The Expanse

SYFY, Mondays 10/9 Central

Dec 11, 2015 Issue #55 - November/December 2015 - EL VY
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The Expanse is the long-awaited television adaptation of James S.A. Corey's space opera series of the same name. Corey's books, beginning with Leviathan Wakes (whose storyline comprises the bulk of season one), are something of a crossover phenomenon. They're wildly imaginative, pulse-pounding thrillers first, sprawling genre exemplars second. That is, they make die-hard sci-fi readers happy while offering new genre initiates a diverse world of complex, relatable characters facing palpable stakes every step of the way. Their richly detailed world, in the right hands, could yield sci-fi's very own Game of Thrones.

Which leads one to wonder what's (not) in the water at SyFy that this terrific outlier of a book became SyFy's next serviceable/forgettable show in space. The Expanse pilot is flat and expositional, drawing the rules and perimeters of a colonized solar system that spans Earth, Mars, and the Asteroid Belt without giving us any cause to care about who occupies it. The stakes of a potentially violent "tension between Earth and Mars" are abstract and unspecified. Thomas Jane as our sympathetic anti-hero Detective Josephus Miller does nothing to make us love or hate him, a push-pull that would have been valuable as the story progresses. And it's not likely his fault. The material as it's written introduces us to a list of his character traits (polyglot, drunk, fedora-wearing) rather than him (tender yet isolated, perceptive to a fault).

You've seen this show before. Nowhere is that more clear than during scenes on the Canterbury, the ice freighter starship manned by gorgeous blue-collar workers sporting gym-rat bodies and manicured stubble. Steven Strait plays Captain Jim Holden, a reluctant XO whose natural charisma is forced out by tragedy. This happens on paper without adequately pulling the viewer into the drama. Again, these feel less like actor limits than story ones, though it's disappointing to reiterate that these faults aren't in the source material.

All in all, The Expanse is a missed opportunity, at least based on the pilot. This could have been more appealing with a stylized visual approach or a novel tone but instead it's sci-fi-by-numbers. No nails are bitten and no tears are shed. If you want that, you'll have to crack open Corey's tomes. (www.syfy.com/theexpanse)

Author rating: 4/10

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Average reader rating: 8/10



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Marko
December 20th 2015
10:55am

Don’t know, for me the pilot was pretty interesting. It sets things up without spelling them, which is a nice change of pace from the shows that we get these days. The characters are archetypical for now, but interesting nonetheless. And having seen the first four episodes now, I must say that I’m absolutely blown away by the show.

Sotiris
December 21st 2015
9:49am

How is this even a review? It is just an assortment of bold claims with no examples and misleading statements… “sci-fi-by-numbers” what a load of pretentious garbage. 4/10 for the review and the site

Gavin Clark
February 4th 2017
9:07am

how are you allowed a critic review / voice. a bad score because it is not as good an adaption from the books as game of thrones. 4/10. please

Reality
May 21st 2017
11:00pm

You blew this one, lol