"I've known guys like him.
Guys with causes.
Causes that get people killed."
-Naomi on Fred Johnson-
The lives of Josephus Miller and James Holden and his crew continue to propel forward in their attempts to reveal what amounts to a conspiracy in space of epic operatic proportions. Their lives are inextricably linked and moving forward to ultimately connect straight from the pages of James S.A. Corey's Leviathan Wakes (2011). Each chapter of that book alternates between the names Holden and Miller as chapter headings as they are the keys to the story among a still colorful and important ensemble cast of characters.
The Expanse, Season One, Episode 5, Back To The Butcher, once again colors in the details of each respective player/character beginning with Miller and Holden. It's Miller, the jaded and world weary gumshoe, versus, the wide-eyed true believer that is James Holden both on different paths leading them to each other.
For the fifth entry in The Expanse TV series, the show cleverly weaves and adapts the short story, The Butcher Of Anderson Station (available for download through Amazon), by taking us back to events eleven years earlier than the events currently surrounding and swirling about Holden and Miller.
The flashback is effective in introducing us to another key player in the book and series, Fred Johnson, played by the always terrific screen presence of Chad Coleman (The Wire, The Walking Dead).
So again the flashback is actually the short story available direct from Amazon as an e-reader and not available in paperback form. The story isn't actually extracted from Leviathan Wakes.
Holden and his crew aboard the escaped Rocinante must find refuge and Fred Johnson, with a dark history, offers them that space on Tyco Station. The crew is torn about reporting there, given the events over a decade earlier, on whether to trust the man.
Back To The Butcher demonstrates Miller's uncanny ability to sleuth and put pieces of a major conspiracy puzzle together. The episode continues to re-activate or energize this world weary police officer. The case awakens Miller as he seeks to find Julie Mao whom he knows is at the center of this entire web of puzzle pieces. Miller proves why he is such a good detective and why his talents are simply wasted and buried within Star Helix Security with whom Miller was essentially phoning in his existence. Julie Mao and the events surrounding the destruction of the Canterbury have changed everything for the man.
Meanwhile, as Holden and crew make their decision to arrive at Tycho Station and unite with Fred Johnson, the gruesome Fred Johnson back story continues to unfold.
But it's also the little things about The Expanse and its world-building that make this series such a worthy torch-bearer in the pantheon of science fiction greats. Holden's crew walkabout The Rocinante with the metallic click of gravity boots. Belters speak in their own patois out in space in conversation with both Earthers or Martians.
In fact, pay close attention here because a recurring character, Anderson Dawes, played by the always exciting Jared Harris (Fringe, Mad Men), genuinely captures the end game for Belters and to some degree the political upheaval in the series between Belters, Earthers and Martians.
"Open your eyes detective, look around. You don't see what I see. ...Earthers get to walk outside into the light. Breathe pure air. Look up at a blue sky and see something that gives them hope. And what do they do? They look passed that light, passed that blue sky. They see the stars and they think... mine. Earthers have a home. It's time Belters had one too."
Certainly the power struggle speaks to the political upheaval on a global scale to the microcosms that blossom within nations.
This aspect of the scene, the series and the book speaks to any displaced people and the struggle to belong somewhere. This is science fiction working as a mirror to our own Earther problems.
And for all of us technology geeks here there are some typically nifty Expanse touches demonstrating humankind has stepped into the future for certain but not too far.
More importantly spaceship geeks can mark the moment Holden and crew dub their Martian vessel The Rocinante (Chapter 17 Leviathan Wakes). It happens here in Back To The Butcher, an episode filled with loads of small character moments. A photo here, an intimate exchange or reflection there and these moments build upon a cast that will be undeniable by Season Two.
Miller works his magic and Holden and crew make their way to the Butcher of Anderson Station. All are inevitably connected and will be inevitably tied to the fate of humankind well into Season Two.
The Expanse (2015), thanks to Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, continues to adapt the Corey writing into some of the most enthralling science fiction since Stargate Universe (2009-2011). And the direction here is notable by Rob Lieberman who once helmed the classic science fiction thriller Fire In The Sky (1993).
Writer: Dan Nowak.
Director: Rob Lieberman (Table For Five, Fire In The Sky, The X-Files).