The Expanse Season 1 Refresher

By Michael Pea

It has been more than a year since the premiere of Syfy Channel’s critically acclaimed series The Expanse. This show, with its incredible writing, superb acting, and exceptional production values, has captured the hearts and imaginations of fans worldwide. In anticipation of the long awaited second season, this article is a quick recap of season one with some additional background material.

NYCC Author Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck

The Expanse  is set more than 200 years in the future. It is based on a series of novels and novellas by James S. A. Corey, which is a pseudonym for Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. We’ve included a list of the books at the end of this post.

Season One introduces the characters and the major conflicts between Mars, Earth, and the Belt, taking us about three quarters of the way through the first book, Leviathan Wakes. However, and this is very important, the showrunners and James S.A. Corey have incorporated ideas and Easter eggs from the novellas and later novels into the first season. Also, the character of Chrisjen Avasarala is introduced in the first season although she does not appear in Leviathan Wakes.

The main characters are Josephus Miller, James Holden, Julie Mao, Naomi Nagata, Amos Burton, Alex Kumal, Chrisjen Avasarala, and Frederick Johnson. Here are a few facts about them.

  • Josephus Miller is a sad, compromised Belter detective who is given the side assignment of locating Julie Mao. He discovered a horrible truth when he eventually found Julie.
  • Julie Mao is a runaway heiress from Earth who joined the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance) and stumbled upon one of the greatest conspiracies in human history.
  • James Holden is an Earther who is the reluctant leader and the moral compass of the remaining crew of the Rocinante. He made the right choice ; but his ship, the Canterbury, was destroyed in the process.
  • Naomi Nagata  is a kickass Belter and the brilliant engineer of the Rocinante with a very dark past.
  • Amos Burton is another Earther who is a brute of a man, answering only to Naomi. His past is also shrouded in mystery.
  • Alex Kumal is from Mars and is the pilot of the Rocinante. Alex will always be known by the phrase “donkey balls.”
  • Chrisjen Avasarala is a high level official in the United Nations who is a brilliant politician with a potty mouth.
  • Frederick Johnson is the leader of the OPA  and head of Tycho Station. He is known as the Butcher of Anderson Station.

SPOILER ALERT – If you have not seen Season One of The Expanse STOP READING! This is a quick refresher of Season One before the start of Season Two on Wednesday February 1, 2017.

There are four major storylines in the first season of The Expanse. They involve Miller, Avasarala, Holden and his crew, and Julie. Their storylines eventually converge.

Thomas Jane as Detective Josephus Miller

First storyline: Josephus Miller: The series opens with Miller, who is given the assignment to find Julie. In typical noir fashion, he is beaten, almost killed, falls in love with the missing victim, discovers a conspiracy on Ceres, and finally both finds and loses Julie at the same time.

Second storyline: Julie Mao- Julie is from a very wealthy and powerful family. She is sent on a mission by the OPA to find out what is happening on the ship, Anubis. She and the crew of the Scopuli are captured by the crew of the Anubis. Both crews are infected and killed by the Protomolecule: an advanced, alien construct which consumes radiation and organic hosts. Julie is infected but manages to escape to Eros, where she finally succumbs to the Protomolecule.

Naomi, Amos, Holden & Alex

Third storyline: James Holden: Holden is acting executive officer when he logs in another ship’s distress call which his ship, the Canterbury, answers.  He is dispatched with Naomi, Amos, Alex, and a Red Shirter (yes a Star Trek reference because he dies in a spectacular way).  The distress call turns out to be a trap, the Canterbury is destroyed by an advanced stealth fighter, Holden’s crew is stranded before being captured by the Martians. The Martian ship is subsequently attacked by small group of the same type stealth fighters and destroyed. Holden, Naomi, Alex, and Amos manage to flee aboard a Martian Corvette Class ship after being given access to the ship by the Martian in charge of their evacuation, who dies shortly thereafter.

