The Expanse may not be the most well-known sci-fi TV series right now—that’d have to be The Mandalorian, right?—but it’s certainly the one that feels the most real. The most human. The most… expansive.
While describing The Expanse’s endless twists and turns would be a near-impossible task for anybody, it’s those exact twists and turns that make the show utterly addictive and unique.
Bluntly put: The Expanse is like no other sci-fi TV series ever made, and its total originality and “hard sci-fi” approach combine to make it the best sci-fi TV series in the world.
If you aren’t watching The Expanse, you need to give it a shot—especially if you’re a fan of science fiction. Here’s why it’s so great and how to start watching it.
The Expanse Is Truly Epic in Scale
There aren’t many TV series—whether sci-fi or whatever else—that can boast the kind of scale that The Expanse has. Despite its sci-fi flavor, The Expanse has more in common with sprawling shows like Game of Thrones and The Wire than The Mandalorian.
It starts off small, of course, as we follow a rogue band of lovable misfits who are initially forced together but soon realize that they have a great bond with one another.
There are three other plotlines as well: a space detective who’s desperately trying to find a missing young woman, a high-level politician on Earth who’s fighting for peace, and the subjugated miners of The Belt who are tired of being ruled by both Earth and Mars.
It all ties together with the discovery of The Protomolecule, which becomes the main drive behind the plot of the entire series.
The narrative scale in season one is already large, but it’s never more than the show can handle. The Expanse’s great strength is the way it brings all of these elements together, allowing them to collide in just the right ways for maximum tension and drama.
The Expanse Is Intricate and Balanced
It’s rare enough to find a TV series that’s as ambitious as this one, and near impossible to find a TV series that tackles its ambitions with as much finesse, restraint, and skill as this one.
Because The Expanse has so many different intersecting plot threads, you’d think it’d be easy to lose yourself to boredom while waiting for certain plot arcs to progress. Certain large-scale shows are happy to spin plates for several episodes, but The Expanse isn’t one of them.
Every detail connects in important ways, and every piece of dialogue informs or affects what happens ahead. The Expanse strikes the perfect narrative balance, simultaneously burning through plot arcs while leaving threads hanging for the long game.
Sci-fi TV series often have good guys and bad guys—the heroes and the villains—but The Expanse offers a fully realized world with a million shades of grey. Nobody is perfect, and you may even find yourself rooting for different sides throughout the series.
The Expanse Is Deeply Human
One of the greatest aspects of The Expanse is that it’s a show packed with characters who are all individuals with their own motivations, goals, and flaws. Everyone in The Expanse is human.
We mean that both figuratively and literally. There are no aliens in The Expanse. Sure, there are different human factions across the Solar System, but they’re all human. You won’t find any beings from other planets—it’s just mankind at its best and worst.
And it’s that core humanity that sets The Expanse apart. These fleshed-out characters all act in ways that are deeply human, and we as viewers can understand why they do what they do. Beneath the spaceships and technology, the show is about mankind’s dual potential for great destruction and profound heroism.
By contrast, other sci-fi TV shows often come with an emotional disconnect when alien beings are involved. There are no “good races” and “evil races” in The Expanse; everyone is the hero of their own human story, and those stories collide in fascinating ways.
The Expanse Speaks to Social Issues
The Expanse is keen to show that, despite colonizing large parts of the Solar System, mankind’s social structures—that have existed since the beginning of civilization—still exist in space.
Systemic distrust and brutal treatment of outsider social groups still grip the Solar System. Earth is a fading power, clinging to the ideals that sent mankind out into space; Mars represents a new empire rising from the shackles once imposed by Earth; The Belt is a refuge for lowly workers who yearn to be free from tyranny.
No other sci-fi TV series demonstrates the inequality of man quite like The Expanse. The show makes it clear that every power has a driving motivation and every agenda has a rationale behind it. Those motives will always clash, resulting in winners and losers.
Thinking of the political landscape of our own time, The Expanse still has those same root issues and tensions, only 300 years in the future. This is what lends such a realistic feel to The Expanse.
We may secretly hope for that idyllic image of mankind banding together as one to explore space, but The Expanse confronts us with the pathetic truth: that we almost certainly wouldn’t.
The Expanse is a grandiose work about humanity’s flaws, social issues, and the dangers of power abuse. See, I told you at the beginning, didn’t I? The Expanse has more in common with Game of Thrones and The Wire than any sci-fi TV series.
How to Start Watching The Expanse
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While The Expanse was originally produced and aired by SyFy, it was canceled after its third season. Fortunately, Amazon rescued it from the jaws of death—because of how much Jeff Bezos loves the series—and all five seasons can be streamed on Amazon Prime Video.
The sixth and final season of The Expanse will arrive in 2022, so use this time to catch up! You’ll be happy you did, we guarantee it.