Anyone who read my article a couple of weeks ago will know that I recently signed up with Netflix. I still believe that the cinema is the best place to watch a film, the larger the screen the better. For this reason I still visit the cinema an average of twice a week. It will therefore come as no surprise that I watch more TV than movies on Netfix. I have mainly been catching up on shows that I have been keen to see for some time but not gotten around to, however, I have just watched The Expanse based on the robotic recommendation of Netflix.
For those who haven’t heard of it (I hadn’t a week ago), the Expanse is scf-fi crime drama / space opera. Based on the series of books by James S. A. Corey ( a pen name for collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) set in a future where has spread out and colonized other planets. The United Nations controls earth, Mars has its own military government. Both planets depend on the resources of The Belt, the outer planets and asteroids whose inhabitants are treated like second class citizens. The largest planet is Ceres (a real place, it is a dwarf planet in the orbit of Neptune located in the asteroid belt between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter. It is named after the Roman goddess of agriculture). In the belt air and water are in short supply and are therefore a precious commodity. The three factions are on the brink of war. As a viewer we follow three main characters who stumble across a conspiracy and can’t let go:
Jim Holden (Steven Strait): an officer on an ice haulage ship who fall down a rabbit-hole that begins when he answers a distress call.
The opening credits have elements of The Man in the High Castle and Game of Thrones lending an air of familiarity. The show itself is well constructed with great use of time. Rather than relying on simple flashbacks within scenes the narrative moves around within its timeline with the same dexterity as it does within its universe. This is achieved with a mixture of clearly dated and ambiguous variations that work well to keep the drama tense. The story is similarly well constructed keeping an air of uncertainty and excitement. Many of them main characters are well rounded and developed with believable histories, they are however, largely clichéd and unoriginal. The acting is solid and natural without any wooden or over the top performances, however, on the other hand it lacks any of the standout performances that we can expect on modern TV shows. It clearly doesn’t have the budget of a cinema movie or top TV show but the effects really aren’t bad and largely, it actually looks good. The costumes are a little hit and miss with the space set elements using an effective mix of military uniforms and industrial overalls. The planet based characters fall into most of the same clichés of other similar shows. The biggest visual problem though, is Thomas Jane’s haircut. Both too flamboyant and high maintenance for the deadbeat character he plays, but more significantly, it looks stupid. The vehicles and planets have a sense of believably and reality as we have seen in Battlestar Galactica and Firefly. It also shares a dirty industrial look of these shows.
It isn’t a classic show within the genre that we will be seeing alongside Battlestar Galactica and Game of Thrones on best of lists, but it does have both a charm and quality making it worth a recommendation. I am looking forward to season two.