15 votes

So ... The Expanse

Looks like Tildes hasn't discussed this show for a year or two. I just finished binge-watching the first 5 seasons (I'm hoping there is a Season 6 in the offing), and of course, I now feel like discussing it. This thread is wide open to whatever anyone wants to bring up about the series. But my first question for people is this--

Did anyone notice any significant change in quality after Amazon took it over? If so, better or worse? How?

For me, somewhere around Season 3 or 4, it felt like the story quality declined. Not that it's "bad" in any way ... just that it got less original, more like traditional series plot devices. And that could just be me, or that--in general--even the best shows tend to lose some of their edge after the first few seasons ... or maybe they're just following the books (never read 'em) and this is how the books went.

But, yeah ... it's turning into a nicer, more nuanced Stargate ... the Good Guys trying to save humanity from The Terrorist Mastermind ... the Evil Post-Soviet Empire conspiring to help said Terrorist, etc. They even had Snidely Whiplash tying the poor girl to the railroad tracks.

I'm obviously over-simplifying here; it is still an excellent show ... just, like I said; it started to feel less original. I'm wondering if that's just my impression, and if not, do we know that it's an "Amazon" thing, or what?

27 comments

  1. [4]
    Loire
    Link
    With a few minor differences the show follows the books almost exactly, including the "Snidely Whiplash bit". What you have to understand is that the books, and ultimately the show, aren't really...

    With a few minor differences the show follows the books almost exactly, including the "Snidely Whiplash bit".

    What you have to understand is that the books, and ultimately the show, aren't really about the protomolecule, or alien technology, or the other planets, or even space. It's about humanity, and all that extra stuff is a device. The story is about how no matter how far we go, no matter what technology we have, humans stay the same. We keep bringing our problems with us no matter where we go. The Protomolecule species plot line (which I don't think the show is actually getting into since it's ending next year), is a mirror of humanity's, or what could happen to humanity. They killed themselves with internal strife and ultimately disappeared. Every book's plot hinges on this, they explore some facet of human existence and it's self destructive ticks.

    The "one dimensional villain", by whom I assume you mean Inaros isn't a "Terrorist Mastermind". His people, tens of millions of them, have been deeply abused by Earth, and increasingly Mars, for multiple generations, veering on centuries so that the inner planets can thrive on the belts resources while the belters live in squalor. Remember the Anderson Station flashback with Fred in season 1? Where an Earth battleship killed hundreds of Belters for the audacity of striking over poor living conditions? And not only do they live terrible lives but they have no way to ameliorate the problem. Most Belters simply can't live on a planet anymore. Even if they worked hard, played by all the rules, stayed out of trouble, nothing will ever change for them because their physiology simply can't deal with significant gravity. And now hundreds of habitable planets open up, with their myriad of resources, and the belters are largely locked out.

    So Inaros, like a hundred revolutionaries before him in our history, wants to change this and make life better for his people. But, again like hundreds of revolutionaries before him, all he knows is violence and the abuse placed on him and his people, he doesn't know when it's time to stop destroying and start building. He doesn't know when it's time to build bridges and makes concessions, everyone against him must be against the belt, because isn't he doing this all for the belt? His grew up in a system where he was abused and manipulated so all he knows is to abuse and manipulate.

    The two books where the Inaros plot takes place are widely considered the two best in the series, and while I wouldn't say that about this season, they haven't really diverged much from the books in terms of overall plot structure.

    Overall, for me, the quality increased drastically from season 3 to 4. I, largely consider season 4 to be the best from a purely, cinematic, acting, and production perspective. The fourth book is widely considered the "worst" in the series and the fact that they turned it into one of the best seasons in the show is astounding.

    Ultimately the fact that they aren't going to be able to do the ending of the story justice (there are 4 books left and they are only doing one more season) is disappointing. There's no way to wrap up Inaros and do the Laconia (martian splinter faction) story justice in one season, let alone wrapping up the Protomolecule mysteries.

