10 Reasons Why You Should Watch The Expanse

Dept. of Belta Lik Pashang!


Amazon Prime Video’s sci-fi epic returns for its fifth season on December 16th. If you haven’t been watching already, here are 10 reasons why you should be watching The Expanse.

1. It’s Game of Thrones in Space

Sorry Expanse fans, you may think that I’m nakangepensa for saying it, but it’s the easiest comparison to demonstrate just how good The Expanse is for non-Belta Lowda. Like HBO’s fantasy series, The Expanse presents an unfamiliar, but incredibly well thought out, lived-in world with complex, engaging characters, dealing with difficult decisions and their often horrifying ramifications.

Instead of medieval politicking and warfare, The Expanse moves the action into space. In the solar system of the future, inter-planetary, but not interstellar, travel has become relatively commonplace. Over two hundred years, humanity has spread to the planets and, more importantly, the spaces in-between.

As the series begins, an overpopulated, stagnant Earth squares off against an independent, militaristic Mars, it’s populace laser focused on whatever it takes to terraform the red planet. Trapped in the middle are the citizens of The Belt, a loose conglomeration of space stations and asteroid habitats. It’s citizens, the Belter Lowda, have been exploited for over a century and are starting to fight back .

Into this already explosive mix comes a new, rogue element, not quite White Walkers (although there are some parallels later), but a mysterious fourth force. This enemy destroys The Canterbury, an unarmed ice hauler, throwing everyone into disarray, and setting the major powers at each other’s throats.

It’s a milieu that provides substance for everything from space adventure, to detective stories, to the machinations of high political office.

It also has a very cool credits sequence and theme, just like Game of Thrones!

2. Amos Burton (& Other Stories)

A great set-up is nothing without great characters and while The Expanse has them in spades, listing them all would take forever. For a prime example of how well the show handles it’s cast, look no further than Amos Burton, as played by Wes Chatham. One of the survivors of The Canterbury, and one of the main characters aboard the “The Rocinante,” the main ship of the series, Amos is introduced as a bruiser and gruff engineer, with a blind devotion to fellow crewmate Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper).

Over the course of five seasons, as more and more is revealed about Amos, he’s revealed to be far more deep and complicated than almost everyone in the show takes him for. However, he never loses his frankly terrifying tendency to solve arguments by resorting to extreme violence, or even murder, at the drop of a hat.

Lovable and frightening, and in lesser skilled hands, Amos could be reduced to dim-witted muscle, but between the writing and Wes Chatham’s performance, he’s utterly compelling.

He’ll still shoot with no hesitation if they threaten his crew mates (although he’s not against shooting them either), and yet you’ll still root for him. It’s an approach that’s taken with almost every member of the cast.

3. Hard G’s

Apart from the Epstein Drive, which enables ships to travel relatively quickly and efficiently around the Solar system, the world of The Expanse feels incredibly lived in and not too far removed from today.

Spacecraft don’t have anti-gravity, with gravity provided aboard by the ship’s acceleration or deceleration, otherwise you need magnetic boots to get around. Unless your ship needs to maneuver quickly, in which case you’d better strap in, before the G-forces throw you around the ship and reduce you to pink mush.

This might seem like just more technobabble but it’s an approach that extends to the storytelling. Space is vast, dark, and dangerous, but characters motivations remain “grounded” and relatable.

The planets are competing for resources from The Belt and The Belters are crying out for equality. Sound familiar?

4. “Massive” Space Battles

As Douglas Adams once said “Space is big. You just won’t believe how vastly, hugely, mind-bogglingly big it is. I mean, you may think it’s a long way down the road to the chemist’s, but that’s just peanuts to space.” While the series kicks off with the destruction of The Canterbury, it’s far from the last space battle in the series, none of which discount the “mind-bogglingly bigness” of it. While relatively few and far between, space battles in The Expanse are never less than thrilling with spacecraft maneuvering around each other on thrusters, presenting the narrowest possible target to their enemies, while hurling missiles/torpedoes at each other and taking them out their ordinance with their own point defense cannons.

The stakes of any battle are raised exponentially when you realize that the maneuvers the ships need to take to avoid incoming fire generally apply an unholy amount of G-force on their crews. Turning any object not nailed down into a lethal projectile.

Taking a leaf out of Battlestar Galactica‘s school of combat camerawork, space battles in The Expanse are famed using a similar hand-held feel but zoom around to cover the incredible distances between ships.

“Massive Space battles” featuring Star Trek/Star Wars style flotillas of ships may be few and far between, but that’s only because of the immensity of space and the ludicrousness of grouping all your weapon assets together. 

5. What the Hell Just Happened?

With a thoroughly realized world, engaging characters, and some great space battles, the next ace up The Expanse’s voluminous sleeve is the series penchant for regularly pulling the rug out from under the characters, and the audience. Having not read the books that the show is based on by James S. A. Corey (good twitter follow, that), my initial expectations were that I’d get some space drama, spread across a few locations. I was right, right up until one of those main locations was completely destroyed!

Just like GoT (sorry), every time it feels like you’ve acclimatised to a new status quo, The Expanse goes and changes everything again!

The survivors of The Canterbury luck their way into a Martian warship and set out to find what was behind the ships destruction. A Belter detective investigates a missing persons case that may somehow how be related to
“The Cant.” Tensions grow between all the super powers. An asteroid habitat with no propulsion system decides to go walkabout.

Devoted crewmates betray their comrades and unlikely alliances are formed. The series jumps months in the middle of the third season, a major character dies and leaves the show… until they come back.

