tek's rating: pending

The Expanse, on Syfy (s1-3) / Amazon (s4)
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Caution: spoilers.

This TV series is based on a series of books by a pair of writers collectively known as James S. A. Corey. The first book, Leviathan Wakes, came out in 2011, and I probably first heard of it on the web show Sword & Laser, which made me add it to my list of books I wanted to read someday. By the time it was adapted into this TV series in 2015, I still hadn't read it. Nor did I have a chance to watch the TV series, since I didn't get Syfy. However, I finally watched the first season on Amazon in 2019 (still not having read any of the books). I think the reason I started watching it was because I'd heard that when Syfy cancelled the series after three seasons, Amazon picked it up to produce their own fourth season of the show. Anyway... after watching the first season, it's hard for me to know what to say about it, except that I found it a bit hard to follow. (Note that pretty much everything I'm going to say about the events of the series is stuff I looked up on various online sources, partly to refresh my memory, and partly to help me make sense of stuff I didn't fully get while I was watching it. But I may get some things out of order.)

Season One
First of all, the show is set "hundreds of years in the future," but I have no idea of exactly when. Humanity has colonized the Solar System, but there is an uneasy peace between the system's two major powers, Earth (ruled by the United Nations) and Mars (the Martian Congressional Republic). A lesser power is the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), which many people on both Earth and Mars view as a terrorist organization. However, others view it in a more positive light, as it basically exists to fight for the rights of workers who live in the Asteroid Belt, which consists of several colonies, claimed by both Earth and Mars (both governments of which oppress the Belters). And that's about all I can tell you by way of backstory.

At the start of the series, a young woman named Julie Mao goes missing. She's an expert pilot, and the daughter of a wealthy businessman from Earth, named Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau). Julie spent some time on Ceres, in the Belt, and joined the OPA. Now that she's missing, a Belter cop named Detective Joe Miller is assigned to find her, along with his new partner, an Earther named Dimitri Havelock (Jay Hernandez, whom I know from Magnum P.I.). Miller will also occasionally get some help from his former partner, Octavia Muss (Athena Karkanis, whom I know from Manifest). Miller eventually finds evidence that Julie Mao was on a ship called the Scopuli.

Elsewhere, we see a space freighter called the Canterbury (or "Cant," for short). They receive a distress signal, which most of the crew wants to ignore. But the first officer, Jim Holden, logs the message with headquarters, which obligates the crew to investigate. They find a damaged ship, the Scopuli, and a few members of the crew go out on their shuttle, the Knight, to check it out. They include Holden, chief engineer Naomi Nagata, mechanic Amos Burton, pilot Alex Kamal, and medical technician Shed Garvey. There are no signs of life aboard. Before they can return to the Cant, it's destroyed by an unknown ship that suddenly appeared, then after the attack, disappears. The survivors on the Knight later send out a message to the whole Solar System, indicating Mars was responsible for the attack. They're then taken aboard a Martian ship called the Donnager, whose crew claims Mars had nothing to do with what happened to the Cant. But on Ceres, the message causes anti-Mars sentiments to rise (along with the rallying cry "Remember the Cant").

Meanwhile, on Earth, we meet U.N. Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo)... who is important, but I often had trouble following exactly what her storylines had to do with what was going on elsewhere in the Solar System. I will say she comes to believe Mars wasn't responsible for the attack on the Cant, and that someone out there is trying to start a war between Earth and Mars. (Despite not always knowing what's going on with her, she's probably my favorite character on the show. She's definitely intelligent and cunning and intriguing, and just generally has a very strong presence.)

The Donnager is soon attacked by ships of the same type that destroyed the Cant. Garvey is killed in the attack, before his crewmates manage to escape aboard a frigate called the Tachi, which Holden renames the Rocinante. The Donnager is destroyed, but its crew hoped the survivors of the Cant would be able to deliver information proving Mars wasn't responsible for the attacks. Meanwhile, they head toward Tycho Station, which is controlled by Fred Johnson (I'm not quite sure if he's supposed to be the leader of the entire OPA, or just one of its many factions). Johnson is overseeing the construction of a generational ship called the Nauvoo.

On Ceres, Miller discovers a major secret, involving a bioweapon being developed on Phoebe Station. This gets him fired by his boss, Captain Shaddid, who is obviously part of a cover-up. Meanwhile, Johnson sends the Rocinante to Eros to pick up a survivor of the Scopuli, someone called Lionel Polanski (which is actually a code name used by Julie Mao). They eventually discover a spy named Kenzo Gabriel hiding on the Rocinante, and he offers to help them however he can. Before getting to Eros, they stop at an asteroid where they find a hidden stealth ship called the Anubis, which is the ship that had destroyed the Cant. The ship has been abandoned, but they find a spreading organic substance that is obviously dangerous, so they destroy the ship, and continue on to Eros. Meanwhile, Miller continues investigating the case that got him fired, and new information leads him to Eros. Once Holden and his crew get there, they're ambushed by a black ops team, but are saved by Miller. They team up to find Julie, but she's already died from the substance that had been on the Anubis (which I guess is called "protomolecule"). The citizens of Eros are being used as incubators for the protomolecule, as part of research conducted by Julie's father, apparently. I guess everyone there dies, except the Rocinante crew and Miller, who manage to escape.

That's pretty much the important stuff that happens this season, though I'm sure I've left out various incidents and characters that may be more important than I realized, as well as things I've forgotten or never understood in the first place. Hell, I barely understand the stuff I have said, after reading a bit about it online to write all this up. But I can say that the show is very well made in every way. And I do look forward to watching season 2, and hope that everything will start to tie together more, and make more sense to me. (But even if it doesn't, I'm sure it won't be the show's fault. It'll be mine.)

Season Two
Details coming eventually.


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