I'm going to start off by saying I not only liked “The Expanse”, I loved it. Loved. It. So much so that I watched all four screener episodes I was sent one after the other with the passion I normally reserve for Red Vines at the movie theater (don't get mad at me, Twizzlers fans. You know RV are usually the only movie option.) So, yeah, I wanted that out of the way so I could skip past any idea of a critical review (there are people who do those so much better than I do) and go right for the fangirling.
I came into “The Expanse” pretty much cold. In fact, my husband was the one who started talking about it when Syfy first announced the series. He was the one who piqued my interest. I've never read the book. It was only through promo videos for the show I learned James S.A. Corey was two people. That meant that I didn't have any expectations, but it also meant that I didn't have anything to bias me as far as any past information.
Much like I enjoyed how “Killjoys” drops you into a world that's already built and eschews a lot of exposition, “The Expanse” hits the ground running. Yeah, you get a quick rundown: Earth has now colonized Mars and Mars is very much about its own independence. Meanwhile a space station called Ceres sits in the middle and gathers water for both planets and themselves.
Guess who gets the short end of the stick in that arrangement?
But it's Ceres that intrigued me most. Not just the characters surviving the daily life of just being on Ceres, but there are all the socio-political issues that come with living there. And they are plentiful. It can feel a little bit like being tossed into the deep end of the pool and being forced to learn to swim, but I love being challenged to immerse myself in a story without much handholding. I like having to rewind to make sure I heard something right, or pausing to think about something that just happened. To quote a phrase from “Dune”, ‘I see plans within plans,” which had me gleefully rubbing my hands trying to figure out everything I could.
From the outside, I'm sure people could consider some of the character's trope-y, but I prefer to think of them as archetypes. Much like “Battlestar Galactica” had archetypes: The Diplomat, the Pilot who Doubts Themselves, the Person with Ulterior Motives.
Thomas Jane's plays Detective Miller, a man who's seen too much, but still manages to see beauty in small things. Not a “Heart of Gold” sort of dude, but more someone who's trying to just muddle through life, do his job, and try and find something good in a place that feels like it's slowly dying. He also has the best haircut on the planet, as far as I'm concerned. Very Zorg from “The Fifth Element,” but freed from restraint, save for a cool fedora.
Shohreh Aghdashloo is nothing short of exquisite as Chrisjen Avasarala, Deputy Undersecretary for the United Nations. Honestly, if this show was strictly about her, I'd be happy. There are moments where I was physically slack-jawed at some of the things she does and says because she really is mesmerizing and terrifying at the same time.