The Expanse: Critical Mass Burning Down the House Before the Leviathan Wakes!

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The Expanse poster courtesy of Syfy
Images courtesy Syfy and Space Channel

As we conclude our coverage of season one, it is fair to say that millions around the world, including Team WHR, absolutely love The Expanse, an outstanding series which has taken literally taken the world of science fiction lovers by storm!

Having projected The Expanse would become known as the finest science fiction drama in the past 20 years, we here at WormholeRiders are more than pleased to witness many well known journalists, including those at National Public Radio (NPR), state “most important piece of science fiction to appear on the small screen in a decade.”

We here at TeamWHR could not agree more. Over the course of the first eight episodes, The Expanse artfully dealt with life in the twenty-third century. Can anyone deny the series is as an outstanding analog to life in the twenty-first century?

The Expanse S1x10 Miller and Holden on Eros

While many, including this reviewer, yearn for peace on Earth, the fact of the matter is that evil doers seeking power and control over others for wealth and influence have attempted throughout history to dominate our sphere, planet Earth, by “Burning Down the House”! This factor undoubtedly affects our lives now, or in a future some two hundred years from now as depicted in The Expanse.

The Expanse S1x09 Title sequence Florence Faivre
Title sequence with Florence Faivre

And so it is within the story arc of “Critical Mass”, when the evil doers plot is exquisitely exposed, simultaneously revealing the back story of the protagonist turned victim, Julie Andromeda Mao (Florence Faivre).

Throughout the first segments of the episode our heroes learn the horrendous details of her death with a horrendous discovery linked back to the cabal on Earth that has been
linked to the events in deep space.

The Expanse S1x09 Julie's dad in tears
Julie’s dad in tears

Perhaps one of the most heartfelt scenes is when Julie’s father, Jules-Pierre Mao (François Chau) learns of his daughter’s death. Even more stunning is the fact that Jules-Pierre Mao is involved directly with the entire disaster, including the bio weapon cabal on Earth which has been setting all of the events into motion!

“Critical Mass”, aired with episode ten “Leviathan Wakes” which sets the stage for what is to occur in season two, a devastating bio weapon, a Proto-molecule that has become self aware that the malcontents plan on releasing on Eros Station subsequent to a failed attempt on Phoebe Station earlier in the timeline.

The Expanse S1x09 Seven weeks earlier
Seven weeks earlier

The consequences for our five heroes could be devastating unless they make good their escape from Eros before becoming victims in a terrorist mass murder act with serious consequences for all of human kind. In “Critical Mass”, we witness the back story of Julie seven weeks earlier!

As always, we here at TeamWHR give the cast, crews, and creators of The Expanse a solid A PLUS for developing a science fiction series that is the finest effort since Syfy renewed and re-introduced Stargate SG-1 in 2001 to millions of science fiction fans after beginning its ten year run in 1997.

Our sincere hope and desire is that The Expanse, which a series of now famous books by the two authors under the pen name James S.A. Corey, will itself embark on a decade long journey on the small screen, delighting viewers for many years to come!

Critical Mass:

The Expanse S1x09 Millers investigation bears fruit
Millers investigation bears fruit

The ninth, and second to last episode of season one begins with an exciting overview of where it all begin.

In the opening segment prior to the opening credits, the main points of the adventure are recapped before we learn what happened some seven weeks earlier prior to Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) starting his investigation into the disappearance of Julie Mao.

Proving his conspiracy theory involving the destruction of the Canterbury, the warship the Anubis, and the bait which drew the Canterbury there, the Scopuli and the Mars Congressional Royal Navy warship the Donnager. In a vindication for our hero, Millers instincts have been spot on!

The Expanse S1x09 Julie on board Scopuli
Julie on board Scopuli

In a scene we observed in the previous episode, we find ourselves near asteroid CA-2216862, where the Scopuli has been waiting to intercept the Anubis. We then find ourselves on board the Scopuli with Julie Mao and her OPA associates, Wan (Anthony Grant) and Darren (Paul Popowich).

We finally learn what Julie has been assigned to find by Anderson Dawes (Jared Harris); her father’s bio weapon has been secreted on board the Anubis.

The actual mission Julie is executing? Stop the crew of the Anubis who is supposed to seize the bio weapon before it can be used against The Belters on Eros.

The Expanse S1x09 Julie tries to contact Anderson Dawes
Julie tries to contact Anderson Dawes

What we do not know at this point is why Jules-Pierre Mao became involved and how he was unaware that his daughter was working with Anderson Dawes and the OPA to save The Belters.

