The Expanse (SYFY, Mondays 10/9 Central) Review | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, May 27th, 2024  

The Expanse

SYFY, Mondays 10/9 Central

Dec 11, 2015 Issue #55 - November/December 2015 - EL VY
Bookmark and Share

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. (

Author rating: 4/10

Rate this show
Average reader rating: 8/10


Submit your comment

Name Required

Email Required, will not be published


Remember my personal information
Notify me of follow-up comments?

Please enter the word you see in the image below:

December 20th 2015

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.

December 21st 2015

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

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

May 22nd 2017

You blew this one, lol

January 14th 2020

If you like Jane Austen, Ernest Hemingway, or Tolstoy; where the focus of the author is the personality traits that make up a character’s being and the events in their lives that shape and bend those traits, then you aren’t likely the target audience for hard science fiction.  In hard science fiction, the focus is more on the boundary conditions that parameterize the growth and development of technology and civilization.  If you like exploring the concept of how culture might develop and evolve under different sets of these types of boundary conditions; you’ll love hard-science fiction inspired stories like ‘The Expanse’.  If you were looking for Tolstoy; read ‘War and Peace’; or watch a production of the ‘Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812’.  For my part; I loved ‘The Expanse’.  The concepts of the state of culture and the divisions of factions and how they interacted with the unknown was astoundingly well done.  Hollywood by and large is more likely to respect and attempt a faithful representation of Jane Austen than it would someone like Greg Bear.  This show is an astoundingly faithful example of a hard-science fiction story; it’s honestly the best that I have seen.

January 10th 2021

This may be one of the most useless reviews ever. Have you actually seen the show or just fast forwarded few episodes?