Chad L. Coleman as Colonel Frederick Lucius Johnson 

Holden’s crew renames the ship the Rocinante. For his own reasons, Fred Johnson gives them sanctuary on Tycho Station, a Belt station. Fred Johnson convinces the crew of  the Rocinante to take on a mission for the Belt. He wants them to find out what happened to the Scopuli.  Holden agrees and Johnson disguises the Rocinante as a freighter to fool the Martians and Earth. Instead of the Scopuli,  Holden and his crew discover the remains of the Anubis, the ship that destroyed the Canterbury. On the Anubis, they discover that the ship is infected by the Protomolecule, but someone has escaped by using a shuttle. They destroy the Anubis and follow the trail of the shuttle to Eros.

Fourth storyline: Chrisjen Avasarala-Chrisjen is a high level UN official who exercises considerably more power than her title would suggest. She is not above using torture to find out what she wants. When Holden announces to the system that the Canterbury was destroyed by an advanced stealth fighter, suspicion falls on Mars as the likely culprit.

Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo)

Avasarala uses her considerable political acumen to find out the truth, which is that Mars is not responsible. She then realizes she has to find out who truly is responsible, since the Solar System is rushing to war.

The storylines converge when Miller and the crew of the Rocinante meet on Eros.
Holden, his crew, and Miller find Julie’s body in a room on Eros. Her body has been consumed by the Protomolecule! They attempt to escape but are separated by the  security force hired by Julie’s father, Jules Pierre-Mao. Jules-Pierre Mao and his company Protogen want to use Eros as the testing and breeding ground for the Protomolecule. Jules never thought his daughter would be the first victim, but it doesn’t stop him from going ahead with the experiment.

The experimentation with the Protomolecule on Eros will kill all of the people who live there. Holden and Miller receive a lethal dose of radiation when Protogen irradiates a shelter to make the Protomolecule grow. Ironically, the inhabitants of Eros were told they would be safe from radiation from an “exploding ship” at the docks. Instead they were being dosed with massive amounts of radiation by the Protogen team.


Meanwhile Amos, Naomi, Alex, and some Eros Belters take a circuitous route to the Rocinante via mech shafts. They make it safely to the ship. Naomi insists on waiting for Holden. Holden and Miller eventually make it to the ship, where they are treated for radiation poisoning.  The ship and crew escape from Eros and rocket back to Tycho Station to report to Fred Johnson.

On Earth, Avasarala is using every political tool in her arsenal to determine who is behind the effort to bring the Solar System to war. She wants to prevent war but is not sure she has the time or the resources. She is not sure whom she can trust.

Season Two promises to be even more exciting than Season One. We will meet new characters such the Martian marine, Bobbie Draper.  We will find out if the Solar System goes to war, what is the origin of the Protomolecule, and most importantly, what the Protomolecule is. If you thought the first season was amazing, fasten your seatbelts because Season Two will be an exciting ride.

Editor’s Note:

Michael Pea will be doing a weekly review of The Expanse Season 2 episodes for Friends of Comic Con blog.  Please watch for the weekly posts after the show airs. To talk back to Michael or speculate on future events, join the conversation on the forum Click here

The Expanse is based books and novellas by James S. A. Corey (Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham).

Here is the list:
The Expanse novels
Leviathan Wakes – June 15, 2011
Caliban’s War – June 26, 2012
Abaddon’s Gate – June 4, 2013
Cibola Burn – June 17, 2014
Nemesis Game – June 2, 2015
Babylon’s Ashes – December 6, 2016
Persepolis Rising – June 14, 2017 (estimated?)

The Expanse novellas
The Butcher of Anderson Station – October 17, 2011
Gods of Risk – September 15, 2012
The Churn – April 29, 2014
The Vital Abyss – October 15, 2015


I love going to conventions around the US. I'm an ardent fan of all things science fiction and especially The Expanse. I write for Friends of CC and I have written a science fiction script with a friend.