As you guys may know, SyFy has released the first episode of The Expanse today. Following the varying mileage of Dark Matter and Killjoys, as well as the terrible weirdness that was Ascension last year, I was pretty apprehensive here. And even during the first 10 minutes of The Expanse, I wasn’t sure I liked it. But around the 20 minute mark, I was surprised to find myself engrossed and it was clear I should not expect anything close to Ascension- though it probably helps that The Expanse was adapted from a series of novels that are already well-liked.
The Expanse is kind of iffy for the first 10-15 minutes. The story jumps around a bit, opening with a mystery and an impressive display of CG- it’s clear from the start that SyFy has invested a good chunk of money in this show. Then it briefly introduces you to a few sets of characters as it quickly dumps a ton of expository dialogue in your lap. Oh, and there’s also an obligatory zero-gravity sex scene, in case the show didn’t have your attention already. It was a lot to take in at first, but I’m glad they get a lot of this out of the way right out of the gate- except the sex, of which I’m sure there will be more. One reviewer calls The Expanse “Game of Thrones in space”, after all, which is kind of a terrible claim on its own, but I digress.
I won’t go into much here, but you’ve got the Belters, people who live in the asteroid belt and mine precious ice and other such valuables- it’s mentioned that in the Belt, water and air are more valuable than gold. Then there’s Mars, which acts as an independent military force- they appear to be some kind of villainous entity here. Finally, there’s Earth, which appears to be the privileged and wealthy center of The Expanse. The Belters resent Earth, as they are risking life- and literally limb, in yet another impressive display of CG- for vital resources that they are clearly struggling to obtain for themselves. To top things off, Earth, Mars and the Belt are on political tenderhooks, and are a hair away from war.
Once this world-building is set up for us, we settle on just a few sets of characters. You’ve got Miller and his Earth-born protege on Ceres Station in the Belt, played by Thomas Jane and Jay Hernandez- I won’t go into it, but basically they investigate stuff, and Thomas Jane has a great character moment near the end of the episode. Then there’s the crew of the Canterbury, a freighter that picks up a distress signal that nobody really wants to deal with at first. This setting is centered on ‘acting first officer’ Holden, a tired, stoic guy who is apparently the only one on the bridge with a soul. And on Earth (which, we can see, now has higher ocean levels), we see U.N. secretary Chrisjen Avasarala, who displays two starkly different people at home and at work.
This episode was definitely a slow-burn that thankfully puts most of the details up front before delving deeper into the world that it presents us. However, it leaves us with a cliffhanger that apparently sets things in motion for the rest of the season. If I wasn’t sure about this show at first, I am definitely way on-board now. It’s been a while since I’ve had a show that’s hooked me against my expectations. It’s great to have what appears to be quality science fiction on my television for the first time since Battlestar Galactica. My only complaint is that they’ve released this pilot a few weeks ahead of the actual premiere, so we’ve got to wait to see what happens next. But as I mentioned up top, this series is based on a set of books that I plan on picking up first thing next week.