Review: The Expanse, “Back to the Butcher” + 500 Words of Rambling

Here’s why this is a difficult show to review: This entire episode could have been condensed down into ten minutes, and nothing significant would have been lost. And I’m being generous with that ten minute estimate.

Official logo for sci-fi TV series The ExpanseHolden and company receive an offer of help from an OPA terrorist, and despite the characters immediately acknowledging that they have no other options, half the episode is spent on their debating whether to take it.

The most noteworthy part of the episode comes from a series of flashbacks depicting the backstory of said terrorist, which manage to be both very brief and longer than they need to be. But at least they’ve got a good emotional punch.

Meanwhile, Miller painstakingly teases out a few other minor clues about Julie Mao — something that could have been done in a single scene. Which makes this most eventful episode for Miller to date by a wide margin.

And that’s it. How do I review this? What do I analyze? It takes serious talent to fill an hour with this much nothing.

I think it’s time I just give up on this show. We’re five episodes in, and it’s still going nowhere slowly. Even Stargate: Universe — the poster child for shows that sucked at first but then became awesome — was showing significant improvement by now. Maybe The Expanse will attain greatness sometime down the line, but at this point we’ve hit “life is too short to waste on this” territory.

The cast of The ExpanseOverall rating: 4/10 Like watching paint dry in slow motion.

Even though this blog is free, I feel like I’m ripping you off with just a two hundred word review, so now I’m just going to ramble incoherently for five hundred words or so.

Well, my father is always saying I should talk about music on the blog, so I guess I’ll talk about my awful, awful taste in music for a bit.

For the last several months, most of my musical attention/obsession has been focused on the most recent offerings from two of my favourite bands, Metric and Chvrches. Last September, within a week of each other, Metric put out their sixth album, Pagans in Vegas, and Chvrches released their second album, Every Open Eye.

I was a bit disappointed with Metric’s last album, Synthetica, but Pagans in Vegas has once again completely blown me away. After playing it safe with Synthetica, they’re trying new things again, and while some songs are clearly failed experiments (Cascades comes to mind), many are excellent.

Something else interesting about Pagans is that a lot of the songs feel like throwbacks to the many different sounds Metric has had over the years. Celebrate and Lie Lie Lie remind me of Old World Underground, whereas For Kicks sounds like the best of the Fantasies era.

But by far my favourite song on the album is The Governess, which is a clear throwback to their first album, Grow Up and Blow Away, in all its quirky and morose glory. That was and still is my favourite album, and I had long since despaired of them ever revisiting that style of music, so The Governess just fills me with happiness.

Probably doesn’t hurt that it always puts me in mind of a character from my current writing project, either.

Meanwhile, Every Open Eye turned out to not be quite as good as Chvrches’ first album, The Bones of What You Believe, but there are still more than a few strong tracks on it. In particular, the standout by far is Down Side of Me, an achingly beautiful and haunting song that is possibly my new favourite Chvrches song (which says a lot) and definitely Lauren Mayberry’s best vocal performance to date (which is also saying a lot).

I saw them live back in October, and let me tell you: Lauren is the real deal. Absolutely amazing performer, as well as an all around charming and lovely person.

…I sincerely apologize for subjecting you to all that.

Oh, and if you’re looking for a good mystery novel, I’d highly recommend The Cuckoo’s Calling by “Robert Galbraith” (who is of course really J.K. Rowling).

Actually, in theory, it’s not that good of a book. The twist at the end strains credibility, it relies on a lot of cheap tricks to maintain the mystery, and there isn’t a lot of drama or suspense. But the characters are colourful and fiercely likable, and the writing is just so excellent that it’s just a delight to read even despite its flaws.

Review: The Expanse, “CQB”

Well, here’s something we haven’t seen from The Expanse so far: excitement.

Official logo for sci-fi TV series The Expanse“CQB” sees the Martian warship carrying Holden and his crew come under attack by unknown assailants… who bear a suspicious similarity to the ship that destroyed the Cantebury.

What follows is a very lengthy and largely entertaining battle only slightly hampered by the facts that I still don’t really care about Holden and his crew and that the bad guys apparently went to the storm trooper school of marksmanship.

Meanwhile, Miller’s plot continues to go nowhere. Seriously, why is he even in the show at this point? We’re four episodes in, and while I enjoy his hard-boiled attitude and general snark, he hasn’t done anything at all.

Also, Chrisjen apparently still exists.

I’m starting to feel like Holden’s the only character the writers even care about. He’s the only one whose plot has had any significant development so far. They should have just not bothered with Miller and Chrisjen, or at least waited to introduce them until they actually had something to do. They’re just taking up space (har har) right now.

But at least the titular “Close Quarters Battle” was entertaining. A slightly more drawn-out, stately kind of space battle than we tend to see these days. I’m reminded of Star Trek’s original vision of emulating old naval battles.

Martian naval officers in The ExpanseI’m also getting a bit more drawn in by the mystery. I think I’ve figured it out — they don’t keep including random mentions of the Mormons for nothing — but we’ll have to see if my theory pans out.

Though there’s still that feeling of being strung along. They’re certainly taking their sweet time offering any kind of reveals.

“CQB” was entertaining enough to convince me to keep watching for at least one more episode, but The Expanse remains on thin ice where I’m concerned.

Overall rating 7/10

Apologies for the short length of this post. There just isn’t much to say about this show. It’s very good at filling an hour with very little.