The OPA trio is surprised to find that the Anubis is not a simple science vessel but a stealth ship, one that easily overtakes the Scopuli. Wan and Darren are killed by the “scientists” on board whilst Julie is thrown into a padded room to be dealt with later.

Is this starting to sound familiar?


The Expanse S1x09 Julie screams as she sees The Entity
Julie screams as she sees The Entity

We witness the Anubis destroy the Canterbury, after which Julie escapes from her cell, only to find she is trapped in a completely abandoned ship.

Julie makes her way to Engineering, coming into contact with some sort of blue glowing substance … and then screams in terror at what she sees in the ships reactor.

Julie leaves the Anubis on Chartered Belt Asteroid BA-834024112, takes the Anubis 1A shuttle to Eros Station and checks into the Blue Falcon Hotel under the assumed name Lionel Polanski.

The Expanse S1x06 Julie is being transformed
Julie is being transformed

Julie’s frantic and desperate calls to Anderson Dawes are tragically not answered.

Our heroine’s body undergoes a grotesque and no doubt a painful transformation.

Whatever she came into contact with on the Anubis is slowly, but most certainly killing her by the powerful bio weapon.

Viewers will later find out the bio weapon is deliberate and will become known as the “Proto-molecule”.

The Expanse S1x09 Our heroes find Julie
Our heroes find Julie

Finally, a barely recognizable, hideously disfigured Julie crawls into the shower stall, succumbing to the last phase of her condition.

Our heroes Miller, Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi (Dominique Tipper), Amos (Wes Chatham) and Alex (Cas Anvar) come bounding through the door of her hotel room to late to save Julie.

A heartbroken Miller and the rest of the gang make their way back to the hotel lobby, where Inspector Sematimba (Kevin Hanchard) meets them in the hotel lobby now strewn with the wreckage from the shoot-out with the thugs.

The Expanse S1x09 Inspector Sematimba meets our heroes
Inspector Sematimba meets our heroes

Sematimba tells them to get out and lay low while he tries to clean up the mess, though he’s soon outranked once a sinister-looking fellow named Antony Dresden and his goons arrive, claiming they’re looking for Julie Mao.

The Expanse S1x09 Dresden takes samples from Julie
Dresden takes samples from Julie

In Julie’s hotel room, scientist Antony Dresden is seen taking samples from Julie’s body, claiming that whatever happened to her is not an airborne pathogen;

Dresden, obviously obsessed with his work on the “Proto-molecule” states “but if it’s wet, don’t touch it … unless you want something wonderful to happen.”

Dresden says there is enough gunk in Julie’s body for whatever he has planned and commands his associate Rutger to tell the crew to “prepare the injections.”

The Expanse S1x09 Proto-molecule phase two
Proto-molecule phase two

Dresden contacts Julie’s father, Jules-Pierre Mao, telling him about the news about Julie’s death but assuring him that he has a viable sample of what he calls the “Proto-molecule” and that the injections are being prepared.

A map of Eros Station is displayed on a local monitor near Dresden. Labeled “Proto-molecule Evolution: Phase 2” is observed on the display, looking a lot like the blueprint for a terrorist attack. The heartbroken Mr. Mao tells Dresden to proceed as originally planned.

Meanwhile, on the streets of doomed Eros station, Holden and The Expanse gang plan to get to the Rocinante as quickly as possible.

The Expanse S1x09 The crew tries to escape Eros
The crew tries to escape Eros

The problem is that a radiation breach causes all of the ships in the station to go into lock down. Miller theorizes that this incident was no accident and scurries off to investigate, followed by Holden, who tells Naomi to take off without him if he’s not back at the Rocinante in three hours.

The people of Eros are starting to receive anti radiation injections from CPM cops. We learn that the injections are supposed to be an Iodine supplement as protection from the radiation.

Meanwhile, Miller’s is trying to track down Dresden, whom he recognizes from a video recording he had seen while on Phoebe Station.

The Expanse S1x09 Anchorage Island
Anchorage Island

Blaming Dresden for Julie’s death, Miller tries to kill Dresden in the streets of Eros, but is stopped from doing so by Holden. Miller, loses control then attacks Holden as the evil scientist Dresden leave Eros escaping the carnage.

