'The Expanse' Season 3 Premiere: Why Holden Is Hard to Like

There are a lot of words people might use to describe James Holden, the man who is ostensibly the main character of SyFy’s The Expanse. But the word that best sums him up, is “quixotic.” Yep, it’s that famous adjective derived from the impractical idealism of the eponymous character in Miguel de Cervantes’s novel Don Quixote. And as the third season of The Expanse picks up right where the second season left off, we’ve got to wonder. Is Holden ever going to ditch his Don Quixote complex?

When Inverse spoke to authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck in 2017, they called their book series — upon which the SyFy series is based — “the science fictional version of War and Peace.” But, if we only listen to Holden, the show isn’t about Tolstoy, but instead, the famous Don Quixote’s scene in which he is “tilting at windmills.” Holden references this idea specifically in the season 3 debut, “Fight or Flight,” but one has to wonder if this character will ever change? In other words, while Holden’s quixotic nature rings realistic (we’ve all met guys like him) his insistence on being the Don Quixote figure makes him a challenging, and sometimes, downright annoying, science fiction hero. In short, Holden is hard to like.

The Rocinante in 'The Expanse'


Of course, Holden’s hubris is by design. The authors of the novels and super-smart writers on the series aren’t dong anything by accident. And yet, there’s a scene in the episode where Holden just straight-up talks over Naomi, effectively silencing here with the help of the three other dudes who work on his spaceship; the Rocinante. (Which is named for Don Quixote’s horse.)

Sure, Holden was talking about trying to find a lost girl who was kidnapped by mad scientists in season 2, so he has the moral high ground. Plus, at the end of season 2, we found out that Naomi gave a piece of the mysterious and destructive “protomolecule” to Fred Johnson of the Outer Planets Alliance. In Holden’s mind, this is like giving a nuclear weapon to your drunk uncle.

Still, from a dramatic perspective, even when Holden is wrong he’s still right. Morally, he figures out how to always be an idealist and quixotically charge into battle. In the books, this bravado is a little easier to take, simply because the authors give us a little more Holden’s interior life, and we see him beating himself a lot.

But with a TV series, we need to see a character evolve out of their more annoying tendencies, even if they are right most of the time. Fans of the books know Holden and the crew of the Rocinante have a lot of crazy shit coming their way. The question is: will we see Holden become a new man because of it. - The Expanse airs on Wednesday nights on SyFy at 9pm eastern.