The Expanse: A Biased Review

Last year I got all excited about the Syfy channel turning one of my favorite book series into a TV show. I got even more excited when it became clear how much money they were throwing at it. The trailer, too, looked amazing.

So now we’ve had all 10 episodes of the first season of The Expanse. The fact that it got a second season before the first one even aired notwithstanding… how is it?

(Don’t worry, no spoilers)

If you have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s the trailer:

Leviathan Wakes

The first season of The Expanse covers about 2/3 of the first book of the series, Leviathan Wakes. It’s a broad space opera covering the bulk of the inhabited solar system, roughly 200 years in the future. The Moon and Mars are colonized, as are several asteroids in The Belt (some other moons are too, but these don’t come into play much in the first book).

For most of the series there are two, seemingly disparate, storylines. One follows the crew of the Canterbury, an ice hauler and home for those who want to be forgotten. The other follows a detective on the asteroid Ceres. Since it’s a TV show it’s not a spoiler to say these stories aren’t a detached as they seem.

Then a whole lot of stuff blows up.

Hopelessly Biased

Being a fan of the books, I can’t offer much of an objective take. I tried to think, as I was watching, “If I didn’t know what was going to happen, what would I think?” So that, and since all reviews are subjective anyway, here are my thoughts (below the buffer of a really cool 360-degree video).

I loved it. I was concerned after the pilot episode, since it’s got some odd pacing, but after that it picks up and moves fast. The visuals are spectacular. The overall look and feel of the show match the books fantastically well. This is big-budget TV sci-fi the likes of which we haven’t seen since Battlestar curtained seven years ago. It’s a big story made well, and that’s such a welcome thing. There’s nothing like it on TV, and probably won’t be until next January when the second season of this airs at the same time the new Star Trek (with Bryan Fuller!!!) does.

Unfounded Casting Concerns

One of the things I talked about in my preview was how some of the casting seemed a little off. While there certainly was a bit of “make-em pretty and young-ish for TV” going on, what they definitely nailed was the feeling each character.

Take Amos. I pictured someone hulking, maybe mid 40s. Wes Chatham, the actor playing him is 37, but looks younger. However, Chatham does a brilliant job portraying Amos’s quiet menace. The character is polite, but you can tell that if he had a reason he’d snap your neck and not be upset about it.

Dominique Tipper, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and especially Thomas Jane are all as fantastic as I’d hoped.

Steven Strait is the only one I’m still unsure of. He’s a fine actor, but he’s playing the character darker than I’d expected. It works though.

Whatever. That’s all subjective and very nit-picky. The cast is great.

Watch!!!! (please)

Good space sci-fi (hell, good sci-fi in general) is such a rarity on television that I hope you give The Expanse a try. Support good programing! Well, if you think you’d like this kind of show, anyway. I understand not everyone likes sci-fi.

If you pay for cable/satellite you can watch the entire season online or you can get it from iTunes or Amazon.

Highly recommended.

jnemesh's picture

Having NOT read the books prior, I came into the series expectations other than people online saying that the books were very good.

I was hooked right from the pilot episode! The special effects were amazing, the sets were incredible, and the acting and actors were all VERY good!

The entire first season sets up a mystery...what happened to the Scopuli...and to Julie Chen? Each episode gives you a tiny piece of the puzzle, and also gives you glimpses into the politics involved and little by little, the major players in each group.

THIS is how worldbuilding should be done! No heavy info dumps, no long-winded exposition. You are thrown headlong into this universe, and you get your feet under you little by little, episode by episode.

If I have any gripe at all, it's that the "season" is only 10 episodes! (remember when they were 22???) I simply CAN NOT WAIT for Season 2! If you haven't yet watched this series, and you are a fan of science fiction...especially REALISTIC, near-future sci-fi...GO WATCH NOW! You won't be disappointed!

veggieboy2001's picture

Now I'm addicted...I just binged the 1st 5 episodes. Looks like I'm going to have to buy the books. Why's you have to be so RIGHT, Geoff??

Geoffrey Morrison's picture
It's a hobby.