The Expanse is a SyFy-helmed show based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey, though it was recently bought by Netflix (can I get a hallelujah?). The first novel in the series, Leviathan Wakes, was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Novel in 2012 which is a good indication right off the bat as it shows it’s based on quality work.
What is it about?
The Expanse is set 200 years in the future in a fully colonised solar system where police detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is given a missing person assignment to find young Julie Mao (Florence Faivre). At the same time, Jim Holden (Steven Strait), the Executive Officer of the ice trawler Canterbury, is involved in a horrific incident with his ragtag group of crew mates which threatens to destabilise the shaky peace between Earth, Mars and the Belt. On Earth, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a United Nations executive, works to try and prevent war between Earth and Mars by any means necessary. Soon the three find out that the missing woman and the ice trawler’s fate are part of a massive conspiracy that threatens all of humanity.
I don’t want to reveal too many aspects of the plot because it’s a real pleasure seeing it unfold for yourself, but I will say that over the course of the season we explore many different issues such as poverty, crime, rebellion in the face of oppression, political corruption, conspiracy and murder. In fact there are so many different elements in this fantastic character-driven show that at times it doesn’t even feel like exclusively sci fi; it often feels like a much broader genre than that.
Why should I watch it?
In some ways, it’s incredibly familiar to sci fi fans of all walks of life, yet it’s also totally changed the game because it’s so accessible, even for people who wouldn’t usually watch a sci fi show. Not since Firefly have I felt this way about a show and I’m deadly serious when I say this: The Expanse will fill that Firefly-shaped hole in your life. And the best part is that season 2 has already wrapped so you can fall in love with it without worrying about whether or not SyFy or Netflix will break your heart and cancel it.
There are so many fantastic elements of the show, from the story line to the CGI (which is very impressive – anyone who suffered through the crappy effects and badly constructed sets of older sci fi shows will seriously appreciate this!) but the characters are what really hooks you.
Not only is the cast incredibly racially diverse, the core team (a ragtag group consisting of a quirky Texan pilot, a brain cell starved muscle man, a charismatic and mysterious captain and a badass female engineer. Sound familiar?) is incredibly well cast and, although they get off to a rocky start, the actors have brilliant chemistry and you can see them and this show going far.
You really get the feeling while watching that all of the things on screen are actually possible. People still have smart phones but they’re a lot fancier, though the screens still crack and they can be broken, there are people of all walks of life in all types of relationships, people living in the countryside on Earth have to fight their whole lives to keep their land, and there are even still Mormons who are preparing for a 100 year mission into space. Belters, who are the lowest social class, are made up of people from all Earth nationalities and because of this, they have a very cool, totally unique language (which was actually inspired by Jamaican creole and many other languages) which was a nice element added by the showrunners. The one thing that remains consistent throughout the season is that life is hard, and life in space is harder.
Don’t get me wrong, however, the show isn’t without its faults, but they’re quite minor. The first two or three episodes have a few confusing elements to them but the ride is so fun you don’t notice the bumps in the road. I think is to be expected as the show finds its feet, but the episodes are still solid. Personally, it became one of my favourite shows around episode four and by the end of the season, I was committed for the long haul. Season 2’s release in January can’t come soon enough!
For now, you can watch the whole season 1 on Netflix.
I sound like a broken record at this stage, but it really does have so many Firefly-like elements, from the Asian culture inspired set designs of the stations to the interactions of the crew. Just watch it, you’ll notice the elements throughout.
As well as this, there are also some Battlestar Galactica vibes, so if you love either of these shows (and you really should), you must watch The Expanse. You’ll thank me!