Meanwhile, on Anchorage Island in the Yukon Archipelago, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdasloo) visits Franklin DeGraaf’s (Kenneth Welsh) widowed husband, Craig (Philip Akin).

Craig will never forgive Chrisjen for betraying Franklin. Craig, not without compassion, allows Chrisjen some private time alone in Frank’s study in order to say goodbye.

The Expanse S1x09 Chrisjen meets Craig at Franklin's Anchorage Island home
Chrisjen meets Craig at Franklin’s home

Chrisjen finds three sharpened pencils in Frank’s desk, which are actually data drives; on one of them, she finds the plans for an Advanced Fusion Prototype, which looks a lot like the reactor on board the Anubis

Segue to Miller and Holden. The pair have calmed down, now confronted by the CPM authorities whom were escorting Dresden during his escape.

Miller and Holden are warned to the seek shelter immediately or face certain death on Eros Station.

Miller, known to take few prisoners, shoots one of the guards and promptly interrogates the surviving guard to extract information before the catastrophe overcomes everyone.

The Expanse S1x09 Miller recognizes the guard
Miller recognizes the guard

Miller recognizes the man as one of the many members of the Greigas gang that suddenly disappeared from Ceres after being offered jobs by the CPM. In fact, CPM hired all the Ceres crews, mostly to set up cameras and science gear all over Eros.

Eros Station is quickly becoming a travel nightmare as transit pods are closed, communications have gone dark. Radiation shelters are full, none of which will protect them from the “Proto-molecule”!

As a riots break out with those left behind realizing they are doomed, Miller and Holden use the wounded guard as a way to gain access to a shelter. To their mutual horror, dozens of Eros citizens, writhing in their death throws on the floor.

The Expanse S1x09 Radiation hits Eros
Radiation hits Miller and Holden on Eros

Suddenly, the room is hit with a huge dose of hard radiation. Miller and Holden do not get out in time.

It appears that our two heroes have but a few scant hours to live!

As the episode proceeds to an exciting conclusion, the scene shifts to Tycho Station where Fred Johnson (Chad Coleman) is sending an open broadcast system wide.

The transmission contains the information found on the data cube that he acquired earlier from the uniform of dead Officer Lopez (Greg Bryk).

The Expanse S1x09 Fred Johnson transmits the data
Fred Johnson transmits the data

The transmission from Tycho Station is witnessed by billions, including Chrisjen that provides a detailed analysis of the attack against the Donnager, the vile plot against The Belters, and in fact against all citizens of our solar system!

Most disturbing is the data transmission documents that that the attackers were using advanced stealth fighters that could only have been built at the Bush Naval Shipyards.

Is there any doubt that the scheme has been accomplished by Julie’s Dad and his corrupt cabal back on planet Earth?!

Leviathan Wakes:

The Expanse S1x10 Inspector Sematimba helps our heroes
Inspector Sematimba helps our heroes

The outstanding season one finale of The Expanse opens with our heroes apparently trapped on Eros Station which is facing immanent doom.

Inspector Sematimba is observed helping Amos, Alex and Naomi with the dire circumstances confronting our heroes.

A question arises is whether or not Sematimba has a simple selfish agenda of his own knowing that the Rocinante is his own salvation rather than face death on Eros?

The Expanse S1x10 Our heroes deal with the inspector
Our heroes deal with the inspector

Naomi wisely advises the group that their best chance to escape Eros alive is to use the vast system of mech shafts running throughout the station in order to get back to the Rocinante which is located at the station docks.

Sematimba agrees with Naomi’s assessment. Before they proceed, a young girl and her father arrive begging for help joining our heroes. .

Next we are with Miller and Holden who have been dosed with hard radiation.

The Expanse S1x10 Julie appears in Millers mind
Julie appears in Millers mind

Our heroes, Miller and Holden are seeking medications to be able to make it to the Rocinante because Holden estimates they have limited time before they perish.

Both realize that their only hope is getting aboard the Rocinante to access its advanced medical facilities.

During this segment, Miller begins his series of hallucinations, seeing Julie Mao who will undoubtedly appear again in the future in Miller’s mind.

The Expanse S1x10 Chrisjen, Errinwright and Admiral Souther the UN
Chrisjen, Errinwright and Admiral Souther the UN

Subsequently, back at the United Nations, Admiral Souther (Martin Roach) tells Chrisjen that Fred Johnson is not telling the truth.

Crisjen demands a full investigation into the stealth ship fusion drives as described by Fred Johnson once she corroborated the facts Franklin’s data.

