[This is a review of the series premiere of The Expanse. There will be SPOILERS.]
Finding a truly special science fiction television series is akin to stumbling over a Blue Whale in the middle of the ocean. Both are illusive, rare and difficult to find. In a way, the sci-fi greats of old like Star Trek: TNG, Firefly and Ronald D. Moore’s re-imagining of Battlestar Galactica have faded into legend. More myth than real. The Expanse is an attempt to prove that those myths are true.
Syfy’s most ambitious offering in nearly a decade emerges out of the mythological deep oceans and enters your living room front and center with its near $5 million per episode grandeur for all to see. This is a big risk for a network like SyFy, but if the series premiere is any indication, then the gamble was worth it. So what exactly is The Expanse?
Well, the show is based on a series of books written by Hugo Award nominated author James S.A. Corey. The first book in his series is called “Leviathan Wakes”, but not having read the books, this reviewer cannot vouch for how closely the series follows the written works of Mr. Corey. This review is strictly focusing on the premiere episode ‘Dulcinea’, which begins with a missing persons case.
Detective Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is your typical hard-nosed cop who will get the job done by any means necessary. He’s a man of few words, but Jane’s charisma makes Miller a very watchable character as he begins his search for Julie Mao. We see Mao (Florence Faivre) in the opening scene floating and screaming for help. The opening title sequence informs us that water and air are more valuable than gold, so it was a nice touch seeing her gather the last two drops of water she had. Attention to detail is everything.
Whether or not we will ever see the lovely Julie Mao again remains a mystery, mostly due to her lack of resources and the fact that something insane is happening in the engineering room on her ship. At first glance it looked like some kind of space zombie, but that’s just pure speculation. Whatever is happening to her crew is not good. Hopefully she can find a way out, or perhaps Detective Miller will get to her first.
Away from the emptiness of space and back near our home planet there is a potential war brewing between Mars and Earth. The U.N. controls Earth, while Mars is considered an independent militaristic society. Both superpowers are competing for resources with the “belters” stuck in the middle. There are talks of a peace between the planets, but no one seems to believe it. Shohreh Aghdashloo (Mass Effect 2) plays Christen Avasarala, who looks like a kindly old grandmother on the surface, but is really a ruthless interrogator seeking out information on a resistance faction. We see very little of her in this episode, but she will surely play a larger role down the road.
Back in space, a handsome young soon-to-be XO of the ice trawler ship Canterbury receives a distress call of unknown origins, which in the realm of science fiction is never a good thing. James Holden (Steven Strait) has a feeling he can’t shake and against the wishes of his captain, decides to go check it out for himself. The emergence of a strange craft cuts their mission short, but also results in the destruction of the Canterbury. Holden’s girlfriend (Ade) says she needs to tell him something right before the transmission cuts out. Presumably she was pregnant, since we see them having zero-g sex a few scenes back.
The Expanse begins its 10-episode run on a high note, by delivering everything we’ve come to expect from a high-budget space opera. Now all that remains is to see if the series can keep its momentum going – and hold onto its viewers that will help keep this multi-million dollar behemoth afloat.
What did you think of the episode? Does it have the potential to become another sci-fi legend, or will it fade off into obscurity like so many others? Keep watching to see what happens next.
The Expanse continues with ‘The Big Empty’ tonight @10pm on SyFy. Check out a preview below: