The season finale of The Expanse (Syfy, Tuesday, 10/9C) is thrilling, scary and just a wee bit convoluted – pretty much like the rest of season one. It ramps up the danger while answering some big questions and setting some very big wheels in motion.
Then it ends on a cliffhanger of epic proportions…
The season finale – Critical Mass/Leviathan Wakes – finally gives us Julie Mao’s (Florence Faivre) story, from her original mission for the OPA to where we found her last week. Questions are answered – especially ones that revolve around who wants a civil war between Earth, Mars and the Belt.
While Miller (Thomas Jane) and Holden (Steven Strait) are trying to put things together, Miller’s old friend Inspector Sematimba (Kevin Hanchard, Orphan Black) finds himself being kept out of the loop by someone who has taken over Eros Station’s private security force, CPM.
On Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Agdashloo) visits Frank’s (Kenneth Welsh) husband (Philip Akin), ostensibly to pay her respects and say goodbye (but also to see if her suspicions about Frank’s death are warranted). What she learns will put her in danger.
Meanwhile, there are forces at work trying to pin the blame for the destruction of the Canterbury and everything that followed on Frederick Thompson (Chad L. Coleman) – especially after he takes the data cube he got from Miller and broadcasts it throughout the system (let’s just say that what he says is not what certain Powers That Be are saying) before Earth forces can arrive at Tycho Station to arrest him.
Unfortunately for Miller and Holden, things on Eros Station take a bad turn and they find themselves fighting for their lives on a couple of different levels – and that ties into the situations that are ongoing in other locations.
Critical Mass (written by Robin Veith & Dan Nowak and Naren Shankar) sets up the final hour with impressive agility, while Leviathan Wakes (written by Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby) takes all the disparate threads woven throughout the season and gives us a look a whole picture that isn’t available to any one of the show’s characters.
Director Terry McDonough brings a growing sense of claustrophobia to the finale as all the various threads come together for us (if not for anyone else). It’s easy to create that feeling in the corridors and access tunnels of Eros, but much harder on a planet or in space: the sequence when Avasarala visits Frank’s husband on the Yukon Peninsula, or the one in the massive UN building, or even shots looking at space vessels from outside – all feel closed in regardless of available space.
With the claustrophobia come paranoia and doubt and that touches on practically everyone in the finale.
By the time we reach the final moments of the finale, we know that the story can’t be resolved in that short an amount of time, but the cliffhanger still comes as a huge shock. To say that lives hang in the balance would be an understatement – even after the events of Leviathan Wakes (it’s a good thing Syfy has renewed the show for a second season!).
Even given the magnitude of the finale’s repercussions, there are small moments that have an enormous impact – like one between Holden and Naomi Nagata (the always superb Dominque Tipper – who should find lots of work beyond The Expanse if there’s any justice), or the admirable demonstration of loyalty by Amos Burton (Wes Chatham).
The emotional weight of last week’s discovery of Julie by Miller only increases in the finale – and when we finally meet her father (Francois Chau), we finally understand her rebelliousness.
How good has season one of The Expanse been? It’s persuaded me that I need to read the books. That almost never happens.
Final Grade: A