    15 votes
    1. Autoxidation
      Link Parent
      I heartily agree with all of this. Season 4 is very strong and the show's budget definitely increased under Amazon. The move was 100% for the better. I found season 5 to be very enjoyable, though...

      I heartily agree with all of this. Season 4 is very strong and the show's budget definitely increased under Amazon. The move was 100% for the better.

      I found season 5 to be very enjoyable, though it felt a little slow in the latter half of the episodes up until the finale. The show is extremely well done and one of the best scifis we've had in many years.

      5 votes
  2. [6]
    spctrvl
    Link
    Yeah, I haven't even finished the fifth season (though that's mainly because they decided to drip feed it to us rather than releasing all at once, I hate that shit), but I think I totally agree...

    Yeah, I haven't even finished the fifth season (though that's mainly because they decided to drip feed it to us rather than releasing all at once, I hate that shit), but I think I totally agree with you on the show's relative decline. The villains have been one dimensional and uninteresting, and none of the plot threads have caught my interest, I'm just finding myself getting bored of it.

    I'm honestly kind of glad you posted this, since I am baffled by the last two seasons' reviews being better than the first three. I'm beginning to think I just have substantially different tastes than most people, because I felt the exact same way about For All Mankind season 2, and RWBY for that matter, and I have just not seen many people share similar opinions.

    7 votes
    1. [2]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      You've put into words a lot of my thoughts on The Expanse here much better than I could. The plots just don't catch me. Seasons one, two and three were engaging. The seasons after just don't get...

      You've put into words a lot of my thoughts on The Expanse here much better than I could. The plots just don't catch me. Seasons one, two and three were engaging. The seasons after just don't get me on board. I think the show can be salvaged, but only if that happens in the start of the next season.

      (Season two of For All Mankind started out poorly. The last couple of episodes have been on par with much of season one as far as I'm concerned. It's the stuff regarding an alternate past and how that impacts society that's much more engaging to me than the specific astronauts/characters.)

      3 votes
      1. spctrvl
        Link Parent
        Yeah, I'll definitely post a thread here about season 2 when it's done airing (I haven't seen the latest two episodes yet), but I'm so far disappointed that we have this timeline that's starting...

        Yeah, I'll definitely post a thread here about season 2 when it's done airing (I haven't seen the latest two episodes yet), but I'm so far disappointed that we have this timeline that's starting to diverge more and more significantly, and we get to experience it through the broad perspectives of... a dozen characters who all know each other, all work in the same place, and were all introduced by like the third episode.

        Like, don't get me wrong, I like them, and it worked well in season one where most of the divergence was to do directly with NASA, but it's starting to feel very constraining to focus so much on the psychological struggles of all these people when you've got this huge new world unfurling in the background. Related to that but more minor, I also think there's a bit too much 80's nostalgia without the consideration that this is a very different 80's with, among other things, a continued energy crisis, no three mile island, and an entirely distinct geopolitical situation including a resurgent Soviet Union. I think by rights if should feel culturally more like our mid 70's than our mid 80's. And our timeline's design by committee space shuttle has no business existing there, let alone going to the moon.

        1 vote
    2. [2]
      babypuncher
      Link Parent
      I like the drip feed, mostly for the social aspects. I dislike it when a whole new season drops all at once and I can't take part in the online discussions because people are already talking about...

      I like the drip feed, mostly for the social aspects. I dislike it when a whole new season drops all at once and I can't take part in the online discussions because people are already talking about the last few episodes.

      Releasing the episodes once a week solves this problem. It also facilitates more in-depth discussion of individual episodes, and allows fan theories to flourish and fizzle out during a season's run, which I find to be a lot of fun.

      2 votes
      1. spctrvl
        Link Parent
        I don't really engage with online fandom, not since game of thrones anyway, so that might be why we disagree. Personally I can't tell you how many shows I've fallen out of because I caught up to...

