For those who’ve grown tired of superheroes and magic spells and want some science fiction on the small screen, contemporary television’s great, dark Space Opera has returned for its second season.

As with the first season, we’ll be reviewing the first two episodes (once again, premiered together), and then follow with weekly discussions, and reviews of the first and second halves, as the best way to address the story-arc-heavy show.

Titles: “Safe” and “Doors and Corners”

Director: Breck Eisner
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 Ancar as Alex Kamal
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Shawn Doyle as Sadavir Errinwright
Cad L. Coleman as Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson
Francois Chau as Jule-Pierre Mao
Hugh Dillon as Lt. Sutton
Byron Mann as Admiral Nguyen
Daniel Kash as Phoebe Scientist
Andrew Rotilio as Diogo
Jonathan Whittaker as Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis
Mpho Koaho as Marine
Dewshane Williams as Marine
Sarah Allen as Marine

Premise

War roils between Earth and Mars, as our ragtag team and Belter volunteers deal with the events on Phoebe, and the implications of the protomolecule.

To our existing cast we now add Martian Marines.

High Points

The first two hours of this season do an excellent job of establishing the source of conflicts personal and interplanetary, and this SF-verse has weight. Technology is advanced, but not magical, and human beings still serve the same old blinding masters.

Low Point

The Expanse has had its share of clichés. I could have done without two conspicuous and recognizable individuals engaging in a dangerous, top secret (and, in this instance, treasonous) conversation in a public place.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The Expanse began as an excellent recycling of established tropes; it has grown somewhat from there. Granted, the nature of the protomolecule is not new to SF, but the script and its source novels do not always take the material in predictable directions.

Effects: 5/6 The series should really get a perfect score for the sheer number and range of visual effects, most of which have been handled brilliantly. Some of the battle scenes look a little too much like videogames, more cinematic than realistic.

Acting: 5/6 The acting remains strong, though characters can get lost in the sheer scale of the story being told…

Emotional Response: 5/6 …On the other hand, there’s the sheer scale of the story being told.

Story: 5/6 The larger story arcs move at their slow and deliberate pace, while the space-marine plots provide intelligently-executed suspense and action. The two episodes play nicely together; I suspect this season will make a good binge-watch.

The political intrigue reflects on some real-world events and concerns, and the events and manipulations feel more plausible than some of what is actually happening in 2017.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 6/6 The Expanse gets a +1 bonus for rocketing Season Two to such a stellar start.

In total, the first two episodes of The Expanse, Season Two, receive 35/42