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.
Tis a turd of a show…April 14, 2020
Boring and the way belters speak is painful. Turned it off and could care less.December 26, 2020
Saved by Amazon, and actually gained viewers.
I guess there is a reason opinions are….opinions.February 1, 2021
I’m actually enjoying it (still in S2) but I have to admit that I gave up trying to understand what’s going on. I watch with a friend, and we routinely end up having to pause and debate what just happened. Why keep at it? Because I do crave smart, good looking sci fi; it might be confusing but it always looks good, and I do appreciate that it’s not dumbed down. I just wish more effort had been put into making it accessible.
Regarding the acting, on the whole the acting is just fine; though there are exceptions. (The guy who plays Alex is awful, and I thought that way before hearing of the allegations of misconduct against the actor).
The funny thing is there are so many comparisons to BSG, but a lot of people felt BSG’s last couple seasons were disappointing. I’m not one of them, but I can admit that it got a bit hokey and the whole business with Starbuck was nonsensical. I’m still team BSG, but there are SO MANY sci fi/fantasy that tank at the end. Orphan Black and The Leftovers are two very very different shows than Expanse and BSG, but they start so strong but blow it in the end. And let’s not forget the travesty of GOT’s last season. Anyway, I’d rather watch Expanse than NF series Away.February 11, 2021
Love the show:
The good: 1) The computer generated visuals are pretty awesome. Great rail gun scenes. 2) Most of the characters are hilarious. Amos is one FAF messed up but loveable psychopath. He’s the star of the show. Miller is an entertaining throwback from the old detective genre. Alex has his own middle age crisis problems, and his unadulterated love of country music culture is comic relief. Bobbie is a total badass and endearing. Chrisjen (“Chrissy”:)) Avasarala is a combo of a truck driver and Henry Kissinger. Klaes Ashford (The Ghost Knife) was my second favorite character. He probably deserves an Emmy for best actor of the whole series. I love Camina Drummer too. The villains (Dawes and Inaros) are so good that they almost convince you of their cause.
The bad: 1) Holden and Naomi. These two have some nerve acting self righteous when they have F’d up so many times. They have no sense of humor. They totally deserve each other. But it’s good social commentary on the problems with SJW’s these days … and any days. 2) Season 4 on Ilus can get a bit dull.
The ugly: NaomiMarch 8, 2021
Spot on! When it comes to the three pillars of fiction (plot, character and world building), The Expanse excels at world building. Unfortunately it is weak when it comes to the personal plot of the protagonist (or protagonists).March 22, 2021
I honestly don’t understand this. It probably comes down to the fact that The Expanse doesn’t hold your hand like most TV shows. But seriously. The characters are great, the visuals are great and the plot is most interesting and thought provokingMarch 30, 2022