TL:DR/No spoilers opener. I had high hopes for this series and while I may have not agreed with everything they did with the adaption to TV, none of it was a deal breaker.
So color me a fan who is neither a fanboy nor a toxic hatefan. And while they haven’t been holding your hand for the world-building, I’ve been in hungry geek mode wanting to know more.
So now forward and onward with what was originally planned as two episodes (Critical Mass/Leviathan Awakes) at some point. The one opening credits scroll, though, gives out both titles and writing credits. And while watching it streaming, there was only one opening theme song for the 80 minute production (sans commercials.)
The only time I remember the awesome opening playing before was in the pilot. Beyond that, the rest of the episodes do a five second “The Expanse” cue card and jump right into the story. I always took that to mean that every minute of this show counted towards telling the story.
In essence, the plot could have been delivered in under an hour. Miller and the Roci crew discover Julie, the conspiracy, and then race back to the ship in the most dramatic way possible. Worse yet, it would have looked even more boilerplate scifi, as anyone who read the book can tell you in two words.
The most common assumption to why we got lethargic bodies and and unsettling off-screen scream would have been “budget.” But I’m putting my money on the real reason was to showcase the interplay between Miller and Holden.
While it wasn’t Miller/Dawes magic, it held together pretty well. Just as the show upsold on Amos’ inherent violent streak in the past, it’s piled on the contrast between Holden’s holdout for honor versus Miller’s stark pragmatism.
The producers said they were shooting for “Butch and Sundance,” but for me it was more like the Coehn brother’s True Grit of a greenhorn vs a survivor.
And again it was the little details that I got a kick out of. The tear in Mao’s eyes (which most reviewers seem to miss) and how Julie wanted to see her space yacht one more time. And what to do with pencils in an all digital/hologram world?
As for world building, I only want to call them out on one cheat. While we have a growing diversity of cast from the three different planets, we’ve only seen the slices of each faction that serve the story.
There’s no rich Belters, but the middle management on the big asteroids have to live in bigger apartments with plenty showers. You can’t be an effective administrator if you stink. There’s no poor Earthers, but the threat of “Basic Assistance” seems to be a better stick compared to the carrot of a regular paycheck. And maybe there’s no lazy Martians, but they’ve got to have some civilians to inspire an Earth ambassador’s love for the red planet.
I don’t blame the producers for thinking that showing poor Earthers may dilute the message of the show, but the geek in me wants to see how their oppression is of a different sort.
Edited: so more of the non-spoiler could be read without link clicking.