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The Expanse: Rock Bottom

"You either some kind of genius, Mr. Holden, or you the luckiest dipshit in the solar system."

Dawes is done playing games with Miller. He offered the detective the chance to work for him, but he kept refusing the carrot so now it's time for the electrically charged stick.


Out of all of season one's storylines this is the one with the most problems. There are some things about it that are working and a lot of things that really aren't. The Earth storyline might be 75% filler, but at least it is filler starring a great character played by a great actress. Here all we have is Miller, your typical noir detective in a typical noir detective story, filled with all the familiar tropes, but never doing anything interesting with any of them. It was obvious from the first episode that he was going to fall in love with Julie, or at least his idea of Julie, his fantasy of Julie, his Dulcinea. Noir detectives are always falling for unobtainable women. But that doesn't change the fact it is creepy and pathetic and I really wish the show had just avoided doing it all together.

One thing that is really working well is Jared Harris as Anderson Dawes. In the book, Dawes is a rather forgettable character. He only shows up for a few moments just to help establish the OPA and warn Miller off the case. The show's version of Dawes is more prominent and more overly villainous, but Harris is able to keep that villainy firmly in check. Dawes is a fanatic who believes in his cause completely and thinks it is worth dying for. The catch is that he expects other people to do the actual dying. Everyone is worth sacrificing for his idea of the greater good, whether it is the fragile sister he murdered because she was too much of a burden on their struggling family or the drunken detective who won't do his bit for Belter independence.

It's clear now that Dawes isn't at all interested in finding Julie. He just doesn't want the Scopuli traced back to him and the OPA in case it makes the destruction of the Canterbury look like a false flag attack. He's just trying to protect himself and the cause by covering their tracks and dealing with all those pesky loose ends. Miller made this all the easier for him by making one of the classic detective blunders. His boss asked him, "Have you shared this with anyone?" to which any smart person should say "Yes, lots of people, so many people, and if something unexpected and unfortunate should suddenly happen to me in the next few minutes they'll share it with a lot more people." He deserved to get his ass fired just for being that stupid.


This remains the series' best storyline and just keeps getting stronger and stronger with every episode. It helps that this is the only one with constant forward momentum. Something new is always happening with these guys every single episode. And this quartet is by far the best set of characters the show has, even if the main one isn't exactly the most compelling of leads. Holden is your classic honourable white knight, the kind of guy who will always try to do the right thing even when everyone around him is telling him how dumb that is. This made it very easy for Fred to recruit him. All he had to do was offer Holden the one thing no self respecting knight could ever refuse.

A quest.

Knights are suckers for a good, or even bad, quest. They just cannot resist them. It doesn't matter how long, how dangerous, or how pointless they are, nothing will ever stop a knight from going questing. And this quest seems almost tailor-made for James Holden. He gets to save someone in distress, hit back at those who killed the Canterbury, and make amends for a past mistake. It's like the perfect quest so of course he says yes without really thinking about. Making impulsive decisions is another classic knightly quality.

Like all knights, Holden believes that this quest is for him and him alone. He doesn't want his...friends? No, they don't exactly feel like friends just yet. Shipmates? Yeah, let's go with shipmates. He doesn't want his shipmates to get dragged along, and possibly killed, on his own personal quest for atonement. Too many people he cares about have already died because of him. Which is probably why he finally came clean and told the others about who really logged the distress call. He was trying to drive everyone away.

Unsurprisingly, it doesn't work. No way was the show going to drop nearly half its cast in the space of one episode. No one leaves because there really is nowhere else for them to go. Holden said they could all go back to their lives, but if they had lives, none of them would've been working on a ship like the Canterbury in the first place. Alex was the only one who seemed to have a home to get back to and even that turned out to be not entirely true. All any of them really have now is their ship and each other.


As I said earlier, this storyline is mainly a lot of filler, but it is often enjoyable filler thanks to the sheer fabulousness of Chrisjen Avasarala. I do have to question why she has to go to the private sector to get access to a spy on Tycho? Does the UN really not have their own people spying on Fred Johnson? Was she just trying to get around all that annoying bureaucratic red tape? And does she often bring her grandson along with her when she goes to extort former associates?


--Chrisjen's son wasn't killed by the OPA. He died in a skiing accident when he was fifteen.

--The circumstances of Miller's firing are very different in the book. While Dawes and his boss do tell him to drop the case, he's never tortured by the OPA or nearly killed. He's fired because he's a drunk and his boss doesn't trust him. By that point Earth had withdrawn from Ceres and the OPA was openly in control of the station.

--The conflict between Scipio Africanus and Xinglong is heavily expanded on a single paragraph from Leviathan Wakes.

--Naomi is the one who found the data chip and the crew used it as a literal bargaining chip with Fred.

Notes and Quotes

--Amos was not happy about Holden logging the call, but he was absolutely crushed that Naomi knew and hid it because she was afraid of what he might do.

--Muss was so shaken from having killed someone for the very first time that Miller never bothered to ask her just how the hell she knew to be there. She literally came out of nowhere to save him. How did she know the OPA had him or that they were going to throw him out of that specific airlock at that specific time?

--Holden getting everyone coffee was adorable.

--Who does Naomi want Fred to find?

--Can we trust Fred Johnson? The signs point to probably not. He offered the Roci crew a safe harbour and then tried to take their ship from them the first chance he got. And as soon as he figured out the Martians were trying to get more off the Donnager than just Holden and company, he kept it to himself and pretended that he wanted to give Lopez a proper burial.

--The moment Fred said Lional Polanski was a codename it became pretty obvious who they really are.

--By the sounds of it Amos grew up in a brothel.

--The Rocinante's mess hall is full of plants. Even the tables have green in them.

--Another one of my favourite little realistic details is ships don't suddenly stop if their engines cut out. They need to do a 180 and burn in order to decelerate.

--Although no one has ever tested the theory, you could open and close your space helmet without dying.

--The aquarium scene was filmed at the Ripley's Aquarium of Canada in Toronto.

Naomi: "Holden, tell the Butcher to call off his men, or I'll have Alex vent his bloody station."

Chrisjen: "I need to borrow your spy on Tycho Station."
Carlos: "What for?"
Chrisjen: "To keep an eye on Fred Johnson. He's over-charging the Mormons for their toilet seats."

Naomi: "I'm using my last remaining brain cells, to try and kill my last remaining brain cells."

Miller: "You know, every time you remember something, your mind changes it, just a little, until your best and your worst memories, they're your biggest illusions. My advice is just forget it."

Three out of four irresistible quests.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig


  1. Mark-

    Just to let you know someone is reading your catch-up reviews on the Expanse. I am enjoying them, so thank you!


  2. I'm reading and enjoying them too, and contemplating a rewatch before season six arrives. :)

  3. I'm with Nomad about Miller - having a different opinion doesn't make you thick.

    Trope or not I think the Miller character (and actor) are fantastic. I prefer him to Holden in a lot of way. Nothing creepy about his plot line. I found his whole arc rather beautiful personally. Each to their own.

  4. Although I much prefer the post-Cant story to Miller's, that's mostly because of Amos and Naomi rather than Holden. In reading the books, there's all this stuff about how charismatic Holden is, and I don't feel that really comes across on the show. He just doesn't seem to me to have that strong a presence. It probably doesn't help that everyone around him is much more physically attractive than their book counterparts, so his good looks don't stand out particularly.


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