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Things You Forgot Happened In The Expanse Pilot Episode

Amazon Prime's "The Expanse" is a science fiction series based on James S.A. Corey's book series of the same title. "The Expanse" has grown considerably as a series throughout its run, as it found its footing through more substantial and compelling arcs with every passing season. Characters have come and gone throughout, but "The Expanse" has remained the kind of series that has always let them drive the arcs to completion. The story has admirably favored character development over plot, making it more intriguing for viewers who might not necessarily be fans of the genre. 

"The Expanse" is an innovative series, showing a world where humans colonized the solar system. There's rising animosity at a constant between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Developed into a TV series by Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, "The Expanse" follows main characters James "Jim" Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), and more as they navigate through the stirring wars in an attempt to bring peace to the nations. As a science fiction series that was once on SyFy Network before its cancellation moved it to Amazon Prime, at its core, "The Expanse" is a series about found families. The unlikeliest of people become the best versions of themselves together.

With the sixth and final season of "The Expanse" arriving soon, it's a perfect time to look back at the episode that started it all.

Julie Mao was the heart of the plot

Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) is not a forgettable character but considering "The Expanse's" first episode aired over half a decade  ago, it's easy to forget that she was essentially the heart of the plot. She is the first character audiences meet and is clearly of great importance to the other characters. Audiences get a glimpse of Julie as she attempts to navigate through the entrapment she is in, and though unaware of how she got there, she is the one the story demands we pay attention to. 

Julie Mao is also the heart of Detective Joe Miller's (Thomas Jane) story. In the first episode, it isn't apparent just how important she will be for his story. Still, when paying careful attention, especially for non-book readers and after a re-watch, it is clear as day that Julie Mao is so much more than just a missing woman. She is more than just a "kidnap job." She pushes the story's trajectory through every move she makes, even when just the audience sees. In addition to her story and what she drives forward, Julie's arc will later thread her sister Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) into the story as well.

Episode title 'Dulcinea' is inspired by Miguel de Cervantes' 'Don Quixote'

Most TV series do not actually give their first episode's a title. It is almost always just "Pilot," but that is not the case with the first episode of "The Expanse." It is titled "Dulcinea," paying homage to Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote." Dulcinea represents perfection to the main character, despite not existing. She is unseen and unreal, but a "figure" that nevertheless lingers. And considering Julie Mao is the first character audiences see, when taking the title into consideration, it is easy to guess that she could be the very representation of Dulcinea for Miller. Julie's presence comes through Clarissa Mao's character too, and through her, the title almost serves as a reminder of who Julie was.

"Dulcinea" could also be representative of the distress call the Canterbury responds to, further alluding to an unseen figure that tethers them all the characters together. As the episode that kicks everything into motion, the title is incredibly significant for how it ages with the rest of the series. And with everything that happens through the ring network in Season 4, the title continues to etch itself into the grand scheme of things.

The Rocinante didn't exist yet

The Rocinante is so integral to the "The Expanse" that it is almost easy to forget it did not exist when the show first aired. In fact, it was nowhere close to existing. The crew audiences know today started aboard a ship called the Canterbury, and when everyone separated to respond to the distress call, they were aboard the Knight shuttle. The Rocinante was not even meant to be theirs — it is a property of MCRN (Martian Congressional Republic Navy), which Holden and the team steal to flee from the Donnager. (Moreover, the name Rocinante is a reference to the horse in Miguel de Cervantes' "Don Quixote.")

Audiences see the Rocinante integrated into the universe in Season 1 Episode 5, "Back to the Butcher." The show is about found families, and such moments always cement the bonds between them beautifully. The detail that the audiences see when it becomes more personal is crucial to establishing that these bonds are a choice. Contrary to the first episode, it is one of the moments that shows their efforts as a team. It is a scene that showcases how far they all come, and the absence of the name in the first episode is a riveting reminder of how far these characters will go. 

