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The novels as a whole
- The whole premise. Space was looked on as the dream frontier in the past, but humanity was forced to the stars because of overpopulation and disasters. Mankind in The Expanse was unprepared.
- The Investigator is unable to save the Protomolecule victims, and has to kill them and permanently kill himself in order to end their suffering.
- Anderson Dawes quietly considering the death of Fred Johnson.
The TV series:
Episode #1: "Dulcinea"
- The destruction of the Canterbury. We've spent an entire episode getting to know this ship and her crew, and in a flash, almost all of them are killed for what seems like no reason at all.
Episode #5: "Back To The Butcher"
- The story of Anderson Station. They were forced to work in a low-oxygen atmosphere that caused severe health problems to their children, and the company ignored their demands, so they started to protest, and those protests eventually led to them taking over the station. However, several people died in the fight, so they were labelled as terrorists, and their attempts to negotiate were ignored. By the time they finally decided to surrender unconditionally, it was too late, and then the station was destroyed, killing everyone inside instantly.
Episode #4: "Godspeed"
Episode #5: "Home"
Episode #12: "The Monster And The Rocket"
- The Weeping Somnambulist only has enough oxygen for 52 people. Naomi begs a Big Guy named Champa to organize the refugee mob trying to board. He gives an extremely stirring impromptu speech mustering all the grit and pride inherent in Belter lives, convincing them to sacrifice themselves so that a few may live. Naomi almost stays behind, having bribed Champa with her seat, but Champa tells her "you're not finished yet", pushes her onto the ship, and stoically signs goodbye through the airlock window while she tearfully looks back at him.
- This moment really drives home the born unity between most Belters, even those who've never met.
Episode #1: "Fight or Flight"
- Naomi struggled with the decision to give their protomolecule sample to Johnson instead of shooting it into the sun as everyone agreed upon. But she is devastated by the reaction from everyone else.
- Holden is initially furious but soon starts acting apathetic about it, so it's pretty obvious that he's anything but okay.
- Alex flat-out calls her a hypocrite and is angrier than we've ever seen him.
- The worst has to be Amos, who's the closest thing she has to family. His trust in her is shattered, and when she tries to talk to him about it, he shuts her down with 'Some things can't be fixed.' Amos later tells Alex that Naomi is "not the person I thought she was," and he clearly doesnt know what to do if he can't trust her moral guidance.
Episode #5: "Triple Point"
- Admiral Souther, the one truly noble senior officer in the top echelons of the UN Navy, is dead.
- Cotyar's Heroic Sacrifice.
Episode #6: "Immolation"
Episode #10: "Dandelion Sky"
- Holden is uncertain whether the Miller he is talking to is really his mind preserved in the Protomolecule construct, or just the Protomolecule using Miller's image to persuade him. He pushes Miller to talk about Julie Mao, until he vanishes. When he reappears, all his previous bravado is gone. He is slouched down against a pillar, his voice wavering, fighting back tears.
Miller: Julie told me this crazy kids' story. She said, when a child dies, some sort of angel takes their hand and falls halfway, you know, so they wouldn't be afraid. I tried to be the angel. But I was... so scared. So... she held my hand. And I told her, 'If you fall with me, it ain't gonna be for halfway.'"
Holden: It's good to see you, Miller.
Episode #6: "Displacement"
- The little Belter kid calling for their parents who were blown away by the reactor explosion's shockwave winds Holden finds.