[O/T] Watching ‘The Expanse’

[O/T] Watching ‘The Expanse’

I took the last couple of weeks off from work. The first week, I actually did some things that needed doing for ages. This past week, I decided to finally watch the series The Expanse. And though it is not anime or manga related, I did want to go off topic to talk about the series and why I think it is so good. I’ll try to keep the spoilers to a minimal.

Note: As I write this, I’ve only just started season 4. Also, there is the occasional sex scene and some gore at times.

The Expanse

The Story, in Brief

The Expanse is based on a series of novels by James A. Corey. Set sometime in the distant future, humans have colonized the solar system. This is thanks to rockets becoming so fuel efficient, they can burn constantly, allowing for faster travel around the solar system. There are three factions in this future. There’s Earth, run by the UN, who has the largest navy. There’s Mars, where colonist rebelled against Earth control, who have the most advanced navy. And there are the Belters, human who live on stations and moons in the outer areas of the solar system. A group called the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) attempts to organize the Belters, but some are terrorists.

On the space-freighter Canterbury, acting executive officer James Holden secretly goes against his captain’s orders and logs a distress call from another ship. He’s ordered to take a crew to investigate, including pilot Alex Kamal, engineer Naomi Nagata, mechanic Amos Burton, and a medic. The distress call is a trap and the surviving crew are forced to commandeer a warship to survive. While there, they discover that the situation in the solar system is more jacked up than they could have ever dreamed.

The Expanse

On Ceres Station, a detective working for the private security firm Star Helix Security named Joe Miller gets assigned a missing person case to work on the side. The missing woman, Julie Mao, is the daughter of the corporate tycoon Jules-Pierre Mao. However, as Miller digs deeper into the case, he discovers things he wasn’t supposed to uncover.

On Earth, UN Deputy Undersecretary of Executive Administration Chrisjen Avasarala plays a long, political game to uncover the truth about what is really going on in the solar system.

The Gripping Story

One reason to watch The Expanse is its gripping story. There’s no hand-holding in this series, so initially, I had no clue what was what. And yet, I was immediately gripped by the show’s premise and its initial adventure. It took a while before I even remembered a character’s name. Normally, that would irritate me, but in this case, I didn’t mind. The unfolding mystery and revelation about this universe gripped me hard. I knew what each character did and what their role was in the world. And that was enough.

The Expanse

Most of the time, especially in the first season, episodes feel densely packed. As I said before, the series doesn’t dumb itself down. It expects you to pay attention and keep up. With three storylines in the first season, the show conveys a lot of information about the the universe of the series, and the three factions in the series. However, this is all done while continuing to push the plot forward. And that’s what I mean by densely packed.

The first season really sets up the universe of The Expanse well. There are a lot of jacked up things going on here. One never knows when or if a character will be killed, including main characters. Thankfully, the series isn’t all dark. And because as a viewer, I know any character could be killed at any time, whenever someone is saved, it really means something.

Politics

Thankfully, the political aspects of The Expanse are not tied to topical politics of our world. Instead, these political elements are connected to the events of the series’s world. Earth may have a socialist utopia on the surface, but underneath, things are kinda ugly. The UN fleet may be large, but it is old. Some of the political leaders on Earth may be corrupt, but they believe they are doing the right thing. And as to the population, everyone gets free everything, yet few have anything to do, thanks to a lack of jobs. As such, Martians and Belters look down on Earthers.

The Expanse

Mars started off as idealist, wanting to terraform the surface of the planet to become Earth 2. But Martians chaffed at Earth regulations, taxes, and more. Thus the planet succeeded from Earth after a near war and offering Earth new rocket engine technology that allowed the whole solar system to be explored and colonized. Mars become militaristic as a guard against Earth. Every Martian is expected to work toward either defending Mars, or advancing their technology and science. But as the years pass, new generations are less interested in terraforming Mars.

Finally, the Belters are humans from Earth or Mars who colonized the outer moons and such of the solar system. The resources of The Belt keep Earth and Mars going. Belters want to live free, and so have an almost libertine society. There are few rules, but those are brutally enforced. However, as the situation of the solar system changes, the leaders of the Belters start pushing to have a society that matches Earth and Mars, so the Belters can face “The Inners” as equals. Obviously, this push is met with great resistance.

Diversity Done Right

Often, one hears complaints about forced diversity in shows. Casting and stories are done based on check boxes, meaning fans of a series may find characters race or gender swapped…or worse. Too often in modern shows or movies, white people are bad, especially if they are male. Female characters are turned into Mary Sue types ’cause “female empowerment”. (That is, if they know how to even define the term “woman”.) And then trash stories are constructed around this forced diversity and “The Message”. When fans complain, they are branded as racist, misogynist, and more.

The Expanse

And yet, these same fans love The Expanse. I have to say, The Expanse has the most diverse casting I have EVER seen. And you know what? It doesn’t matter. You see, in this series, traditional racial elements are not a thing. There’s Earth, Mars, and The Belt. Within these three factions, there has been a lot more racial intermingling. This is reflected in the casting. As such, we just see people, not races. There are powerful women in this series, but not at the expense of putting down men.

That said, discrimination, prejudice,  and bigotry are still issues in this future universe. However, rather than be on racial levels, it is between Earth, Mars, and The Belt. These three factions have a profound distrust and dislike of each other. Further, Martians can be prejudice against emigrants from Earth, feeling the emigrant’s loyalty might be more with Earth than Mars. Belters can be prejudice against their own people, especially if a Belter has worked with Earth or Mars at any level.

Mostly Realistic Space Elements

One of the impressive parts of The Expanse is its realistic portrayal of space travel and space combat. This isn’t Star Wars or Star Trek. There are no shields and no deflectors for ships. As such, in combat, an exploding ship is massively dangerous as the debris from the ship can penetrate the hull of other ships, killing folks inside and damaging said ship. Further, if the battle was in orbit of some planetoid or asteroid, the wreckage could severely damage or destroy living domes on the surface.

The fictitious, Epstein Drives allow ships to burn continuously, thus allowing them to achieve high rates of speed and a sort of artificial gravity. Yet to decelerate, ships have to flip and approach their destinations in reverse. As such, zero gravity is a thing and there are dangers with that as well. Should a ship decelerate too quickly (for whatever reason), folks are going to be slammed into bulkheads if they aren’t strapped down. And in zero-G, internal bleeding is pretty much a death sentence.

On the other hand, excessive G-forces are also an issue if a ship is attempting to flee an area. One could pass out or die if not careful, even with the fictitious injections they take to try to mitigate things.

Basically, I love how the show portrays space travel. One one hand, it is very cool. On the other, it is very dangerous.

Final Thoughts

I know there are a few, minor spoilers in this review. However, I don’t think anything there would ruin the show. if you haven’t checked out The Expanse, I highly recommend it. It is very gripping with good characters to boot. And it is why I don’t have a proper anime or manga blog post today!

 

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