DISCLAIMER: Spoilers abound for The Expanse in these here parts of the system. You’ve been warned. Enter at your own peril.
Editor’s Note: All ‘The Expanse’ episodes can be found on Amazon Prime.
Do you have a favorite series that still holds up even after you’ve rewatched it countless times? I just finished my rewatch of The Expanse. In my eyes, it’s still the greatest sci-fi series of this decade. I was also tickled to uncover details I never caught the first time around. To revisit scenes that still blow my mind.
Now, I’ve decided to compile a list of 10 essential episodes of The Expanse…so far. Thankfully, we’ve been blessed with a fourth season, and I’ve no doubt the best is yet to come. These episodes should be required viewing for, well, everyone. All newbies and veterans alike – system wide. Of course, this was no easy task. So, peruse the list below. Revisit your favorite parts of this beloved space opera. Then, encourage your fellow Belters, Earthers and Martians to binge it all. Share the gospel with those who are wandering aimlessly through the system, bereft of The Expanse in their lives. This list is in no particular order.
1. “Delta-V” (S03E07)
To me, this pivotal episode in Season 3 is when the tides turned. Jules-Pierre Mao and Sadavir Errinwright have both been incarcerated for waging a wholly unnecessary war. Secretary-General Sorrento-Gillis resigned in the wake of the aforementioned events. Thus, Avasarala rose through the ranks and now runs the entire planet of Earth, as she should. Now, the protomolecule has taken on a new shape – that of a massive ring. The whole system was put on high alert after the protomolecule extricated itself from Venus in the shape of a sphere.
Also, Naomi is now the chief engineer for Drummer on the O.P.A. Behemoth. Holden and the Roci are en route to the Ring, as well as the UNN Thomas Prince. Oh, and a rebel Belter pilot attempted to fly through the Ring, but instead of receiving glory he morphed into a pile of gooey guts. In short, s**t hit the fan.
Now, this episode marks a new chapter in The Expanse. We spent so much time focused on Errinwright and Mao’s villainous escapades. The protomolecule is growing stronger by the day, appearing to possess a consciousness of sorts. It now stands to be a bigger threat to the system than Errinwright and Mao. I’ll be curious to see how this season pans out.
2. “Home” (S02E05)
Personally, this episode is easily in my top 5 favorites of The Expanse. It knocks the ball out of the park in every aspect. “Home” is just a really good piece of sci-fi. Miller sacrificed himself to save Earth from a hurtling, protomolecule-ridden Eros by convincing Julie Mao to drive it into Venus. Yes, that Julie Mao. Of course, she’s more protomolecule than human at this point. We learned that she just wanted to return to Earth – home. Thus, she morphed Eros into a space ship, thinking she was on her Razorback. The scene with Miller and Mao prior to Eros’ destruction was beautifully touching. Thomas Jane was in top form this episode, as he expressed to Mao how her convictions injected him with a renewed spirit. He found something to live for.
Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the gorgeous string quartet piece playing during that scene. Hats off to Clinton Shorter for always going above and beyond with the score. The VFX team deserves a hefty pay raise after “Home” as well. Overall, this episode truly encompasses what The Expanse is all about.
3. “CQB” (S01E04)
And the Rocinante is born! “CQB” marked when our favorite crew escaped the Donnager via the Tachi and rechristened it the Rocinante. We learned that Mars wasn’t behind the annihilation of the Canterbury, but rather a massive stealth ship whose origins were still unknown at that point. Also, this is our first time engaging with the Martians on The Expanse. Holden started piecing together a puzzling mystery when he noticed that the ship responsible for destroying the Canterbury was also behind the zapping of the Donnager. To me, “CQB” marks when Holden truly got involved in the saga of Julie Mao, that which will eventually lead him to Miller. Also, Shed lost his head, and I didn’t mention that for the sake of rhyming. Although I do love me a good rhyme.
4. “Leviathan Wakes” (S01E10)
Now, Eros stood to become thoroughly infected by the protomolecule in the Season 1 finale “Leviathan Wakes.” Julie Mao died a tragic death on the asteroid station, covered head to toe in spores and blue goo. Miller and Holden teamed up to get to the bottom of the situation. Oh, and they were also exposed to an overabundance of radiation, along with the rest of the residents of Eros. Fun! It’s here that we learned of Eros being the “guinea pig” for the protomolecule. Errinwright and Jules-Pierre Mao were testing out the extra solar blue goo on actual people. “Leviathan Wakes” marked the next chapter in the protomolecule story, as well as Holden and Miller being the BFFs we all deserve. Watch your doors and corners, kids. These two made a stellar team.
5. “Caliban’s War” (S02E13)
Ever fought off an alien hybrid on a space ship? Now Holden can check that off his bucket list. After leaving Ganymede behind, the Roci crew encountered an unwanted passenger on their ship – a protomolecule hybrid. Yes, the very same that Holden was trying to annihilate on Ganymede, but to no avail. The cosmos gave him a second chance. Oh, and the snake that is Errinwright threw Avasarala to the wolves. He sent her to meet with Jules-Pierre Mao under the guise of peace talks, but in reality her trip outside Earth served as the grounds for her assassination. Just when you thought Errinwright was willing to turn a new leaf and repent for his crimes. The snake strikes again! So, Season 2 ended with Cotyar and Bobbie attempting to protect Avasarala from losing her life.
