The excellent excitement of The Expanse continued in the second episode of this superb science fiction saga! Our grade for The Expanse remains a solid A PLUS as we described in our review of the pilot episode “Dulcinea”.
Our five survivors Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal, Wes Chatham as Amos Burton, Steven Strait as James Holden, Paulo Costanzo as Shed Garvey (likely an upcoming “Red Shirt” based on the number of episode appearances published), and delightful Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata find themselves fighting for their lives!
All of our would be heroes, themselves in peril inside their heavily damaged shuttle “Knight” after an unknown group of terrorists destroyed their ice freighter with a nuclear device, in what will become known across the solar system as the Canterbury disaster.
The Canterbury, has responded to a planted distress signal from another ship that had disappeared named the “Scopuli”. Although an aging “rust bucket”, had delivered ice to supply Earth’s deep space outpost at Ceres Station with water needed to sustain the adventurous souls whom inhabit her.
The apparently brazen act of terrorism will undoubtedly lead to unrest and further political confrontations in our solar system. These developments, perhaps including military conflicts between the two competing centers of governmental power in the solar system, Earth and Mars are destined to be at the heart of The Expanse drama, no doubt echoing current unrest on Earth, as evil ISIS goads The Powers That Be (TPTB) of today’s current history.
In The Expanse, Corporate and or governmental interests on Mars are suspected perpetrators of the destruction of the Canterbury in “The Big Empty”.
This includes, for the time being, the crew of the Knight and Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Queen of torture at the United Nations. This after it is identified that space ship stealth technology was utilized aboard the ship that destroyed the Canterbury.
This factor is much like current events on Earth whereby ISIS is seeking to draw the western powers into a protracted ground conflict. In what appears to be a direct reference to Earth conflicts between the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, France and Communist China and Russia in the present day, viewers of The Expanse may draw parallel meaning to their own experiences.
Or perhaps the destruction of the Canterbury was planned and executed by corporation(s) with infiltrators at the United Nations that could profit handsomely from war between Earth and Mars? Could the mischief be the work of a new hegemony of interests in the twenty-third century to topple The Powers That Be on Mars and Earth?
The episode focus is on three areas building the foundation of the series story arc that this editor believes will sustain interest in a multi-year Space Opera. The three areas Earth, Mars, and deep space outpost struggles for hegemonic control of deep space out posts of human civilization will form the centerpiece of events in The Expanse.
Ratings and the Future of The Expanse:
Live viewers in the United States totaled 1.19 million, some 200,000 views on YouTube and an unknown number, speculated to be 1.5 million (various Internet chatter) at the Syfy web site, totaling 3.8 million overall. Syfy has yet to release the exact number of The Expanse views per episode on their web site.
Frankly, I was disappointed regarding the number of live viewers for the pilot episode. I had expected much higher numbers. However, a number of competing programs concluding their fall television line up played a role in lower live viewers in the opinion of this editor.
The other concern, adversely affecting ratings, is the rampant theft of copyrighted material of fine programs like The Expanse. Nevertheless, the improved quality of video streaming, with smooth playback at the Syfy web site made re-watching “The Big Empty” a pleasure.
All of these reasons are likely behind the move by Syfy to offer the first four episodes on their web site to blunt the impact of content theft. This editor has certainly enjoyed viewing the first four episodes multiple times subsequent to writing this review.
On the positive side, according to various Twitter analytics software programs this editor consulted, a total of over 119,00 Twitter accounts were reached with 220,000 Twitter impressions, an impressive number during the second episode.
Better yet, and as expected, The Expanse, shown on The Space Channel, trended in Canada where the series is produced in the city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada. It is well known that Canadians are supportive of the entertainment products produced in their country, as well they should be.
Earlier in November, Dave Howe, President of Syfy stated:
“The Expanse is the most ambitious series ever for Syfy, and early screenings are drawing high praise from critics and fans alike. With its cinematic feel, compelling characters, intense action and universal themes, it’s important for Syfy to provide the opportunity for as many people as possible to watch and fall in love with this series.”
Science fiction Space Opera fans need not worry too much about first season ratings (yet) since The Expanse Executive Producers, under the pen name of James S.A. Corey (actually two people, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) alluded to the fact that The Expanse has already been renewed for second season two.
A two year commitment to run to a scripted series is not an unusual situation since most cable network series now broadcast only ten to twelve episodes a year to match the time of the four seasons a year (winter, spring, summer and fall).
In fact our sources at WormholeRiders News Agency confirmed many years ago that television production houses often negotiate a two year commitment from broadcasters to help allow a scripted series to become “invested” with viewers, and maintain the employment, hence the quality of the crews who actually make the programs.
The Big Empty:
This now seems to be a forlorn hope. However since it is science fiction, perhaps Ms. Hager will grace our screens again during The Expanse? in more Holden lashbacks?
However, The Expanse IS science fiction. Therefore, the plot vehicle of the Ade character surviving via escape pods may not beyond the realm of possibility in the future of the series, perhaps as a mechanism of controlling Holden?
