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Robin Bland

The Expanse

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Beware: eventually there will SPOILERS in this thread, but not in this first post. 

 

Recently I binge-watched season 1 of this SyFy show. I'd watched episode 1 when it first aired, and it seemed too dark, too knotty and difficult to get to grips with, and didn't continue. But I'd since heard good things about it, that it had resemblances to Ron Moore's BSG in tone, that it was not only a grand exercise in world building, but that it was good hard SF and had good characters.

So, while bed-ridden with a particularly nasty virus (I'm over it now, thanks), I watched all 10 eps of the first season. As remembered, ep 1 is kind of knotty - it throws you in at the deep end with no explanations. I must be getting soft to have been put off by this first time around, because that's usually something that draws me in, but maybe I was tired. Ep 2, equally, is something you have to sort of chew your way through... and then, by golly, the show takes flight in a big way. The rest of the season is as epic as the first two episodes are weighty in laying the groundwork. The storytelling is on a vast, solar-system-wide scale, and the producers of this show don't shirk from showing it, fleshing out the various societies that make up this futurescape - Earth, Mars and the Asteroid Belt. What's brilliantly balanced in the set of characters they set you among - two distinct main POVs and various other smaller ones, too, flitting from one to another until the two main strands meet up around ep 8. The characters themselves become progressively more engaging as you watch - the whole show is a brilliant exercise in balancing character needs, worldbuilding and plot progression. There are several human factions, and there is, in a way, another big bad which, when it's revealed, is as scary as you hope for. Scarier, in implication. 

I'm talking about the show in very opaque terms here because I don't want to spoil it for anyone who hasn't yet partaken of this strange new beast of a show. It's really very, very good albeit very dark - extrapolating from today's world, it's a version of the 23rd century much closer to what we're likely to get than the Star Trek we'd like. 

Anyone else seen it? 

Season 2 is now showing, but I haven't begun watching that yet. 

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Sim   

Ah, I'll put it on my list -- it's available on Netflix Germany for free (in fact, Netflix's algorhythms keep proposing the show to me for quite a while), so it's just one click away for me.

A friend who used to have an IMO rather reliable taste told me about it, too. He apparently loves it. But since the last show he praised to me was "Justified", which I didn't enjoy much, I was having doubts about his taste's reliability... but as the good word of mouth is coming in from different sources? Worth a look!

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1 hour ago, Sim said:

Ah, I'll put it on my list -- it's available on Netflix Germany for free (in fact, Netflix's algorhythms keep proposing the show to me for quite a while), so it's just one click away for me.

A friend who used to have an IMO rather reliable taste told me about it, too. He apparently loves it. But since the last show he praised to me was "Justified", which I didn't enjoy much, I was having doubts about his taste's reliability... but as the good word of mouth is coming in from different sources? Worth a look!

I'm totally with you on Justifed, if you recall? We tried it - twice in fact - and even when it was supposed to be good, I couldn't get past the cliches. It was mildly diverting, at best. Didn't get past season one, though.

I'm pretty sure The Expanse won't be to everyone's taste either, but it's rare to see hard SF - like its literary counterpart - up there on either TV or cinema screens, and for that alone, I really enjoyed it. I think you might find it overly dark - it has a pretty bleak outlook for humanity in some ways - but it's also about a couple of characters' refusal to bow to the bleakness, to be moral in an immoral universe, to do the right thing, and how they form a following. That aspect of it is done really, really well, to my mind. Very layered, complex characters, plus you have cool SF trappings. Bear in mind, I viewed the whole season through a virus-induced haze, so maybe my critical abilities were off, but I'm basically sitting here twiddling my thumbs wondering if I'm gonna pay for season 2, so let's just say it delivered in a big way as far as I'm concerned.

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Need to watch this... or rather, need to get past the first two episodes and give the rest another chance.   Think I was initially turned off by the po-facedness of it, but after rewatching Battlestar Galactica (2003) recently, I think I might be ready to try again. 

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Sim   
6 hours ago, Robin Bland said:

I'm totally with you on Justifed, if you recall? We tried it - twice in fact - and even when it was supposed to be good, I couldn't get past the cliches. It was mildly diverting, at best. Didn't get past season one, though.

I'm pretty sure The Expanse won't be to everyone's taste either, but it's rare to see hard SF - like its literary counterpart - up there on either TV or cinema screens, and for that alone, I really enjoyed it. I think you might find it overly dark - it has a pretty bleak outlook for humanity in some ways - but it's also about a couple of characters' refusal to bow to the bleakness, to be moral in an immoral universe, to do the right thing, and how they form a following. That aspect of it is done really, really well, to my mind. Very layered, complex characters, plus you have cool SF trappings. Bear in mind, I viewed the whole season through a virus-induced haze, so maybe my critical abilities were off, but I'm basically sitting here twiddling my thumbs wondering if I'm gonna pay for season 2, so let's just say it delivered in a big way as far as I'm concerned.