Errinwright (Shawn Doyle) interrupts them. His contention is that the stealth ships were indeed built at the Bush Naval Yards, but were not manufactured for the United Nations.

The Expanse S1x10 Errinwright tells Chrisjen and Admiral Souther about stealth ships
Errinwright tells Chrisjen and Souther about stealth ships

Errinwright concludes the ships were built for private contractors, and that all the stealth ships eventually made their way to Tycho Station over the past few years.

This subject raises a question; how do private contractors get access to distribute government stealth technology?

The answer in the future is the same as the twenty-first century, corruption in the government supply base as corporation misuse technology to advance their own agendas!

The Expanse S1x10 Arun and Chrisjen on the roof of their home
Arjun and Chrisjen on the roof of their home

Chrisjen puts two and two together. Errinwright re-introduces her to his security advisor, Julie’s dad Jules-Pierre Mao, deducing that his firm is behind the conspiracy to instigate a system wide war.

Later that evening while on their roof top, Chrisjen tells her husband, Arjun (Brian George), that he should take a journey needs to go to the Moon Base for a while.

Chrisjen is worried that her husband will no longer be safe for him on Earth due to her involvement in unraveling the corporate conspiracy.

Why is Chrisjen worried?

The Expanse S1x04 OPA social logo
OPA social logo

Viewers know that Errinwright and Jules-Pierre Mao had Chrisjen’s friend Franklin killed, pushing him into suicide, or making it appear that Franklin committed suicide after he had used his Martian contacts to determine the stealth ship fusion drives were actually built on Earth.

It has become apparent that Chrisjen is aware that the conspiracy has evolved on Earth, using the OPA, Belters and Mars as the scapegoats for their dubious scheme.

The Expanse S1x10 Julie has a C Section
Julie undergoes a C Section

During their encounter, the look on Jules face belies his lack of guilt and involvement. François Chau, a favorite actor of this reviewer since his days on Stargate SG-1, is very believable, does a fabulous job with the evil Jules Mao character even as his rogue gang of scientists perform a hideous operation on deceased Julie Mao!

The Expanse Shohreh Aghdashloo as Crisjen
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Crisjen

The meeting convinces Chrisjen that her boss, Errinwright, is definitely associated with the incidents designed to create a war as a distraction while the malcontents complete their work on the “Proto-molecule” bio weapon.

Chrisjen realizes that she herself is also a target for the corporate cabal. Only her high ranking position within the United Nations has saved her thus far from elimination!

The Expanse S1x10 In the mech shafts on Eros
In the mech shafts on Eros

A quick segue brings the viewers back to Eros Station where we will stay for most of the the remainder of the superb season one finale episode.

In the bowels of Eros Station shaft system, Sematimba, Alex, Amos and Naomi have thankfully found a mech shaft ladder that will ultimately bring them safely back to where the Rocinante is berthed.

Leaving the arcade area, Miller and Holden getting sicker by the minute, discover that the Eros transit pod system is once again functional, likely being used by the CPM squads to escape the infection sweeping the station.

The Expanse S1x10 Miller and Holden board a shuttle
Miller and Holden board a shuttle

As Miller and Holden board a shuttle, they discover, to their mutual horror, that the infection has spread to more Eros citizens, now infected with the “Proto-Molecule”. Miller puts two and two together; “They’re spreading it deliberately, the whole goddamn station,”.

Both of our heroes realize that murdering 100,000 people using the bio-weapon, is a perfect method to initiate a war between Mars, Earth and the Belt. Neither yet realize that the cabal has been cultivating the “Proto-Molecule” for their own nefarious agenda!

The Expanse S1x10 Miller and Holden confront Kenzo
Miller and Holden confront Kenzo

Holden and Miller come across a former associate, Kenzo (Elias Toufexis) who turned on our heroes during the ambush at the Blue Falcon when they were trying to locate Julie. Kenzo, who appears to be not yet affected by the “Proto-Molecule”, begs Holden and Miller to help him escape.

Holden will have nothing to do with the treacherous Kenzo, unloading his weapon at Kenzo, sending the malcontent running for his life! Miller is pleased with Holden’s decision, watching Kenzo scurry to safety… for the time being.

The Expanse S1x10 Eros CPM guard confrontation
Eros CPM guard confrontation

Miller and Holden continue their journey, locating an elevator to the ship docks. Along the way, they encounter another CPM goon squad. They disguise themselves using the CPM uniforms from two dispatched guards they killed on route.

