The Expanse – Season 3 Overall Review

Expanse S3

As Amazon Prime gets ready to bring us Season 4, we here in the UK have only just got access to The Expanse’s Third Season, and boy… it was worth the wait! Once again the first few episodes end the adaptation of a book that started in the previous season, but this time the third novel is adapted fully by the end of the series, and it makes for a crazy ride! Let’s take a closer look…

Synopsis:

The crew of the Rocinante begin the clean up after coming face-to-face with a protomolecule monster, meanwhile Avasarala has to work out not only how to survive, but how to put a stop to a pointless war and take down Errinwright for good…

*spoilers appear from here on out!*

Cast of Characters:

Expanse S3 5

*Hums Elevator Music*

Jim Holden (Steven Strait) – Despite an injured leg, what hurts Jim Holden more is the apparent betrayal of Naomi, after her confession to having given the protomolecule sample to Fred Johnson. All that’s left is pain, though maybe a happy ending could be found for his latest crew member…

Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) – Naomi is loyal to the Rocinante, but her true loyalty still lies with The Belt, so much so that she gave the protomolecule to Fred Johnson, the leader of the Belt’s OPA group. Now she feels like a loner on her own ship…

Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) – Amos was always close to Naomi, so her betrayal has hit him harder than most. That being said, he’s still willing to listen to suggestions on how to get to safety now Earth and Mars have gone to war…

Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) – Alex is the Rocinante’s pilot, though he is also a proud Martian and has a family back home, which makes sitting on the sidelines as Earth and Mars go to war all the harder…

Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) – Chrisjen was set up by Errinwright and nearly killed, if it weren’t for her bodyguard and Martian Marine Draper being by her side. Now she needs to get free from the ship she’s on and her pursuers, and see if she can’t stop the war and take Errinwright down for good…

Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) – Errinwright taped a confession that could end the war between Earth and Mars, but then he saw a new opportunity, one where he could survive with his reputation intact and continue to influence the future of Earth…

Roberta Draper (Frankie Adams) – Draper has been disowned by her own people thanks to politics and being in the wrong place at the wrong time. She now finds herself looking after the UN’s Chrisjen Avasarala, a woman who might just be able to stop the war between her people and Earth…

Praxidike Meng (Terry Chen) – Prax is a botanist who survived the tragedy of Ganymede and is now searching for his daughter, who he believes is still alive, though in terrible danger. Luckily he found himself on the Rocinante, and with a crew willing to help…

Rev. Dr. Anna Volovodov (Elizabeth Mitchell) – Anna was an old friend of the current UN President, and although they parted on bad terms, she’s willing to give him another try and write a few speeches for him…

Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) – Drummer is Fred Johnson’s direct subordinate in the OPA, and as such she is soon put in charge of the OPA’s first major warship: The Behemoth…

Klaes Ashford (David Strathairn) – Ashford is an old hand mercenary who is well trusted among the Belters… so much so that many would see him as a better Captain of the Behemoth than Drummer…

Melba Koh / Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) – The daughter of soon disgraced politician Jules-Pierre Mao, and sister of Julie Mao, who became one with the protomolecule a while back. She sees James Holden as the sole reason for her family’s downfall, and has made it her personal mission to take him down…

and many more!

The Good:

Expanse S3 1

“It’s a plant! I thought you might have forgotten that I’m a botanist for a second, so…”

The season is split in two, with the first six episodes finishing off the adaptation of the second novel in the series, “Caliban’s War”, while the final seven is a complete adaptation of the third novel, “Abaddon’s Gate”. I haven’t read the novels, but even without looking it up its obvious, several plots and characters vanish after Episode 6, and 7 – 13 all feature one core storyline.

The first half then, is good. James Holden and the Rocinante crew pick up the distress beacon of Avasarala and her few remaining supporters, leading to her and former Martian Marine Draper to come on board. Everyone has a good debate on what  to do next, whether to trust Avasarala, who claims to be able to end the war with a single message, but a message that will expose their location to both sides, or whether to take the advice of Naomi, who had just recently revealed her betrayal, but is also speaking sense. Holden decides to just ignore all of them and keep his promise to Prax and head to Io in order to hopefully rescue his daughter.

It all comes to a head in the space above Io, as UN ships and Martian ships get ready for a big battle, but several members of the UN ship Agatha King attempt a mutiny when its former captain is killed trying to arrest the clearly corrupt Admiral Nguyen. This, in conjunction with Avasarala’s message about the war being fought on a lie, leads to several UN ships standing down, which then leads to in-fighting as the Martian ships look on in confusion. Meanwhile Holden et al arrive on Io, Draper gets to kill a Protomolecule creature, and Prax is reunited with his daughter. A whole bunch of Protomolecule missiles also heads towards Mars, but are stopped thanks to Fred Johnson’s stolen missiles and Naomi’s coordinates. Oh and the detestable Errinwright is arrested for treason, which is nice.

