Quick Review: The Expanse – The Greatest Show You’re Not Watching

Introducing the sci-fi show that is currently taking the world by storm. The Expanse aired on Syfy in 2015 and was axed after just 3 seasons. Thankfully, it was revitalised by Amazon and is now thriving with a growing fanbase and 5 seasons under its belt. Even with its rocky beginning, The Expanse has become one of Amazon’s headlining shows and is even considered to be one of the best sci-fi shows – or show of any genre for that matter – of all time. And it keeps getting better with every season.  

The Plot

Set in a not-so-distant future, space travel and the colonisation of other planets is in full swing, with Earthers, Martians, and Belters spread out across the solar system, their ideologies and cultures completely divided and conflicting. All they need is a single push to throw them over the edge into all-out war. And that push, comes in the form of some extra-terrestrial blue gunk – dubbed the protomolecule.

In the midst of this, James Holden and his crew on board the Rocinante, find themselves caught in the unravellings of a coverup that could change the fate of humanity and potentially stop everyone from killing each other.

From episode 1, multiple plot lines are introduced that eventually become woven together to form one intricate story, but the bulk of it follows the Rocinante and its rag-tag crew of ex-ice haulers, now political chess pieces and martyrs for the rest of solar system. The political complexities presented in The Expanse are comparable to the early seasons of Game of Thrones, and, much to the fans enjoyment, they seem committed to taking the long route and revealing every possible turn without letting lengthy battle sequences overshadow the true story. Even as we reach the end of season 5, we have yet to reach a full conclusion. While this isn’t the type of story that needs to be tied up with a pretty ribbon, there are certainly questions that still need answering.

Left to Right: Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), James Holden (Steven Strait), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper)

The Space Opera Upgrade

Season 5 of the expanse aired in December 2020, with the hit Amazon show reaching yet another climactic finish. Around this time, another, much more popular sci-fi series, Star Wars’ The Mandalorian, was having its season 2 premiere. Both shows are undeniably sci-fi, with elements of alien technology, extensive worlds that stretch out further than the plot of the series, and adventures on a spaceship with a memorable and somewhat quirky name.

You could even say that both The Expanse and the Star Wars franchise collectively are examples of Space Opera, a sci-fi subgenre that revolves around ideas of interplanetary battles, melodramatic romance, and space warfare. However, the Mandalorian took a much more subdued approach to storytelling, focusing on fewer characters, very little political intervention, and an easy-going episodic style. The Expanse contrasts this in almost every way.

The Expanse incorporates its namesake well; it really is one expansive story filled with plot lines of epic proportions. The solar-system setting gives the show a near-limitless feel, and battles are intensified by the vastness of the space they have to play with. Choices made in The Expanse are ones that affect whether humanity lives or dies, letting audiences sit on the edges of their seats, gripped with anticipation.

Real-World Details and Big Screen Battles

The Expanse has garnered a reputation for it’s sci-fi approach that’s more science than fiction. It’s futuristic, yes, but with realistic problems that tried not to step too much on the toes of the laws of physics.

Most of the show take place in space and on planets where gravity is either low or non-existent, and it doesn’t shy away from addressing the problems that humans would have when trying to survive in these environment. For example, the belters – humans that live within and beyond the belt – are presented as tall and lanky from being born in low gravity environments. Water is also scarce in the belt and has become a valued commodity. Aspects like this are subtle and can easily be missed, but they are what make the show believable.

Even though The Expanse is soaked in realism, it doesn’t shy away from big battle sequences. Its action-packed scenes are just as thrilling as one in a much less realistic sci-fi show. But instead of faster than light travel and laser guns, The Expanse focuses on suspenseful build ups and high-G manoeuvres. They address aspects that have previously been overlooked in sci-fi such as ship design and accept that they don’t have to be aerodynamic to move in space. This means that ships like the Rocinante can look like a tin can but is still extremely fast and is armed to the teeth with weaponry.

Rocinante (Image Source: Amazon Prime)

The Expanse is a show that has gone under the radar in the past, and has even come close to cancellation. But it’s clung onto life and pushed back against all odds. At this point in a show’s lifespan, the ratings would usually plummet, and the story would feel lost and broken. The Expanse, however, has gone against the trend, and had held true, never wavering from its original vision. We can only hope that it gets the ending it deserves. Have you watched the expanse? Do you agree with this article? React below.