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THE EXPANSE Season 2 Premiere Recap: Burn the Bastards Down

THE EXPANSE Season 2 Premiere Recap: Burn the Bastards Down

(Fair Warning: This recap contains Expanse spoilers that turn blue in your mouth.)

The Expanse came roaring back to life tonight with a twofer that refused to stall the momentum of the season one finale. “Safe” and “Doors & Corners” proved that, now with chess pieces on the board, the sci-fi show is leaner and looking more fit for the fight.

At the close of the first season, Earth and Mars and the Belt were staring each other down with weapons cocked after the Canterbury was blindsidedly blown to bits; Miller (Thomas Jane) and Space Jon Snow Holden (Steven Strait) barely escaped the irradiated/infected Eros station; and the missing Julie Mao’s (Florence Faivre) dear old dad, Jules-Pierre (François Chau), turned out to be bankrolling the genocide in the name of science. These cats have a refresher if you need it.

With the launch of season two, the plot torpedo continues its trajectory just as soon as Miller and Holden recover from a mild case of cancer. Holden and Naomi (Dominique Tipper) have a much-needed heart to heart about the burden of being the knowledgeable center of a misinformation campaign, which leads to them getting busy in an air lock to vent their pent-up lust.

After opening the Anubis safe, they face an impossible decision: toss the Protomolecule sample into the sun or get it to someone who can use it to make a vaccine? They punt, choosing to hide the goo in an abandoned asteroid mine like Chekhov’s Infection. After all, they’re wrestling with the lab notes that prove Eros was intentionally targeted because no one would care about the poorest Belters getting super flu.

THE EXPANSE -- "Doors & Corners" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) Thomas Jane as Detective Joe Miller, Chad Coleman as Fred Johnson -- (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

Miller has it out with Amos (Wes Chatham) over killing Sematimba (Kevin Hanchard) in a trigger-happy moment of survival. Once again, the faux-hawked Jiminy Cricket of the crew, Naomi, has to smooth things over, and everyone remembers they’re on the same team during a rousing story about cheese thieves and dairy farts. It’s those little moments of levity that keep a Dystopia like this afloat–even in the darkest times, people still find ways to laugh and connect.

A cohesive unit once again, the team rendezvoused with the Col. Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) and the Outer Planets Alliance to plan a takeover of a near-abandoned satellite station where more answers might be lurking.

THE EXPANSE -- "Doors & Corners" Episode 202 -- Pictured: (l-r) Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal, Wes Chatham as Amos Burton -- (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

Meanwhile, UN Deputy Undersecretary Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) survives an assassination attempt, brushes her shoulders off, and jumps into a meeting that could determine the fate of all mankind. No biggie. There are factions around the table to manage: some hungry for war, some hoping for cooler heads. Martian ships are amassing, and one is heading toward Phoebe research station–a place of no importance in particular, which gets blown up because of pre-war assumptions and zero communication. Saber rattling is mistaken for genuine geopolitical interest, offering us a precursor of how simple it is for stupid people to go to war with one another.

She’s the de facto deciding voice for deploying the Earth fleet to ramp up the war and protect waystations against a presumed Martian invasion, before pumping the brakes, and then advocating for a proportional reprisal for Phoebe’s destruction. She’s gloriously nuanced in her decision making, and wondrously fierce when she tells a room full of dudes wringing their hands about info delays, “I know how the fucking thing works, just answer my question.”

After the Fleet Commander steps down, citing ethical issues with the rush to escalation, Avasarala gets his take on Fred Johnson’s heroism and betrayal (learning that Johnson didn’t know the Belters he’d killed had already surrendered), and then decides to use her new spy to send a message to the OPA lead. Which, if you’re keeping score, is a little light treason.

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

Then we have Gunny Draper (Frankie Adams), who absolutely wants war. She’s a hammer in search of a nail, pissed off that her Martian military bosses blew up Phoebe instead of letting her team get boots on the ground. She’s a Full Metal Bitch who wants terraforming for Mars yesterday and dominance over Earth in order to get it. We only get a glimpse of her as a blunt object with serious skills, but we’ll undoubtedly see a lot more of her this season.

The big finish of the two-episode arc is the OPA/Team Holden assault on the satellite, showcasing how gorgeous this show can be. It’s impressive and heartening to see the kind of care and money invested in science fiction TV that looks more like 2001 than the original dog-in-weird-sweater-as-alien Star Trek. We get some FUBAR maneuvers to stop a massive gun and, just what every hostile takeover needs, FedEx trucks with soldiers inside.

Miller leads a team unafraid to waste bullets to a room full of pre-cog-looking data slaves, managing to save one before cornering the lead scientist (Daniel Kash) and getting the exact opposite answer they were expecting.

Here’s a little slice of brilliance, highlighting how great bigthink sci-fi can be even in the midst of all the explosions and ass-kicking. Holden and Miller and Johnson are on a mission to avenge a genocide, only to discover that the Eros infection was a test in service of ultimately saving the entire human race from an extra-solar, alien life force. Like using animals to create diabetes medication, the scientist sacrificed Eros in order to learn enough about the Protomolecule to harness its power for good. What if we could become our own Gods? What if we could push beyond the natural limitations that demand our technology progress?

A blast to the head quiets those philosophies. Miller gets his revenge, and we’re all left wide-eyed, waiting for the fallout.

SOME SPARE THOUGHTS:

  • It’s really nice to know Lagavulin is still high quality in our great-grandchildren’s time. Since 1816!
  • Quality FedEx product placement.
  • Johnson spacing that Black Sky braggart offers a fascinating insight into how groups are compelled to action. His opening argument is a bribe about jobs, which evolves into an appeal to duty, valor, and vengeance.
  • The other dominant themes are unethical dreamers (“We could be our own Gods!” “Mars can have it all!”) and how each of us responds to a first shot. Pride is not strength, everyone. Words to live by.

Images: NBC/SyFy

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