The Expanse Review: What To Do About The Protomolecule

I’d like to start by saying it’s such a thrill that Syfy’s kickass shows The Expanse and The Magicians are back!

Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of the network’s latest batch of shows… Hunters, Van Helsing, Aftermath and Channel Zero didn’t click with me. You can’t fault Syfy for trying though. At least they’re back in the original genre programming game. Incorporated was very well-written and had a terrific cast, including Killjoys’ Rob Stewart, but it was tough to get behind such a scheming and manipulative protagonist. Regardless of the fact he was doing it all for love. While I enjoyed the show’s run, I won’t be heartbroken if it doesn’t return.

That’s not the case at all with The Expanse. Hopefully, this series will be on the air as long as James S. A. Corey (pen name of writers Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) have fascinating stories to tell. This series seriously is the most realistic and well-thought-out space drama currently on the air. If you’re not watching it, what the hell is wrong with you? A buddy of mine recently binged the first season and tweeted me saying, “It’s actually awesome.” I watch way too much TV, but I find it curious that many hardcore sci-fi fans don’t tune-in right away to a show like The Expanse. Have they been burned too many times before, and fear falling for a series like this only to hear it got axed? The way I see it, if we MustGeekTV viewers don’t support high quality genre shows, how can we expect a second or third season? Watch LIVE! Tell your friends, and spread the love on social media.

THE EXPANSE -- "Safe"
Courtesy of Syfy
Enough preaching, on to my review. If you cheated by scrolling down to see how many stars I gave the 2-hour premiere, I’m sure the 5.0 is no surprise. Though I will say, had only the first hour aired my score might have been slightly lower. “Safe” was basically a reintroduction to the conflict between Earth, Mars and the Belt. The installment got us caught up with the crew of the Roci and introduced First Lieutenant Roberta “Bobbie” Draper (Frankie Adams). I mean, how can you not love a show where the most badass Martian Marine arm-wrestles a robot and destroys it! It was a total Battlestar Galactica moment. The events in the series were quite different from how we first meet Bobbie in the novel, “Caliban’s War” (2012). However, it made sense since the TV series is still dealing with the discovery of the Protomolecule, versus the fallout. The writers simply could not get too ahead of themselves. Either way, I immediately fell head over heels for Bobbie and I’m sure she’s going to be a highlight of Season 2.

As for the Roci crew, it was just great to spend time with them again. Holden (Steven Strait) and Miller (Thomas Jane) were being treated for the nasty dose of radiation they suffered on Eros, like in the books. Though the little Protomolecule nightmare was a new twist. You’ve got to love those scenes, because they keep even fans of the books on their toes. Alex (Cas Anvar) was testing the survivors they saved from Eros for radiation. Amos (Wes Chatham) peeing in his space suit was hilarious. The fact there was a container of Protomolecule aboard the Roci, not so much. Listening to Dresden’s helmetcam trials was eerie as frak. One of my complaints last season, was that book readers probably had an easier time following the story than brand new viewers. The writing team has definitely done a better job of addressing that flaw this year.

Back on Earth, Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) was nearly blown to smithereens. Her line, “My father taught me something. Never listen to what people say, just watch what they do” really struck a chord and very much applies to today’s political climate. It’s not hard to believe that 200 years from now, mankind will continue to be as corrupt as we are today. Of course there’s a war brewing… isn’t there always? I liked the fact she’s now got a spy looking out for her. It’s always great to see Nick E. Tarabay pop up on my favorite shows.

THE EXPANSE -- "Safe"
Courtesy of Syfy
Jules-Pierre Mao remembered his daughter Julie fondly, but his quick mention that “She’s a sacred part of it now” is a major hint at where the story is headed. I get giddy just thinking about it, guys. Reading the novel first really helps inform your knowledge of the world and its characters. Speaking of which, Miller is a tough pill to swallow, but its my impression of him from the pages of “Leviathan Wakes” (2011) that makes him tolerable. That’s not to say Thomas Jane is not doing the character justice. I think he’s playing the guy perfectly, it’s just that things are always slightly altered in your mind’s eye versus watching an actual performance. Either way, Miller is a wonderful character and his point of view is absolutely vital to the story. Amos took him down easily though, didn’t he? I’m glad the two started getting along a bit better over a plate of lasagna. Miller’s heart to heart with Naomi (Dominique Tipper) was touching, she’s the only one that understood both sides of the argument.

Then there’s her hookup with Holden, which was inevitable. Personally, I’m all for it as long as it doesn’t disrupt the dynamic of the Roci. Besides every show needs a little sexy time, right?

The destruction of Phoebe Station means that the only traces of the Protomolecule are now on Eros, plus the stash the Roci crew saved for a rainy day. I totally get the argument that a potential cure can be developed from the sample, but if the thing is so dangerous wouldn’t eradicating it be the way to go?

THE EXPANSE -- "Safe"
Courtesy of Syfy
Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) returned in the second half of the premiere. The Roci crew brought him up to speed regarding the Protomolecule and its alien origins. The exposition allowed new viewers an understanding of the events of the first season, without coming across all “expositiony.” I thought the scene was handled really well. Johnson spacing that Belter revolutionary’s ass was impressive. After that, the best fighters on Tycho should be lining up to take part in missions. Getting Johnson’s real story about the events of Anderson Station, gave Avasarala the confidence to begin trusting the man. Regardless of the fact her communication would be considered treason.

In “Doors & Corners” Johnson and the Roci crew managed to defeat Spin Station’s weapon systems allowing Belter volunteers, including Miller and Diogo, to drop in on the station in a pod. Who else thought Diogo was a goner? I was shocked that only one scientist survived the shootout, but even more surprised to see that Dresden was aboard as well. Dresden’s logic about mastering the Protomolecule allowing humans to evolve into our own God’s was troubling, yet made sense. Live in space without a suit? The thing was sent by an alien race to hijack life on Earth for its own ends. Was the man telling the truth? Guess we’ll never know for sure, since Miller put a bullet in his head. That was an unpredictable twist and boy are Johnson and Holden going to be pissed.

To wrap things up…

This 2-hour premiere was a phenomenal start to the new season. Our heroes have one hell of a journey ahead of them. While the first hour reintroduced us to the main players and picked up where we left off last season, it was the action-packed second hour that truly dazzled me. The series is at its best when it balances the Game of Thrones politics with the intense action stuff. I think Syfy made the right choice airing these two episodes together. It’s my hope that the show’s fanbase grows this season, so Syfy can continue telling this story. What we’ve seen so far is just the tip of the iceberg. We’ve got to support great sci-fi if we want networks to deliver shows of this quality. I’m all in, are you? Come back weekly to catch my thoughts on the latest episodes.


The Expanse airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on Syfy.