Returning with a Hugo Award under its belt, which it won in 2017 for the final episode of Season 1, 'Leviathon Wakes,' and with five other award nominations, The Expanse only promises to get better with each passing season.
In case you've missed my rave reviews about The Expanse in past posts--
The Expanse -- Seven Reasons Why You Should be Watching this Show Feb 2017
The Expanse: (Truly) Quality Sci-Fi Returns to Television Jan 2016
Rewatch: The Expanse Sci-Fi Series Aug 2016
--let me tell you just five things that make this show so phenomenal.
Yes, I said the "R" word and yes, that's my lead. As a SFR writer, I look for moving, believable romances in the heart of a terrific sci-fi experience, and this series has it all!
The Expanse encompasses a compelling, unpredictable romance between two of the main players (and trust me, it's not the only compelling romance in the series). This one is between Holden, tragic, reluctant hero and tunnel-visioned, windmill-tilter on a quest to save humanity, and Naomi, a brilliant engineer and humanitarian, who's catch phrase is: "You underestimate my ability to break things."
I could attempt to explain the nuances of their relationship, but in all honesty, this fan-made video does it so much better. (So, quick--here it is before YouTube zaps it.)
Don't let this video fool you. The Expanse is about so much more than just a truly awesome romance (or two). This video managed to bring together most of the romantic scenes between these two characters.
The Characters! (Big wow here)
The story is told primarily through three main characters--James Holden, a newly-promoted XO on the ice hauler Canterbury, Joe Miller, a police detective on Ceres Station in the asteroid belt, and Chrisjen Avasarala, a powerful UN Deputy Undersecretary on Earth.
Though The Expanse has much more Sci-Fi than R, the two male leads' actions and motives are initially driven by their tragic longing for women they can't have, and the fates of all the characters are tied to an event that sparks what could be the beginning of a system-wide war. That event is the destruction of the Canterbury by an advanced and previously unknown stealth ship, and a subsequent declaration by James Holden that triggers the catch-phrase of a rising OPA rebellion, "Remember the Cant!"
There are many important secondary characters, including Naomi Nagata (engineer), Amos Burton (muscle), Alex Kamal (pilot), James Holden's shipmates who are all survivors of the doomed Canterbury. Chrisjen Avasarala, political heavyweight. Julie Andromeda Mao--former pilot of the Razorback racing ship and rich girl turned OPA rebel who ultimately is a direct connection between several of the characters. Fred Johnson, who a decade before earned the title the "Butcher of Anderson Station," and now oversees the construction of the largest spacecraft ever built, the LDS generation ship, the Nauvoo, while secretly heading up the OPA.
This is a short study done of hardened, cynical Ceres Station cop, Miller, and his infatuation with Julie Mao and their climatic meeting that happens after her death, but...well...it's a twist as only The Expanse can deliver. And in spite of this heartfelt goodbye to Miller, it promises to keep on delivering.
Pay special attention to the last four words uttered by Miller in this clip.
The Sci-Fi Factors!
There are sooo many things to love about this show, but the authentic science fiction (is that an oxymoron? No, I think not) is one of the most mind-blowing. The shows production team has strived to get everything right. Even the star fields in the backgrounds of some of the space scenes have been researched to be sure they are absolutely correct. How the characters move in a weightless environment and the gear they wear to function in such has been done with realism. How artificial gravity is generated, usually in one of three ways: centrifugal, thrust-based, or spin-generated, is all based on known science.
And space battles? The characters gear up in their enviro-suits before battles with the anticipation that their hull is going to become Swiss cheese. How basic is that? But as elemental as it is, have we ever seen it done before?
Have I convinced you yet? If not, take a look at this enthusiastic endorsement by Spacedock.com:
Think science is boring? Check out this scene of a "flip and burn" maneuver, which shows how a ship in space might actually change direction. (Star Wars, please take note: No bank-and-turn in an airless environment!)
"The juice" mentioned in this clip is another factor. It counteracts the effects of a high-G maneuver, keeping arteries and blood vessels elastic so they don't rupture in the forces generated by the thrust, at least for a time. (We learn later that even the juice can't counteract high-G burn for an indefinite period in one heart-pounding space chase scene.)
Diversity and Inclusivity!
This is absolutely one of the most diverse casts of any genre on television, anywhere--and the beauty of it is it's all seamless. Because this future of humanity has resulted in a blending of cultures where race is no longer a factor and ethnicity is a non-issue. People are just people. Some are powerful and calculating, some are exploited and angry, and some are just pawns of one or the other. According to their background, they have beliefs and dialect unique to their situations. (I also wrote these elements into my novel Inherit the Stars, where all races merged and then were divided again according to political, social and planetary differences.)
In The Expanse what divides them is where they hail from -- Earth and Luna, Mars, or the Belt and the Outer Planets -- a trio of cultures that are all at desperate odds with one another. Each society has its own goals, its own priorities, and its own agendas. Whether they are white, black, asian, middle eastern, eastern European, pacific islander, or--in the case of one character -- a genetic blend of eight individuals of unstated ethnicity--their conflicts are based on their place in the solar system, not the skin color or the culture of their ancestors. No one cares.
Gender also doesn't matter, and this series features several standout female role models, including the powerful politician, a formidable Martian Marine, and the brilliant engineer and possible former OPA operative who has a soul-deep compassion for others.
In this future, race and gender elements no longer define the individual. And there are no token anythings, just a beautifully blended cast of brilliant actors.
This fascinating interview done during Comic-Con highlights six of the cast members discussing their characters:
Politics in our time triggers a lot of conflicting emotions, and politics 200 years from now is no different...it just has different dynamics and different triggers. So here's the set-up. The United Nations is now the governing body for Earth and the Moon. Because robotics and artificial intelligence has basically done away with a human workforce, very few people hold jobs and instead live on a small government handout. The masses are poor and struggling. And the wealthy and powerful are enormously so. The attitude of the UN territories is pretty much stated in dialogue by one of the main characters, UN Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (one of the most influential people in the solar system...and with a powerful mouth to match): "Earth comes first."
Mars has established itself as it's own political entity and is populated by tough, resilient colonists who take great pride in their planet, have a formidable space fleet and a tough-as-carbonite military (MCRN--Martian Congressional Republic Navy). Their ships are some of the best and most advanced in the solar system, that is until the mystery stealth ship comes on the scene. But Mars has a great dream they are striving for but haven't been able to reach. The achievable date keeps getting moved farther into the future.
The Belters are made up of the brave or desperate souls who occupy the asteroid belt and planets beyond. They have evolved in multiple low gravity environments. They're the working class of the system, living on a ships, space stations, a few asteroids and some of the moons of the Outer Planets. They are downtrodden and the exploited. As one Belter put it (paraphrasing): "The Belt had enough water for a thousand generations. And the Earth and Mars took it! They've made their fortunes on our backs!"
The OPA or Outer Planets Alliance is a movement that arose from the malcontent of the Belters. They vow to take back what they feel is rightfully theirs, but they're a scattered, disorganized collection of gangs and groups. One businessman and former military officer headquartered on spacestation Tycho wants to change that, and he'll use every resource he can muster or steal to get it done.
The events in Season One beautifully laid the foundation for a fast-moving, heart-pounding and often shocking Season Two. Season Three promises even more. Here's a quick peek:
This show has something for everyone...and I hope the SFR community will support it, because this kind of quality SF with R television only comes around once in a great while.
I hope you'll tune into Season Three of The Expanse on Wednesday.
Have a great week!
P.S. Thanks for hanging with me to the end of this blog. If you're intrigued with The Expanse, here's one more video you might really enjoy.