I originally tried to get into the (originally) SyFy produced show earlier this year during the original U.K. lockdown but couldn’t get past the first episode. The acting was poor, the story complicated and the hair styles seriously dodgy.
Having been a fan of science fiction since a child, The Expanse should be firmly on my radar and with the sixth and final season having now been agreed by Amazon Prime I figured perhaps it was worth another try. Any show that runs to six seasons can’t be that bad surely? Perhaps my original perception of the opening episode was wrong?
Well, the acting is really poor in some places and the story takes a while to understand but get past the first episode and you soon find yourself drawn in to a show that is sophisticated, thrilling and provides some genuine “wow” moments and surprising plot twists.
I’m sure readers of the original text the show is based on probably understand it but if you’re new to The Expanse you’ll likely take a while to get to grips with all the characters and plot points.
The show is set 200 years in the future and predicts a time when humans have colonised Mars and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter that they simply refer to as The Belt. This creates three distinct factions of humans in conflict with each other. Earth and Russia seem to refer to each other in much the same way that the U.S.A and Russia/China do at the moment with a bubbling undercurrent of tension constantly underpinning all the transactions between them.
The Belters are essentially a collection of tribes that mine the asteroids and identify themselves with tattoos, dodgy haircuts and a strange accent that seems to be a mix of South African and Russian. They take a while to warm to because of their gruff personalities but you soon get to see a deeper side to the belters who struggle to know their place in the triumvirate.
As a viewer you get to see and understand much more of The Belt than you do of Earth and Mars with the opening show based on a colonised Ceres (the largest object in the asteroid belt) and focusing on the start of a police investigation into a missing young woman. Your view of Earth is limited to the senior people in the U.N (which now apparently governs the whole of Earth) and Mars is limited to seeing just the ships and people who operate them so I think this is where the first few shows fall down as it’s hard to get a clear understanding of the three main antagonists.
Now coming to the end of season Three I’m completely hooked on the show and it’s complex relationships have totally drawn me in. I am constantly being surprised by the story and transfixed by the special effects and the sets. The acting definitely improves as the seasons progress which is a relief.
One area where The Expanse out-plays other Si-Fi shows such as the various Star Treks and even Star Wars is that the technology presented in the show feels more grounded in some reality.
For example, the writers have resisted the lazy Si-Fi regulars of un-explained shield technology for the ships with them being completely destroyed by single weapon volleys and bullets penetrating the hulls of ships and hitting the occupants within them. They’ve also resisted the temptation to include some form of super-fast transport between locations with ships having to travel between locations slowly and the characters having to deal with the messy details like having enough oxygen and food for the journeys. They’ve also resisted the temptation to have large, flame filled explosions of ships which always bugs me about space shows. In The Expanse, ships are torn apart by the weapons fired on them and the shrapnel this causes is an immediate threat to the other near-by ships.
It’s a refreshing and engaging show which I’m thoroughly enjoying. Having come to it off the back of the amazing second season of The Mandalorian it’s making me realise that space-set science fiction doesn’t have to be just about Star Wars or Star Trek.