Syfy, in their return to science fiction programming, has tried some big things in the past year and perhaps none so big as the TV adaptation of James A. Corey’s book series of the same name. But while some of their attempts have succeeded, others have flopped and it was an interesting question to see what their 10-episode series would do. So here’s my look at The Expanse and whether Syfy got it right.
In the not-too-distant future, man has colonized the entire solar system. Detective Joe Miller is assigned a case, locating a missing heiress, but this leads him to a much larger mystery that may bring the whole of the human race to the brink of war.
The Expanse is technically gorgeous, perhaps the most beautiful and most realistic depiction of near-future life in space I’ve seen in a very, very long time. The effects and CGI are near flawless, whoever is responsible certainly did their homework in most cases and for that they deserve whatever praise can be heaped upon them.
However, as we well know, CGI doesn’t make a show good and I have some issues with the series. First off, the characters. Okay, the actors and actresses themselves do a phenomenal job, I have no complaints about the acting job that anyone did in the series, it’s just that I never could get all that attached to any of them. Everyone in the series is deeply flawed, perhaps too flawed to form any kind of an attachment to, at least for me. There are no heroes here, it’s just regular joes trying to get through the day and while that’s ultimately a fine thing, there’s really nobody to root for. The other issue is that without really seeing the big picture in the system, I can’t say I really have any serious desire to see anyone survive the series or win the fight. We really don’t know the politics of Earth or Mars or the OPA beyond the broad strokes we’ve been given. There isn’t any real context given so I can decide if Earth had valid reasons for doing what it’s done, or for the OPA to oppose it. These are all familiar tropes in many, many science fiction books so I’m not going to assume that anyone is telling the truth about their justifications. Maybe everyone is getting what they deserve, we just don’t know and again, that makes it difficult to sympathize with any of them.
And frankly, while I know it was on purpose, it bugged me each and every time they mispronounced “Anubis”. Sorry, it just did. This is 200 years in the future, they haven’t lost all of the history books, I hope.
Now I know that most people are extolling the virtues of this show and it is pretty to look at, but to me, while impressive, it just isn’t all that. The characters didn’t impress me, I can’t stand dark stories and while this wasn’t as dark-for–the-sake-of-being-dark as Battlestar Galactica, we really only got to see the seamy underbelly of space, rarely the good parts. I’d rather see what man has to lose than reasons why we shouldn’t care if it all goes away. I also don’t think they really got too far into the real mystery. What is the protomolecule? We’re supposed to think it’s alien, but from where? Who is trying to bring humanity to war and why? We get little pieces to the puzzle but never enough to start putting a significant part of it together. In fact, I didn’t even know that episode 10 was the last episode of the season, I was left going “what, that’s it?” There’s a full year before the second season airs, what am I supposed to be excited about seeing in the future?
I’ve heard conflicting reports about the books, some say that you get more out of the series if you’ve read the books, some say the books weren’t that good and the series is better. I have no idea if I should try reading the first book and see which is correct, or if I’m better off waiting a year for the next season. I don’t have a lot of time for reading at the moment so if anyone wants to weigh in on that idea, please let me know. In any case, I’m going to see the second season, if only to get some of the answers that I wish we had gotten in the first season, and maybe to hope that the characters become a little more heroic and a little less morally vague. I guess I’ll keep my fingers crossed for 2017.