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THE EXPANSE Rises to Riveting in Season 2 (Review)

THE EXPANSE Rises to Riveting in Season 2 (Review)

There are innumerable challenges to creating genre TV. That goes double when you’re specifically talking about sci-fi, and triple when you consider our increasingly technified, globalized world today. Such is why a series like The Expanse is a leap of faith, even for a network like Syfy: to attempt to elevate space opera and hard sci-fi to one thoroughly enjoyable package for audiences that are increasingly nitpicky, knowledgeable, and skeptical? It’s a big ask (and no doubt expensive to pull off visually). Thankfully, after a solid first season filled with sociopolitical drama, season two expands to uncover, and pull together, the much bigger mystery at hand, clearing the path for more focused and engrossed storytelling.

At the end of season one, the galaxy was on the brink of war after the Canterbury disaster and destruction/infection of Eros that Holden and Miller barely survived. With Earthers, Belters, and Martians all turned against one another, the political ground on which humanity lives is shaky at best. And for what? The economic gain of Julie Mao’s—our entry point into the series—father Jules Pierre-Mao, and the proliferation of alien tech we do not understand. His company seems hellbent on the three factions going to war, and the mysterious blue molecule that ravaged her body plays a huge part in that (Mao’s company supported research and security company Protogen, which was studying the protomolecule). With Eros Station sacrificed at the hand of the protomolecule in order to “help it learn,” posited “villain” Fred Johnson and our heroes from The Rocinante must step up to stop war and protect the Belters/Outer Planets Alliance by shedding a light on the shady dealings surrounding this deadly molecule.

If it helps, we also exclusively premiered this recap—ahem, recat—if you need a video summary:

If there was an issue to be had with season one of The Expanse, it was definitely its density. This is thick, heady science fiction coupled with political intrigue and intergalactic mystery; an epic space opera where the universe is so expansive and scientifically based, it doesn’t feel all that off from a hypothetical-but-plausible future reality. I mean, heck: there are PhDs in the writers room and they don’t go unused! (Smarts on smarts on smarts!) And, thematically speaking, there were two big things going on: the human struggle of life at this point in our collective history …and the introduction of an alien entity eating its way through humanity one body at a time.

So where does this take us in season two? Everywhere. But mainly: Mars.

THE EXPANSE -- "Safe" Episode 201 -- Pictured: (l-r) Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper, Dewshane Williams as Corporal Sa'id -- (Photo by: Syfy)

We will get a much better look at the lives of those living/born on Mars in season two. We are introduced to an intrepid lieutenant and hyper-nationalist named Bobbie Draper, who dreams of one day seeing her planet terraformed and sustainable for life in a way that Earth has always been. But their motives are not so holistic as all that. After all, they are a military nation. With the Belt a major resource for both Mars and Earth, control is key and both are positioning themselves for it over the asteroid belt, and neither of them is keen enough on the other to discuss a shared deal.

Tensions and political machinations are at an all-time high, making things particularly tricky for Chrisjen Avasarala, as the UN proves itself quite split over what to do (for various, and at times seemingly nefarious, reasons). The history of distrust between not just Earth and Mars, but everyone, means every decision—and its subsequent interpretation across the stars—could be life or death.

Expanse_S2_gallery_07

And then there’s our heroes. Holden and Miller are not exactly happy with one another—nor is anyone, really. Miller, having made less than his fair share of friends, struggles for much of season two’s first few episodes figuring out where he belongs now that his home of Eros Station is gone. While the fight may be life and death on all fronts, it is the fight for the truth over obfuscation that proves the most harrowing—maybe even more so than the protomolecule. Only time will tell.

Season two of The Expanse continues to connect the seemingly disparate stories into one thrilling and confounding story without the comprehension struggle some may have had getting into season one. This is not just war drama in space—the continued inquiry into the protomolecule reveals exciting, strange, and unexpected turns as far as its origin is concerned. This is a show that takes science fiction, makes it human, and rips it all apart before reconfiguring it into something new-yet-familiar. If well-researched science fiction is your bag, season two of The Expanse is sure to thrill, confound, and delight in equal measure. Just make sure you’re paying attention.

Rating: 4 out of 5 Belter burritos

4-burritos

Images: Syfy


Alicia Lutes is the Managing Editor of Nerdist, Creator/co-host of Fangirling, and frequent over-sharer on Twitter!

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