        I don't really engage with online fandom, not since game of thrones anyway, so that might be why we disagree. Personally I can't tell you how many shows I've fallen out of because I caught up to the release schedule and never went back to finish.

        1 vote
    3. tesseractcat
      Link Parent
      I feel the same way about some very well received shows, like Dark, or Mr. Robot, but I have to say that I think the Marco Inaros plotline has been my favorite of the whole series. Despite that,...

      I feel the same way about some very well received shows, like Dark, or Mr. Robot, but I have to say that I think the Marco Inaros plotline has been my favorite of the whole series. Despite that, it's really frustrating when I watch a show and feel it's quality has significantly declined and yet no-one else seems to notice or comment on it, so I appreciate comments like this.

  3. [3]
    oryx
    Link
    I've enjoyed the show for what it is. I have read all the books so I always knew where the story was going to go before I watched it. I enjoy how they fleshed out all the supporting characters...

    I've enjoyed the show for what it is. I have read all the books so I always knew where the story was going to go before I watched it. I enjoy how they fleshed out all the supporting characters story lines. In book 1 you only get Holden's and Miller's perspectives, none of the other characters are all that developed. I think my favourite part of the show is how they've developed Amos. Dude has done a stand up job filling that character out.

    It's funny that people think that the show has declined since Amazon took over. I don't think season 4 or 5 would have had the budget to do them justice without Amazon backing them. You can complain about how the story went all you want, but the show doesn't really deviate from their book counterparts on a macro level.

    Anyways, like has been said, it's a fun watch. It doesn't have to be too deep, and I don't think it's really trying to be. The books have that same "good guys get in trouble but always miraculously make it out alive" kind of vibe that the show does. It's not particularly thought-provoking sci-fi but it's been really visually stunning these last two seasons.

    6 votes
    1. [2]
      sharpstick
      Link Parent
      It's good to know that you enjoy the show even though you have read the books. I got bogged down in season 3 since it was just mostly "spaceships, but what if they don't move very much and just...

      It's good to know that you enjoy the show even though you have read the books. I got bogged down in season 3 since it was just mostly "spaceships, but what if they don't move very much and just yell at each other." But I may pick it back up again.

      1. oryx
        Link Parent
        I definitely found there were moments in the show where the writing/acting was just straight up bad. But I guess because the books aren't full of literary prose or super nuanced characters it...

        I definitely found there were moments in the show where the writing/acting was just straight up bad. But I guess because the books aren't full of literary prose or super nuanced characters it didn't bug me too much. Like I said, I knew what to expect going in.

  4. Parliament
    Link
    The Expanse has a deus ex machina problem, but I still enjoy it because I don’t really get my expectations too high. I wish they had explored more of the worlds through the rings in season 5 like...

    The Expanse has a deus ex machina problem, but I still enjoy it because I don’t really get my expectations too high. I wish they had explored more of the worlds through the rings in season 5 like they did in 4. That world-building was fascinating to me. I’ll try not to say too much more since not everyone here is caught up.

    3 votes
  5. [3]
    Apos
    Link
    I wanted to like it. I watched all the season except the 5th. In the 4th season, I was cheering for the bad guy (Adolphus Murtry)... I really wish we visited Mars earlier. I really disliked the...

    I wanted to like it. I watched all the season except the 5th. In the 4th season, I was cheering for the bad guy (Adolphus Murtry)...

    I really wish we visited Mars earlier.

    I really disliked the drama between Jim Holden and Naomi Nagata. That might be a huge part of why I dropped out. I liked Amos Burton's character development though.

    2 votes
    1. [2]
      drannex
      Link Parent
      You dropped out at the worst time, S5 is primarily all about his character development!

      . I liked Amos Burton's character development though.

      You dropped out at the worst time, S5 is primarily all about his character development!

      2 votes
      1. Apos
        Link Parent
        I might have to give it a bit more of a chance.

