I’ll be honest, I was of two minds on whether I would do a Pandemic Pick on The Expanse or not because I know at some point it’s going to be the subject of one of my deep dives. Probably when it’s all over and I can do a proper retrospective on the series. However, this is what I am currently watching at the moment and I’m absolutely loving it, more so on the second viewing as well.
Whenever I recommend this show to anyone the first thing they ask me is, “What’s it about?” Well, that’s difficult to explain without spoiling it because the way the story unfolds is you are thrown into this world and are basically left to catch up with what is happening. I love that about a series though, it treats us like an adult, it says here is the world that you’re going to be in for this series but don’t worry you’ll catch up. The way the story unfolds sets up more and more of the events and situations that govern the world this story takes place in. It feels weird referring to it as a world when the series setting is the Solar System, not one specific world.
You’re given a bit of background in the first episode through on screen text but apart from that you’re left to figure everything else out. The basic outline of where the story picks up is that humanity has populated the Solar System and has split into three factions, Earth, Mars and The Belt. Earth and Mars are the big players and have been in a cold war of sorts for quite a while with The Belt stuck in the middle. Belters, as they are known as, are the laborers of the system and there is also a faction called the OPA which are seen as terrorists by Earth and Mars. The OPA also have political ambitions for The Belt to be a unified state given the same rights as Earth and Mars to govern themselves.
The series is based on the books by James S.A Corey, which is the nom-de-plume of two authors, Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck. The books have received several accolades including the first in the series, Leviathan Wakes, being nominated for the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Novel. The adaptation of the books was announced in April 2014 as a straight to series order, this meant that instead of filming a pilot of seeing how that turned out they would produce an entire first season straight away.
The characters in the series are rich and boast brilliant portrayals, what’s really interesting about the characters is how through their day to day lives the events that occur to them inform us about what the world of The Expanse is. The characters themselves show real growth as the series progresses and the depth that is brought to them through the writing and the performances is top notch. The character of Amos Burton in particular shows a huge amount of evolution over the course of the series and it’s not forced evolution, it feels very real and genuine.
The production values the show has are outstanding especially when you discover that for a show that boasts a wide array of sets and incredible visual effects it didn’t have a huge budget. Reportedly on average each episode cost about $3 million to produce, when you compare that to the budget per episode of The Mandalorian which had an average budget of $15 million per episode it’s quite a difference. I have never once looked at any of the visual effects in The Expanse and thought that it looked a bit dodgy. Not only that but the physics employed on the series are incredibly realistic, the way ships move around in space and the physical strain on the human body it causes are all very realistic.
On top of the amazing visuals the series also boasts an excellent score which is composed by Clinton Shorter. Shorter who was the composer for District 9 among other things provides an exciting and heart pounding score to the action scenes but also manages to capture a sense of wonderment in his music. There are some incredible pieces of music in the series and I am currently listening to the four soundtrack albums that were released on repeat. The score feels very cinematic which matches with the epic scope of the series itself.
All in all I cannot recommend The Expanse enough to fans of Sci-Fi, it’s a series that I would describe as hard Sci-Fi and definitely one that you need to focus on, particularly in the early episodes because of how the story plays out.
Matt is a huge film and TV buff who studied film and moving image production at university. In his spare time he enjoys reading comics and books, the occasional gaming session and writing novels.