Who is this woman and where is she? The opening scene of episode one, Dulcinea, of The Expanse does a masterful job of generating more questions than answers about the show. We are lead to understand that this future of the 23rd century is dominated by Earth and Mars. The Belt simply is a means to an end to supply these planets with resources to build their wealth, leaving the Belters to be a sort of underclass that provides the labor. Ceres is a space mining station that acts as a hub for the Ice Trawlers that are out in the solar system mining asteroids. In this area of the solar system air and water are precious commodities.
We are introduced to Detective Miller as he makes his rounds keeping the station secure. Detective Miller is given an off the book assignment to find the daughter of a wealth investor, she started running with an undesirable crowd during college, well undesirable to the wealth investor. We get a quick glimpse of this woman, on a really nifty phone, and it seems she is the women from the opening scene. She is Julie Mao, what has she done and once again where is she?
Detective Miller goes about his daily actives taking payoffs from criminals and also looking for leads on this woman, Julie Mao. Miller seems to be a less then desirable character but we start to see some good start to peek through here and there. It seems he tries to do the right thing but is a victim of the ways of the Ceres Station. Things just seem to be how they are with no way to change them. Then he is called to investigate a problem with air scrubbers on a level of the station that has a lot of children in it. The man that Miller took a payoff from seems to be the one in charge of keeping the scrubbers clean. Miller was assured that this was done, it obviously was not. Detective Miller is returning to his apartment when he runs across some children playing and has a brief conversation with one of the children’s fathers. Something really neat happens when he is sitting on his deck, we see a bird flying in low gravity, this same bird was flying around the little girls whose father Miller spoke with just previously. Something happens in Miller when he looks down off this deck and sees the children playing again. He proceeds to find the guy in charge of air scrubber maintenance and throws him in an air lock and start to suck the air out of it. He does this to prove a point, air is important, now do your job and keep the air scrubbers clean. We get a glimpse that maybe Miller is a character torn between what he has to do as a station detective and what is the right thing to do.
Chrisjen Avasarala the U.N. Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration, that is a heck of a title and from the little bit we see of her in this episode it looks like she has an interesting job. She is portrayed as a loving grandmother when we first meet her, playing with her grandson. Then a UN transport ship comes to pick her up. She has been summoned to New York City to talk with a Belt terrorist that was captured smuggling contraband. The details of the city are pretty interesting; the show runners went out of their way to make this future NYC look as it really may in the 23rd century. The statue of liberty is surrounded by seawalls to keep out the rising ocean and so it the city itself, an interesting little detail. Guess we don’t beat climate change just simply adapt to it.
Avasarala is interrogating this captured terrorist but he won’t talk. They have the guy hanging by hooks under his arms to keep him standing and the high gravity of Earth seems to be taking a toll on him. From growing up in the Belt he is use to lower gravity so this is just a cruel form of torture for him. Since he won’t talk Avasarala says to leave him hang for ten more hours. She is simply doing her job and trying to stop any sort of war between Earth and Mars. I guess she will use any means possible.
On the Ice Trawler Canterbury, 2nd officer James Holden is doing his best to not get any sort of promotion by “breaking” the rules, and possible bruising his back during extracurricular activities with another shipmate. Holden ends up going to look for the XO that no one can seem to find. He find him in the XO quarters apparent during some sport of psychotic break, he is rambling pointing a gun at whatever and walking around barefoot in his very own little garden, guess he misses dirt between his toes. Holden is then offered the position of XO by the captain; he does everything in his power to not accept this promotion but ends up settling with the self appointed title of acting XO. On the bridge of the Canterbury a distress call is received from the derelict freighter Scopuli. Remember that name? It was on the back of Julie’s jumpsuit at the show opening. The captain orders that the logs be purged of this and they make way to Ceres station to delivery their ice cargo, with thoughts that the derelict ship is a pirate trap. Most seem to agree with this decision all except Holden’s girlfriend, this seems to weigh heavily on our acting XO’s mind so he looks into the signal a little further and find some sort of under lying carrier wave in the distress call.
The Canterbury is directed to investigate the Scopuli because someone from the crew reports the signal to the higher ups. This is when we get to see something really neat, a flip and burn. So Holden and a team are dispatched via shuttle to check it out. Upon arrival at the Scopuli it is decided that they will board the freighter. This is when some odd clues start to fall into place. A hole in the side of the ship caused by a breaching charge, a reactor that was shutdown in the proper sequence, no power on the ship, no bodies, and a small transmitter sending the distress signal. Someone didn’t want any crew members left as witnesses. Suddenly a ship appears out of nowhere and the Canterbury hurriedly advised the away team to return to their shuttle and get home. The crew left in the shuttle hurries to find some sort of explanation among themselves with who the malevolent ship belongs too. They seem to determine that Mars is the only organization with stealth ship technology. This mystery ship launches torpedoes which seem to be targeting the shuttle, but they have a larger target, the Canterbury. The ice trawler is struck by nuclear torpedoes and is a total loss. While this is happening Holden is talking to his girlfriend via a video feed and she says, “There is something you should know…” end of communication feed. What is it? Is she an agent that fell in love and needed to tell Holden something much larger? This little exchange seems like it is going to be a driving force behind what is going to motivate Holden in future episodes.
Overall this is a great opening episode for a show. It generates many questions for the viewer that need to be answered and gives us a look into each group in the show, except for Mars. We get some very brief snippets but I really can’t wait to see how Mars is going to play into this show once they are fully reveled to the viewer. The Expanse is a very well put together show from story to filming and the use of practical sets should be praised to the highest level, bravo! The level of detail is second to none, from the sea walls of New York City and the way the Belters have started to physically change from being in low gravity for so many years to the simple fact that when we finally colonize the solar system this future could very well come true. A need for resources from Earth causes humanity to seek it in the stars. Episode two of The Expanse airs December 15 at 10 pm on the SyFy Channel.