Exploring The Expanse: Paradigm Shift feels designed to fill up space

The Expanse is a television show based on the novels by James S.A. Corey. Every week, I’ll be taking a look at one moment in each episode of the show’s second season, and what it means for the larger story.

Spoilers ahead for the sixth episode of season 2, “Paradigm Shift.”

Last week’s episode of The Expanse closed out the adaptation of the first novel in the series, Leviathan Wakes, in which we saw the death of Detective Miller and Eros landing on Venus, which supposedly brings the protomolecule threat to an end. There’s more to the series, however, and the show now gets to pivot completely to adapting the next novel, Caliban’s War.

We’ve already seen some elements of that novel leak into the series: Avasalara and Bobbie Draper both first appeared in Caliban’s War, but were bumped forward in the show to help set up this next arc. But what’s interesting about this week’s episode is that it’s a sort of pause before that arc kicks off: the opening scenes of the second book take place right at the end of the episode, so there’s a lot of space to fill.

“Paradigm Shift” is a weird episode, one that feels designed to fill space. While Holden and the crew of the Roci are dealing with the aftermath of what they just went through, Bobbie Draper and her Martian marines are headed out to Ganymede, where Caliban’s War picks up. There isn’t a lot of character growth or reflection, just positioning to get them in the right place for the next story.

Thrown into the mix is a flashback narrative, following an engineer named Solomon Epstein, 137 years before the events of the series. Much like last season had an episode that basically adapted one of the shorter tie-in stories (The Butcher of Anderson Station), this episode adapts up another, titled Drive. (Which you can read here.)

This makes for a particularly awkward episode. We get a whole lot of expositional backstory narrated at us, right in the middle of the series. This isn’t small, world-building stuff either: this is a story that explains the technology that allowed humanity to settle the solar system. It’s good information that helps explain how ships can zip across the solar system in a timely fashion, but its placement feels even more strange, packed between two major story arcs. While Daniel Abraham told us last week that their intent was to adapt the series as a whole, rather than book by book, this is one of those transitional points that feels as though it would have been ideal for a season finale, at least with the closing moments. We had the high of a finale with the arc, but now we get to start at the beginning of another arc and build up again. Crammed into a traditionally released TV season, it feels out of place.

The ending of this episode gets everything back on track, however, closing out with the attack against Bobbie’s Marines that Caliban’s War opened with. With that as a closer, it’s clear that the solar system’s issues aren’t going away.

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