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Telltale The Expanse Episode 3 Screenshot
Screenshot via Telltale Games

Review: ‘The Expanse: A Telltale Series’ Episode 3 is both existentially and thematically disturbing to great effect

Remember how good the last episode made you feel? You might want to hold on to that going into this.

Welcome back to the episodic extravaganza that is Telltale’s The Expanse! (As is tradition, there will be major spoilers for Episode 2 and minimal spoilers for Episode 3.) Last time we met, our intrepid Camina Drummer had finally consummated her will-they-won’t-they relationship with the Artemis’ Martian maverick, Maya Castillo (more so a they-definitely-will, unless you’re a complete monster like the small percentage of players who chose not to take Maya up on her offer to do the midnight mambo). I was happy, they were happy, and episode two was, overall, a slice-of-life affair. Well, minus the brief skirmish with the bloodthirsty Toussaint and their ruthless space-pirate gang.

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Not that you needed a crystal ball to naturally come to this conclusion, but remember when I mentioned my suspicions that Episode 3 would be a far cry from the chillness of its predecessor? I’m equally vindicated and mortified in being absolutely correct. Episode 3 marks the return of the high-octane intrigue that underlined the first episode, focusing on the mystery surrounding an ancient space station that allegedly contains the treasure Garrison Cox was so obsessed with (before his “accident”). We hear a recording welcoming us as we approach, extolling our ragtag band of scavengers as the supposed “next evolution of humanity.” The message certainly has an ominous air about it, but surely, the vessel holding our vast riches would never turn out to be weird or otherwise terrible!

Turns out we traded being pursued by Toussaint with existential dread, terrifying yet topical misery, and revelations that could very well lead to the slaughter of tens of thousands of people if not more! To further explain what I mean without veering into explicit spoilers, I’ll wax poetic. If you know something awful is going to happen to you and it’s unequivocally inevitable no matter what you do, you’d probably develop some interesting coping mechanisms. It’s human — trying to make sense of the senseless and seeking definitive answers to incomprehensible questions.

Telltale The Expanse Episode 3 Screenshot
Screenshot via Telltale Games

In short, this episode gets dark. The way science fiction tends to hit those existential highs and lows, this episode packs that punch and then some. There are no “fun” zero-g shenanigans. There’s no light-hearted banter or bonding with your crewmates. There’s pain. There’s greed. There’s unchecked ambition and apathetic capitalism. Camina is put in some truly unenviable situations, and I’ve never been more upset looking up the alternatives to my choices on YouTube after I was finished (we’ll get into that in Episode 4’s review, I promise).

The outcome of the episode’s “big decision” felt supremely rewarding, making my overarching choice to actively be as kind and understanding of a captain as possible feel like it truly mattered. Sure, things may not have ended as ideally as I’d have hoped, but I’d greatly prefer what ultimately happened to how things could’ve transpired. Somehow, Telltale has dodged the “prequel curse,” maintaining an engaging story regardless of Camina’s assured survival. Instead, it’s those she adores most who bear the brunt of the consequences of her actions.

Mechanically, not much has changed. Instead of dodging drone lasers (which, again, erred on the side of annoying rather than fun considering the not-so-fluid movement), this episode introduces an innocuous puzzle where you redirect power from one source to the next to open doors. It provided a nice, fleeting break from the heaviness of the plot. Though lacking in grandeur, it was fine for what it was.

Telltale The Expanse Episode 3 Screenshot
Screenshot via Telltale Games

As the last episode was light on plot details and I want to wait until the review of Episode 4 to sink my teeth into the specifics of this one, I want to touch on a common refrain leveled against this series so far just as a bit of a “food for thought” section: the runtime. Plus, it’s something I haven’t mentioned yet, and if ever there was a time to bring it up, it’s now, seeing as how we have some “downtime.”

As a game reviewer, I admit to an elevated level of privilege to the average gamer. We don’t exactly get a game for “free” as there’s still a commitment of time and critical analysis toward playing games we end up reviewing. But the truth of the matter is this: I certainly didn’t pay $40 for this experience. For me personally, I find the fact that each episode is around 45-ish minutes (straight-up without indulging in any optional exploration) comforting; Telltale has valued my time with tight, consistent episodes that don’t overstay their welcome and provide more than enough characterization and personality to earn a gold star in my book (which might change as we roll into the final two episodes, but we’ll see).

As it stands, I would’ve gladly paid $40 for what’s effectively been a high-quality interactive television show. The pacing has been phenomenal through each of the three released episodes, the stakes are clear and ramping up, and the characters — even with their limited screen time — are fleshed out with nuanced motivations and purposes within the overall story. The Expanse feels deliberate, saying less than previous Telltale fare (looking at you, pointless clickables with banal dialogue attached to them) while saying more with its detailed environments and meaningful character interactions.

Telltale The Expanse Episode 3 Screenshot
Screenshot via Telltale Games

I barely dodged a broken heart at the conclusion of Episode 3 of The Expanse. But as Camina faces her biggest obstacle yet by the episode’s end, I find myself ready to return to a ruthlessness I haven’t utilized since shooting Cox out of that airlock without a second thought. Some distressing, disgusting truths have been revealed, and perhaps it’s high time to channel the Artemis’ former captain who would do whatever it took to get the job done no matter who got in his way. Goodbye, Walter White. Hello, Heisenberg.

This review is based on the PlayStation 5 version of the game. A copy was provided for review by Telltale Games.

The Expanse: A Telltale Series Episode 3
Episode 3 of Telltale's The Expanse adds existential dread and simmering disloyalties to an already volatile space cocktail, ensuring that the series hits a satisfying peak by bringing both Camina and the player to a devastating breaking point.

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Author
Image of Dwayne Jenkins
Dwayne Jenkins
Dwayne approaches every situation with an active ear, open mind, and willful heart. He’s always been a staunch critic of whatever show, movie, game, or comic fell into his lap, deepening his adoration for the fabled art of storytelling. With two years of official games journalism under his belt and a lifelong love for the medium and industry, owning every console from the PS1 era and beyond, Dwayne does what he’s always wanted to do: plays and talks about video games with a critical, nuanced eye to give audiences the perspectives and views he’d missed earlier in his life.