The Expanse Review: “Lake Winnipesaukee”

As the end of the current season approaches, The Expanse gives us one of its strongest episodes to date. We have a definite Hugo candidate for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Title: “Lake Winnipesaukee”

Director: Breck Eisner
Writers: Naren Shankar, Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)

Wes Chatham as Amos “Timmy” Burton
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa “Peaches” Mao
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Steven Strait as James R. Holden
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Jacob Mundell as Erich
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Frankie Adams Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Olunike Adeliyi as Karal
Sandrine Holt as Oksana
Michael Irby as Delgado
Bahia Watson as Sakai
Jasai Chase Owens as Felip
José Zúñiga as Bull
Sugith Varughese as David Paster
George Tchortovas Leveau
Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
Alex Hatz as Secretary Yilmaz
Amanda Cordner as Hutch
Andrea Davis as Tesfaye
David Rosser as Cordner
Joyce Rivera as Secretary Cebotari
Samer Salem as Josep
Stephen Tracey as Bertold
Vanessa Smythe as Michio
Alison Smiley as Cook
Christine Sahely as Dahane
Dayton Sinkia as Theo
Elva Mai Hoover as Older Woman
Fereshteh Samimi as Maid
Hayley Pace as Pella Crewmember
Gabriel Davenport, Natalie Liconti as associates of Erich
Paul Fauteux as Pinkwater Leader
Sam Kalilieh as Clarke

Premise

Accompanied by associates old and new, Amos Burton, Clarissa Mao, and Erich lead an attempt to escape the earth, and face mechanical difficulties, unexpected hitchhikers, and a private security company gone rogue.

After earth orders a successful but probably ill-advised counter-strike, Chrisjen Avasarala resigns and forces a vote of non-confidence.

Meanwhile, out in space, Drummer questions her already shaky alliance with Inaros, Inaros tries to make peace with his son, the crews of the Rocinante and Screaming Firehawk/Razorback continue on their rescue mission, very aware that something is very wrong, and Naomi Nagata, beleaguered and battered, MacGyvers on.

High Point

Among three (four, sort of) strong plots, Amos, Clarissa, and associates and their efforts to get off-planet makes the most compelling. Much of that arc unfolds as a continuous, near-real-time sequence of events. Character interactions remain strong, and we see impressive visuals. The Expanse turns the theft of a shuttle into visual poetry.

Low Point

The episode works, and exceptionally well, but there’s no denying it hits one too many trope-based beats. You can see the plot diagram.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 6/6

Acting: 5/6 As so often happens with a cast this large, we see a lot of strong acting, and a few middling performances.

I suppose I could have added a point for Chrisjen Avasarala’s (Shohreh Aghdashloo) impassioned speech. Sometimes a definitive military strike is necessary– I wish that weren’t true, but it is. Often it is completely countereffective, especially in the long-term. Wisdom, in politics, is rare knowing the difference.

Emotional Response: 6/6

Story: 6/6

Production: 6/6 My wife and I guessed immediately what Breck Eisner confirms in an Indiewire interview: the shots of Lake Winnipesaukeewere were taken in the Muskoka region of Ontario. They found the house elsewhere, built the shuttle hangar in a wind tunnel, and made use of another location at Ontario Tech in Oshawa. The other storylines take place in established sets, which continue to work so well we can stop thinking about what it must take to make this series work.

Overall: 6/6

In total, Lake Winnipesaukee receives 38/42

Fun Fact:

Eisner named the shuttle for an influential teacher from his past.

3 replies on “The Expanse Review: “Lake Winnipesaukee””

  1. This was so emotionally enthralling my wife and I both felt a wash of relief when the shuttle makes it out of the atmosphere. Until that point, I was genuinely expecting another catastrophe, like anti-aircraft guns, another rock, the navy waiting for them… something.

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      I like how the problems were entirely probable given the circumstances. Their landing would attract attention and, under the circumstances, that attention wouldn’t be positive. And after sitting there so long, there’s no way that thing wouldn’t require some maintenance. The writers of this show understand these things. They also understand that the specific fix required for maintenance issues on complicated machines do not generally jump up and explain themselves.

      The interview to which I’ve linked also identifies a problem the actors faced, which doubtless worked to the episodes’ advantage. The director wanted a cold, snowy day. They ended up, by chance, shooting the exterior scenes on a couple of the coldest days of last winter. To put that in context, the low today in that region is -21, and this has been a mild winter.

  2. Brian says:

    I think you’re missing the important part: The punchline for the bar joke. I love how it resolves and how the characters acknowledge how things have changed. Can we also give a shout out to how refreshing (especially right now) to see ethics and morals in government? People willing to quit because they know what’s going on is wrong and the their leader isn’t up to the task? That Cabinet scene damn near made me cry.

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