Tag Archives: The Expanse

The Expanse: “The Big Empty” is full-on excellent

“The Big Empty” moves the story of The Expanse along, but only minutely. I’d hoped that this second episode would include more actual plot, but instead it’s a lot more world building and set-up for the rest of the season—sadly, without most of the sense of fun that “Dulcinea” had. Instead, the tone of “The Big Empty” is decidedly darker, and the mood is almost dour as we’re shown more of the show’s world.

Detective Miller spends most of his time this episode lurking around Julie Mao’s old apartment trying to piece together where she might have disappeared to since she’s clearly not on Ceres any longer. He does take a break to investigate some other things and casually police brutalize a couple of people, but there’s not a whole lot of movement in this storyline. That said, I think that so far the Miller stuff is my favorite part of the show—in spite of Miller’s ridiculous hat. I love the way the show is slowly exploring Ceres, and it’s very clear that the place is well thought out and meticulously crafted for television.

On Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala is still embroiled in some kind of political intrigue. This is the slowest feeling and least interesting of the show’s several plots, which is too bad since Avasarala is still very much the single most interesting character that we’ve been introduced to so far. However, I think that, long-term, this story line is going to pay off big time. Even after just two episodes we can start to see how these stories are all interconnected. I’m pretty sure Avasarala’s is just a slower burn than the others, likely because she’s a character who doesn’t even appear in the first volume of the book series. She may not have much to do until later this season if the show is trying to preserve a timeline from the novels, so I’m trying to be patient and not judge these parts of the show too harshly yet.

The part of the episode that I was most looking forward to as a book reader was seeing how the Canterbury survivors are getting on, and this was sadly the part of “The Big Empty” that I found myself most disappointed with. In Leviathan Wakes, basically the first thing Holden does is broadcast the accusation that Mars was behind the attack on the ice hauler, but this is actually one of the last things that happens in this second episode, which means that the fallout from that decision is being pushed off until episode three.

This leisurely pacing would be less frustrating if the rest of the Canterbury survivors’ time was put to better use this week. Instead, we’re treated to the better part of an hour of their floundering around in space dealing with the contrived drama of several unfortunately coinciding problems with their shuttle and space suits and radio. On the one hand, I admire the dedication the show has to really nailing down the idea that space is basically trying to murder people at all times. It’s a dangerous place, and the idea that human life is extremely fragile outside the nurturing atmosphere of Earth is an important one that is central to understanding the situation of those who live in space. On the other hand, even though the show demonstrated in “Dulcinea” that it’s not squeamish about killing off characters, the Cant survivors’ peril never felt, well, particularly perilous at all. It was, at every step of the way, obvious that they were going to get rescued or else there wouldn’t be much of a story to tell.

The bright side, though, is that “The Big Empty” ends right where it ought to, and now that a lot of world building stuff has been done two or three times in the first couple of episodes the show should be moving along at a faster clip with the actual story.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • Are they recentering the Cant crew’s story around Naomi? Amos said that he considered her the captain now, which would be awesome, but I don’t want to get too excited yet. I never did care much for Holden in the book, so Captain Naomi would be a positive change, but I’m holding off on celebrating until I get some confirmation.
  • I do not like that Holden’s dead girlfriend, Ade, was whitewashed on the show. In the book, she was a black Nigerian woman, and I thought maybe that she had been whitewashed to avoid just fridging her for some white dude’s character development, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t like it, especially if the memory of Ade is going to be showing up every week. If you really must sacrifice some poor woman on the altar of male character development like this, why can’t it be a black woman that haunts a dude’s dreams?
  • Loved the shot of the shuttle being picked up by the Donnager. Very Star Wars-esque.

The Expanse: “Dulcinea” starts this series off with a bang

“Dulcinea” covers essentially the first forty pages of Leviathan Wakes, the first novel in the Expanse book series by James S.A. Corey, plus (apparently) some material from the second book. It’s something far more than just a pilot episode, but it definitely has something of the pilot feel about it, with its heavy focus on world building and character introductions. Still, it’s a thoroughly engaging hour of delightfully pulpy sci-fi television and an excellent start to a series that many sci-fi fans (myself included) have high hopes for.

The show seems to be combining three different stories. Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) on Ceres Station is investigating the disappearance of an heiress, Julie Mao (Florence Faivre), who ran off to join an activist movement after college. Jim Holden (Steven Strait) is the unwilling second in command of an ice-hauling spaceship in the asteroid belt. And Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is a powerful and rather terrifying politician on Earth.

Most of “Dulcinea” is obviously set-up for the rest of the season’s plot, and very little actually happens in this episode that isn’t exposition. However, the episode ends with the sudden explosion of the ice hauler, which is sure to provide an impetus for plenty more actual action in the second episode. If the rest of the season follows the first book as closely as this episode seems to, we’re in for a hell of a ride.

Of course, what I’m most excited about is Avasarala. Leviathan Wakes is a book that has something of a problem with female characters—rather, a lack of them, and a lot of misuse of the few that it has—enough that I likely won’t continue reading more of the novels. Avasarala is an unusual character, though, and I can’t wait to see what her role is going to be in the show.

If the show was just a straight adaptation of Leviathan Wakes, I probably wouldn’t be watching it, but Avasarala is just fascinating. It’s not uncommon to see shady government types in science fiction, but usually they’re white dudes in suits.