        I might have to give it a bit more of a chance.

        1 vote
  6. Eric_the_Cerise
    Link
    Meta-back-reference to an older discussion about the show, and specifically ... about The Hat. Consensus seemed to be that it was a lame rip-off of Bogart and film noir. My personal impression was...

    Meta-back-reference to an older discussion about the show, and specifically ... about The Hat.

    Consensus seemed to be that it was a lame rip-off of Bogart and film noir. My personal impression was that this was the character's idea. There were only a few minor hints at this in the series, but I definitely felt like the character himself had some romanticized notion of the old Mike Hammer style of detectives, and that the hat was, like, his personal tribute to it.

    1 vote
  7. DeFaced
    Link
    I like it, I’m on season 3 and so far it’s been very good IMO. Is it anything special? Nah, but it does a few things that not many shows do, like the fact that there’s no “warp drive” or some...

    I like it, I’m on season 3 and so far it’s been very good IMO. Is it anything special? Nah, but it does a few things that not many shows do, like the fact that there’s no “warp drive” or some other plot device to provide space travel to humans. Just some guy buying up an old ship and tweaking it until it’s incredibly fast. There’s been a huge lack of quality sci-fi television and the expanse is a breath of fresh air. The only other shows i can think of are Star Trek discovery, Picard and the mandolorian. Discovery didn’t really intrigue me that much and Picard doesn’t have very good reviews, and mando well, it’s Star Wars so it’s entertaining but nothing too thought provoking. The expanse is just good sci-fi.

    1 vote
  8. [2]
    smithsonian
    Link
    I've enjoyed it. It definitely ended up being a different show than I expected. The best description I heard is that it's "Game of Thrones, but in space." I would have enjoyed a story that dug...

    I've enjoyed it. It definitely ended up being a different show than I expected. The best description I heard is that it's "Game of Thrones, but in space." I would have enjoyed a story that dug deeper into the Ring Builders and protomolecule, but the story we got, instead, is also good.

    My workplace-proximity-acquaintance (work friend) has read the books, so he's helped fill in some of the gaps for me in the shows, explain things that are kind of skimmed over in the show, and tell me about plot lines played it in the show vs. the books. One of these days, when I have more time and my toddler is a bit more self sufficient, I would like to read the series. But my reading (and game) backlog is quite full, as it is.

    I think the most curious thing, to me, is that the show is only going to have one more season, but there are a number of books left in the series. For the most part, one season has roughly equaled one book (though some plot lines and story arcs were pulled and pushed around to better support the pacing of the show), so it will be interesting to see how they wrap up the show story.

    1 vote
    1. NoblePath
      Link Parent
      If your parenting experience is like mine, by the time you have time for this you’ll be too fat and too tired to get up and do it. My kids are elementary school age. I’m already tired pretty much...

      my reading (and game) backlog is quite full, as it is.

      If your parenting experience is like mine, by the time you have time for this you’ll be too fat and too tired to get up and do it.

      My kids are elementary school age. I’m already tired pretty much all the time, getting fatter by the minute, and what i see coming is even less time because of carting the little bundles all over town for activities.

      1 vote
  9. onyxleopard
    Link
    For me, The Expanse changed significantly after the first season. The first season had a bunch of separate plot threads and had the space-noire detective thing going with Miller that I really...

    For me, The Expanse changed significantly after the first season. The first season had a bunch of separate plot threads and had the space-noire detective thing going with Miller that I really enjoyed.

    I haven't read the books, so I don't know if the original author crafted the genre switch from space-noire to space-opera into the books. I felt like season 4 also delved into space-western a little bit. They tried to rekindle the space-noire thing with Bobby Draper's investigation of the weapons smuggling from the MCR to the Belt in season 5, but it didn't land as well for me.

