The Expanse Review: Second half, Second Season

“Pyre,” “The Weeping Somnambulist,” “Cascade,” “Here There Be Dragons,” “The Monster and the Rocket,” “Caliban’s War”

The Expanse finishes its second season, with characters realizing the Protomolecule will remain with humanity forever.

Guest appearance by a Mythbuster.

Directors: Kenneth Fink, Mikael Salomon, Rob Lieberman, Thor Freudenthal

Writers: Robin Veith, Hallie Lambert, Dan Nowak, Georgia Lee, Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Naren Shankar.

Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)

Cast

Steven Strait as Jim Holden
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Chad L. Coleman as Col. Frederick Lucius Johnson
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
Terry Chen as Praxidike “Prax” Meng
Shawn Doyle as Sadavir Errinwright
François Chau as Jules-Pierre Mao
Byron Mann as Admiral Nguyen
Nick E. Tarabay as Cotyar
Cara Gee as Col. Johnson’s Second in Command
Brian George as Arjun Avasarala
Alden Adair as Staz
Andrew Rotilio as Diogo
Carlos Gonzalez-Vio as Cortazar
Conrad Pla as Colonel Janus
Eli Martyr as Onudo
Jonathan Whittaker as Sec-Gen Gillis
Peter Outerbridge as Captain Martens
Hugh Dillon as Sutton
Sarah Allen as Hillman
Mpho Koaho as Richard Travis
Dewshane Williams as Sa’id
Ted Whittall as Michael Iturbi
Adam Savage as Arboghast crewmember

Premise

Fred Johnson loses control over OPA, but we later learn he gains a significant advantage.

Holden and company head to Ganymede and confront a protomolecule-altered human. They also acquire an important new crew member.
Although he has personal motives for joining, he proves his worth.

After a strange military encounter, Bobbie Draper becomes a pawn in the Earth/Mars conflict, and doesn’t much like the fact that her government is lying to her and manipulating everyone. She later rescues two key characters from a conflict on board Mao’s private ship.

Naomi makes a difficult decision concerning refugees.

High Points

The conflicts in “The Monster and the Rocket” have no really good resolution, and for a time, and we knew that at least one likeable character isn’t going to survive. Naomi’s heroism is not really diminished by the outcome of the episode. She fully intended to sacrifice herself.

Low Point

I like a good hero-in-the-face-of-danger quip as much as the next viewer, and the series has delivered a few. Actually, there are a few too many, especially in the final episode, and it does affect the overall tone of the show as it moves from space-detective series to Space Opera. The Expanse is no Comic Book Action Movie, and it should use its slicker elements sparingly.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 The series has always echoed the genre’s past. “Caliban’s War,” in particular, recalls Alien, The Thing from Another World, and numerous videogames.

Effects: 6/6 The visual effects remain impressive and immersive. The research ship descending on Venus looks especially strong. The movement of the altered human seems a little off, in the way that CGI sometimes does, but I’m giving them a 6 for the sheer number of effects used so well, every week.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 5/6 The show creates genuine suspense in several stories, with outcomes in doubt. After the events of the season’s first half, we cannot be guaranteed of anyone’s survival.

Bonus: The Expanse is shot in Toronto, mostly in studio. Some local locations nevertheless appear in several episodes, including Roy Thompson Hall and the University of Toronto’s Scarborough Campus. In addition, I think Bobbie’s escape took her under the Gardiner Expressway at one point.

Story: 6/6

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6

In total, the second half of The Expanse, Season Two, receives 36/42

4 replies on “The Expanse Review: Second half, Second Season”

  1. zocalo says:

    Couple of admin points – there are broken spoiler tags in the High Point, and Cara Gee’s character eventually gets a credited name (also in the books) – “Drummer”.

    Enjoyed the entire season, although I’m a little mixed on some of the diversions from the books, especially with Bobbie’s character development and Naomi’s actions with the protomolecule sample, but all that mostly seems back on track now. On the plus side, it did help keep things interesting and add a little uncertainty to those familiar with the books. Alex’s Galilean moons flyby in the Roci could maybe have been done more realistically as well, rather in a single implausibly high-speed run, but the FX were so damn spectacular I think they earned a pass on that.

    I was also kind of expecting this series to get futher into the second book that it did – maybe even getting into the prologue of the third – given how far they’ve got to go (nine books and a few more novellas in total) and the odds of the series actually lasting that long. On the other hand they’ve laid the groundwork for some of the book 4 subplots already – Naomi’s child, Amos’ upbringing, and Alex’s estranged family – so maybe the next season is going to mix things up a bit more?

    Getting back to the credits: has anyone else noticed that Florence Faivre (Julie Mao) retained her title credit, but Thomas Jane (Miller) did not? Based on the books, I guess Faivre could return as Julie’s sister since there’s meant to be a strong resemblence, but Jane’s omission seems… premature?

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      Weird about the spoiler tag. I caught that when I first posted and thought I’d fixed it. Fixed now. Thanks.

      As for certain credit issues:
      -Footage / images of Julie have appeared in episodes.
      -Not everyone has read the books. Removing a certain person from the credits may be deliberate misdirection.

      • zocalo says:

        True, footage of Julie has appeared, but she’s also had far less screen time overall than Miller who also appeared in all of those episodes, and neither have appeared at all in recent episodes. It just seems odd that Faivre would get a whole season of title credits for mostly flashbacks and that one pivotal scene on Eros, while Jane does not, despite arguably being a more well known actor with far more screen time. I agree, a bit of misdirection may be part of the reason, but that still leaves the rest, hence my speculation over future casting (or lack thereof).

  2. lost says:

    I haven’t read the books so I have no comparison there. However, it seems likely that the *majority* of the viewers have not read the books.

    From that perspective, I can say is that they have done a decent job with pacing and that is a critical thing for episodic storytelling. They have also spent a great deal of time developing characters and world building which has, at least for me, kept the story interesting.

    It wouldn’t surprise me if the overall story makes sudden significant progress at moving the story forward with respect to the books at a convenient time (mid-season or season finale probably), which wouldn’t be possible without substantial groundwork ahead of time.

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