I’m about to wax lyrical about The Expanse, so don’t claim ignorance. Even lavish it with praise. But first, let me list some negative aspects of The Expanse.
- The acting is frequently off, and occasionally downright strange.
- The dialogue frequently feels forced and artificial.
- Although the CGI had to perform a lot of heavy lifting, it sometimes felt dated and underfunded.
- Detective Miller (played by Thomas Jane) makes decisions that are completely illogical.
- Hat of Thomas Jane. An awful hat. Possibly the worst TV hat ever worn
- Also see: Thomas Jane’s hairstyle.
I like to get this list out of the way before I go all out trying to get someone to watch The Expanse. I want people to understand right away that this TV program is not flawless. In fact, The Expanse might even qualify as “bad” television, depending on your standards for entertainment.
The Expanse is not, in my opinion, bad.
On the other hand, I believe The Expanse to be excellent. It frequently excels despite its flaws. Sometimes those flaws serve to improve it.
The Expanse is based on a series of hard science fiction books written by Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck under the pen name James S.A. Corey that are set hundreds of years in the future and feature humans dispersed throughout the solar system. It is packed with unparalleled universe construction. The show explores the very real dangers of space travel and colonization, but it also delves into interplanetary politics and class conflict in a surprisingly nuanced way.
Earth and all of its inhabitants are depicted in one corner. Mars is in the other. Mars colonists are a hardy, military-focused race that often resorts to using force to settle disputes. The pretentious, politically astute elite are those who are still on Earth.
The unknowns are the Belters, inhabitants of the outer planets and asteroid belts who have evolved a distinct Creole-like language and culture apart from those of Earth and Mars. The Belters are threatening revolution because they are tired of being mistreated by the “Earthers,” but they lack the capability or means to effectively retaliate against their oppressors.
The conflicts between these three distinct groups are the root of everything that happens in The Expanse.
The Expanse’s magic lies in how deftly it switches between genres. Even though The Expanse is always hard sci-fi, the first few seasons of the show are structured more like a murder mystery. A show about alien technology and the ensuing arms race will follow. Then it turns into a show about visiting new, strange planets. The Expanse is ultimately a show about all of these things, but it centers on its carefully crafted universe, giving it a narrative thread that other sci-fi programs lack.
It is a show that “stubbornly relies on its strengths to carry it to quality levels it has no business achieving.”
The aesthetic of the show pulls off a similar ruse. Although its metallic, video game-inspired color scheme isn’t to everyone’s taste, I like it because I like video games. The Expanse has a similar vibe to how I imagine a Mass Effect television series might if it ever materializes and is any good. The Expanse is cool, clinical, and smart; however, occasionally, the wooden acting amplifies that in ways that shouldn’t be good but frequently feel good? Reduced-key, minimalist performances make sense in a cold universe.
Yes, I’m also perplexed. But it functions.
In the end, The Expanse is a program that you can always count on. The Expanse is now completely finished and, unlike most sci-fi shows, defied the odds and had a successful conclusion, much like Dark, which is, in my opinion, the best show on Netflix. The Expanse is remarkably consistent despite the fact that some of its six seasons are better than others. The amount of material it covers and the ease with which it transitions from one civilization-altering crisis to the next will astound you.
It’s amusing that almost all of my friends who watch The Expanse, including myself, love to criticize it. They will criticize the awkward acting and awkward dialogue, but there is nothing else like it. It’s a show that stubbornly rides the coattails of its talents to levels of excellence it has no business achieving. You owe it to yourself to watch, even if only to make a list of the things you find annoying in The Expanse.
Just make sure Thomas Jane’s hat is on that list. Unforgivable.