The Expanse Review: “Strange Dogs”

Later for Doctor Who and Star Trek: Discovery.* The great outer space series of this century (so far) has returned for what will be its last season. We get a glimpse of what war looks like– but we’re reminded that the universe holds dangers and wonders greater than any human conflict.

*Literally later. We’re reviewing both of those seasons a pair of eps at a time, so you’ll see the next Who after Sunday’s show and Discovery next week.

Title: “Strange Dogs”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Breck Eisner

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

Steven Strait as Jim Holden
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Roberta “Bobbie” W. Draper
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa “Peaches” Mao
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Jasai Chase Owens as Filip
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Kathleen Robertson as Rosenfeld Guoliang
Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
Joanne Vannicola as Nico Sanjrani
Gabriel Darku as Yoan
Ted Dykstra as Gareth
Vanessa Smythe as Michio
Samer Salem as Josep
Emma Ho as Cara
Emmanuel John as Pella Officer
Illahi Rayani as Abena
Jonathan Nathaniel as Ceres Dock Belter #2
Kristian Kadirgamar as Pella Officer #2
Kyle Gatehouse as Gaunt Belter
Lynn Rafferty as Marta
Mikael Conde as Dewalt Crewmember

Premise

The war continues between the Belters and Earth (with Mars). The crew of the Rocinante, acting as some kind of quasi-independent squad, make a discovery of great importance. Filip grows increasingly unstable.

Camina Drummer makes difficult decisions.

On a planet of the Ring…. Actually, I’m not entirely certain what’s going on, but, doggone it, it will matter.

High Point

The series delivers an affecting view of war’s harsh realities while gesturing towards the larger issues looming in the Ring. Despite the cosmic scale involved, the script never loses sight of the characters, and they resonate. These feel like people, not pawns, even though they may not even rate that highly when viewed against the stars.

Low Point

Six episode can’t help but leave lapses. I hope they don’t rush to a forced conclusion, the way a certain big-budget, well-acted fantasy series did.

The Scores:

Originality: 4/6 Beneath layers of convincing world-building and strong characterization, we see certain familiar space opera tropes. The crew of the Rocinante continue to be intrepid heroes working directly for Earth’s top officials, the space pirates have turned privateer, and strange things stir on a distant, alien world.

Effects: 6/6 The Expanse continues to place its story in a credible future world with settings created by a combination of effects.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 6/6 The Expanse has returned.

Story: 6/6 This show, in its strongest episodes, understands how to plot a multi-arc series. We focus mostly on the crew of the Rocinante and the people closest to Marcos, two closely related plots. Chrisjen Avasarala plays her part, but that third storyline gets only a little airtime this week and it ties directly to the major conflict. We also see a scene of Drummer’s activities and some unexplained activity on a distant planet. These would be confusing to someone who hasn’t watched the show before, but they’re not allowed to overwhelm the episode’s focus. Regular viewers have learned to trust that the seemingly disconnected bits will all come together.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 6/6

In total, “Strange Dogs” receives 39/42

2 replies on “The Expanse Review: “Strange Dogs””

  1. J_W_W says:

    Go ahead and delay the reviews for other shows. They’re not the best sci fi show out there right now and the Expanse is!!

    • zocalo says:

      I’m fine with everything in that. :)

      On the low point, I’m not worried. From what I saw – and having read the books – I’m assuming there is a plan for this season to have a coherent but open ending aligned with where book 6 concludes, while leaving the door open to returning to it in a few years, especially given the pace so far. There’s a natural break in the plot with a multi-year time skip in the books before book 7, so that could actually work really well if it could be done with the same, albeit naturally older, cast. That seems quite unlikely though, so even allowing for the post-credit “Laconia” teaser at the end of the previous season, it was still a surprise to see the title and scene.

      I suspect they’ll have a slightly neater bow on it though, just in case.

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