Yes, I do recall very well! I managed to get four or five episodes into season 2, but it IMO wasn't any better...

What you're saying about "The Expanse" does sound very interesting. And don't worry about your virus haze (hope you've recovered, btw!), I'm much less critical than you usually are, so that should be okay. :laugh:

You're addressing exactly the aspects that might be my cup of tea, and kudos to you for knowing that ... unless these very aspects are the cup of tea we're sharing anyway and you were just addressing the things close to your heart, in which case I'm glad we're on the same page. Or, if this has ceased making sense a couple of sentences ago, I just say, yeah, the refusal of characters to bow to the bleakness of an immoral universe is exactly what I could use right now. :thumbup:

My friend described the show to me with the words that it's "a little bit like Game of Thrones in a SF universe", which you seem to confirm, in which case I'm intrigued.

And since I don't even have to pay extra? It's perhaps the next thing I'm going to look into.

Edited by Sim

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Sim   

Have just seen the first episode.

My first impression? Visually stunning, nice play on hard SF concepts (such as physical deformation of people growing up in low gravity, high gravity pressure for transposition maneuvers of spaceships, and so on), and a strong hint at universe building (the universe is apparently rather complex to allow for fleshing it out extensively). Yes, the tone is dark, but definitely not too dark, for my taste. Quite a few characters are introduced, and I can't say yet which of them, if any, might become a favorite. This wasn't more than a first glimpse, so far.

On the bottom line: Definitely promising. I'll continue watching. :)

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2 hours ago, Sim said:

Have just seen the first episode.

My first impression? Visually stunning, nice play on hard SF concepts (such as physical deformation of people growing up in low gravity, high gravity pressure for transposition maneuvers of spaceships, and so on), and a strong hint at universe building (the universe is apparently rather complex to allow for fleshing it out extensively). Yes, the tone is dark, but definitely not too dark, for my taste. Quite a few characters are introduced, and I can't say yet which of them, if any, might become a favorite. This wasn't more than a first glimpse, so far.

On the bottom line: Definitely promising. I'll continue watching. :)

I've just started watching S2 of HUMANS (and loving it), but as soon as I'm caught up I plan to get into The Expanse.   I'd do both simultaneously, but with my increasing age I've devolved into a dedicated mono-tasker.  :P

If a series is that good?  I want to give it my full attention, and now that I've cut Supergirl and The Walking Dead out of my TV diet?  I can give HUMANS more attention till I get to The Expanse. 

The first two episodes of The Expanse (the only two I saw initially when I gave up on it) seemed, at the time, too dark and po-faced to really grab me; I think I was in the wrong frame of mind to appreciate it then.  I dunno.  I suspect I'll be more open to it on the re-watch.

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15 minutes ago, Sehlat Vie said:

I've just started watching S2 of HUMANS (and loving it), but as soon as I'm caught up I plan to get into The Expanse.   I'd do both simultaneously, but with my increasing age I've devolved into a dedicated mono-tasker.  :P

If a series is that good?  I want to give it my full attention, and now that I've cut Supergirl and The Walking Dead out of my TV diet?  I can give HUMANS more attention till I get to The Expanse. 

The first two episodes of The Expanse (the only two I saw initially when I gave up on it) seemed, at the time, too dark and po-faced to really grab me; I think I was in the wrong frame of mind to appreciate it then.  I dunno.  I suspect I'll be more open to it on the re-watch.

There IS a hell of a lot of set-up in the first two episodes, perhaps at the cost of distinguishing any characters early on. In that sense, it is very novelistic in its approach - even though it does isolate some of the main characters, you still feel that you don't know who is going to emerge to become a major player. So it's a bit, er, slippery at first compared to most modern TV which intro your audience ID figures in short order. The Expanse makes no such concessions to the viewer, and if you recall, I had the exact same response to you when I initially viewed ep 1 when it originally aired. Beyond ep 2, things begin to come together in a big way. 

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11 minutes ago, Robin Bland said:

There IS a hell of a lot of set-up in the first two episodes, perhaps at the cost of distinguishing any characters early on. In that sense, it is very novelistic in its approach - even though it does isolate some of the main characters, you still feel that you don't know who is going to emerge to become a major player. So it's a bit, er, slippery at first compared to most modern TV which intro your audience ID figures in short order. The Expanse makes no such concessions to the viewer, and if you recall, I had the exact same response to you when I initially viewed ep 1 when it originally aired. Beyond ep 2, things begin to come together in a big way. 

And of course, my attention span being shorter than a gnat's, that is precisely the point I initially gave up... :giggle:

I feel like the guy who goes to the bathroom right before the ending of Psycho and comes back during the end credits asking, "What'd I miss?"

That said, I was initially impressed with the universe-building of the series; I liked how the Mars colonists, asteroid settlers and Earthers were so nicely delineated. 

 

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