A fair warning: I’m for gushing Space. But before I do, let’s look at a list of things that are not good for The Expanse.
- Acting is often ruled out, sometimes completely strange.
- Dialogue is regularly unnatural and unnatural.
- Although it has to be loaded very heavily, CGI can feel squeaky and low budget.
- Literally every decision made by Detective Miller (played by Thomas Jane) makes no sense.
- Thomas Jane’s hat. Terrible hat. Probably the worst TV hat ever.
- See also: Thomas Jane’s Hairstyle.
Whenever I try to convince someone to watch The Expanse, I like to get this list out of the way. I want people to know from the beginning: This TV show is not perfect. In fact, depending on what you value on your TV, you can even call The Expanse “bad.”
I don’t think The Expanse is bad.
On the contrary, I think The Expanse is very good. It is often good, despite its shortcomings. Sometimes it is improved of these shortcomings.
Set hundreds of years into the future when humans are scattered in the solar system, The Expanse is based on a series of solid science fiction novels written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Frank under the pseudonym James S.A. Corey. It is dense with an incomparable universe. It is a show about the very real dangers of space travel and colonization, but also a surprisingly nuanced show that deals with interplanetary politics and class warfare.
In one corner we have the Earth and all its citizens. In the other – Mars. The people who colonized Mars are focused on the military, a solid group of people willing to resolve conflict by force. Those who are still on Earth are the catching, politically understanding elite.
The Wild Maps are the Beltars, inhabitants of outer planets and asteroid belts, who have developed their own Creole language and, along with that, a culture completely separate from humans on Earth and Mars. Sick of being trampled by the earthlings, the Beltars are threatening a revolution, but they lack the strength or resources to truly respond to their oppressors.
Everything that happens in The Expanse stems from the tension between these three separate groups.
The magic of The Expanse is how easily the show moves between genres. It’s hard science fiction at all times, but in its first few seasons, The Expanse played out as. Later, it was a show about alien technology and the related arms race. It then became a show for exploring new strange planets. Ultimately, The Expanse is a show for all of these things, but it puts its uniquely crafted universe at its core, giving it a complete line that smaller science fiction shows don’t have.
The aesthetics of the show play a similar trick. Not everyone enjoys its metallic color scheme in the style of video games, but I like video games, so I’m a fan. The Expanse feels like me I think a Mass Effect show can be felt if it ever happens and is somehow decent. The Expanse is cool, clinical and intelligent – and sometimes wooden performances reinforce this in a way that should be bad, but is often felt good? In a universe that lacks warmth, minimalist performances make sense.
Yes, I’m confused too. But it works.
After all, The Expanse is a show that will never disappoint. Much like Dark – for my money– The Expanse is now completely finished and, unlike most science fiction shows, he resisted the odds and finished well. Some of his six seasons are better than others, but The Expanse is incredibly consistent. You will be shocked by how much land it covers and how smoothly it passes from one civilization-changing crisis to the next.
It’s funny, but almost everyone I know who watches The Expanse, including me, likes to complain about it. They will complain about the cumbersome dialogues and strange performances, but there is nothing like it. This is a show that is persistently carried by its strengths, to levels of quality that it has no right to reach. You owe it to yourself to watch, if only to create your own list of things in The Expanse that annoy you.
Just make sure this list includes Thomas Jane’s hat. Unforgivable.
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