That's right, Syfy is on a roll space kids, and I'm in geek boy heaven... Wowza!
Critics and bloggers have been comparing this brilliant new series to Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones. It's meant as a major compliment, but while the series may have a tone similar to Galactica with the political intrigue of Thrones, the comparisons stop there. Once it hits its groove, The Expanse is storytelling at its finest. As a matter of fact, the pilot episode inspired me to pick up the original novel.
While The Expanse Season 1 Episode 1 does a fine job of laying the groundwork for the story, the thrill is going to be watching the tale unfold as the series takes its place among Syfy's all-time best. At its heart this is a human drama and yeah...I'm in love.
I'll be completely honest, they had me with that opening credits sequence. I'm a total sucker for a striking intro that sets the tone for the hour. Gorgeous work by Joyce N. Ho at Breeder Studios. It took me a couple of viewings to realize we were witnessing the passage of time and mankind's colonization of the solar system.
However, I quickly understood this was a much more somber universe compared to a playful series like Killjoys (which I also absolutely adored). Yes, there's plenty of room for all kinds of sci-fi shows. If it's great, I'll frakkin' watch it.
So, the story drops us in the 23rd century and we learn the U.N. controls Earth, while Mars is its own military power. Way out in the Asteriod belt, our brothers and sisters (known as Belters) work hard mining the resources of the belt. They've become quite disenfranchised, with good reason, and war is inevitable as history has sadly proven time and time again.
You may read a few reviews stating the series is not original and littered with tropes. Listen guys, you've got to start somewhere, and the reason tropes exist is because they work. Besides, one should never judge a 10-hour series by its first hour. There is a ton of exposition to get through early on, but overall I felt it was handled well. World building is always a huge highlight for me. I'm a nerd!
Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) was the first person we met, so I figured she was important. Introducing her locked in a claustrophobic cargo hold left a memorable impression. I found myself instantly taken with the mystery of that huge glowing blue thingamajig that swallowed up her crewmate. What the hell was it? Did Julie get sucked into it as well?
Full disclosure, I had not read the book when I screened the pilot. Since then, I've devoured several books in The Expanse series. Yes, I know what the thing is, but all I will say is the big reveal is not what you're expecting. Give the writers the opportunity to dazzle you; it's coming. I guarantee the season finale will blow your freakin' mind.
As I took in the Belter's protest monologue, it was the glorious visuals that impressed me most. This series is, without a doubt, one of the most cinematic experiences with which Syfy has ever been involved. The Expanse looks like a feature film. I'd give anything to watch it in IMAX 3D. Can you imagine that? The visual effects are top-notch and I plan to soak in every little detail weekly.
We quickly found ourselves on Ceres Station and met one of our protagonists, Detective Miller. Sure he's a bit of a cliché, but he'll come to surprise you, I promise. Thomas Jane plays him to perfection, warts and all. How about that Belter creole, eh? Not adding subtitles was a risky move, but it's easy to understand what's going on.
Miller was assigned to Julie's case, and our first real connection was made.
Miller: So what's my contract exactly?
Captain Shaddid: Find Julie Mao, if she's still here on Ceres detain her and ship her home.
Miller: Kidnap job. My pleasure.
Next, we were introduced to the crew of the Canterbury and met protagonist number two; Jim Holden. While Miller has clearly learned to work the system to his advantage and comes across a bit dirty, Holden's an upstanding guy. He's probably a little too honorable and now has to live with the guilt of logging that damn distress call. Yeah, that ending was a shocker, but more on that in a minute.
I've heard folks complain about the zero-g sex scene, but it's not like humans are ever going to stop boinking. Besides it was a cool visual, though I'm sure the harnesses were tough on the actors. Basically, the time we spent with Holden was meant to endear him to us. I liked the guy right away, which is important since we're going to follow Steven Strait's character for several seasons.
I thought Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) were wonderful supporting characters. Shed Garvey (Paulo Costanzo) was fun too. We'll learn lots more about them in upcoming episodes, but those guys felt genuine and unique to this world. The actors stole their scenes and it's going to be a blast spending time with each of them.
