Three Episodes in “The Expanse Season Three”: Phenomenal Science Fiction

   After having watched the end of season two of The Expanse, where Earth and Mars are on the edge of war, Praxideke “Prax” Meng (Terry Chen) must destroy the creature he believes is his daughter, Jim Holden (Steven Strait) and the crew of the Rocinante discovering Naomi Nagata’s (Dominique Tipper) betrayal, giving the protomolecule to Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) and Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) barely surviving, I was highly anticipating season three in the hopes of more answers to mysteries surrounding the protomolecule and the intrigues of the Belt, Earth and Mars. The opening episodes are as excellent as the previous seasons, jumping immediately back into the action and plunging us once more into the twisty morals of the worlds of The Expanse and the intriguing, complex characters struggling to find their way in a harsh world.

The Expanse begins picking up after the events at the end of season two with the crew of the Rocinante at odds after Naomi’s betrayal, fixing the ship while back on Earth, Earth and Mars are going to war. Fred has the protomolecule and is trying to unlock the mysteries while at the same time allying himself with his old foe Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris). Chrisjen and her guard, including Mars Marine Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams)  have managed to survive but must escape if they have any chance of continuing to breath while Saddavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) UN Undersecretary, betrays Chrisjen, telling UN Secretary General Esteban Sorrento-Gillis (Jonathan Whittaker) that she has colluded with Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) and is a traitor to Earth. Holden, Amos (Wes Chatham), Alex (Cas Anvar), Prax and Naomi change the identity of their ship and head to Tycho, to figure out if there are clues Prax’s daughter’s location, unaware they’ve missed a piece of the protomolecule.

The second episode shows us more of Fred’s intentions as well as introducing us to a new character on Earth, an old friend of the Secretary General that he brings in to give himself an unbiased opinion or at least someone who isn’t afraid to speak the truth to him. Pastor Anna is played by Elizabeth Mitchell and as she enters the world of UN politics, it is clear she will be a force to reckon with but the question must be raised of how long Saddavir will allow her to have any influence. Holden and crew are on their way to Tycho when they happen across the jump ship that Bobbie and Chrisjen have used as an escape but the pair are being chased down by a UN warship, missiles on their tail. The crew decide to help but will they manage to save the pair in time before the stress of high g-forces cost Chrisjen her life.  

At the end of the third episode, interests are aligning and different people are joining forces. While on Tycho, after meeting the children he’s been experimenting on, Jean-pierre Mao is having second thoughts, morality finally creeping into his soul. With murky politics, illegal experimentation, the deaths of millions as well as events on Venus, this season of The Expanse is shaping up to be even more exciting and compelling than the last two seasons have been.

There are several elements that make this show stellar. One is the writing. The story weaves the paths of multiple characters, intersecting their storylines all while having every scene connect in some way. There are no unimportant scenes and no unimportant characters. That type of connected writing is rare and amazing to see in an original science fiction show, the stories compelling and characters that are engaging.

Another aspect that is incredibly well done are the sets. The ships and technology are not only well extrapolated from current technology but are well built. The equipment is worn, pieced together in some cases or shiny and sleek. There are different types of ships depending on what is needed or magnetic boots. Each piece of the sets show the world including a child that glows after being experimented on.

Worldbuilding is another detail that speaks volumes about the writing. The cultures have been thoughtfully laid out. Earth citizens have a wide disparity in their wealth and a diversity of culture. Mars is cowboys and soldiers while the Belt has characters that are working with a lack of resources and an environment pieced together from the leftovers from Earth and Mars. That attention to detail makes for an incredibly rich world that keeps audiences engaged.

The acting is a match for the writing. Not only is the cast stellar, with incredible casting choices nut the actors handle their roles with complexity and grace. Holden is flawed, yet romantic, a Don Quixote tilting at windmills despite his better judgement. Chrisjena is fierce and uncompromising in her desire to keep Earth safe, willing to make sacrifices but also willing to see the good in others despite a past rife with betrayal. With strong characters and actors who give us nuanced portrayals, it is impossible not to love this show. There are no throw away characters and even minor characters give us surprises.

Three episodes in, I see that the writers are maintaining their stellar writing, building and connecting to events from the previous two seasons and continuing to build on the tensions and politics. There are questions that have been answered, but many threads remain dangling. What is the true intentions of the protomolecule?  Just what is happening on Venus and will we see Miller and Julie Mao again? What will the three political rivals, Earth, Mars, and the Belt do with their samples of the protomolecule? In the war between Mars and Earth, will peace ever manage to be gained or will war destroy everything both societies have built? While I have so many of these questions, I have faith that this season will bring us answers. They might not be the answers we expect (The previous two seasons have been surprising) but ultimately, the answers will speak to our own culture and tell us truths we weren’t expecting. All good science fiction gives us new viewpoints and truths and this is some of the best science fiction I’ve seen in a series. While I am anxious to know more, I also hope for more seasons and I can’t wait to watch the rest of third season.

Rating: 5 out of 5 Rocinante’s


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