With the Fall TV season hitting its halfway point, all our favorite shows are preparing to enter into hibernation until 2016. Over on Syfy though, the network debuted a brand new show in The Expanse. Across virtually every major outlet, it’s being lauded as our generation’s Battlestar Galactica, which is no small praise for anyone familiar with the reference. An argument can be made that BSG was the last original series Syfy really knocked out of the park, making The Expanse that much more important for the long-term future of its original programming.
But we digress. For those of you who’ve somehow managed to miss one of the many glowing reviews of the show: The Expanse is set in the not-so-distant future, where Earth has managed to colonize Mars as a military superpower, and an underclass of workers live out in our solar system’s asteroid belt near Jupiter. Mars and Earth are poised on the brink of war, while the “Belters” are left out in the literal cold of space. It sets up some intriguing sci-fi political drama, and has the distinct honor of having the biggest budget of any show in Syfy’s history.
Critically, the general consensus is establishing The Expanse as nothing short of incredible. Per Slate: “I’m not exaggerating when I say I was completely blown away by what I saw.” Over at io9, we see a similarly excited review call it “a near-perfect TV show.” Suffice it to say, the hype is real. As a viewer, it then becomes up to you whether or not you choose to buy into the effusive praise of Internet groupthink. It’s important to weigh a number of factors whenever you add another show to your regular viewing schedule, especially with the science-fiction field getting more crowded by the day.
For our own opinion, at least giving The Expanse an episode or three of your time would be worth it. Things admittedly get off the ground slowly, and this isn’t a show that even pretends to hold your hand. It doesn’t possess any of the humor or lightheartedness of Firefly, and it’s far less straightforward than the early episodes of Battlestar Galactica (a show that admittedly got way more complicated in its latter days). The Expanse is a show that knows exactly what it is, and makes no apologies for that fact. More than that, it’s a hard science-fiction series that’s so committed to the “science” side of the genre, that one of its executive producers has a freaking Ph.D. in physics.
If you’re a sci-fi interloper who prefers a casual dip into the genre from time to time, then The Expanse may ultimately prove to be a bit overwhelming. Conversely, if you’re a die-hard who loves everything from Asimov to BSG, then there’s a good chance this is the show you’ve been waiting on for the better part of a decade. With science-fiction having entered into the mainstream, we rarely see a TV series directed at such a narrow yet committed swathe of fans. The Expanse is one such series.
All this circles us back to our original question: Should you believe the hype? Based on early returns, you can count our answer as a tentative “yes.” It’s a tall order establishing an entire universe, a cast of characters we’re meant to care about, and then dictating the rules of said universe for those characters to follow (or not follow). In its own way, The Expanse manages to accomplish that goal in its initial run of episodes, albeit in a methodical, almost subtle way. If for no other reason, this show is worth giving a shot for the careful effort, time, and money expended by Syfy to make it a reality. Beyond that, it’s entirely up to you whether or not you agree with the rest of the Internet.
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