When Noir Meets Space Opera: The Expanse, “Salvage”

This week’s episode of The Expanse may have been the best yet, balancing tension and action into a great hour of space opera. We go with the crew of the Rocinante as they continue their salvage mission/favor for Fred Johnson, while former Detective Miller traces clues to Eros in search of Juliet Mao. This episode gave me an excuse to say, “They’re on a collision course with wackiness!” And reader, they were.

In the saddest but also least interesting thread, we turn to the UN. Avaserala is continuing to negotiate for James Holden’s life, and is continually turned down. Holden is going to die in an “accident” on Eros, and there’s nothing she can do about it. However, partway through her meeting she learns that Ambassador DeGraaf, the lifelong friend that she betrayed to try to prevent war with Mars, has committed suicide. She steels her face and insists on continuing the meeting.

We join Miller on the ferry to Eros! He’s ticking off the beads of Julie Mao’s necklace like a rosary, which attracts the attention of a fellow passenger. The man asks if it’s his first time in space, and when Miller confesses that it is, he tells him that most people who grew up on Ceres developed a natural agoraphobia, and that he has to identify his fear so he can get through it. Miller discovers that the man is a Mormon, and that he’s been taking the ferry once a month to get ready for the Nauvoo. The man follows with the classic Mormon pick up line, asking Miller if he’s accepted Jesus Chris into his heart. Miller replies that he’s “not that desperate”, which the Mormon took pretty well, I thought. Miller asks about the Mormons’ trip:

What if you go out and you don’t find anything? Doesn’t that scare the shit out of you?
Of course it does. But it will just reveal that our search isn’t over yet.

Miller makes it to Eros, roughs up a dock guard, gets thrown in jail, and then released by his friend, Inspector Sematimba.


This man is to blame for Miller’s terrible hat—he gave it to him as a parting gift when he left Ceres. The two guys talk detective at each other (this time at a Mexican food stand, not a noodle shop) and after Miller says he believes in Julie Mao: “It’s all I got. It’s all I got. Think I’m crazy?” Sematimba finally gives up, and drops Mao’s location: The Blue Falcon hotel. Miller takes off before his friend can stop him.

Meanwhile, on Rocinante! Here’s where we get some fabulous Alien-style tension. Roci flies up to what appears to be an ordinary asteroid. But when Alex circles the rock, Naomi spots something weird. They zoom in on it (As does the camera, helpfully) and they discover a stealth ship. Kenzo the Spy starts losing his shit, saying that Fred Johnson is a terrorist, and whatever he wants from this ship is bad news, but Holden cuts him off by reaching peak Holden: someone might be alive in there! Naomi backs him up, saying that there might still be enough oxygen. They reluctantly agree to go search, keeping in mind that this is exactly what got the Cant blowed up. Kenzo the Spy is coming with them as their canary in a coal mine.

They thread their way through the ship, and find a Scopuli suit. Holden realizes that they’ve found the ship that destroyed the Cant. He and Naomi go one way to find engineering, and he sends Amos and Kenzo the Spy to find the flight deck. Amos calls Kenzo the Spy Tweety Bird, which I love, because of course Warner Bros cartoons are going to survive through the centuries. On the flight deck, Amos finds a safe, and learns that the ship is called the Ann-yuh-buss. Kenzo the Spy glares at him and says A-noo-bis. So this is the Anubis! Holden and Naomi go down to look at the reactor, and find weird glowing crystals. The crystals appear to be glowing throughout the ship. Holden and Naomi bolt, and Naomi says, “It feels like it’s…” and Holden finishes “It’s like it’s alive.” He yells at everyone to get out, and they make it back to Roci without incident. Then, over Kenzo the Spy’s vociferous objections, they blow it up. “Remember the Cant” Holden whispers.


Here’s where the wackiness collides. The crew of the Roci and Miller are both headed for the Blue Falcon to look for “Lionel Polansky”. Only Miller knows that this is Julie Mao’s nom de terrorism – the other guys just think it’s a dude named Lionel who Fred Johnson wants to talk to. The lobby of the Blue Flacon becomes the site of the best scene in the series so far: as innocuous elevator music plays and the clerk tries to get his system to work, the room is gradually infiltrated by a ton of assassins. Suddenly the Roci crew are in a gun fight, Kenzo the Spy has scampered off, and the poor clerk is full of holes. Just as Holden runs out of ammo, Miller shows up and finishes the last guy off. He recognizes Holden, obviously, and Holden gets all “I DEMAND ANSWERS” while Miller smirks at him and Amos smirks behind Holden’s back. It’s pretty adorable. They all run up to Julie’s room, and find a terrible smell, signs of a struggle, and finally Julie herself, in the shower, covered in horrible blue crystal spores. Miller kneels beside her, and whispers her name.


Assorted Space Thoughts:

Is it actually Julie Mao, though???

This was a fantastic episode. Very little Earth stuff, lots of space tension, and the few conversations we stopped for were actually illuminating.

I want to know everything about the Mormon mission into space. Actually, a quick note on the Mormon stuff: The Book of Mormon that Miller’s ferrymate holds up appears to be a current, 21st Century edition. The giant golden angel on the LDSS Nauvoo is Moroni, the angel who told Joseph Smith where to find the tablets that became the BoM, and the Nauvoo is named for Nauvoo, Ilinois, a town founded by Joseph Smith after he and the other early Mormons had to escape Missouri. After Smith was assassinated by non-Mormon locals, Brigham Young led the remaining Mormons out to Salt Lake City, but Nauvoo is still an important Mormon site.

I’m loving Holden and Naomi’s tentatively closer relationship, but I really hope Amos and Naomi can get back to where they once belonged.

Amos saying “Please. Shut your wordhole” was my single favorite moment of the show.

I only started buying Miller’s sudden love for Julie Mao when he was kneeling beside her body. I still feel like this plotline didn’t work, because I spent too much time thinking he was putting it on to distract Dawes.

I’m glad we got an origin story for Miller’s hat.

I absolutely love the collision between the space opera plot and the noir plot. I hope this sort of crisscrossing continues.

What did everyone think?

Leah Schnelbach wants an episode of Amos and Miller sharing drinks at a bar. Come open your wordhole with her on Twitter!


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