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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.


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