The Story is Only Sorta Done
Final Thoughts on the The Expanse: Spoiler Discussion
Having recently watched through the first three seasons of The Expanse for the site (S1, S2P1, S2P2, S3P1, S3P2) and then watching the later seasons again because, well, I was in it (S4, S5, S6), I did end up having a few things I wanted to share about this series. When you can go through and binge an entire series in a week (as I did, and man do I need a life, haha) it allows you to quickly see everything, warts and all, and really feel how the show flows as a single, full unit. It's interesting.
The first thing I want to note is that I still love this series. I intended just to watch the first three seasons, over time, to add a little content to this site. I'd only done a three season overview for those seasons before now because the show had started airing before I restarted Asteroid G. I was playing catch up and had to get to the later seasons quick. But the series does suck you in. Even with the later three seasons being self-contained adventures (that don't overlap across seasons), I still found myself wanting to watch "just one more" time and again. It's a solid, well written, well acted bit of science fiction that puts its hooks in you and never lets go.
I'm also impressed at the way the show seeds in little things that grow into much larger parts of the narrative over time. Take, for instance, the Navou. This ship is meant to be a century ship for the Mormons, a way for them to send out a colony across the stars and eventually land at a new planet that they can seed with Earth life. But the Navou ends up being a giant bullet that the heroes of the show try to fire at Eros station (which, due to the protomolecule, the station dodges). Then it's reclaimed and turned into a warship, the OPAS Behemoth. And then it takes up residence inside the ring as a space station to protect the ring network, now called Medina Station. That's a smart bit of writing introducing the ship and then keeping it around in various ways, all without having to explain all the details of it past its introduction.
Or take Chrisjen Avasarala. It's obvious from the outset that she would grow to be the leader of Earth just from her early scenes as Undersecretary at the UNN. But what's interesting to me is an early comment from her, as she lays on the roof of her house, looking up at the stars. She notes that she hates shooting stars because she worries about what happens if one of those rocks made it to Earth and crashed down. And then, what happens three seasons later? OPA terrorists, led by Marcos Inaros, launch stealth-tech coats asteroids at Earth, causing massive destruction to rain down on the planet. A little idea seeded in the first episode of the show, carried out in the fourth season.
Speaking of Marcos Inaros, this is a character who's mentioned in passing in an early part of the fourth season, only to then swing around and become a major player as the series plays on. He looks like a down on his luck smuggler, and is even captured (and then released) by the OPA while other events are going on. But then he comes a leader of a terrorist movement attacking the inner planets, and characters start to regret the decisions they made regarding him at the time. That's the right way to develop a villain and make them interesting as a series plays on.
With that said, I will reiterate some of the things I didn't like about the construction of the series. The pace of season one is slower than the later seasons, owing in large part to the fact that it has a lot of storylines to balance and was giving the time to breath across 15 episodes. Later stories were a couple of episodes shorter (or even less) and those did feel tighter in some ways. I think if the first season could have been kept to a tight 13 (or even 10) episodes it might have helped the pacing and flow of that season a lot. Maybe that could have helped retain viewers from one season to the next.
Which, speaking of, I also dislike the way the series split up its stories in the first couple of seasons. Book one, Leviathan Wakes was dragged across all of season one and part of season two. Caliban's War got half of season two and half of season three, split at a weird point in its own flow. This then gave only seven episodes to the third novel, Abaddon's Gate, which ties up in the back half of season three and, frankly, actually needed more time to breath. Later seasons at least put one novel to a season, although the last season only got six episodes to tell Babylon's Ashes and it, too, needed a little more time to breathe and not feel so rushed.
Look, I get it, sci-fi is expensive to produce and it was amazing that Amazon PrimeWhile Netflix might be the largest streaming seervice right now, other major contenders have come into the game. One of the biggest, and best funded, is Amazon Prime, the streaming-service add-on packing with free delivery and all kinds of other perks Amazon gives its members. And, with the backing of its corporate parent, this streaming service very well could become the market leader. even grabbed the show up after Syfy dropped it due to weaker rating and rising budgets. It's all a money game in Hollywood and while we can lament that, profits are what drive the industry. The seasons were set the way they were to try and keep viewer engagement up, and then the episode counts were dictate to keep the series chugging along without getting too long and expensive. That's all just a matter of business. But with hindsight, seeing the whole of the series play out the way it did, I do lament the construction just a little.
Of course, the big lament is the fact that the series ends after just six seasons. As I touched upon in my review of that season, the reason to stop right now makes sense: there's a massive time jump in the novels between the sixth book, Babylon's Ashes, and the seventh, Persepolis Rising. 28 years, to be specific, and that's the kind of time jump that you would either have to truncate (which doesn't really make sense in the timeline of the series) or cover with makeup or recasting. The producers didn't want to recast, and everyone knows aging makeup looks awful and fake, so stopping the TV series here, at the time jump, makes all the sense in the world.
To the production team's credit the wrap up the series about as nicely as they could considering there are still some minor plot lines left dangling. There is an invasive alien species living in the rings, and on protomolecule worlds, and they might just get angry and start attacking the human planets eventually. There's the mater of Laconia, a planet inhabited by Martian ex-pats who stole the protomolecule three decades earlier and have been experimenting. There's the question of what happens to Naomi Nagata's son, Filip Inaros, considering he's a wanted war criminal due to the actions of his father (and aiding his father in those actions). There's a lot left unresolved, making you think the producers have every intention of revisiting this series in three decades, if given the chance.
Of course, that's a big if. I credit the team for wrapping up as much as they can and not leaving too much dangling. There's only so much they could do, all things considered, and the writing team handled it with grace. But there's stuff we wanna see and if it takes thirty years to make that happen, I hope it does. That would be one of the great coups of legacy sequels, coming back to a show thirty years later, all to do three more seasons and giving the show its fitting conclusion. How cool would that be? That's something I hope I get to see, for sure.
But then, I also hope that Amazon releases physical media of the show before that time just so we can all watch it even if Amazon Prime dies at some point in the future. Only the fourth season has gotten a release from Amazon (the previous three from the Syfy run already seeing release) and fans of the show that have to wait all this time for what's next will want their discs. We need them, so we can clutch them and watch them over and over during the long wait. Give us what we want, Amazon.
So yes, the show is still incredible. Some production oddities due to the requirements of the studios notwithstanding, this is absolutely a show that holds up and is enjoyable to binge, again and again. I'm already sitting here going, "sure, I just watched it... but what about third watching..." It's that good. I'm glad to see that it holds up considering I already watched through it once before. It's a great sci-fi show with good ideas and a fantastic cast. It shows just how good sci-fi on TV can be, and I wish more show could step up to this bar.