Executive Producer Mark Fergus on The Expanse Episode 2: Crew dynamics deepen and Miller finds meaning

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Dec 21, 2015, 11:20 AM EST (Updated)

With its second episode, The Expanse built on the events of its first, taking us deeper into the relationship between the surviving crew of The Canterbury and Miller's investigation into the disappearance of Julie Mao. All that and a healthy helping of Belter unrest, too. 

We lobbed some questions at Executive Producer Mark Fergus about where these arcs are going and what they mean for what's to come on The Expanse. Here's what he had to say.

In this episode we're getting to see a bit more of the relationships between the characters and none of those relationships seem "easy". Think that's a fair assessment?

That's a very fair assessment. It's easy to maintain relationships in a status quo situation, when everything's chugging along as normal. But as you can see, the solar system has been turned upside down for the five members of the Canterbury shuttle. Chaos had led to a power vacuum -- even among five people, and even though technically Holden is the acting XO, and should be the one "in charge."

Now all the hidden dynamics of our crew start bubbling out; Naomi knows Holden's terrible secret -- that he logged that distress call -- and even though it was the right and moral thing to do, the consequences were disastrous. His naiveté and idealism might even be considered dangerous under the current circumstances. Naomi is also tough and ridiculously competent, and that's why the crew looks to her more as a leader in their predicament -- Holden's a fun, breezy "peacetime" leader, but does he have the stuff to get them out of a life-and-death scrape? Amos sure doesn't think so -- and his deep bond and alliance with Naomi immediately manifests, which isn't necessarily good news for Holden.

Alex and Shed are left wondering who to follow, who's their real "captain" right now? The decision could very well determine whether they live or die. They are also pushed to the limit of their talents -- Shed as a medic, Alex as a pilot. They can no longer hide in the collective of a large ship; their mates need them RIGHT NOW, and they have to find their inner "awesome."

One of our writers worked for a long time in a traveling circus troupe; she thought it was fascinating how people can live together, work together, travel together for years -- but until the delicate balance is disturbed, nobody in the group REALLY knows one another. They are a band of "intimate strangers." Many have secrets from a past they're running from, and they keep secrets
from one another, right under each other's noses. And in a crisis, all that stuff quickly rears its head.

Ade seemed to have quite the influence on Holden, which is evident in both in the drink she made for him that he continued drinking and, ultimately, his decision to respond to the distress call. Is she always going to be that "voice inside his head"? Is she some sort of moral compass for him?

Ade is indeed a moral compass for Holden. She's the one who knew it was the right thing to do, to stop and help a stranded ship in distress. Holden knew it too, deep down, but he needed a shove in the right direction. Ade's also a woman of substance, who's disappointed to see Holden follow "groupthink" and make a callous, cowardly decision to ignore the S.O.S. and suck up to the rest of the crew (who all want their "on-time bonuses"), but though she never says it, we think Ade knew it was Holden who ultimately logged the distress call, forcing the Canterbury to go and investigate.

Ade's also that face of things that "might have been"; their relationship is shallow because of the transitory work they do, but there was so much potential for love and connection there -- and only after she's gone does Holden really feel that. We all seem to love what we have just lost, what has just slipped away from us forever. The coffee cup memory is precious to Holden now, it's one of the only things he has left of Ade -- and continuing to do the coffee ritual is one way he can keep her memory alive; her haunting last words to Holden will echo in his mind from this day forward -- also as a reminder to him that doing "the right thing" is never without cost.

Answering that S.O.S. may be the most important decision Holden has made in his life up till now. Ade helped put him on his hero's journey.

His relationship with Ade seemed to have been a bit of a point of contention, most notably with Naomi. How much is that affecting the dynamic between these two characters?

Naomi doesn't like secrets (like Holden logging that distress call), especially ones that put her crewmates in jeopardy. The rest of the crew would echo that sentiment -- space is no place for do-gooders, sentimentalists, idealists. People get killed for a wrong decision, and it's better to protect oneself and one's crew than "do the right thing." Ade is made of stronger stuff; she makes the others uncomfortable, because she says the things the others don't want to face:

That we are all our brother's keeper. That we cannot lose our humanity just because it's convenient to do so.

In Episode 2, it's all about survival. Law of the jungle. Justice is a lofty concept that can get them all killed. Naomi wants to save her people -- and Holden's crusade to go after the bad guys is more of his "Don Quixote" crap that could lead to another disaster. This conflict is just heating up.

There's also a lot of animosity between Amos and Holden, mostly coming from Amos. Is this something we'll get further into?

Oh, yes, this relationship is a fascinating one, and the fuse has been lit. We'll soon come to understand just how complex Amos' relationship is with Naomi, and not in the ways people might assume. Amos also possesses a very unique psychology and history, which make his survival instincts far more acute than most people. Holden's idealism is a threat -- and the actions Amos took in Episode 2 are just the tip of the iceberg.

Holden is supposed to be in charge, but Naomi not only acts like the alpha, but has the respect and loyalty from the rest of the crew. Is the lack of respect for Holden due to his relationship with Ade, or is there something else there that we'll come to find out about?

Holden's the guy everybody loves, quick with a joke, a ladies' man, a "tumbleweed" out in space. But he's also a guy who runs from responsibility at every turn -- he's a born leader, but he doesn't want to accept the mantle.

People aren't sure what he's made of, because he's never been tested in the fires (until now!).

Naomi, on the other hand, is a Belter. A survivor, and formidable at her job as the ship's engineer. She has a lot of skeletons in her closet, but that's nobody's damn business and she keeps the vault locked tight. When the sh-t hits the fan, you know where you stand with Naomi. That's why the crew trusts her -- and why they want to follow her.

 We're seeing a bit more of Ceres in this episode, most notably the obvious divide between the people that have money and don't. Miller obviously isn't rich, so did he show mercy on the street punks because, in a way, he could relate to them? Or is it more that he's so disenchanted he doesn't care enough to do his job?

Miller may have more in common with these "street rats" than his job as a cop might suggest. We'll fill in more of his backstory as the season progresses. True, Miller isn't the most dedicated law enforcement officer anymore, but letting the water thieves go isn't about laziness -- it's more about Julie Mao. Though he's barely aware of it yet, this feisty heiress, who didn't bow down to her rich father, has opened a little crack in Miller's worldview. He likes this girl's spirit. She's a fighter. He sees some of that, too, in Diogo the street urchin, who'd rather pound his own head against a wall than let Miller do it.

Miller doesn't really seem like the type that tries to excel at his job, yet he is getting very immersed in Julie's kidnapping case. Is Miller becoming obsessed with Julie Mao the further he digs into her past? Why or what is it about this case that is pulling him in deeper?

Miller is pulling on a thread with the Julie case. Something he doesn't quite understand is driving him. We love characters who are following signs, before they really grasp why. There's a cool old fortune cookie saying (or Ted Nugent lyric), "when you're ready to learn, a teacher appears." Miller's been looking for a path forward in his life. This "throwaway" case has put him on that path. Julie is a mystery. She has a fierce spirit. Is she a force of good or evil? He doesn't know yet. Obsession may indeed follow.