PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.
Television

The Expanse: Season 1, Episode 8 - "Salvage"

Elena Zhang

"Salvage" finally joins two storylines together in a superbly written episode.


Cast: Thomas Jane, Stephen Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Florence Faivre, Shohreh Aghdashloo
Regular airtime: Mondays, 9pm
Subtitle: Season 1, Episode 8 - "Salvage"
Network: SyFy
Show: The Expanse
Air date: 2016-01-26

"Salvage" unfolds in three acts in a superbly-written episode of The Expanse. Act one follows the Rocinante crew on a salvage mission to the Anubis. Act two centers on a former detective, punching his way towards salvation. Act three is when these two stories finally collide.

This episode was razor-sharp, focusing on our main characters with great intensity. Whereas previously the show would veer off in different directions too often, making it difficult to care about certain storylines, we are now finally able to zoom in on the heart of The Expanse. Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) brings Holden (Steven Strait) and Miller (Thomas Jane) together at last, and it's a beautiful thing.

The salvage mission on Anubis is eerily reminiscent of the Canterbury's ill-fated rescue mission on the Scopuli. Once again, the Rocinante crew finds themselves walking through lifeless corridors of an abandoned ship. This entire scene is a wonderful example of how the slow pace of the earlier episodes can later lead to a greater payoff. We're now so fully invested in the characters and the plot that little exposition is needed anymore. The show now has the luxury of stretching out tension-filled scenes like these, holding the audience captive with baited breath.

These quiet scenes also give the characters time to reflect, and it's during one of those moments that Naomi (Dominique Tipper) and Holden reminisce on their former Canterbury crew members. Memories of Captain McDowell and his glass cats seem like ages ago, and as we near the end of the season, it feels appropriate to look back at how the crew's journey began, and how much the characters have changed since.

I find myself pleasantly surprised at how little the former Canterbury crew members were mentioned throughout the season since their deaths. Holden and Ade's (Kristen Hager) relationship seemed geared towards a season of a mopey and guilt-ridden Holden, falling into the cliché that all of Holden's actions would be a direct cause of his grief over Ade.

Not so. These characters are much too practical for that, leaping into action mode as needed. Holden's silence on Ade's death made this moment all the more powerful, as I'm sure many of the viewers by now had forgotten about Ade given all the hi-jinks that have ensued since. "Remember the Cant" becomes a poignant whisper, reminding us that despite the grand political machinations that permeate the universe, at the heart of lofty ideals are humans that must deal with loss on a daily basis. Holden suddenly reminds me very much of Chrisjen (Shohreh Aghdashloo), who despite her ruthless politics, is driven by the intimate loss of her son.

As the crew cautiously investigate the Anubis, we're brought back full circle to the beginning of the season, realizing that they are retracing the same steps we saw Julie Mao take in the very first scene. Turns out, she wasn't on the Scopuli like we initially thought. The current theory has the Anubis taking control of the Scopuli to use as bait, blowing up the Canterbury, then killing the crew with the exception of Mao, who somehow survives. On board the Anubis, Mao intentionally vented the ship, then left on a shuttle to Eros. From the looks of the sinister, glowing, blue substance, I think it's safe to assume she left in order to escape the possible bio-weapon, which apparently feeds off the energy from the reactor.

Act two of the episode finds us with Miller as he travels from Ceres to Eros. Miller’s a lot more tolerable these days, finally able to shed the ridiculously tiresome stereotype of the gumshoe detective. Stripped of his career and his hat, Miller is simply a desperate man now, banking on the simple hope that Julie Mao is what he believes her to be.

Miller boils down his motivation behind his quest for Mao to a simple, "I believe in her". While this explanation is still fairly flimsy, it's a lot more palatable than, "I love her". But what exactly does he believe about Mao? That she sympathizes with miners? That she was manipulated by the OPA? I'm still unsatisfied by Miller, as his core character does not seem to make any kind of coherent sense.

Miller and Holden finally meet amidst gunfire, and boy did I appreciate their no-nonsense introduction. Too often when separate storylines collide, precious time is wasted on miscommunication over whom each party is, which is entirely frustrating for the viewer who already knows the answers to these questions. Holden gets to ask "Who are you", and "What do you want", once, briefly, but in an instant both he and Miller deduce that they are on the same team, and join forces in a smart and practical way.

Of course, neither party has the full story on one another, but under threat of police, the only logical thing for each of them is to band together against common enemies, and to unite for a common goal. The showrunners are really proving that they respect the viewer enough to delve into the story without wasting time on trivial and superficial matters. The Expanse is a smart show, and no matter how the finale turns out, Syfy has already proved it can get sci-fi television right.

This show has again proved that attention to details can elevate the entire series. We've gotten clues here and there that Amos (Wes Chatham) grew up in an unsavory environment, so it makes complete sense that Amos was the first one to realize that the Blue Falcon was a setup.

Chrisjen's cold manipulations are beginning to catch up with her. Although she's not explicitly to blame for Degraaf's (Kenneth Welsh) suicide, the fact that she got him banned from his favorite planet couldn't have helped.

8

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Television

How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.

Music

Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.

Music

CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.

Music

Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.

Music

While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Music

Peter Frampton Asks "Do You Feel Like I Do?" in Rock-Solid Book on Storied Career

British rocker Peter Frampton grew up fast before reaching meteoric heights with Frampton Comes Alive! Now the 70-year-old Grammy-winning artist facing a degenerative muscle condition looks back on his life in his new memoir and this revealing interview.

Books

Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.

Music

Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.

Books

Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.

Film

In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.

Music

The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.

Television

The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.

Music

The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller
Music

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.

Music

When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.

Music

20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.

Music

The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.

Books

Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.