Boiling down all the events going down in a solar system on the brink of war ain’t easy, but we’re here to help.

Syfy’s ambitious series The Expanse has a lot on its mind, and Season 2 is only going to get bigger. So, just in case you haven’t been taking in every little detail about Jim Holden, Chrisjen Avasarala, Julie Mao, Joe Miller, and the entire ensemble, we’ve got you covered. Here’s everything you need to know heading into the second season premiere.

Earth, Mars, and the Belt All Hang in the Balance

This whole mess is set 200 years in the future. The solar system has been colonized, and the vast expanses of space have become quite unruly. An uneasy peace between Earth, Mars, and the ragtag group of blue collar space workers known as Belters (who live and work mining the solar system’s asteroids) is in place … but conflict soon erupts with a pair of shocking vessel explosions.

The ice hauler Canterbury is destroyed by what is believed to be a Martian stealth ship, forcing former crew members like Jim Holden (Steven Strait) to look for answers. They’re taken prisoner by the Martian destroyer called the Donnager, which itself gets blown up by the mysterious stealth tech, meaning the Martians aren’t the ones to blame and someone is trying to force the three main powers in the system into war. This forces Holden to flee on a Martian gunship — the series’s de facto Millennium Falcon, the Rocinante — to look for who is responsible, while also being caught up in the multi-planet firestorm.

The Roci Crew Is Finally a Crew, But at the Cost of Eros

The Earth-born Holden has a reluctant hero complex but takes up the mantle of being the leader in the end; there’s a shady corporate conspiracy that threatens to send the solar system into total war, after all. His first task: making sure Belter engineer Naomi (Dominique Tipper), Martian pilot Alex (Cas Anvar), and the violent but fiercely loyal Amos (Wes Chatham) learn to work together. Trust is important, especially when you don’t really know who to rely on.

The crew of the 'Rocinante' on 'The Expanse'
Naomi, Amos, Alex, and Holden: The crew of the 'Rocinante.'

The Roci crew makes a pitstop on the asteroid belt outpost Eros Station in the finale. A mysterious plague has been unleashed there, amounting to a mass genocide on the lower class Belter citizens. The crew is forced to witness some brutal things, and realize that the people behind the Eros outbreak might have also destroyed the Canterbury and the Donnager.

Miller is a Rocinante Stowaway

The one-time Star Helix neo-noir wannabe private eye has gone rogue, trying to find a missing person named Julie Mao. The cold case leads him into the same conspiracy that sweeps up the Roci crew, and after some reluctant asteroid-hopping for the Belter, he eventually meets up with Jim Holden to witness the Eros outbreak. It’s there he finds Mao’s crystallized and decomposing body — it seems she might have been patient zero for the outbreak. Before the unexplainable sickness can take his life, he hops aboard the Rocinante to become its fifth member. But who knows how long that will last.

Syfy's 'The Expanse'
Miller and Miller's hairdo.

Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) does not play well with others, and he has to come to the realization that he’ll never have the girl he traveled across the solar system to find.

Avasarala Is Working for Earth … or Is She?

The character farthest away from the action is the one who could most likely prevent the disaster. At the end of Season 1, earthbound U.N. politician Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) learned from extremist leader Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) that the tech on the stealth ships that downed the Canterbury and Donnager actually originated on Earth. To make things worse, they were allegedly built by her political confidant and protégé, Undersecretary for the United Nations Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle).

Syfy's 'The Expanse' Season 2.
Avasarala, diplomat and badass.

Like Miller, Avasarala also has to make a decision to go rogue … but she can only go so rogue. She can’t let her knowledge of Earth’s potential involvement in the Canterbury and Donnager incidents disrupt her political maneuvering to avoid war. She knows they’re mixed up in something bad, but she’d rather use her cunning and motherly instincts to prove how strategic and powerful she is.

Fred Johnson is Friend and Foe

Johnson is as mysterious as the conspiracy driving the whole show. Known as the “Butcher of Anderson Station,” Johnson was an Earth-born U.N. Marine Colonel who quit after he was given false information that allowed him to massacre a group of Belter miners and their children protesting on a far-flung outpost. After abandoning Earth, he settled in as the chief of operations on Tycho Station where he’s leading the construction of the first starship: the Nauvoo. But Johnson isn’t just a glorified construction foreman.

Syfy's 'The Expanse'
Fred Johnson is a good guy, but also a bad guy kind of.

Johnson is also an advocate and possible leader of the Outer Planets Alliance, a Belter extremist collective seeking legitimacy despite acts of terrorism that have invalidated their status amongst U.N. and Martian forces. His borderline neutral status means Tycho is the perfect place for Holden and the Roci crew — with Miller in tow — to hide out, recharge, and retaliate.

The Protomolecule is Alive and Kicking … Unlike Julie Mao

Before they discover the genocide, Holden and the Roci crew were sent on a mission to by Johnson to find an OPA agent named Lionel Polanski (an alias used by Julie Mao) who was apparently the only survivor of a ship he commissioned called the Scopuli. Instead of that ship, the Roci finds a stealth ship called the Anubis, which turns out to be one of the vessels that killed the Cant. When they go exploring, they find a fungal organism gaining power by attaching itself to the ship’s main engine, and hightail it out of there when they realize the Anubis was headed to Eros. There they find Julie Mao dead, and the protomolecule being used as some kind of bioweapon test against the citizens of the station. But to the audience’s horror, it also has learned to take a human form. It’s not some virus. This protomolecule is intelligent, and it could be learning.

Photos via Syfy

Sean is a Brooklyn-based writer with several degrees in English literature. When he’s not digging up culture stories for Inverse, he’s listening to Harry Nilsson and mining obscure movie facts for Mental Floss.

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