Tuesday, January 26, 2016

REVIEW: 'The Expanse' - Holden Meets Miller While Gunfight Breaks Out on Eros Station in 'Salvage'

Syfy's The Expanse - Episode 1.08 "Salvage"

A derelict vessel holds a potentially devastating secret. Holden and crew cross paths with Miller in Eros. Avasarala receives bad news.

The plot of The Expanse is finally starting to go somewhere interesting again. After a slog of episodes (basically ever since the Donnager's destruction), the various plot threads of the season are starting to collide in ways that are exciting and explosive. Miller and Holden finally meet for the first time while they are both on Eros station looking for Julie Mao. The audience is aware of these two stories ramping up towards a collision. It does take a little too long until they actually meet. But when they do it's exciting. That largely comes from gun fire forcing the two parties together. It forces them into action without taking a beat to actually talk about why they are looking for the same person and how each other is actually connected to this grand conspiracy. But it's still an exciting place to end the episode. Plus, the rest of the hour isn't that bad either as the final pieces of the mystery are moving into place.

The only problematic piece of the puzzle left is Avasarala. She literally does nothing in this episode. In fact, her whole arc this season really hasn't been that substantial at all. She is basically just a representative of the Earth government. To show that they have a perspective in this world as well. But it's very unnecessary because nothing she has done has really influenced what happens elsewhere. Yes, it's meaningful that it's Earth soldiers who try to take out Holden when he lands on Eros. But the show makes it very clear that Avasarala has nothing to do that. She does have blood on her hands. The Martian ambassador she manipulated in order to find out whether Mars had this stealth technology has killed himself. But that's such a minor detail in this episode. It's simply giving her something to do. It's not even that. Her part of the story in this episode is just standing around and talking about information that the audience and those characters already know about it. So again, it just seems like a complete waste of time.

But that doesn't take away too much of the tension and excitement of this hour. Holden and the rest of the Rocinante crew are heading into danger with their secret mission. The coordinates they had have taken them to an asteroid where a stealth ship is docked with no one on board. It's eerily similar to the way that they find the Scopuli. There are even some crew from the Scopuli dead on the ship. This story is largely tense because the team is walking into an unknown environment. They have no idea what they will find in this ship. The technology is so advanced that they don't even really know what they're dealing with. That largely amounts to mysterious things happening and the crew freaking out and getting off the ship as quick as possible. They don't understand it. But they do know that it can't be anything good. Fortunately, this mission isn't a lethal one. Everyone makes it back onboard the Rocinante. They then promptly blow up this asteroid in order to keep this technology from returning to the nefarious hands who created it. The show is still being very secretive about who it is controlling this fleet of stealth ships. It's teased again that Fred Johnson has more knowledge than he has told the Rocinante crew. But again, it's just cryptic teases as his world is slowly starting to tighten around him. However, that doesn't take away from the emotion of the moment as Holden and his crew are seemingly getting justice for all the friends they lost on the Canterbury.

However, this mission didn't provide the Rocinante crew with any answers. They were able to eliminate a ship that could do so much harm in the universe. But they still don't understand why all of this has happened and they still can't return home. They are still running for their lives with the possibility of danger being around every corner. That's tense because the threat is very real - and the audience knows it. It's simply a matter of time before the Earth team strikes once they land on Eros. That mission was never going to be successful. Holden needs to be alive for this season in order to uncover the truths of this big conspiracy. But it's still a tense action set piece once the guns come out and start firing as they are in the lobby of the place while Julie (under an alias) is staying. It's Amos who actually notices that something is amiss with their surroundings. He shoots first which could become problematic in the future. But he's actually a functioning character this week who actually helps the narrative move forward in an exciting way - instead of just being an annoying plot contrivance like last week.

Meanwhile, Miller spends most of the episode either getting to Eros or just wandering around the station trying to get clues as a man who no longer needs to operate according to the law. This has gotten so personal to him. He's determined to figure out what happened to Julie Mao. He gets some closure in this episode. He discovers her disfigured body in her hotel room. But that doesn't present any kind of answers as to what happened to her. Plus, how and why is she even there? And how does all of it connect to Fred Johnson and this big conspiracy? There's still a lot of questions heading into the final two episodes of the season. Miller and Holden will need to exchange stories. Maybe then, they'll be able to piece everything together. The Rocinante crew may be the exact type of partners that Miller needs in this endeavor. He's not thrilled to see that the infamous James Holden is the man he rescued during this shootout. That does make it a little questionable about why he got involved (and took out the people firing against the Rocinante crew) in the first place. But it's still thrilling to see these plot lines converge. It suggests more interesting and exciting things for Miller in the future because he's now interacting with characters who've been at the center of the exciting and engaging things of the season. The action is only going to get more intense as the search for answers comes to a close - which should make for a thrilling and intense end of the season next week.

Some more thoughts:
  • "Salvage" was written by Robin Veith and directed by Bill Johnson.
  • Did we really need an origin story for Miller's hat? If that's something that excited you about this episode, then I think we are watching completely different shows. Yes, the hat is silly. But I don't care about it or what it actually means to Miller. It's insignificant.
  • An Earth ship is two days away from landing at Fred Johnson's station. He knows that they aren't docking in order to fix a problem. But he's the only one who knows where the ships that destroyed the Canterbury and Donnager came from - because he gets the final images that the Donnager took before its destruction.
  • Space is vast and empty. But is that explosion of the asteroid not going to be noticed by anyone? It's understandable why it might not be. But it could be seen as suspicious for anywhere actively looking in that area. Just a thought.
  • The Rocinante crew needed to get out of that lobby before the thugs/cops showed up to question them about this slaughter. But did none of them think to ask Miller why he was interested in going to Room 22 as well? With some time to breathe, that conversation should be beneficial to the characters.