With “Back to the Butcher,” The Expanse reaches the halfway point of Season One. The episode will be highlighted, but the review considers the first five episodes.

Director: Robert Lieberman
Writers: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey )

Thomas Jane as Joe Miller
Steven Strait as Jim Holden
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Athena Karkanis as Octavia Muss
Jay Hernandez as Dimitri Havelock
Greg Bryk as Lopez
Sara Mitich as Gia
Rossif Sutherland as Neville Bosch
Michael Murray as Detective Cobb
Alli Chung as Sam Rosenberg
Chad L. Coleman as Fred “the Butcher” Johnson

Premise

The series: several plots converge in a future solar system where the major players include Earth, its independent Mars colony, and the Third-World-esque asteroid colonies.

The episode: After escaping from a doomed ship, four characters who know far too much about the interplanetary conflict must decide whether or not to take refuge with a man many consider a war criminal.

Miller, meanwhile, learns more about Julie, finds a data chip, and realizes that his “lost girl” case connects to the larger political events in the solar system.

The Terran-bound plot, this week, receives little mention.

High Points

The narrow escape in “CGB” and the start of “Back to the Butcher” kicks a sometimes meandering show into high gear. The flashbacks to the titular Butcher’s origins, while heavy-hand, feel plausible, nicely underscore the show’s themes, and explain the political situation better than any opening crawl would.

Low Point

The series, particularly in its early episodes, is choppy, and I find I cannot care very much about the doings of the earthbound characters.

The Scores:

Originality: 1/6 The Expanse is based on an existing series of novels (and short stories) which recycle and reuse a good many familiar tropes.

Effects: 5/6

Acting: 6/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 The show is well-done, but the characters are not as interesting as the story.

Story: 5/6 The first five episodes bring the plot threads together without giving us too much information, and “Back to the Butcher” introduces flashbacks without becoming formulaic.

Production: 6/6 The show has spectacular production values for television.

Overall: 5/6 Genre TV is dominated by fantasy and superheroes; The Expanse gives SF of the traditional, space-opera variety a home in the schedule.

In total, the first five episodes of The Expanse receive 33/42

Discussions will continue; the next review will appear after the season concludes.