In space, no one can hear you snore: Why ‘The Expanse’ shouldn’t be saved
Earlier this month, Syfy announced it had decided not to renew sci-fi series The Expanse for a fourth season. The show – beloved by many for reasons that continue to evade us – is now reportedly in line to possibly be saved by Amazon Studios. However, The Hollywood Reporter noted that the “deal is not closed” yet and we’re inclined to argue that maybe it just shouldn’t be. Maybe The Expanse had a fair run of it for three seasons and it’s time for it to end.
Before we start getting real about the show’s shortcomings, there are a few things we genuinely like about the series. For one thing, The Expanse has some of the best sets of any sci-fi series on television and features some amazing world building as a part of that. It’s easy to see how fans have managed to so eagerly lose themselves within the show when it’s created such bold escapist dimensions to do so. This is where the show is flourishing, so please take a moment to soak that positivity in and give the slowest clap you can muster for the minor success of The Expanse.
Because now we’re onto the meat of the issue – in terms of plot and characters, The Expanse has always fallen short. It isn’t just that the show has a clusterfuck of characters who feel far too generic to be compelling – it’s also that the plot constantly struggles to link them in a way that feels anything but vague and incoherent. That’s a massive issue in a show with such ambitious world building scope to it and it’s been an issue since the very first episode. As pilots go, the one for The Expanse is so infuriatingly muddled and disjointed (something definitely not helped by the atrocious editing) that it’s almost impossible to decipher who these characters are and what they mean to each other while also trying to understand the rules of this futuristic universe.
A bad pilot is understandable, as is a tricky first season – some shows need more time to find their rhythm than others – but The Expanse never fixed these issues. It’s continued to plod along in the most disjointed of manners making it impossible to give a damn about a single character. Probably because they’ve been crafted too poorly to stand out amid the overflowing trash heap of the show’s confusing (and occasionally extremely frustrating) storylines. Sci-fi should be ambitious and cosmically creative, but none of that means anything if there aren’t complex, personal stories an audience can be invested in rather than just a series of disposable stereotypes and shockbait death scenes.
Add onto that some really on-the-nose political commentary (there are subtle allegories and then there’s The Expanse, which may as well be a sci-fi spinoff of The Onion at this stage), irksome dialogue, terrible acting, and the most inaudible dialogue of any modern TV show. Are they mumbling? Whispering? Has our TV broken!? The Expanse should just be flushed out into space instead of brought back for another try. Amazon Studios would do better to invest in a whole new sci-fi property rather than dumping funds into this sinking ship.