James Holden wasn't as righteous as we know him today

Though he's the representation of righteousness on "The Expanse," James Holden was far from honorable in the first episode. He's just starting to care about saving people. He does not change too drastically from the first episode, but the Holden the audience meets feels like he is on day one of a new job. And granted, he is begrudgingly the acting XO, but the way he carries himself lacks the strength present in later episodes.

Though characters often comment on Holden's righteousness today, it is hard to believe he was not always as so upstanding. He did not want a higher position, and he was still suffering from some form of insomnia. A certain sense of boyishness is present in his admiration for Ade. The natural tendencies of a leader are present still, but Holden's growth in later seasons is ultimately what strengths his resolve, making him a more complex character as opposed to one seemingly faultless.

Holden and Naomi didn't care for each other

Holden and Naomi are such a solid couple, it is easy to forget that there was once any sort of animosity between them. In fact, it is painfully clear that Naomi Nagata does not care for him or anything that he stands for. Because audiences learn that Earthers and Belters don't get along, they could be categorized into the "enemies to lovers" trope right from the start. And considering the Earthers are a large part of the problem, the animosity is an understandable hurdle that stands in their way.

Naomi Nagata is also portrayed as a woman who takes pride in her job but does not get the credit she deserves, which falls on the shoulders of the people above her. Considering how nonchalant Holden is about almost everything in the first episode, and how far the two come in making each other better, it is hard to believe they were not always a healthy couple. When they finally get together, it is worth remembering the walls that once stood between them.

Holden and Naomi's love story is a constant throughout the series — together or separated, as a couple, they are a paradigm of hope. As a couple, their unity represents the possibility of peace between the nations, and to see such an apparent wall between them makes their arc stronger today. 

Chrisjen Avasarala's character is barely in the episode

Chrisjen Avasarala is one of the most compelling characters on "The Expanse," but she doesn't get nearly enough screen-time in the first episode. The audience first sees Avasarala as she is getting ready for a meeting, and throughout the show's run, occurrences similar to this become the character's most intimate moments. Shohreh Aghdashloo has such an exquisite way of expressing emotions; the glimpses of Avasarala getting ready that she gives audience members are more than just a way to look presentable. They are the moments that showcase the weight she carries. It's gratifying to notice that she is already so complex in the first episode — both cruel and kind. In one instant, she is a soft grandmother, and the next, she is interrogating a man tied up. Avasarala's range is evident through the slightest glimpse.

However, though this short glimpse might surprise fans of the TV show, though familiar with the books would better understand the reason — Avasarala does not even appear in the books until "Caliban's War." She is a crucial character in the show, but because combining the worlds is slower in the books, she does not play a vast role yet.

The Canterbury explodes, killing everyone in it.

So much happens in the first episode of "The Expanse," it's hard to remember that The Canterbury blows up too. After the crew members collectively agree not to respond to the distress call coming from the ship Scopuli, a restless Jim Holden takes matters into his own hands. It happens so suddenly during the last few moments of the episode, making it just the kind of cliffhanger that fans would come back for. 

The Canterbury's explosion leaves no survivors, and though the aftermath is explored in the first season, it is a loss that no longer governs characters' lives when moving forward. It starts it all, and yet it remains part of the ethers — the characters aboard audiences get to know briefly no longer become a topic of discussion. It's the kind of pilot episode with so many explosive firsts and lasts that it's no longer shocking as the seasons' progress. And ultimately, a sign of the fact that the Canterbury would not be the first ship to meet its end with the wars that would arise in later seasons.

Jonathan Banks played the XO

Jonathan Banks, who's starred in films such as "Airplane" and TV shows like "Breaking Bad," plays the unnamed XO in "Dulcinea." When the audience meets him, he is talking to his plants and completely isolated from the rest of the crew members. We soon learn that a previous mission ended so badly that he is no longer able to uphold his position. He delivers a harrowing performance, especially when he begins sobbing after stating that they "should have brought more light." It creates a riveting moment to think about as darkness in this galaxy can be both spatial and emotional.

