I’ll admit; I’m a Johnny-come-lately to “The Expanse” party, and I’ve not read the books yet, either. But I’m a sincere, devoted and passionate fan of this TV series, and it has filled the hole in my heart that’s existed ever since reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” ended its run in 2009…a hole that even BSG’s spinoff series “Caprica” couldn’t fill.
It took a while for me to warm up to the show.
By Season 2 I was hooked.
I eagerly anticipated Season 3.
Now my dealer–er, pharmacists have cut me off, the bastards.
I cannot, for the life of me, understand the ‘wisdom’ of SyFy network’s decision. Then again, save for the occasional prestige project (2000’s “Dune,” 2003’s “Battlestar Galactica,” 2015’s “Chidhood’s End”) SyFy is a network largely composed of “Sharknado” sequels, garbage reality shows like “Ghost Hunters”, and half-assed WB ripoffs (“Krypton”… surely to be followed by “Metropolis Cub Reporter, Perry White”).
Arguably “The Expanse” belonged on SyFy network about as much as a luxury yacht mooring at “Raging Waters” in San Dimas (see: “Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure”).
Now, that last bastion of solid, genuine science-fiction programming on SyFy has been given its hat and shown the door. Shoddy treatment from a shoddy network. Frankly, given SyFy’s reputation for killing off other quality programming (most recently the terrific makeup competition series “Face Off”), I shouldn’t be surprised; in fact, I’m not surprised…just deeply and profoundly disappointed.
Forgive the ranting, but I’m writing this post more to vent than anything else.
In addition to the gorgeous visuals, the fully-realized living universe and its various colonial cultures, the following is what I’m going to miss the most about the show:
The core characters on “The Expanse” are not always the most lovable people at times, but they definitely grow on you. They’re a dysfunctional, complex, morally gray family and I’m going to miss the hell out of them.
James Holden (Steven Strait) is probably the closest to an archetypal hero on the show, but he’s deeply flawed as well. He’s in constant conflict between protecting his own and doing ‘the right thing’ (which is a variable within this universe), and sometimes he acts against his better angels.
There’s also Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), the former Belter terrorist who is at least as morally righteous yet occasionally faltering as her lover Holden. Tipper makes her so real and so lovable that you understand why even her dead-eyed sociopathic associate Amos would have a sort of fraternal affection for her (and maybe a bit more, at least at first).
Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) is utterly hilarious. Dead-eyed soulless perfection. At first seemingly freed of guilt or any other issues that plague ordinary humans with functional empathy, he’s slowly inching his way towards being a real boy, partly through his newfound ‘Odd Couple’ friendship with grieving father/scientist Dr. “Prax” Meng.
Prax (Terry Chen) is another father with a ‘lost daughter’ who’s fallen victim to protomolecule exposure, much like the unethical businessman Jules-Pierre Mao (Francois Chau) who sought his own missing daughter Julie (Florence Faivre) during S1’s arc. Unlike Mao, Meng is a decent, honest and intellectually curious man. He also forms an unlikely friendship of sorts with Amos. Prax’s bond with the wonderfully dead-eyed sociopathic Amos is like a house cat bonding with a great white shark. But it works, as only it could on this show.
There’s also that other beloved member of the Rocinan–er, Pinus Contorta crew; ‘my favorite martian’ Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar). Loved his evolution from naval bus driver to crack pilot over several seasons, and we see his progression. His warm, slight Texan accent adds to a classic ‘flyboy’ persona that’s tempered with a left-behind family he still very much loves back on Mars.
Anvar is the only actor in the cast that I’ve met in person, and I’m happy to say that he was a great guy. He took our selfie above at this year’s WonderCon in Anaheim (he’s the good-looking fellow; I’m the big, goofy bastard in the “Stone Trek” cosplay).
I also enjoyed Anvar’s work in the brilliant online series “Star Trek Continues” final two episodes, “To Boldly Go” parts 1 and 2.
I’m also enjoying Frankie Adams’ defected Martian marine, Bobbie Draper. Her imposing physicality and manner mask the occasionally vulnerable, and I suspect, frightened girl within.
Draper’s circumstantial, mutually-beneficial partnership with Crisjen Avasarala takes on an almost mother-daughter aspect at times, with the two of them occasionally changing roles as they look out for each other.
Which brings me to my personal favorite character on the show, Crisjen Avasarala (played to perfection by the whiskey-voiced Shohreh Aghdashloo). She’s evolved from a torturing, wonderfully foul-mouthed, vengeful politician into a… well, at least she doesn’t torture as much these days. But goddammit, I love her all the same. Much of that is due to the glimpses of her raw passion and humanity that seep into the character through the writing and through the earthy power of Aghdashloo’s performance. She’s a marvel, both the character and the performer. In the words of Dorothy from “The Wizard of Oz”; “I think I’m going to miss (her) most of all.”
The other characters, villains and heroes, are all interesting to watch. Most of them I’ve talked about at length in my other posts, so until my series recap, I’ll keep the rest of this post confined to the issue at hand; the cancellation of “The Expanse.”
The Future (?).
Aside from the 7 novels, with an 8th on the way, written under the nom de plume “James S.A. Corey” (nee: Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck) what is the future (if any) for this series?
There’s rumor and talk of the show being picked up by another network, and I would hope this is, in fact, the case. Netflix, which used to stream SyFy’s “Battlestar Galactica” at one time, would be a natural fit for “The Expanse.”
As someone who fell in love with the show via rented DVDs (through Netflix’s offshoot, Discflix) it’d be nice to hear Crisjen’s curses uncensored again. On SyFy channel, it’s still a bit odd to hear her throaty, perfectly placed f-bombs turned into freaking bombs instead (gotta love the arbitrary randomness of those US network censors…).
Since Netflix is so popular, the show would arguably be at least as accessible as it was on SyFy, if not more so. Netflix is currently delivering the exciting new reboot of “Lost in Space” there as well, so another space series could make for a nice stable mate.
Whatever happens to “The Expanse”? I’m still grateful that I fell in love with the show, doomed or not; just as I don’t regret falling in love with the ill-fated “Firefly” (though I fell in love with “Firefly” after its cancellation).
If it doesn’t get a new home? There are always the books, and I could start reading them. If nothing else, I’m driven by a desire to keep this story going. Even if only in print…
The series, much like its spiritual predecessor “Battlestar Galactica” (2003-2009), paints a universe that it pretty much the upside-down to “Star Trek”’s sunny, utopian vision of an egalitarian Federation of Planets. Both take place in the 23rd century, but they couldn’t be more different. While “Star Trek” preaches that travel into the universe will somehow transform the human into a force for universal good, “The Expanse” shows us a more ugly truth… that as we reach out into the depths of space, we will be frightfully the same as we are now. The primary difference is that we’ll have better, deadlier technology (including the dangerous race to appropriate the powerful alien “protomolecule”).
While I wouldn’t necessarily want to live in “The Expanse”’s universe 24/7, I certainly enjoy spending an hour a week there, and losing myself in that darker vision of the future with its flawed, all-too-human characters. Whatever fuel remains in the show (or the books), I want to go however far it takes me.
Long live the crew of the Rocinan–er, Pinus Contorta, and the morally gray, richly detailed universe of this fascinating space opera series. It’s been a hell of a run, and with luck, it may not be over quite yet… I hope.