Missing my vomit zombies
By Christopher Robin Negelin
(Salvaged, Critical Mass/Leviathan Awakes)
Now we are on the final lap of our Season One Expanse Rewatch series. We’ve seen the show build on a slow burn of character and world building to set up all the dominos. Now in the final three episodes, we see how they all fall.
But first a quick shout out to actors Thomas Jane and Jared Harris, these two actor were magic when their characters were on the screen together. It was like the two made a pact to be so good that they’d inspire to hire them to do The Godfather XV: In Space. And now that Miller is on Eros, I doubt we’ll get see this awesome chemistry on the show again. This, folks, is my sad face.
For Holden and his crew, they follow Fred Johnson coordinates to an astroid to discovered another of the mystery ships that shot down the Cant and the Donnenger.
Thanks to some familiar blood smears, we know this is the same ship that we saw in the first minutes of the series and that Julie Mao was the mystery survivor who spotted something glowing and living on the ship’s reactor. The logs confirm that this is the Anubis and we the audience have the final puzzle pieces that confirms Miller’s theories about his case.
So I read the first book in the series, Leviathan Wakes, a few years back. (Knowing where things are going, that title now makes much more sense.) My memory is fuzzy, but I think about 80 percent of Salvage, episode eight, wasn’t in the book as-is. This part, which is classic Alien homage isn’t in the book. You know that when the crew turns the Anubis’ power on, the blue goo is going to get someone’s attention and we end up with either a dead crewmate or the usual “Save the infected hero” storyline.
But we don’t get that.
The moment the goo glows, the crew is out and torpedoing the ship. In a great GoT TV twist, the show invents and new scene that’s better than the book and made the crew of the Roci crew came out of it looking all the smarter for it.
Armed with the knowledge that the Anubis logs put their survivor, a Lionel Polaski, on a shuttle aimed at the Eros, Holden’s crew go there for answers, stowaway spy in tow.
Miller’s not having fun on his flight to Eros, but gets a “It’s all about faith” pep talk from a Mormon who is planning on being on that giant generation ship that Johnson has been commissioned to build.
On Eros, Miller is on fire and gets himself jailed for being a bit too aggressive with his fact-finding tactics. He’s bailed by his Eros contact, Inspector Sematimba, an old mentor who was the original owner of the hat that Miller left back on Ceres. The Inspector give Miller a clue card The pilot of the Anubis shuttle, Polaski, is Julie OPA alias and she’s at a rundown hotel, The Blue Falcon.
He gets there just in time to save the Roci’s crew’s bacon from a black ops team authorized by Avasarala’s boss and tipped off by the spy, Kenzo. Miller’s first words to Holden are classic Miller. “Shit keeps following you around, kid.”
The series heroes, finally united all go up to Julie’s room to find all the lights busted out and her blue, non-glowing, spikey corpse in the shower. It’s not Miller’s day.
(Critical Mass/Leviathan Awakes)
So now forward and onward with what was originally planned as two episodes (Critical Mass/Leviathan Awakes) at some point has been merged into one movie-length episode that had a combined opening credits scroll.
We start with a 7-week flashback to Julie to discover that she’s a special ops pilot for the OPA answering to Dawes (who eventually leaves her out to dry after she escapes to Eros) and that the Anubis is carrying a weapon from her father’s company.
The lengthy, but tense flashback establishes how her story happens fairly congruent with Miller and Holden’s own storylines and that they miss saving her (if she could have be saved) by only an hour or even a few minutes. One of her dying visions is of Miller and the tiny sparrow that used to fly by his window. But since she’s never been aware of Miller or the bird, that’s a bit of supernatural WTF for now.
Miller’s mentor covers the heroes escape from the hotel, but then is outranked by creepy scientist dude, Dresden. Happy day for Dresden. Julie’s body has incubated enough goo for his plans. Mr. Mao is heartbroken that he lost a daughter, but greenlights Dresden into action.
The Roci crew, plus Miller, are heading out of Eros, when a radiation breech is forcing everyone to go to shelters as Eros cops give them anti-radiation meds. Miller is suspicious and the rest follow his lead to find a way out and avoid getting scooped up in the crowd.
Yhis leads to Nagata, Kamal, and Amos using smuggling tunnels to get to the ship, but Holden and Miller’s worst suspicions are confirmed. People are being herded to the shelters to get irradiated with the blue goo inside them. The price of knowledge is high as both men get radiation poisoning.
They have some rad meds that will keep them moving, but only the Roci has a med bay that can keep them from becoming corpses within a couple of hours. Those couple of hours getting back to the ship has some character reveal moments for Miller, from his past as a Belter kid to finally getting his revenge on the man who tried to kill his Earther partner.
The interplay between Miller and Holden wasn’t like Miller/Dawes levels of chemestry, it held together pretty well. The tug and pull of the two personalities was between Holden’s dream of honor versus Miller’s stark pragmatism. Later, the producers said they were shooting for “Butch and Sundance” vibe, but for me it was less like two equals and more like the greenhorn vs an old veteran that you found in the Coehn brother’s version of True Grit.
The rest of the crew, though, have to deal with something that was much more obvious in the books. Vomit Zombies.
In the TV show, however, we got lethargic bodies and and unsettling off-screen screams. I would have to guess the answer to “Why not vomit zombies on TV” was either “budget” or a fear that it wouldn’t work with look and feel of the show. The implied off-screen zombies do add tension to the crew’s escape in the tunnels, though, and they keep the ship warm and waiting for Miller and Holen.
The two men finally get onboard just in time to get their advanced, life-saving meds. They also know that creepy Dresden has already flown the coop. Ready for some revenge for the massacre on Eros, the Roci jettisons its gas hauler disguise and barrels right into Season 2 as they chase Dresden down..
There are a few loose threads that the show ties up as interludes sprinkled throughout the conjoined episodes.
- Avasarala had been beating herself up for the suicide of an old friend that she had betrayed, but it turned out that he discovered that the stealth ships had been built by a Earth company for a private contractor. She finally figures out that not only is Mr. Mao involved but that she’s been a pawn in her boss’s games.
- Kenzo, the spy, escapes only to be found by an apparition that forms into a human shape before a blue claw/crane thing claims him for the blue goo.
- And again it was the little details that I got a kick out of. The tear in Mao’s eyes before her death how she wanted to see her space yacht one more time. And what to do with pencils in an all digital/hologram world?
- As for world building, I only want to call them out on one cheat. We’ve only seen the slices of each faction that set up the class war in the story. There’s only dirt-poor Belters (pun intended), militant Martians and Earthers that are either flat out rich or could do better if they didn’t have reasons to slum it out on the Belt. I don’t blame the producers for thinking that something like showing poor Earthers may dilute the message of the show, but the geek in me wants to see how low-rent Earther’s oppression is of a different sort.
We hope you’ve enjoyed our Expanse Rewatch series and hang out with us as we do recaps for the Expanse when Season Two goes live on Feb. 1st.