Your favorite show is going to be canceled. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but nothing on TV, Netflix, Amazon, or Hulu can last forever. Everything is destined to end at some point. Well, except maybe The Price Is Right, but that show has earned its immortality. For fans of The Expanse, judgement day came when Syfy announced on May 11th that they were canceling the show after the conclusion of its 3rd season. Fans were devastated. But then a curious thing happened: Brooklyn Nine Nine had also been canceled but was then saved as fans voiced their support. Emboldened, The Expanse fans rallied and a movement was born. Petitions have circulated, banners have flown, and the fans are determined to cancel the cancellation. With rumors and speculation abound, The Expanse remains canceled at the time of this writing (though Amazon is heavily rumored to be picking it up).
Win, lose, or draw, the show has earned a loyal following for several reasons. Strap in and get ready for the juice, as we take a look at why The Expanse deserves to be saved.
Set in the distant future, humanity has established colonies on Mars, the moons of Jupiter, in the asteroid belt, and elsewhere throughout the solar system. As tensions rise, Earth, Mars, and The Belt find themselves on the path to war. At the heart of the conflict, the mystery of a missing girl could change the course of human history.
1. The Characters
A large part of what makes The Expanse so entertaining, is its cast of compelling characters. Earth-born James Holden (Steven Strait) and the ragtag crew of the “stolen” (see also “legally salvaged”) Martian gunship, Rocinante, aren’t your cookie cutter starship crew. As the captain, Holden has a compulsion to help those in need, even if it comes at a great cost to him and his crew. His second-in-command and lover, Naomi (Dominique Tipper), is a Belter engineer whose loyalty to the Belt rivals her devotion to Holden. Amos (Wes Chatham) is a borderline sociopath, who has a knack for killing, while Alex (Cas Anvar) is a Martian pilot who left his wife and child for reasons unknown.
On Ceres Station, snarky Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) catches a missing person case. In the Belt, where air and water are commodities, Miller is a man who knows the system is rigged against the downtrodden. He has seen how horribly people can treat each other and is disgusted by it. As a Belter working for an Earth corporation, neither group claims him and quite frankly, he doesn’t care. As he struggles with his cynical view of himself and everyone else, he begins to develop an obsession with the girl he was charged to find. His investigation leads him to cross paths with Holden and the Roci.
In the political arena, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is the fearless U.N. puppet master pulling all the strings. Striving to prevent a costly war between Earth and Mars, she is a master manipulator with influence that stretches through the highest ranks of the U.N. However, unknown elements within her government seek a different agenda.
With the Roci on the run, Miller conducting his investigation, and Avasarala playing the political game, all three story lines captivate and build to a confrontation that effects everyone.
And that’s just grazing the show’s fascinating political machinations! Suffice to say, the show follows a diverse array of people from across the solar system, all of whom struggle with tough choices as part of their survival. Each interaction and choices lead to genuinely emotional moments that the show really spends its time building toward, so that the eventual payoff is always earned.
2. The Science is Sound
Star Wars and Star Trek have spoiled us. Audiences can set aside the laws of physics in order to enjoy fantastic stories. Yet, in The Expanse, science is king. Torpedoes don’t curve on their own, and bombs don’t fall unless there is gravity. Ship-based gravity is maintained by having accelerating at a 1g. Sometimes, the ships go faster and negative effects to people are accurately displayed. To travel from Point A to Point B, a ship spends half of the trip accelerating and the other half decelerating. There are no magic inertial dampeners to prevent someone from becoming a puddle of goo. The Expanse recognizes that the audience understands more than they let on and while the show still depicts sounds of gunfire and engines in space, the audio is slightly muted, giving it that Battlestar Galactica feel. It also helps that the show runner, Naren Shankar, holds a PhD in physics and engineering from Cornell University.
3. Political Intrigue
A good portion of modern science fiction centers around dystopian futures. Alien invasions and totalitarian governments rule the day in TV based sci-fi. However, The Expanse paints a different picture. A couple hundred years from now, humanity has spread out into the solar system. Prosperous colonies are able to thrive on Mars and the moons of Jupiter as humans continue to explore the space around us. Mining operations are established in the asteroid belt, giving way to an entirely new culture. Colonists are attempting to terraform Mars. Food is provided to all from large farming outposts on Ganymede. Despite the challenges of living in space, and dealing with man-made crises, there are still people in the system who try to do the right thing.
Yet even with hope, humanity still brings its problems into space. A gluttonous Earth has oppressed and used the Belt for its own gain. Mars has also squeezed the Belt for resources in order to maintain its military. Both sides have built up sizeable navies. Earth has a larger fleet, but Mars has technically advanced ships and equipment. Nearly mimicking today’s current geopolitical climate, the wealthy Earthers prefer to keep Belters in a constant state of poverty, by using air and water as collateral. After years of exploitation, those who live among the asteroid belt have grown to despise anyone from either planet. Three sides, with three different motivations, opens the door for a large-scale conflict. And us humans sure do enjoy our conflict. Oh, and an alien protomolecule shows up, so naturally, all sides attempt to use it as a weapon. Because that always works out.
4. Details Matter
The show has done an exceptional job of world building through its incredible attention to the detail. Belters have a combination of a Cajun accent with Chinese influences. This dialect could easily have been born from generations of oppression and mistreatment. The Belters also have a distinct hairstyle: shaved on the sides, longer on the top. At first glance, it doesn’t make much sense, but if you spend most of your waking hours in a spacesuit, you wouldn’t want a lot of hair covering your face. Even the communication devices have an advanced, smartphone feel to them. Long range communications are effected by time delays. Martians visiting Earth have difficulty adapting to the increased gravity. Some experience agoraphobia from having lived their entire life under a habitat dome. All of these little details serve to enrich the show.
5. It’s Different
The Expanse is not Star Trek, nor is it Star Wars. The show does not try to be either. In an era of sequels and spinoffs, The Expanse is something new and different. It walks the line between confronting the unknown and fighting all too familiar battles. This is a harshly realistic universe. Here, starship captains don’t always fight fair. Even admirals in uniform have their own motivations that are a little south of honest. In these worlds, scoundrels aren’t charming; they kill people. The line between good guys and bad guys isn’t always clear. Even the most noble of heroes has to make difficult decisions that may cost lives. Much like the real world, there is no guarantee that everything will be alright in the end. Like any good sci-fi, it asks the audience to think, but not too much. The show respects the audience’s time by making each episode feel like a short movie.
When word came that Syfy was going to cancel the show after the end of its 3rd season, fans took to the digital streets. Emboldened by the successful rescue of Brooklyn Nine Nine from the jaws of cancelation, fans set up an online petition to save the show. At the time of this writing, there are 129,096 signatures with the goal being 150,000. Fans are encouraging Netflix or Amazon to pick up the show, even going so far as to have a plane fly over Amazon Studios with a banner that read “# Save The Expanse”.
No one knows for certain what will happen to The Expanse. Netflix recently added the excellent Lost in Space reboot, so picking up another sci-fi show may not be a priority. Some rumors indicate that a deal with Amazon is all but complete, but no one knows for sure.
All we can really say for certain, is that The Expanse is worth saving and absolutely worth checking out.