I did find one minor technical issue of concern with “The Big Empty”, the open inner air lock hatch. It seems unlikely the inner hatch would be left open under any circumstances in deep space by a seasoned crew.
One could suppose the inner hatch was left open deliberately, or accidentally triggered when massive amounts explosive debris from the Canterbury began to impact the shuttle. Outside this item, the attention to detail in space during the episode is outstanding.
Our erstwhile hero pilot, Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), brilliantly manages to keep the shuttle Knight from being destroyed, escaping the vicinity of the now destroyed ice freighter, the Canterbury.
As the crew clears the vicinity of Canterbury debris field, Holden, now awakened from his daydream of apparently deceased Ade, brazenly spouts off that he plans to pursue the ship that destroyed their former home, the Canterbury.
As Holden heads to the controls, Naomi (Dominique Tipper) wisely programs the Knight’s computer locking out Holden from using the engines to pursue their unknown adversary.
Naomi appears to take control of the situation displaying leadership qualities not previously revealed. One also wonders if Naomi has another agenda at this point in the adventures of The Expanse.
Their technical condition aboard the shuttle Knight is not well. The radio antenna array has been damaged, their air supply is dangerously low, and worse yet, insufficient fuel remains navigate the Knight to the nearest space station!
Due to the breached airlock complications, a spacewalk will be required to repair the communications antenna array to send out an SOS.
The crew of five survivors discovers they have another problem, the power amplifiers to the radio have been damaged. Rigging up a series of battery packs, the distress signal is broadcast. Of course all viewers know that all of our five survivors must succeed, at least for now.
Naomi, tech mistress, examines the beacon device they found aboard the Scopuli where Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) was located at one time, observed attempting to escape.
Using a magnifying device, Naomi notices the beacon high grade military tech courtesy of the Martian Congressional Republic Navy (MCRN). Naturally, all now suspect that the government of Mars destroyed the Canterbury!
Going from bad to worse, our in what would seem good news, our five survivors receive a response to their distress signal. It is a Martian warship called the Donnager. Holden, still a bit freaked out, hastily broadcasts a message revealing the Canterbury was destroyed after answering a fake SOS from the Scopuli.
As the MCRN warship makes its final approach to the Knight, Holden also reveals in the broadcast that they recovered Martian Naval technology, praying that this information will ensure they will not be killed by their soon to be Martian captors. The other survivors are ambivalent about former First Officer Holden at this point. This scene reminded this reviewer of Firefly and sending messages into the “verse” knowing that it will only take one recipient to rebroadcast its contents to everyone listening in the solar system.
Meanwhile, on back Ceres Station, water rations are now mandatory due to the Canterbury having been destroyed. No ice will be delivered to Ceres in the short term, certain to raise tensions between the inhabitants and the governing authorities.
We find our other main character, Detective Miller in the shower. His water is abruptly shut off before he can finish his shower. Miller is none too happy about this development. Miller, using tech, breaks into Julie Mao’s apartment where the water is still running to rinse his hair. Miller reviews various messages using his tech to impersonate her voice print. Julie’s father has threatened her to return home.
Miller continues to review Julie’s messages finding out that Julie has no plans to return home to dear ole’ Dad, and other clues that Miller will investigate, including her subscription to anonymous dating / sex club of some sort under the screen name “Delightengale”.
This is where we meet the lovely Brothel Madam (Jane Moffat) proving that human needs and wants are alive and well in the twenty-third century!
The Dock Master (Patrick Stevenson) recalls Julie Mao revealing she became passenger on a transport ship called the Scopuli where we saw her in the pilot, the same ship used as bait to destroy the Canterbury!
Segue to the United Nations Building in New York City on Earth. Here, our off world “visitor” Heikki Sobong (Joe Delfin) whom had been tortured by Chrisjen Avasarala, is chewed out by United Nations Undersecretary-General Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) whom is livid she had been gravity torturing accused operative Heikki for 20 hours. Avasarala is given a stern warning; “If you want to talk to that Belter, you put him in the Tank,”
Heikki is subsequently “Tanked”, a seawater filled Plexiglass cell that alleviates the crush of Earth’s gravity on his Belter body which cannot survive well in Earth’s gravity. Avasarala questions Heikki accusing him of being an OPA spy! Heikki denies this but it is obvious he knows more since her was in possession of restricted space ship stealth technology.
Later, Heikki commits suicide confirming that he must have been hiding more information about “ who is who in this space zoo” of intrigue!
Chrisjen Avasarala discusses her findings with Sadavir Errinwright concluding that “The Cold War is over,” and “This is something new” setting up the next episodes superb story arc!
At the episodes end, with very cool special effects, in an exceptionally well done space grappling sequence, the Knight shuttle is docked aboard the Martian Congressional Republic Navy battleship, the Donnager.
Our five survivors, who passed out from barely having enough air to survive “The Big Empty” until rescue, are (somewhat reluctantly) relieved to be alive.
Naturally, we all know they will all likely survive to be interrogated in the next exciting episode of The Expanse “Remember The Cant”!
We look forward to seeing you back to 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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