Tuesday, December 22, 2015

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Tension Escalates as Holden's Video is Broadcasted Across the Universe in 'Remember the Cant'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 1.03 "Remember the Cant"

Holden and his crew are taken prisoner aboard the Martian navy flagship, the Donnager, and slowly begin to turn on one another. While contending with riots on Ceres, Miller connects Julie to the mysterious derelict ship, the Scopuli. Avasarala engages in a nasty game of politics with an old friend.

Tension is escalating in all three corners of The Expanse's universe. Holden's message about Mars begin responsible for the destruction of the Canterbury was able to spread throughout the entire system. It wasn't as hopeless as it seemed at the conclusion of the previous episode. Of course, that's not something Holden and his crew know about when they are first taken prisoner aboard the Martian ship, the Donnager. However, Holden is able to put it together pretty quickly considering they are going through the trouble of keeping them in holding cells, interrogating them one by one, and trying to turn them against each other so a scapegoat can be named. It's currently unclear if someone from Holden's crew was in on the Canterbury's destruction or if it's just dumb luck that they all survived. But the message that Holden sent out is crucial is raising the tension of this Cold War to the point where the bodies are starting to pile up.

No one in the universe wants a war. There is tension between Earth and Mars but they also rely on each other in order to keep this ecosystem in check. Their treatment of the people in the belt may be the thing that ultimately ignites this war between the two. In the first two episodes, it seemed pretty clear that Mars was behind the destruction of the Canterbury. It was a simple explanation because the show hadn't spent any time showing that part of this world. "Remember the Cant" is the first real introduction to the Martian society. They are a civilization of scientists doing their best to make Mars more habitable like Earth without making the same mistakes that nearly destroyed Earth in the process. That's their singular goal that everyone is collectively working towards. They have relationships with the rest of the universe. But they don't mean to upset the balance just to be the ones in charge.

That's what makes it such a process to actually verify that Mars was behind the Canterbury's destruction. The fact that stealth technology was used signals that it came from the most technologically advanced civilization. But it's not unreasonable to assume that members of the resistance in the belt - the OPA - could have gotten their hands on it as well. Mars and Earth are keeping secrets from one another. Through some smart maneuvering by Avasarala, the Earth government is able to get the proof that Mars really isn't the perpetrator after all. It simply costs her a friend in the process whose life is ruined because of the stunt she pulls. This part of the story is meaningful because it takes the suspicion and guilt off of Mars and puts it onto the OPA. That leads to some devastating action on the Ceres station. But down on Earth, it largely amounts to the show telling the audience that Avasarala does whatever it takes to win. That's her biggest characteristic and could drastically change her as this world presents actions that get increasingly more severe.

Meanwhile at Ceres station, Miller wants to continue his investigation into Julie's disappearance after he learns of the Scopuli's involvement in Holden's message. He isn't willing to give it up even though the force needs him to police the citizens who are getting more volatile by what this message means for their lives. They play right into the OPA's hands. They wanted to create a war so that belters would be taken more seriously. This chaos is a part of that. At first, it appears to just be a riot. One that needs to be monitored but one that quickly escalates to physical harm. These people have allowed this unverified information to work them up into a state. They take their frustrations out on the Martians currently living on the station. Anderson Dawes, an OPA operative on the station, has the right mentality of not letting anger and violence dictate one's actions. And yet, something is still very much amiss as well - considering one of the murdered victims also happened to be a close contact with Julie. Miller may not be all that interested in the OPA but he's going to have to go into that world in order to get answers. Anderson really isn't that forthcoming when the two sit down. He's a part of this bigger conspiracy that will need to be fully examined in the future.

It's also currently unclear what will happen to Holden and his crew on the Donnager. The Martians are trying to manipulate them into naming someone amongst the crew as a member of the OPA, who they can then blame all of this misunderstanding on. Mars isn't guilty but they still need to blame someone in order to avoid a war. The show actually plays into the conceit that this crew really doesn't know each other - just like the audience doesn't really know them either. Holden's backstory is unnecessarily complicated and not all that interesting. But he's the man in charge who is important to this mission because he needs to issue a new statement declaring Mars' innocence. As the protagonist of the story, it seems unlikely that he's in with the OPA who want to completely destroy this ecosystem. He did register the distress signal so that the Canterbury would have to respond. But he has been acting with his emotions so much that it seems unlikely that he's a part of this sinister conspiracy. That means suspicion has to shift to the other members of his crew. They may all be innocent. Mars is forcing them to turn on each other in order to put this mess behind all of them and only ruin one life. But the show is also playing up the suspicion to the point where one of them has to know something. So much of the focus is on Naomi as she is way too overqualified for the job she was doing on the Canterbury and shares some of the beliefs of the OPA. She maintains her innocence. But that's not really the point. The big decision that needs to be made is whether or not Holden is willing to blame all of his on Naomi for the Martians in order to earn his freedom. That's left open-ended by the end of the episode and should create some intrigue heading into the next one.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Remember the Cant" was written by Robin Veith and directed by Jeff Woolnough.
  • Hey, someone made fun of Miller's silly hat! That was amusing.
  • The rest of Miller's crew are still largely one dimensional. Amos is the thuggish guy who thinks with his fists. Alex is the pilot who also served in the Martian army. And Garvey is the awkward doctor who talks too much. None of it is being done in a very interesting way that builds character.
  • Miller's partner is also killed by the OPA in the end. That was an unexpected twist. And yet, it's hard to feel anything from that moment given how bland and unnecessary a presence he was. His death will motivate Miller to action. I guess it's better that it's him who died and not Miller's female companion on the force.
  • Those interrogation scenes were a little over-directed with all the cutaways to the eyes and the purpose with which the interrogator took that pill to understand his target and increase the tension in the scene. It was fine once but it was too much when it happened again with Julie.