Television

The Expanse

People are people and politics is politics, no matter how far you get from planet Earth.

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An old saying holds that all politics is local. In The Expanse, all politics is interstellar. Somehow, they're kind of the same thing.

The series, which completed its fifth season on Amazon Prime Video in February, is set hundreds of years in the future. Human beings have colonized the solar system and divided into three broad political sects. There's Earth, an economically stagnated political mess and also the species' breadbasket; Mars, the elite technological center; and the Asteroid Belt, the working-class locus of resource extraction.

From the beginning, these three groups are in rotating conflict with each other. That conflict intensifies with the discovery of the protomolecule, an alien organism that is both immediately deadly and a warning sign of greater dangers beyond the solar system's limits.

Eventually, the protomolecule leads to the discovery of a portal to the rest of the galaxy and a slew of inhabitable worlds. There's a land rush, but the conflict doesn't disappear; it shifts venues and even increases. All this unfolds with smart plotting, intricate world building, and consistent characterization.

Refreshingly, this intensely political show doesn't feel like it's simply rehashing today's real-life arguments as a thinly veiled sci-fi metaphor. Instead, it reminds us that human society will always be an unpredictable product of economic interests, obscure individual motivations, cultural rivalries, bureaucratic infighting, ideological disagreements, sociological shifts, pride of place, and personal profit motive. People are people and politics is politics, no matter how far you get from planet Earth.

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  1. Probably one of the better sci-fi series made in the last 10 years. Good cast, expensive-looking production values, and a tolerable level of plot contrivances/plot armor.

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  2. The first season was IN MY EXPERT OPINION its worst but necessary to set up the seasons that followed. Overall, better than most sci-fi out there.

  3. I’ve been watching this. Angry at myself for discovering it late. Anyway, at the end of season 3. Sort of a spoiler about leaving the galaxy, but that was already spoiled to me elsewhere.

    Anyway, it’s a great series. Some episodes are slow, some are at a breakneck speed, but none of it is ever boring. I still don’t understand some of the characters, but that’s part of the show.

  4. Loved the books and love the show. Bezos rescued it from cancellation. The quality of writing and production is consistently high and the actors portray their characters accurately. No woke shit!

  5. One thing I appreciate is the fake languages and dialects and jargon, and especially the trouble they went to with accents. It seems pretty consistent and helps to distinguish characters and regions.

    But at the same time, I have to turn subtitles on more than I like.

    It has made me wish for a much better process to see subtitles. Currently, whether DVD, Netflix, or Amazon, I have to turn subtitles on, back up ten seconds, and possibly back up another ten seconds if I was a littlw slow on the jump or the timing was bad.

    What I would like is to hit ‘s’ or some other key, which would freeze the action and fill the screen with however much dialogue fits; then hit any key to resume playing. I’ve suggested this to both Netflix and Amazon, but of course NIMBY is alive and well.

  6. The Expanse is fucking awesome. This review seems late.

  7. I was late to the Expanse Party, began watching when I think it was in its third season? (I started with 1). And I agree with FOE above, the first season felt a little slow and discombobulated, but I stuck with it and now I can’t wait for each new season.

  8. The Expanse is good.

    But I think Suderman would always choose sides against the good guys in any situation where the news media told him to. Reason writers showed us all in 2020 that they are shallow and unprincipled and Suderman hasn’t shown anything to suggest he is an exception.

  9. The Expanse is better than Suderman’s review.

  10. The protomolecule and the alien purpose weren’t resolved. Season 5 didn’t wrap very pleasingly, but it was a galactic gas!

  11. Too many women and separate storylines in the first season. Couldn’t get through it. Lost interest.

    Not going to pay to see more with Amazon.

  12. All of the politics in The Expanse occur within the same solar system. It’s not about “interstellar” politics.

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