The Expanse: Season 3 Returns With A Flourish – Review

At long last, “The Expanse” has returned to the warm bosom of its passionate fandom. The season opener delivered so much of what we love about this show — taut storylines, emotional interaction, snappy editing, the delicious twists and turns, and of course, the three horsemen of the apocalypse — Bobbie Draper, Chrisjen Asavarala and Cotyar. Well, I suppose that’s more of a personal joy on my part.

“Fight or Flight” was the handle of the season opener and there’s plenty going on. If the season 2 finale left you feeling there was going to be tension in the air for season 3, trust your instincts. Episode 1 is a tension-filled outing through and through, one that delivers on the promise that last year’s finale made to us all. In short, folks, I thought the opener was on-point, incredibly well-designed and touched on a lot of people and topics while not flailing around aimlessly. With each cut-away to another storyline, I found myself very much engaged.

When last we saw Naomi and Holden, she was confessing what she’d done with the protomolecule (gave it to Fred Johnson) and I wondered at that time how their relationship would fare. What I didn’t count on was the backlash from Amos and Alex. They were none too happy with what had transpired. Amos has a great line early in the show when addressing his feelings about Naomi’s deception when he says “she’s not the person I thought she was.” From Amos, those are pretty damning words.

THE EXPANSE — “Fight or Flight” Episode 301 — Pictured: (l-r) Terry Chen as Prax, Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

It’s clear that the Rocinante crew is undergoing an emotional struggle and that should be very interesting to see play out in the long run. Will something come up that can rebind this hearty crew into the close-knit band they used to be? It’s a valid question and one I think will be answered in the affirmative. Perhaps the detour to IO will be the catalyst for reconnecting this team? But as of Episode 1, this is a crew in meltdown mode.

I like that Dr. Prax Meng has essentially become part of the crew. He adds a different dynamic and I’m continually delighted by how the show has thrust he and Amos together. There’s a subtle mutual interest relationship building between the two. You can see it in how they interact with each other and I like that. It’s subtle, but it’s certainly there.

I guess this is a good point to note that watching episode 1, and the interactions of the Rocinante crew, reminded me of just how good the chemistry is between Cas Anvar, Wes Chatham, Dominique Tipper, Steven Strait, and now Terry Chin. It was a treat to see them together again – and see their work. Their scenes are often gritty or emotionally charged, with just the right touch of humor sprinkled here and there. It’s always well-done with this group and I (as well as the fandom) have come to appreciate their work more and more.

What’s interesting about this episode is the amount of change that is already underway. I thought the ultimate decision to wipe away the name Rocinante, both physically and in its transponder signal, was a statement about what’s to come – the old replaced by a new “new?”

THE EXPANSE — “Fight or Flight” Episode 301 — Pictured: (l-r) Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper, Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

The decision to ignore Naomi’s pleas to go to Tycho and search for Meng’s daughter Mae on IO was a nice little change-of-pace. And it confirmed Holden’s own opinion of himself as someone who “tilts at windmills.” Well, the question of what happened to Mae is one that Holden still wants an answer to and confirms that the promise they made to Prax to find his daughter still carries weight for Holden. There’s honor there and I like that, even as it contradicts what Naomi wants to do. I found it interesting that Alex and even Amos sided with Holden to change course.

While war is brewing elsewhere, the fate of Cotyar, Chrisjen and Bobbie was very much in up in the air. As they struggled to break free of Mao’s yacht, we got a really good look at the kind of soldiering skills Bobbie Draper brings to the band.

Let’s face it, cutting through a ship’s hull, scuttling up the side of a moving space craft, and eventually creating the opportunity for she and Chrisjen’s escape demonstrated not only her toughness and ingenuity, but the “can do” attitude of the Martian Marine she still is at heart. She may have changed sides, but the qualities that made her a great soldier were all on display in this episode. Bobbie’s badassery is very much intact.

As I’ve noted before, the trio of Bobbie, Chrisjen and Cotyar really delight me. They deliver plenty of drama with a nice infusion of humor. They play off each other so well and form a “team” that is fun to watch work together. Frankie Adams, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and Nick Tarabay have a real chemistry together on the screen and any scene they are in makes me smile. Let’s hope they all get away safely.

THE EXPANSE — “Fight or Flight” Episode 301 — Pictured: Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

I like that Bobbie and Cotyar, two suspicious souls thrust together by Chrisjen, continue to grow on the path to mutual respect. They had a nice exchange once Bobbie secured the racing ship as they went their separate ways. “Good job, Marine,” said Cotyar. “Same to you, spy,” replied Draper. Much as I’ve enjoyed the subtle building of a relationship between Meng and Amos, the subtle acknowledgement of respect between Draper and Cotyar has been equally appealing.

I think one of the things that “The Expanse” offers me as a viewer is that interesting relationships continue to build. I don’t find the show getting stale in terms of relationships. Again, this is a show that offers a little grittier look into the sci-fi television realm, but does so with a deft touch in the storytelling department. The more I watch, the more I enjoy that aspect.

Let’s hope our terrific trio escape because, let’s face it, you and I want Errinwright to get the nasty retribution that his multiple acts of betrayal have earned him. I just can’t decide if I want Cotyar or Bobbie to administer the beat down. Perhaps with Chrisjen delivering the coup de grace? Maybe it’s the romantic in me? So let’s see where we’re headed with that little storyline. Come on, Bobbie, fly the Razorback like mad.

While the action on various ships was interesting, another aspect of the Wednesday premiere that caught my attention was Fred Johnson reaching out to Anderson Dawes. It’s clear that Johnson feels acquiring the protomolecule is a game-changer for The Belt. And it’s equally clear that his right hand, Drummer, is leery of Dawes and Johnson’s grand plan. You know, Cara Gee does a great job with the Drummer character. There’s something about her that’s equal parts tough as nails and sensitive. Her discussion with Johnson in the bar was very interesting.

THE EXPANSE — “Fight or Flight” Episode 301 — Pictured: Wes Chatham as Amos Burton — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)

If combining the Protomolecule with the scientist that Dawes stole away last season sounds like a good idea to Johnson, you have to wonder what the end game would be for Dawes if the two reconcile and unite? It’s clear that Dawes and Johnson, while passionately advocating for The Belt, come at it from differing perspectives.

Johnson wants to unite the belt into “one nation.” I don’t know if Dawes can see that plan the same way Johnson does. I suspect Dawes will accept Johnson’s invite to combine resources, but from there you have to wonder if the two can come to a complete understanding. If not, Dawes is a very real threat to Johnson’s dream for The Belt. But then again, not all dreams are created equal – or arrived at in the same way, right?

There’s plenty more going on in the season opener, but you saw it and you obviously have some thoughts on things as well. I think what struck me most about “The Expanse” finally returning is how much I appreciate the many positives – both overt and subtle – this show delivers every episode.

We are experiencing a fun little renaissance in the sci-fi realms of television and movies. There are a lot of smart, sophisticated, well-done offerings out there, even some that have suffered cancellation. “The Expanse” has carved out a deserved place among the best of those sci-fi options. Watching it again as season 3 began, I think we all were reminded of why.

“The Expanse” continues to be a damn fine viewing experience.

Follow The Expanse on these social media sites: Facebook and on Twitter @ExpanseSyfy.

Follow me on Twitter: @jbakeR2D2 and @threeifbyspace.

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