That was obviously a simplified version of the six episodes, but trust me, it was some properly great sci-fi, nicely paced and often tense. Pretty much all the regulars got something to do as well, even Alex, who normally just pilots got a bit of character development by exchanging messages with his family, and Amos got the “cool line” by stopping Prax from killing the scientist who nearly experimented on his daughter because he “wasn’t that guy”, and then after the botanist left, executed the scientist himself, quipping to himself that he, on the other hand, “was that guy”.

The cliffhanger ending is a strange Protomolecule structure that had been building on Venus suddenly takes off and flies into space, and its soon revealed at the start of Episode 7 that is reconstructed itself as a large circular gate just past Uranus. This causes ships from the UN, Mars, the Belt and the Rocinante all to head to the gate to see what it is…

Expanse S3 3

The Behemoth fires a laser towards The Ring from within its strange dimension…

The big thing here is that the OPA has reconstructed the old massive Nauvoo ship as their own battleship called the Behemoth and is now being recognised as a third power alongside the Earth and Mars. Fred Johnson’s trusted ally Drummer is made the captain of the Behemoth, and soon she’s joined by the extremely interesting Ashford, who sometimes it seems is trying to undermine his captain to take her place, and other times seems legitimately concerned about the ship, its captain and his people. The Rocinante and its crew (minus Prax and his daughter, who have left) on the other hand is being filmed by a journalist and her cameraman as a compromise from the Martian government that would allow them to continue to use the Martian ship as their own. As they get closer to The Ring James Holden starts seeing visions of Miller, from the first “Book”, or story arc I guess, who died on Venus…

Soon it all comes to a head as the Rocinante, some UN ships, some Martian ships and the Behemoth all enter The Ring and find themselves in a strange non-space where the tiny (in comparison to the dimension as a whole) planetoid core is able to limit their movement. Now it would take far too long to talk about everything that happens here, so let’s go over some key points…

Holden is shown a vision of the race that created the Protomolecule and finds out that it’s actually programmed to make a “road” to this solar system, but now it has no race to go out and connect to. Therefore it manipulated Holden by using the image of Miller, who was part of the Protomolecule smudge on Venus that ended up becoming The Ring, in order to get some answers as to where its masters have gone. The very end shot shows that The Ring now links to 1300 other habitable solar systems, all so the Protomolecule can use humanity to explore them and find out what happened to its creators… Great stuff, and the mystery surrounding the Ring and its weird dimension was really fun to follow, as was the return of Miller, though as a slightly sarcastic avatar rather than his normal self…

Another key plot point is the Behemoth, specifically Drummer and Ashford. The two butt heads, and then sort of bond when they become trapped together, before Drummer’s injuries mean Ashford has to take over. When some UN scientist experiment with the force that’s keeping them in place, they accidentally cause the core of the Ring to active a self-defense mechanism that could very well wipe out the entire solar system, and while James Holden eventually figures out (thanks to ghost Miller) that they have to show they don’t mean harm by shutting down all the ships, Ashford instead thinks that in order to save everyone he needs to destroy the Ring itself, trapping them all, but saving everyone else. It would’ve been really noble if it weren’t for the fact that turning off the engine for 10 seconds wouldn’t have hurt anyone before switching to his plan, but hey-ho… Good drama!

One of the people who stopped Ashford in the nick of time was Clarissa Mao, daughter of the rather unpleasant Jules-Pierre Mao who was taken down in Episode 6, who has sworn revenge on Holden, but after a few killing of completely innocent men, comes round to the idea that maybe Holden wasn’t all that bad, or at the very least she should try to save everyone, including herself, instead of trying to kill one man.

Those were the main plots, but it was tremendous seven episode story, and I really can’t recommend it enough. Once again pretty much everyone got something to do, the effects were way higher than a TV show has any right to pull off, the acting was top notch across the board (especially David Strathairn’s Ashford) and it left me wanting more… Thank goodness Amazon Prime picked up the show!

The Bad:

Expanse S3 4

Oh look, the tough one starts to like the softer, religious type…

I think the main “Bad” of the series was once again the politics. Hapless President is manipulated by the scummy Errinwright, who is then undone by nice speech-writing woman Anna. I wasn’t that interested, really. I did like the Earth-Mars war aspect, but it was one of those things that was very cliché among some far more interesting stuff.

Speaking of both Anna and clichés, she was also a key character in the second half, being on board one of the UN ships that explores The Ring, but all she really did was that old sci-fi classic of being a religious woman in a highly advanced society. All the classics like a tiny chapel-like room on the ship, people making fun of her by asking what exactly God’s plan is with a giant alien death Ring, that sort of thing. Once again it was a boring cliché in the middle of a really interesting piece of science fiction, so it was kind of annoying, but thankfully was drowned out by the goodness.

Overall Thoughts:

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Got to love the Belters, with their sort-of Gypsy-like accents!

Jeez, I tried to simplify things as much as I could, and then I ended up writing probably my longest review to date! It probably goes without saying, but Expanse Season 3 is fantastic, high-budget sci-fi that delivers all I want out of the genre with style. Can’t recommend you check it out enough!

5 Star Watch

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