Because there is very little we know about him, unless re-watching "The Expanse," it is easy to forget that Banks was ever part of the series. And with his credibility from shows like "Breaking Bad," it could have been intriguing to see how his character would have fit in with the rest of the story. There are no flashbacks or anything about the character either, making him one most audience members would sadly not remember.

The main characters today barely spoke throughout the episode

The exploration of found families is easily one of the most beloved parts of "The Expanse," but it is easy to forget that they barely even speak to each other throughout the episode. For example: Wes Chatham's Amos Burton is one of the key players throughout the entire story, and yet in the first episode, we hardly even see him. "Dulcinea" is full of introductions left and right, but considering the number of deaths, it makes sense that the core players would hardly interact with each other. Still, it is one of the elements within the first episode that kicks things into motion in an intriguing fashion. It leaves the audience wondering who'll live and who'll die, and when looking back, it's riveting to see the patterns presented in the first episode.

Found family stories demonstrate the relationship between people one would never expect to become so close. This is the case with the main characters on "The Expanse." Miller and Avasarala also grow close to the Roci crew, making their separation all the more intriguing. The tension between characters, near and far, ultimately becomes one of the key focuses of later seasons as their trust develops and strengthens.

Holden and co. were ice haulers

Before the main characters responded to distress calls and saved the galaxy one inner planet at a time, they were ice haulers. Where they once had moments of peace amidst ice hauling to embark on things such as zero gravity sex (another element that audiences do not see more of after the first episode), today, it is easy to forget there was ever some semblance of "normalcy" in their lives. There were no cameras following them, they were not the first in line to respond to distress calls, and they were not nearly as vital to the world as they are today.

It poses another question, too: Who else was hauling ice then? What was the use? Was it a competitive market? Are there people who have taken over? No matter the answer, it is so hard to remember that once upon a time, these people were not the target of every attack and every dark asteroid that crossed their path. Will they go back to hauling ice once the series is over and there isn't much left to save? Do any of them even remember this job they held? 

Shed's was a medical technician

Most devout viewers probably remember Shed Garvey (Paulo Costanzo) for his gruesome death scene. However, it is perhaps harder remembering his role as a medical technician on the team — especially when there is no longer a medic or even a technician onboard the Rocinante. Since Shed's death, there has not been a character to replace him, which is interesting considering the vitality and importance of medics in a series where stakes are high, and danger lurks in every corner.

Shed is also the only other character from the Canterbury to survive the explosion, and he dies later in the episode titled "CQB." He is also the first character whose death the audience has some sort of a connection to considering the longevity of his appearances in contrast to the others on the Canterbury. In the brief moments viewers knew him, Shed seemed layered; the fears in him throughout the next few episodes made him that much more human and compelling as a character in a world where bravery is likely more expected. Shed was a character who tried to do the right thing, regardless.

We still don't know what Ade's last words were supposed to be

Ade Nygaard's (Kristen Hager) last words remain a great mystery. "Jim, there's something you should know," lingers in the air — right before the Canterbury explodes into stardust. Jim and Ade were not nearly as solid as a couple as Jim and Naomi, and there was very clearly an end in sight for them. Ade makes it clear throughout the episode that she does not plan to run with the Canterbury for longer than a couple more hauls. Even so, a person's last words are integral to storytelling, and the mystery behind is Ade's is one "The Expanse" never looks back on again.

In the following episode, Ade is honored when audiences learn where Holden's love for coffee came from. She is the one who taught him the nitty-gritty. Fans have speculated what Ade's last words could have been, whether she merely wanted to say that she loved him or reveal that she's done something behind his back. After five years, it is easy to forget we never really learned what she meant to say — but when re-visiting the episode, it is shocking that the show does not follow up on it.