Miscellaneous thoughts:

  • If you’ve read Leviathan Wakes, you’ll remember that the novel is peppered with allusions to Don Quixote, and this is reflected in the episode title which refers to the imaginary object of Don Quixote’s unrequited love.
  • My favorite detail of the first episode is the cracked screen on Miller’s handheld device. I’m not a huge fan in general of the “devices in the future are all clear glass” aesthetic, but this is one of many nice touches that make the world of The Expanse feel lived in.
  • I wish they had more consistently cast very tall actors as Belters, although the explanation that different people have different “tells” helps to explain that away for book readers.

What I will be (and you should be) watching this fall

So, it took me most of a summer of watching light fare to recover from this last season of Game of Thrones, but I think I’m more or less ready for watching and writing about some new television this fall. I won’t be writing about everything I watch, obviously, and there are a couple of things I intend to write about that I don’t know if I’ll be able to stick with–that could end up like my watching and posting about Killjoys did this summer; I still haven’t watched the last two episodes of that show, I was so bored/frustrated with it.

Here’s the plan:

The Mindy Project – Tuesdays on Hulu starting 9/15. I honestly love this show, and I will watch it til the end of time, although I rarely write about it outside of a line or two on Tumblr. The first episode of season four is excellent, and the first three seasons are available to stream on Hulu as well so it’s not too late too catch up if you’re really dedicated.

Doctor Who – Saturdays on BBC America starting 9/19. Doctor Who is another show I just can’t quit. It’s also one that I intend to write about this year, although I haven’t had much positive to say about it during Steven Moffat’s tenure as showrunner. I’m not making any promises about this one, though. Right now, my goal is to have my Doctor Who post up on Monday mornings, but I’m not going to destroy myself over this show the way I do over Game of Thrones. If it gets too insufferable, I will likely switch to just watching it.

Minority Report – Mondays on Fox starting 9/21. Frankly, I’m already bored by this series, but I’ll probably check out the first episode or two just to confirm my suspicion that it makes no sense. I’m pretty sure the whole point of Minority Report was that the whole pre-crime thing is a terrible idea and this show seems to be presupposing that–maybe it isn’t? Okaaaay.

Scream Queens – Tuesdays on Fox starting 9/22. This show is relevant to basically all of my interests. And it has Jamie Lee Curtis. I’m currently planning to write about this one on Wednesdays.

Heroes Reborn – Thursdays on NBC starting 9/24. This show is basically not relevant to anything. No one wanted or asked for it. But it’s a thing that is happening. Since I loved the first season of Heroes as well as anybody, I will be watching this, but I’ll only be writing about it if it’s really good or really comically terrible.

Bob’s Burgers – Sundays on Fox starting 9/27. Love it. Watch it with my family. Will almost never post anything about it except gifs of Tina on Tumblr.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine – Sundays on Fox starting 9/27. Also love, but also won’t write about unless something major happens.

iZombie – Tuesdays on the CW starting 10/6. The first season of this show was a little uneven, and I wasn’t totally thrilled with the way it ended, but I plan to tune in again this year and write about it some more. Depending on how things pan out, I may end up choosing between this and Scream Queens to write about, though. Just, realistically, I’m not sure I have it in me to write about more than one show a day, especially as I’ve got a lot of reading that I want to do over the next few months as well.

Jane the Virgin – Mondays on the CW starting 10/12. I won’t write about this show (mostly because it’s basically perfect), but it’s another one that we watch as a family and I can’t wait.

Supergirl – Mondays on CBS starting 10/26. I kind of dislike most super hero stuff, but this show looks completely charming. I’m currently planning to write about it.

Ash vs. Evil Dead – Saturdays on Starz starting 10/31. This show is definitely what I am doing on Halloween. I’m not sure if I will write about it or not. It depends on how good this show is and how bad this season of Doctor Who is.

Into the Badlands – Sundays on AMC starting 11/15. This show is almost certainly awful, but I’m kind of interested in it anyway. No plans to write about it.

The Man in the High Castle – On Amazon Prime starting 11/20. I haven’t read the Philip K. Dick novel this series is based upon, but the trailer for the show looks promising. I’m hoping to read the book sometime over the next couple of months, and then I might watch the show.

Jessica Jones – On Netflix starting 11/20. Another Marvel show. I’m somewhat looking forward to this one, but I haven’t even finished Daredevil yet, so there’s no telling when I’ll get around to it. I do really like Krysten Ritter, though.

Childhood’s End – On SyFy starting 12/14. I read this book over the summer, and I totally understand why it’s one of the great sci-fi novels. I also totally have no faith in this adaptation of it. It looks legit awful, and I’m a little embarrassed for SyFy about it. I’ll definitely be watching it, though. And I expect that I’ll write some about it, too. I think it’s going to be just that enraging.

The Expanse – On SyFy starting 12/14. I’m somewhat more optimistic about this show, although I haven’t read the source material (and don’t really intend to unless the show is really good). I’ve no idea whether I’ll write about it or not. It depends on whether I have any feelings about it strong enough to be worth sharing.

I’m really disappointed that the new shows that seem intended to capitalize on the popularity of Game of Thrones-esque, gritty, dark medieval European settings (The Bastard Executioner and The Last Kingdom) both look boring as shit. I’m actually a pretty big fan of the gritty medieval stuff, but I have no desire to watch shows that look to be almost entirely devoid of women. Game of Thrones might hate its women, but at least they exist there.

In all honestly, the shows I’m most looking forward to this fall are all returning favorites. The new stuff that’s coming out isn’t that exciting, with a couple of exceptions, and a solid half of it looks actively bad. I figure I’ll try a few new things, though. Worst case scenario, everything is terrible and I end up reading more books instead.