It is at this juncture we learn that Dresden does not care who is left behind on Eros, so long as he and his group of scientists make good their escape subsequent to extracting samples of the “Proto-Molecule” from Julie.

Miller creates a distraction amongst the CPM guards who will be abandoned on Eros. The CPM guards riot to no avail allowing Miller and Holden to make their way safely to the Rocinante.

The Expanse S1x10 Amos takes out Inspector Sematimba
Amos takes out Inspector Sematimba

On board the Rocinante, Sematimba demands they escape immediately. When Naomi refuses. She informs Sematimba that she promised Holden and Miller three hours to get aboard Rocinante. Sematimba will have none of it, pulling his gun on Naomi demanding she leave immediately.

Amos, who never trusted the inspector, shoots Sematimba spraying Naomi with blood, effectively ending the debate with a response to Naomi; “You say we wait, so we wait, boss!” Once they get inside the Rocinante, Miller will be none too happy when he finds out that his ally and friend, Sematimba, has been killed in the process.

The Expanse S1x10 Miller hallucinates Julie opening the airlock
Miller hallucinates Julie opening the airlock

Just subsequent to their arrival at the Rocinante, after successfully escaping the “Proto-Molecule” mayhem that is overrunning Eros Station.

While at the airlock to the ship, Miller once again sees Julie Mao in his mind.

Such is an apparition (that of Julie Mao) that will most likely become a recurring theme for Miller in season two as The Expanse‘s awesome adventure continues.

The Expanse S1x10 Amos opens the airlock
Amos opens the airlock

Miller and Holden enter the airlock after Amos appears where Julie had been in Miller’s mind. Amos and Naomi will quickly provide medical treatment to Holden and Miller to combat their radiation poisoning.

Alex prepares the Rocinante for departure from Eros.

The problem is that their ship has been clamped to Eros station. Fortunately, the clamps are attached to their gas hauler façade, which Alex detaches to make good their escape.

The Expanse S1x10 Rocinante escapes Eros Station
Rocinante escapes Eros Station

The detailed shots of the Rocinante escaping Eros are a delight to behold. The attention to detail, including the physics of the ships movements are extremely well done. Bravo to the special effects teams for all the space sequences!

Dresden and his gang of corporate criminals have also made a clean escape from Eros station with an ample supply of “Proto-Molecule” for their ongoing “experiments”!

The scene shifts to Chrisjen and Arun back on the roof of their home. Chrisjen shares with her husband that the situation is dire as the two look upward toward the stars where trouble is brewing.

The Expanse S1x10 Kenzo is shocked by The Entity
Kenzo is shocked by The Entity

The finale scene finds viewers with Kenzo left behind on Eros station.

As he realizes that he is trapped, Kenzo finds a room where the “Proto-Molecule” has taken over the entire area, part of which transforms into a sparkling human like form.

Kenzo, perhaps thinking he can negotiate with the “Proto-Molecule” to save his own miserable life, stands his ground as the “Proto-Molecule” coalesces, seemingly smiling at Kenzo.

No luck for Kenzo!

The Expanse S1x10 Kenzo is grabbed by Proto-Molecule Entity
Kenzo is grabbed by Proto-Molecule Entity

The “Proto-Molecule”, now an entity grabs him, adding Kenzo to the collection of human sacrifices the organism has consumed!

It is at this point in the saga that viewers can internalize that the “Proto-Molecule” is actually a sentient life form, one that is learning as it grows. This leads to a few questions about The Expanse that we must contemplate;

Why have Jules Mao, Errinwright and Dresden allowed this monstrosity to thrive?

What are their plans for the “Proto-Molecule”?

And one that should concern all humans of the present or the future; Can the “Proto-Molecule” communicate with the smaller samples taken by Dresden, or does each become a separate life form that can be used against the other?

The answers to these, and other questions can only be found by reading the books, or better yet, tuning in for season two of The Expanse on Syfy in the United States and the Space Channel in Canada! See you then!

Click to visit and follow WormholeRiders News Agency on Twitter!We look forward to seeing you back here at our dedicated The Expanse series review site soon and hope you will enjoy our continued evaluation and analysis of the this outstanding science fiction drama program!

As always, thank you for visiting WormholeRiders News Agency and we look forward to seeing you on The Other Side of the Wormhole on Twitter, or visit me to comment on Twitter.

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