    While I like the show overall, and there have been some characters I've enjoyed a lot, including Miller, Avasarala, Bobby, Johnson, Dawes, Ashford, and Drummer, I unfortunately haven't really enjoyed the perspective of the main crew as much as what's going on around them. I think that was mainly a casting issue. I feel like Steven Strait's Holden is rather milquetoast. Dominique Tipper's Naomi is pretty good sometimes, but I noticed a change in her in season 5 where she kept snapping between total despair, anger, and nonchalance. Her emotions were believable, but the rapid snapping from one to another felt like there was a temporal discontinuity (maybe that was due to some of the rewriting they did due to Cas Anvar's Alex being written out?). Chatham's Amos is OK, but I also felt like the spotlight on him in season 5 showed some weaknesses in his performance.

    Overall, I like the show, but it's got some flaws. It's enjoyable, but not top tier TV like The Sopranos or Better Call Saul, IMO.

    1 vote
  10. [5]
    schwartz
    Link
    I tried so hard to like it but I couldn't make it through the first season. I found it really boring and full of tropes. It kind of shocked me how bad it was. I love science fiction, but I...

    I tried so hard to like it but I couldn't make it through the first season. I found it really boring and full of tropes.

    It kind of shocked me how bad it was. I love science fiction, but I couldn't find much to like about the expanse. Maybe I didn't give it long enough, but if a show is that boring 7 episodes in, how long do you slog through?

    1 vote
    1. Loire
      Link Parent
      I would suggest maybe the show just isn't for you. Everyone I have introduced to the show loved it after episode ~3 (whichever episode the Donny appears). If it's still not tickling you post...

      I would suggest maybe the show just isn't for you.

      Everyone I have introduced to the show loved it after episode ~3 (whichever episode the Donny appears). If it's still not tickling you post Donnager then there's no r ason to continue on.

      3 votes
    2. Amarok
      Link Parent
      I had the exact same reaction to it. My inner nerd was grumbling 'not another depressing as fuck military scifi dystopia' but I stuck with it because there was fuck all else to watch and everyone...

      I had the exact same reaction to it. My inner nerd was grumbling 'not another depressing as fuck military scifi dystopia' but I stuck with it because there was fuck all else to watch and everyone was plugging it as being decent. I also know that every scifi series either has a terrible first season or is cancelled after an excellent first season... so I stuck around even though my eyes were rolling at times.

      Something happens towards the end of season two that changes the... scope of the story. It has its 'growing the beard' moment just like most worthy scifi. That was when the series landed my enthusiasm. I've enjoyed it since, though it's had some rough spots and slow spots. It hasn't jumped the shark, but the shark is a bit tired and still has a long way to go in just one season.

      1 vote
    3. [2]
      Eric_the_Cerise
      Link Parent
      I went thru that with Buffy. Famous Joss Whedon series; all the geeks love it. I watched a few episodes, it sucked. All my geek friends said, "ya gotta watch more, it gets better". I watched the...

      I went thru that with Buffy. Famous Joss Whedon series; all the geeks love it. I watched a few episodes, it sucked. All my geek friends said, "ya gotta watch more, it gets better". I watched the entire 1st Season, still sucked. The geek friends said, 2nd Season gets better. I watched it, still sucked. The geek friends said, no, 3rd Season is really where it gets good.

      Screw that. I figure one full Season is more than enough, barring some really extenuating circumstances.

      1. MonkeyPants
        Link Parent
        There is something incredibly clarifying about having friends or family love something that you do not. My partner watched Buffy. So I watched it. (This was back before everyone could stream their...

        There is something incredibly clarifying about having friends or family love something that you do not.

        My partner watched Buffy. So I watched it. (This was back before everyone could stream their own thing.)

        If I had only watched one episode, I might be luke warm about Buffy

        But I kept watching it. Until I realized Buffy was an irreconcilable difference of tastes.

        Some shows I immediately dislike.

        Other shows, I learn to dislike.

        I learned to dislike Buffy with a passion.