The Expanse (Syfy, Tuesdays, 10/9C) has been carefully weaving together a series of plotlines involving political leaders on Earth, the survivors of an ice mining ship called the Canterbury and a cop who’d been given the task of finding the heir to an Earther billionaire who’d gone missing.
Along the way, the events lurking behind these plotlines had made for a cold-war-heating-up scenario between Earth, Mars and the people of asteroid belt. Now, however, things are coming together – not necessarily in a good way.
Salvage opens with Holden (Steven Strait, Magic City) and his team – with Kenzo (Elias Toufexis, Alphas, Bitten) their unwelcome stowaway spy – following a tip from Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) and finding a dead stealth ship. Investigation shows it to be the ship that destroyed the Canterbury. Unfortunately, when they investigate the ship, they find it shut down and abandoned – and they’re not exactly alone.
Meanwhile, we join the freshly re-motivated Miller (Thomas Jane, Hung) on a ferry to Eros Station. A fellow passenger notices he’s new to being in space and offers some advice. The man is a Mormon who is waiting for the generation ship Nauvoo (which we see under construction – complete with a gigantic figure of the angel Moroni on its bow) to be completed. (Almost from the beginning of the season, Mormons have been referenced. This is just the latest – and biggest Mormon moment, so some thing is building there…)
Back with Holden & Co., the discovery of what seems to be yet another weapon – that might be alive(!) – sets off another sequence of events that leads them to Eros Station.
On Earth, we learn that plans have been made for a ship under a false registration to seek docking on Tycho Station where, it’s hoped, they will find out what Johnson’s got in terms of stealth technology – and that Johnson is already pretty much aware of the ruse.
Much has been written about The Expanse being an allegory for the current world situation with the political (and otherwise) maneuverings of America, Russia and China. I mention that because that stuff is out there and can easily be read into the story. I prefer to look at the show as a complex, hard SF tale that deals with people who are simply being people – and thus open to all kinds of interpretations – and, not incidentally, providing us with a fun ride. On that level The Expanse succeeds admirably.
Salvage was written by Robin Veith (Mad Men) and directed by Bill Johnson (Justified) so it makes sense that the layers of plot and character beats are measured out very precisely. I especially liked seeing just how resourced Kenzo was – and how quick to manipulate his friends Miller was.
Considering their screentime, though, the other members of Holden’s crew – Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anwar) and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) – really didn’t have to do, or say. Given their established backgrounds and capabilities, that was a bit of a disappointment.
On the other hand, given that their different paths were leading to some kind of convergence, the manner in which Holden & Co. intersect with Miller was handled very nicely – adding an extra measure of drama and promising even bigger things to come in the final two eps of the season (and am I glad The Expanse has already been renewed!).
Salvage keeps its storytelling on track (however twisted and meandering that track might have seemed) with energy, enthusiasm and panache with its best episode since the series premiere.
Final Grade: A