The Expanse S2.04 review: "Thrilling without resorting to cheap tricks or tired cliche"

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GamesRadar+ Verdict

The Expanse continues to be thrilling without resorting to cheap tricks or tired cliche. The final 60 seconds of Godspeed are better than other shows’ entire seasons.

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Holy shit. Holy shit

So, the Mormons are, indeed, pissed (opens in new tab). But they’re Mormons, so they’re pissed in a very polite way, not that they have much choice, given that Fred Johnson’s men have commandeered their ship and jammed their comms so they can’t tell anyone about it. The move is in service of Miller’s plan to get rid of Eros, the space station that’s overrun with protomolecule and on which about 100,000 Belters are still trapped. It’s a good plan: cook the surface of the asteroid with explosives, seal shut the docks and hatches with bombs, then knock the thing into the sun with the Nauvoo. Ok, it’s kind of a terrible plan, but you can’t risk any of the protomolecule getting off of Eros, so this is about as good a plan as you’re going to get. Fred Johnson’s people crunch the numbers, create a flight plan for the Nauvoo, and send it on its way. The Guy Molinari heads out in front of it, filled with rock hoppers, including Miller and Diogo, ready to space walk over to Eros, set the bombs, and scoot before the Nauvoo shows up. The Roci comes along to make sure nothing goes wrong. And then a bunch of things go wrong.

TV shows rarely manage to surprise you, at least in ways that make sense. They may pull something out of the blue to shock the audience, but genuine surprise is a rarity, and yet The Expanse does it regularly, and seemingly without effort. As an intelligent member of the audience, you know something bad has to happen, or else there would be no drama. But when a show is well-crafted, you can’t see the bad thing coming, and the anticipation is thrilling. That’s something The Expanse does incredibly well; it takes you to a place you wouldn’t have expected, but looking back, you see the foundation was laid all along the way.

Bad thing number one: there’s already a ship on Eros, full of doctors who wanted to provide aid to the Belters on board. Not only might they be infected with the protomolecule, but they plan to broadcast their discovery that Eros isn’t suffering from a plague, but rather an experiment. It’s a simple enough decision to blow their ship to smithereens before they can call more attention to Eros, and yet it hits Holden very, very hard to have to be the one to pull the trigger. This is a guy who turned down promotions regularly because he never wanted to be the one in charge. This is the guy who fled Earth because he felt too much pressure from his family to be important. And now this is the guy that the crew of the Roci are following into impossible situations. He’s finally encountered a situation from which he cannot walk away in good conscience, and it’s forcing him to become the leader he was meant to be. Not a wholly original situation for a leader in a sci fi show, but Steven Strait gives Holden just the right mix of regret and resolve. You wish this guy didn’t have to make these decisions, but you know he does, so you support him every step of the way.

Bad thing number one leads directly to bad thing number two: the destruction of the medical ship sends debris flying into the Eros, where it damages one of the bombs Miller and Diogo were setting. If Miller takes his finger off the detonator, the charge will explode and the entire mission will have been for nothing. And so he settles down to await his fate. It’s a perfectly-constructed dilemma, one from which there appears to be no salvation. There are potential solutions, sure, but no time to carry them out, because oh, hey, there’s the Nauvoo right bloody there. As an intelligent member of the audience, you know there has to be some kind of answer, because Miller can’t die, right? But the closer the Nauvoo gets, the more you begin to wonder if maybe he *doesn’t* make it out. Because how could he? And so you become like the crew of the Rocinante, watching from the sidelines, waiting for Miller to meet his noble fate. And then the Nauvoo sails clear over Eros, completely missing it. It’s a cheap cheat - Miller lives because Fred Johnson’s people got the math wrong and the Nauvoo missed?  Ugh.

But then you realize The Nauvoo didn’t miss. Eros moved. OH DEAR GOD EROS MOVED WHAT THE HELL IS GOING ON? Whatever is happening in Eros, it is not something beneficial to the human race. Can’t wait to find out what it is.

Television rarely surprises you, but The Expanse constantly does. 

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Susan Arendt

Susan was once Managing Editor US at GamesRadar, but has since gone on to become a skilled freelance journalist, editor, producer, and content manager. She is now 1/3 of @Continuepod, 1/2 of @BeastiesLl, co-founder of @TakeThisOrg, and Apex Editor, Fluid Group.