Now, “Caliban’s War” ended with Naomi confessing a course-altering secret: she gave the Roci’s protomolecule sample to Fred Johnson. She asserted that it was time for the Belt to have a stake in the inevitable war between Earth and Mars. Belters deserve equal rights just as much as any Earther or Martian. Little did she know just how much her actions would affect the events to come. The Expanse is so very adept at giving us a solid season finale, all across the board.
6. “Cascade” (S02E10)
Now, I love this episode for a few reasons – one being Bobbie’s little excursion outside her United Nations quarters to the Earthly world outside. Seeing her attempting to adapt to Earth’s gravity and the blinding effects of the sun was fascinating. She even mentioned to Avasarala that Earthers take their world for granted, and it hit home for me. We do take our beautiful planet for granted. Bobbie’s expression when she finally made it to the ocean was one of pure amazement. “Cascade” also marked the beginning of Avasarala and Bobbie’s partnership as they tried to suss out the details of the attack on Ganymede. We learned that Ganymede was, once again, a pawn in Errinwright and Mao’s war. A testing grounds for the protomolecule hybrid that almost attacked Bobbie. It’s all falling into place.
There’s also the moment when Prax and the Roci crew’s paths intertwine. Prax lead the crew through the war-torn station on Ganymede as they attempted to track down Dr. Strickland, the scientist working for Mao and Mei’s kidnapper. Just another unraveling thread in the protomolecule saga.
7. “Assured Destruction” (S03E03)
It finally happened – Holden met Avasarala in person! Of course, it occurred in a way that no one was expecting but nevertheless, our two protagonists finally joined forces. Avasarala tried to convince Holden to allow her to send the Errinwright-condemning comm logs to Admiral Souther aboard the UNN Agatha King. Now, Holden brushed her off, citing that he wanted no part in the ensuing war between Earth and Mars. His meddling days were over…or so he believed. Also, Bobbie met Alex, and thus a beautiful Martian friendship took root.
Also, in an attempt to destroy Mars’ missile platforms, Earth lost two million souls in the Amazon when a Martian missile struck ground. Of course, this was Errinwright’s doing, as he persuaded Sec-Gen Gillis to destroy said platforms. This was a jaw-dropping moment for me. The fact that we currently have weapons capable of destruction on this level, and are enmeshed in a Cold War of our own struck a chord with me.
8. “Doors & Corners” (S02E02)
“Doors & Corners” finally exposed us to Bobbie Draper, Martian Marine extraordinaire. Not to mention those breathtaking shots of the crimson Martian landscape. Bobbie’s story in the big picture began with her crew being summoned to Phoebe station, where the protomolecule was initially discovered.
Now, this episode also marked a turning point in the Holden-Miller alliance. Miller and the Roci crew took over a remote station that protomolecule scientist Daniel Kash was working out of. Fred Johnson also joined in on the invading fun. Unfortunately, just as Kash proclaimed he was willing to comply with our crew, Miller promptly shot him in the head. Well, that escalated quickly.
This episode gave us more pieces to the protomolecule puzzle, and what exactly the blue goo is. Signs of extraterrestrial life? Most definitely. Aliens, y’all.
9. “Critical Mass” (S01E09)
Origin story time! “Critical Mass” blessed us with Julie Mao’s origins. How she ended up on the Scopuli, and inevitably wound up on Eros. Her final dying days, crawling in agonizing loneliness. Her story gave us insight into how the protomolecule spread from Phoebe station to Eros. And who doesn’t love a good origins story?
Now, this episode also marked the downfall of Eros. This is right after Miller and Holden meet for the first time, after they discovered Julie in her hotel room. The start of a beautiful, albeit brief, alliance.
10. “Salvage” (S01E08)
Now, in “Salvage” we saw our worlds finally collide – Miller’s investigation brought him to Eros. Meanwhile, Fred Johnson sent the Roci on a mission to bring back Lionel Polanski, the one surviving member of the Scopuli crew. Of course, we learned that Julie was using the pseudonym “Lionel Polanski” when she checked into the hotel on Eros. Oh, and Errinwright sent a team to Eros to wipe out the Roci crew for good. So, there’s that.
When Errinwright’s team launched their attack on the Roci crew, Miller swooped in and saved the day. Together they uncovered the mystery of the elusive Julie Mao, and what exactly happened to her after the Scopuli incident. “Salvage” is so important for the audience in general, in that the threads of this story were finally weaving together to form one giant blue goo blanket.
Honorable Mention: “Immolation” (S03E06)
Seriously, why is every episode of The Expanse so unbelievably breathtaking? “Immolation” may have merely acquired the title of “Honorable Mention,” but it’s an esteemed title in my book. So much happened! This episode was the catalyst for the events in “Delta-V.” Bobbie went all Iron Man and fought off the Katoa protomolecule hybrid. Anna helped bring down Errinwright, and his arrest scene made my heart burst with joy.
Oh, and Prax reunited with Mei! Their reunion made me reach for the tissues, folks. Amos delivered the most epic lines of dialogue ever – “You’re not that guy. But I’m that guy.” Then, he promptly shot Strickland in the head. Boom. Lastly, the protomolecule molded itself into a sphere and rose from Venus’ atmosphere into the Big Empty beyond.
The Expanse has mastered the art of resolving storylines while simultaneously introducing new and exciting arcs. I’m so intrigued to see how the rest of Season 3 will pan out. I have no doubt we’ll be left with a cliffhanger that’ll leave us salivating for more. This series is reinventing itself, and with a plethora of book material to pull from I don’t expect it to slow down any time soon.
Yam Seng, Beltalowda!
This was originally published 6/13/18