The Expanse is pulling off something amazing. It’s showing a solar-system-wide conflict through the experiences of just the characters we’re following. It’s a really tough rope to walk, and they’re doing it wonderfully.

Spoilers for “Remember the Cant” follow.

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In the book, I was most interested in what was happening with survivors of the Cant. The Expanse has made that story less interesting to me than Ceres or Earth, possibly because they’re adding a lot more there that’s new, possibly because Thomas Jane and Shohreh Aghdashloo are giving their roles a lot of dimensions that aren’t quite as obvious with the Cant crew.

“Remember the Cant” picks off where the episode two ended, and there’s no question that Holden’s message made it out. His accusation of Mars destroying the Cant is being played everywhere, all the time. On Ceres, that means that the station (which is run by Earthers and has some Earther inhabitants) is boiling over with resentment from the Belters and their sympathies to the radical OPA, which means that we get to watch Thomas Jane as Detective Miller play off of Jared Harris as the local OPA leader, Anderson Dawes. It’s scenes like this which make watching The Expanse a great experience.

I’m also going to call out the way the show used Miller’s partner, the Earther Havelock. In the books, he’s basically a nonentity who leaves the station when things get tough. While the way the show focuses on him this episode—showing him going to a prostitute to learn the Belter language, playing a joke on the captain—was a fairly obvious build-up to his death at Belter hands, it still worked. Just saying things are bad doesn’t really work unless we actually see characters we know affected.

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On Earth, Avasarala is also investigating what happened to the Cant. It would be so easy to turn this character into just a government face that gives the audience piles of exposition. In this case, that Mars took inventory of all their weapons and technology hubs to make sure nothing went missing. Which means they didn’t give it to the Belters and they’re not working together.

In the hands of The Expanse, her discovery and reveal of that information does avert a war. But it also comes at the price of destroying her long-term friendship with the Martian ambassador. Their final talk is heartbreaking.

And on the Donnager, the ship’s crew is doing a decent job of turning the Cant survivors against each other. Alex gets his old Martian Navy uniform back. They tell everyone Naomi is OPA. Holden was kicked out of the navy. Shed faked his medical credentials to escape a drug dealer who wanted to kill him. And... no one knows anything about Amos, other than he’s loyal to Naomi. They’re all at each other’s throats in no time, just so the Donnager captain can tell Holden to take back his message and say that OPA agent Naomi destroyed the Cant. Which she didn’t.

As always, the way The Expanse mixes action—the riot on Ceres, for example—with the slow burn reveals-—Avasarala’s manipulations on Earth—makes for engaging watching. So does the balanced way everyone’s approached. Mars may not have destroyed the Cant, but they are ruthless in how they treat the five survivors. Havelock’s death, simply because he was an Earther, is horrible. But it’s also clear the Belters have been badly treated for a very long time. Plus, there’s a mystery ship on the Donnager’s tail. And book readers know what that means.

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Top image via Syfy.


Contact the author at katharine@io9.com.