While the changes may initially feel like they come out of nowhere, before long you are completely swept up by them and back on board. At no point does it feel unearned or unrealistic.

Whatever else you can say about The Expanse, it certainly keeps you on your toes.

6. Chrisjen Avasarala

Okay, I know I said I’d use one character to illustrate how amazing the cast is but it’s impossible to talk about The Expanse and leave out Chrisjen Avasarala, a character so kick-ass the showrunners had to bring her forward from the third book to Season 1. Introduced as Earth’s Deputy Undersecretary and troubleshooter, Chrisjen provides a critical perspective at the highest levels of power on the events of the series.

With her smoky voice and no nonsense, take-no-prisoners attitude, Shohreh Aghdashloo (House of Sand and Fog, Dr Rao from X-Men: The Last Stand) is outstanding in the role, dominating and manipulating her opponents and allies alike, cursing like a sailor when she feels the need, and doing it all in beautiful traditional Saris, never betraying her heritage.

Which leads us to…

7. The Future Is Multicultural

One of the problems with Joss Whedon’s Firefly, in addition to it’s gnat like lifespan, was its claim to be set in a future society dominated by China, but there were scant few actual Chinese people around. Unlike Star Trek the future of The Expanse is not some jumpsuited monoculture (although yes, there are plenty of jumpsuits, but they are functional so that’s ok).

Each of the major powers has their own style and traditions, but also variations within. Earth is the most recognizable, although there have been changes. Jim Holden comes form a family of eight mothers and fathers with a genetic lottery deciding his genetic parentage. The Martians are militaristic and focused on their generations long goal of turning the red planet green. Avasarala regularly appears in Saris and The Belters sport culturally relevant tattoos and have their own dialect, Belter Creole, that was created especially for the show. Detective Miller wears a jaunty hat (okay, no one really knows why he does that).

The point is that The Expanse recognizes the wide range (expanse?) of the human experience and celebrates it, even if some of the characters insist on using it to sow discontent.

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Okay, seriously, I’m not just listing my favourites here, but after setting up a fantastic cast of characters in the first few seasons, The Expanse doesn’t rest on it’s laurels. New characters are constantly introduced and are just as engaging, if not more so, than the original cast members.

Camina Drummer (Cara Gee), for example, grows from a menacing, almost monosyllabic presence lurking in the background of adopted Belter Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) as his head of security, to commanding the flagship of The Belters Outer Planets Alliance, and ends up dealing with a debilitating injury and mutiny.

Bobby Draper, a Martian marine with a mech suit, develops from a human gun who obediently shoots where she’s pointed at, to someone who questions the wisdom of her superiors and the purpose of the battles she’s being asked to fight.

Every new addition adds a new facet to the tale, and then David Strathairn swaggers on set as Klaes Ashford, Drummer’s troublesome first officer.

You will lose a few faves along the way, but the show is constantly introducing new ones to stan for.

9. The Rocinante

Every Han’s got to have his Falcon, every Mal his Serenity. For the main cast of The Expanse; Captain James Holden, Executive Officer Naomi Nagata, Pilot Alex Kamal, and Chief Engineer Amos Burton, their home away from home is “The Rocinante,” at least most of the time. A Martian Corvette-class light frigate that the crew lucks their way into early in Season 1, “The Roci” becomes a focal point for the series.

She may seem blocky and ugly at first, but as with the rest of the characters over the course of the series, she becomes a thing of beauty. In keeping with the show’s nature, it’s not the best/fastest/most advanced ship in the system, but it is *just* good enough, thanks to its Martian tech, to give her crew a fighting chance against their enemies.

The Rocinate in action is cool as all hell.

In fact, most of the ships in the show are. They’re all very different from those of other series and each other. From the Martian flagship Donnager, to the the mighty Mormon, yes I said Mormon, generation ship the Nauvoo, all the spacecraft sport unique memorable designs.

Even the cobbled together spaceships some Belters use for slingshot racing around the outer planets are pretty cool.

10. WTF?

Even with the series’ commitment to (relative) space realism, and its habit for shaking things up when you least expect it, the more recent seasons change things up even further, literally opening up whole new worlds of storytelling possibilities. The aforementioned time jump in the middle of Season 3 skips past an event of such magnitude that it would be a season finale on any other shows and then spends the rest of the season dealing with the fallout.

The majority of Season 4 sees our previously space-bound heroes from The Roci exploring a new planet, while Season 5 looks like it will lean back into political thriller territory, as the crew search for a Belter terrorist with ties to Naomi. But who knows, it could be wildly different.

With The Expanse renewed for a sixth and final season, the showrunners are planning to provide a satisfying conclusion even if they don’t reach the end of the nine book run. The Expanse is one of the best television shows out there right now and any self described fan of smart sci-fi owes it to themselves to continue (or start!) watching it.

The Expanse
Amazon Prime Video, Season 5, 10 episodes
Showrunners: “James S. A. Corey” (Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), Daniel Abraham, Mark Fergus, and Hawk Ostby
Cast: Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams, Thomas Jane, Andrew Rotilio, David Strathairn, Jared Harris, Anna Hopkins, and Burn Gorman

The first three episodes of The Expanse, Season 5, will premiere on December 16th with new episodes available each following Wednesday.

Irish Film lover lost in Malaysia. Co-host of Malaysia's longest running podcast (movie related or otherwise ) McYapandFries and frequent cryer in movies. Ask me about "The Ice Pirates"

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