season that MCRN First Officer Lopez of the Donnager had found everyone dead on Phoebe Station after some ghastly experiment had gone awry.
We still do not know what the hell has happened to Julie, but the clues are building up quickly for the viewers when the blue entity proto-molecule glows, coming to life nearby Holden and Naomi who yells to Alex “we’re coming in”!
Subsequent to quick return to the Rocinante, Holden orders Amos to destroy the Anubis with a nuclear torpedo. “Remember the Cant,” Holden says as they all watch the Anubis go up in a nuclear fireball. The scene was well done with a fabulous GIF image shared by The Expanse team on Twitter!
Next we are at Eros Station, where Miller is seen leaving the transport vessel. Miller tracks down a clue on the docking schedule display, discovering that the Anubis 1A shuttle is still in dock, berthed in section 32S.
Using little in the way of diplomacy, Miller literally steps on the neck of the Eros Dock Master (Phillip MacKenzie), distracting him with a bribe. Miller examines the logs learning that Anubis is registered to a “Lionel Polanski” who is actually Julie Mao.
Miller’s neck crushing tactics utilized to get this information from the Dock Master results in his arrest. Not to worry, Miller is bailed out by his old friend and colleague, Inspector Sematimba (Kevin Hanchard) who had sent Miller the original message before he left Ceres Station.
Sematimba takes Miller for a walk after observing Miller is absolutely dedicated to tracking down Julie Mao. Sematimba informs Miller that “Lionel Polanski” is the cover identity name Julie Mao used when she registered the Anubis 1A at Eros Dock.
Before taking off, Miller shares that he is searching for Julie and to “trust your gut before your head gets in the way”. Sematimba retorts with an old adage that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”.
There is a bit of back story revealed as Sematimba warns Miller not to lose his head, not make the same mistakes that he did. Sematimba makes it clear that is why he gave Miller the Fedora in the first place as a reminder. Sematimba also informs Miller that Julie is known to be staying at the Blue Falcon showing him a video of Julie. Miller says “talk to you later buddy” and immediately takes off.
As the exciting episode comes to a conclusion, we find ourselves with Colonel Johnson and his data specialist Sam Rosenberg who has cracked the code from the data card taken from First Officer Lopez of the Donnager.
Johnson and Sam Rosenberg are clearly stunned by the findings of the “fusion drive signature” which we are not yet privy.
This editor suspects that some corporation or group from Earth is behind the entire series of disasters to start a war and increase their influence, hegemony and power!
In the final scenes after the Rocinante has docked on Eros Station, our new “Gang of Five” including the nefarious Kenzo are seeking out “Lionel Polanski” at the Blue Falcon Hotel in room 22 according a “Birthday” ruse used by Holden.
As Kenzo sends a secret message, once again able to transmit and receive messages from to Earth, our heroes are jumped by Errinwrights assignation squad in the lobby of the Blue Falcon Hotel. Kenzo flees, alerting Holden, Naomi, Alex and Amos that something is amiss.
A huge fire fight breaks out in the close confines of the Blue Falcon Hotel lobby. Although our heroes came armed with MCRN weapons (pistols), unfortunately, they are pinned down against the ambush assassins withering automatic weapons fire!
Our heroes narrowly escape death during the ambush when low and behold they are all aided by none other than Miller who has apparently caught wind of the trouble coming to their rescue as he was heading up stairs to find Julie Mao!
This detail will follow the book story arc rather nicely as a new “Gang of Five” is created for the final two episodes. Miller has one of the best lines in the episode when he states “James Holden … shit just follows you around, don’t it kid?!”
In the final scenes, Miller, Holden, Amos, Naomi and Alex proceed to Room 22. A blue-brown fungus, similar to the entity aboard the Anubis is clinging to the bathroom walls. Tragically, they find the dead body of a young woman.
It is Julie Mao. In a gruesome scene, with outstanding makeup, poor Julie has crystalline spikes coming out of her mouth, in fact all over her body. Florence Faivre tweeted about how the realistic makeup was applied and how difficult it was to remove after shooting the scenes.
As the camera fades to black, a devastated Miller utters “Julie” setting up the final two episodes where no doubt we will finally learn how the poor girl became infected and what real role her horrible death portends for our solar system!
In closing our analysis for now, we hope to see you in the near future for our continuing analysis of the first season of a truly exceptional program, The Expanse!
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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