When the Canterbury received that distress call from the Scopuli (Julie's mystery freighter), I understood this girl was the key to everything. Somehow our heroes would come together in an effort to locate her. I will say, after reading the first book "Leviathan Wakes," I got a better feel for what was going on.
You don't have to read the book, but there are so many cool little details you come to appreciate once you've read it. It's a page-turner guys, with pacing that is very much like a movie. I highly recommend it.
The "Flip 'n Burn" scene was phenomenal and it proved to us the technology's messy. Traveling that fast isn't perfect like in Star Trek or Star Wars. I liked that the Canterbury seemed like it was going to fall apart and that the crew took "juice" to survive the high g's. It's not something I've seen on other sci-fi shows, which really helped flesh out the world.
Holden came clean about logging the distress call, and I liked him even more.
Naomi: If your girlfriend logged that distress call, she's going to be living it down for a long time.
Holden: I did it. I just couldn't shake it.
Naomi: I'd keep that to myself if I were you.
Though we didn't spend much time with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), we did witness both her kindness and cruelty. She's going to be one to watch, that's for sure. Wasn't it interesting to see massive walls protecting Ellis Island and New York from flooding? Naturally, the polar ice caps melted leaving most of the U.S. underwater. It's a scary thought that my home town, Miami, would be one of the first to go under. Eeeek!
The Belter torture was intense. Avasarala didn't need to do much, just hang him there and let Earth's gravity do all the work. I wonder if the actor playing the OPA terrorist was enhanced with visual effects. Probably, he was unusually long, right?
Back on Ceres, Miller continued to investigate the Mao case. We got a sense he's not a likable guy, yet pretty good at his job. Even before I knew much about the world of The Expanse, I liked that Miller and Holden were polar opposites. What are the chances those two are going to butt heads? I can't wait to see what happens when they finally meet. Miller's got a soft side, and the scene with the oxygen deprived kids proved that.
It was clear from Julie's intro that the Scopuli was abandoned. Where did she go after turning off the reactor? How about that glowing blue thingamajig? That's all part of the bigger mystery, so keep watching! The distress beacon being Martian tech seemed too obvious. Did someone plant it in an effort to start a war? Who do you think is responsible, is it the OPA? So many questions coming out of the first installment.
Amos: It's a transmitter.
Naomi: This must be the beacon that called us. Somebody planted it.
Amos: Pirate bait. McDowell was right.
The instant that enemy ship materialized, I knew our guys were in big trouble. That said, I never imagined they would annihilate the Canterbury in the very first episode. That was insane, right? How will Holden and the surviving crew react? Was Mars really involved? Guess we've got to keep watching to find out. It was heartbreaking that Ade never finished her sentence. Was she going to tell Holden she was in love with him? Was she pregnant? We'll never know.
Again, the visual effects were consistently impressive, and the destruction of the Cant was no exception. Boy, does Holden have some serious guilt to deal with now. Had he left good enough alone, the entire crew would be alive and drinking on Ceres.
Will these turn of events force the reluctant XO to step up? Or will he crack under the pressure of what's coming? I don't know about you, but that fade to black left me wanting more. I couldn't wait to see the second episode. Luckily, Syfy is airing The Expanse Season 1 Episode 2 tomorrow night and you don't want to miss it.
It's not often that I fall so head over heels for a television series, that I buy the book and read it over a weekend. James S. A. Corey have crafted a complex and entertaining space opera that pays off in a big way. You're not going to regret watching this season. Spread the word, so Syfy will greenlight Season 2 ASAP. Each novel is better than the last, so there's much more where this came from.
Did "Dulcinea" manage to hook you on this new television series? What became of Julie Mao? Will Miller and Holden's investigations bring them together? Who is responsible for the conspiracy bubbling under the surface? You're up, sound off in the comments below and join me back here again the second episode airs. It's going to be one hell of a ride!
Experience the epic pilot again. Watch The Expanse online via TV Fanatic at any time.