The Expanse is one of the best series on air right now, and we can’t believe how strong it continues to be four seasons in. The fifth airs on Prime Video on December 16th. Be there.
We admit we were late to the game since we just started watching it last year, but we’re here to convince those of you in the boat we used to be, to get on this asap. Here’s the truth, we don’t trust a lot of writers these days—the need to subvert expectations has gotten the better of some, and starting anything other than a Mike Schur comedy feels like a big risk, especially with 2020 being the sh!t show of a year that it is. But after four seasons, we’re fairly confident in these writers and we’re excited to see how the final two seasons will wrap up.
1. Strong Source Material
The Expanse is based off of James S.A. Corey’s series and the final novel, Leviathan Falls is set to release in 2021. Thus far, the series has explored books 1-5 and while I’ve yet to read 6-9, I’m thoroughly satisfied with what I know so far. Book-to-show adaptations can be tricky, and while I came to the TV series before the books, knowing we have source material as strong as this is comforting given too many details won’t be changed for the sake of shock value. The changes thus far have worked exceptionally well in allowing the series to explore characters other than the Rocinante crew, and that’s a huge reason why I’m confident in how the series will end.
2. Top Notch Performances
Since The Expanse will be airing weekly now, don’t be surprised if the cast continuously ends up on our This Week’s Most Noteworthy Performance list. Impressive doesn’t even begin to sum up just how well each of the actors are able to convey the words to screen. So much of the reason why this series succeeds the way it does is due to the performances that capture the characters at their core. Even when they’re not talking, they’re saying something. Even when they’re floating through space, their physicality is conveying the essence of the experience. And we hear Steven Strait ensures the cast takes rehearsal very seriously because they want to get it all right for the audience. “He’s the captain for a reason.”
3. Complex Characters
There are many things The Expanse gets right, but it excels at deeply complex characters that are so easy to appreciate, I don’t know another series that has achieved this. The characters are all screwed up, they’ve done terrible things, they continuously make great mistakes, and they can be challenging, but their distinct personality traits make it impossible not to root for them. You want them all to cross the
bridges, skies they come to. They’re frustrating, they’re flawed, but they’re all so incredibly human it’s gratifying. We know politicians are corrupt but somehow, we want them to succeed. We want them to succeed in whatever it is they’re trying to do. Our Captain may be as righteous as they come, but even his sincerity is paved by a road of intricate darkness and vulnerability. With a series that features a large cast, it isn’t always easy to appreciate every single character that’s on screen, but with The Expanse, even the guest characters are so well written, it makes the series that much more riveting.
4. Found Family
The relationships in this series are everything. It’s one of the most beautifully heartwarming showcases of how healing human connections can be and how crucial these connections are. Thus, the Rocinante crew especially, continues to be the gift that keeps on giving with deeply flawed characters finding solace in their differences, and a home in their love for one another. This is the one part of the show we can spend hours dissecting because it is without question, the heart of all. The Expanse may have an expansive—pun intended—space mythology, but at its core, it’s a show about a group of misfits finding home with each other. It’s full of antiheroes doing the best they can in order to love the family they’ve been given and finding moments of serenity with them. It’s about crappy, sans real cheese lasagna nights that aren’t about the quality of the food, but the quality of time spent together. It’s about a family where everyone is welcomed as they are and no one is excluded for what they’ve done. It’s a series where trust is a very thin line, but the chances given succeed in creating stronger foundations.
5. Stunning Romantic Relationships
There are a few things I don’t understand—how The Expanse’s Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) and Jim Holden (Steven Strait) aren’t on everyone’s Best of the Year lists is one of those things. Naomi and Jim are without question, the best TV space couple we’ve seen and that’s the tea. And here’s the thing, you don’t have to ship them. (Insert shrugging emoji.) But a prominent love story in an already thrilling series is the icing on the top of the cake that series like Battlestar Galactica lacked. (Sorry not sorry.) Naomi and Jim are partners—they’re two completely different individuals who’ve found ways to bring out the best in each other, and inadvertently, the best in their crew. They are two people who’ve experienced tremendous losses in their lives, but have found solace in the other’s love. They’re two people who respect each other’s agency and succeed in being equals. They are two people who learn from each other, care about each other, and fight for each other. And if you ship something else on the series, we can’t blame you, the entire cast has such good chemistry, it’s almost inevitable. Go forth. Happy shipping.
6. An Excellent Score
Related Content: Music Monday: The Expanse (Original Score) by Clinton Shorter and Various Artists
Clinton Shorter is a mastermind. The Expanse’s score is everything on its own and the greatest treat to the episodes. It’s otherworldly in all the right ways and, dare I say, one of the epics. No matter how eager I am to skip the intro and get into the episode, it’s impossible not to let the opening theme, appropriately titled “The Expanse” play to the end. A score enhances the plot, heightens the emotions, and grounds the universe beautifully—The Expanse’s score succeeds in all this while telling stories on its own. There are so few words to describe it, you just gotta listen.
7. Visually Mesmerizing
It’s a good thing The Expanse is featured on a streaming service with a big budget because the visuals will remain groundbreaking to the end. So few shows manage to build a world that feels believable when they aren’t on a network like HBO, but The Expanse succeeded even in its previous home on Syfy. Where cinematography and editing are concerned, The Expanse feels like the type of show that was previously in theaters. I can only imagine the encapsulating experience of watching this series on a larger screen. The point being, it’s stunning. There are multiple shots throughout the series that have prompted audible gasps from all of us.
8. Brilliant Writing and Direction
The creative decisions often made in this series to enhance the plot are always decisions we have come to respect. The strategic decisions made on behalf of the directing have enhanced telling stories that would have otherwise not been as transparent, and in the fourth season especially, it works best to bring out emotions in characters that may not be at the forefront of the scene. It’s as simple as the way in which two people have a virtual conversation. Or rather, it’s the way in which a simple moment can feel like such a powerful showcase of serenity. (There’s a scene specifically in season one that comes to mind and just…chef’s kiss.) But without saying too much so we don’t spoil it, you’ll want to pay attention to everything that’s on-screen and you’ll be impressed with what you find.
9. A Damn Good Plot
With a niche show like The Expanse, the plot can go off on a back-burner if it isn’t done correctly, but the source material its based on and the decisions screenwriters have made to add/remove have contributed to a storyline that’s always riveting, always gripping, and never once feels unnecessary. And that’s not an easy feat—so few shows with a plot like this actually succeed in being interesting after the third season, but thus far, The Expanse has proven otherwise. We’ve been satisfied with season four and we don’t doubt that season five will be even better, because that’s the thing with this series, it’s achieved getting better as the seasons progressed.
10. Meticulously Interwoven Storylines
This might just be the best part of the series’ adaptation because it achieves something the books in the format they’re written in couldn’t. I love the books, but I love the series a little more because we’re able to see characters orbit into each other’s lives in a way that’s so effortless, it contributes beautifully to enhancing the plot while servicing the characters and their relationships with one another. The fact is, every single character on this series, as mentioned above is an absolute treasure and having them be part of the episodes when their characters weren’t around for the books wasn’t going to be easy, but the writers found the way to do so and it’s nothing short of brilliant. The series’ plot is good because the characters are great. Fundamentally, the series’ greatest strength is its attention to detail–the stories that are being told meticulously capture the essence of humanity and the profound connections with the world around us; thereby, making the viewing experience that much more satisfying.
The Expanse has already been renewed for a sixth and final season without the fifth having premiered to the public yet, and if that doesn’t tell you that this series is a great one, we hope this list has convinced you. Amazon Prime—get on it now. You’ve got 13 days to watch 48 episodes. It’s doable. Trust us.