The Expanse is probably the best science fiction program on television right now. For once, I'm not saying this because it's one of the few science fiction programs on today. There's a surprising now out there and available, especially if you count superhero shows. No, The Expanse is one of the best science fiction programs out there today because it's good.
|Evolution works in mysterious ways.|
Unfortunately, I have to give it a ten out of ten because the first season feels like the mid-season finale. It is, however, intelligent science fiction and futurism which deserves all the viewers it is. So, if you want my short-short review, The Expanse is a series you should go onto your Xbox or Playstation or computer to order the season for now. You won't regret it. It's the best thing SyFy has done since Battlestar Galactica.
The premise is it's 200 years in the future and a hard-science view of the world is being predicted. There's no hyperdrive but humanity has space travel capable of causal travel between Earth and the asteroids around Jupiter. Those human beings who were born, live, and die in space are called Belters. They are cheap laborers who have been exported from Earth and, over the past few generations, have suffered numerous deformities due to the lack of gravity as well as treatments to counteract its effects. Belters are vitally necessary to maintain the luxurious lifestyle enjoyed by Earth's 30 billion inhabitants as well as the ongoing terra-forming project maintained by Mars.
|Imagine the most realistic space series set in the future you can and then add the T-Virus from Resident Evil.|
One thing I appreciated about the show right off the bat is it manages to explain the politics in a way which is both simple but also allows numerous more complex variations. There's Earth which is the rich but overcrowded world, Mars which is the powerful but dependent world, and the Belt which is the poor collection of settlements needed by everyone else. Earth and Mars both depend on the resources mined by the Belt but they don't give the workers there any respect since they exist solely to keep the lights running. It's a wonderfully good metaphor for the Third World nations as exploited by the First and Second.
|Ah, the zero-g spot. Where no man or woman has gone before.|
The secondary plot of the series is handled by Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) who is a Earth-obsessed Belter working as a dirty cop on a space station. Uninterested in anything but his paycheck, he becomes inspired by a young woman (Florence Faivre) who abandoned her family's fortune to work to build a better society. Joe runs afoul of his fellow Belters who consider him a race-traitor and becomes more obsessed with his quarry the more he devotes himself to the conspiracy she's wrapped herself up in.
|I love Naomi and Amos. They're two characters. Sadly, Holden is the star.|
Part of what makes The Expanse so good is we do get an impression of the world from multiple perspectives, social-classes, and attitudes. There's also quite a bit going on in the background which doesn't necessarily relate to the main plot. For example, the Church of Latter Day Saints (I'm serious) is building a generation ship to a new star system because they want to be at the forefront of space exploration. It doesn't have anything to do with the main plot, so far, but it underscores how petty and foolish the conflicts among humans are even as they tear apart what should have been a unifying frontier.
|Thomas Jayne's character would have fit right in the 1940s. Unfortunately, he's a couple of centuries late.|
The show isn't afraid to kill off cast members either and several times I was genuinely stunned to find out the stories of characters I'd been following ended in premature death. Almost no one is safe in the show and while I'm sure book readers have a good idea where all of this is going, I'm keeping myself unspoiled as I experience the twists and turns on-screen. This helps contribute to the dark and cold atmosphere which is one of the things I love in my sci-fi. Too many shows are afraid to kill anyone of consequence and this detracts from the realism.
|Hands down my favorite character. A great actress even when she's not playing a Quarian Admiral.|
Unfortunately, the show does have one major flaw that I've already mentioned. It is only ten episodes long, undoubtedly due to the budget required for all of the special effects, which ends not in any meaningful plot resolution but a series of cliffhangers that don't even seem fully resolved themselves. It feels like the show needed at least two or three more episodes to even get to a proper cliffhanger ending. Instead, the show feels like it's setting up for a cliffhanger ending only to stop. Which is unfortunate and about the only complaint I can bring up against the series that was, otherwise, again, Syfy's best offering in years.
|Ah, space. It's the best place to kill people horribly by a variety of terrifying ways.|
The special effects are excellent and remind me of Battlestar Galactica's reboot during its heyday. We get to see plenty of space battles and little things like objects floating in the air all of the time. Some of these special effects are cheap like floating objects just being partially held off-screen but their omnipresence helps immerse the viewer in the world. The one special effect which doesn't work at all is anything related to the protomolecule which, sadly, feels like it belongs in another series.
In conclusion, I recommend The Expanse to anyone who is a science fiction fan and looking for a new intelligent offering. The plot has a delightful series of twists and turns, numerous interesting characters, and a delightfully grim take on the future. The sudden end to the season is irritating but I chalk that up to Syfy not being sure whether or not it would catch on. Thankfully, it's been renewed for a second season.