A recent post on Nerdist.com caught my eye over and over in December and January. It told me that ‘The Expanse’ should be my new favourite Sci-Fi show. So I binged it.
In mid December Alicia Lutes published a post on nerdiest.com titled ‘The Expanse Is Sure To Be Your New Favorite Sci-Fi Epic‘. Drawing comparisons with ‘Battlestar Galactica’ Lutes praised the show for its plot, laced with conspiracy, tension and worldbuilding qualities.
Heralding ‘The Expanse’ as “epic” Lutes praises the SyFy channel for returning to the kind of show that’s been absent from their programming for too long.
Not since ‘Battlestar Galactica’ was on air has there been a sci-fi space opera of any real note for fans to get stuck into. With the promise that this new show would fill that void I set about binge watching the entire first season.
Thomas Jane stars as Josephus Miller
Based on the novel series written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck (under the pen name James S. A. Corey) ‘The Expanse’ isn’t an immediately accessible show by a long stretch. With many plotlines introduced simultaneously I spent the first three or four episodes of the ten really struggling to make sense of the events portrayed.
With Mars long colonised and independently governed the overall premise of the show is built around political friction between it, and Earth. Caught in the middle are ‘The Belters’. Treated as lower class citizens many Belters mine asteroid belts for ice to sell as water, a highly sought after commodity on Mars.
Initial focus is centred on the crew of a small craft on a rescue mission thrust into a life or death situation and how their journey will ultimately cross with that of Detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane). Integral to the story is a mysterious girl. Daughter to a wealthy man but sympathiser with an aggressive group of belter rebels.
With dark, hidden motives Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is a detestable UN (Earth) Government politician whose clandestine maneuvering and dubious methods have dangerous repercussions.
Steven Strait (James Holden second right) leads a small crew
With its slow pace some, like me, will find ‘The Expanse’ a struggle to get into. Add the fractured style of writing and you’ll find the show isn’t instantly rewarding. It took a commitment to at least half a season and a degree of blind faith to begin to see the potential of where the show could lead.
That’s not to say I wasn’t intrigued enough by early episodes. On the contrary I ended each installment itching to find out more so that I could start to make sense of what was going on. By the fifth episode I felt like I had a grasp on the main elements of the show and how they were beginning to build a bigger picture. Even so, the introduction of further new characters – that didn’t seem integral to the progression of the plot – helped to inject yet more confusion to proceedings.
There are many narrative elements that make up ‘The Expanse’. From the outset the various strands seem distant and convoluted, by the conclusion of the first season plots are beginning to converge as character arcs collide.
Where the show really excels is with its portrayal of the class systems and hierarchies that exist in the world presented to the viewer rather than on action and jaw dropping moments.
Discrimination isn’t judged on colour in ‘The Expanse’, it’s on where in the solar system you exist. The relative privilege and abundance of natural resources found within the stronger gravity of Earth. The regimented existence of those on Mars, or the dregs living in the belt.
Season one was a bit of a head scratch. It feels very much like ‘The Expanse’ is only just getting going, but I hold out hope that the show is gearing up to become “epic”in the forthcoming second season. It’s not quite there yet.
Since airing on SyFy the show has now found a home on Amazon Prime in the U.S. and Netflix in the U.K. – Season 2 begins on SyFy from February 1st.