The Expanse is a thriller set two hundred years in the future, after mankind has colonized the solar system. A hardened detective (Thomas Jane, Hung) and a rogue ship's captain (Steven Strait, Magic City) come together for what starts as the case of a missing young woman and evolves into a race across the solar system to expose the greatest conspiracy in human history.
The same elements that make 'Game of Thrones' such an enjoyable and addictive television show are the exact same things that make 'The Expanse' so great. Based on the popular series of science fiction books by James S. A. Corey, 'The Expanse' weaves an intricate universe, peppers it with great characters, and wraps it in intriguing political dilemmas.
Two-hundred years in the future, the human race has colonized much of the known solar system. The Earth and Moon (now known as Luna) are under the rule of the United Nations. Mars is currently in the process of being terraformed, and known as a military power throughout the system. Finally, there are those people living in different outposts on the asteroid belt. This separation of humans has created very different societies mainly Earthers, Martians, and Belters.
Much like 'Game of Thrones' where the politics are rich and murky, the same can be said for 'The Expanse.' Here the politics that bind these three disparate societies together is satisfyingly complex. Belters spend their time mining much-needed minerals from the asteroid belt and shipping them to Earth and Mars. Earth provides the water for the Belter outposts, but because naturally water is in high demand farther out. Earth maintains a strict hold over the Belters, restricting them to water rations. Naturally, this doesn't go over well with them.
A splinter group of Belters, called the OPA, has taken it upon themselves to fight for Belter rights. Whether they're terrorists or not remains fuzzy. This is why the narrative is so great. There are so many gray areas. So many ways in which these varying factions interact and so many outcomes that can be had.
As the series begins we're following three distinct storylines. Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is a detective working for the police force, Star Helix, at the Ceres station. At first Miller comes off as a stereotypical gumshoe from any P.I. novel, but we soon realize there's a lot more to him. He's searching for a missing woman who seems to be connected to just about everything that's going on. Then there's a team of Belter miners, led by Jim Holden (Steven Strait) who happen upon a stranded ship in the middle of nowhere. Foul play seems likely. Finally, back on Earth U.N. administrator Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is trying desperately to figure out what the OPA is up to and why they are in possession of classified stealth ship technology.
I hesitate to elaborate more on what happens in just the first few episodes, simply because figuring out how all the pieces fit together is part of the fun. The way these three factions push and shove against each other is just so much fun. The history and intricate ideals of each faction make the entire universe that's been created a believable one.
It's impossible not to compare 'The Expanse' to 'Game of Thrones' because both shows have created complexly intertwined universes without delving into worn clichés. Everything from the futuristic technology to the storied interactions between each political force makes it such a satisfying show.
I haven't read the books, but I've heard they are just as complex and thoughtful. That certainly carries over here. Frankly I'm surprised that a show this smart and involved is being produced by the SyFy Channel, you know the same channel that brings you multiple Sharknados.
This was one of my favorite new shows of 2015 and it really deserves your attention if it's something you haven't gotten to yet.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This is a 2-disc set. The season has 10 episodes with each disc housing five episodes. The discs are packaged in a standard Blu-ray keepcase that comes with a slipcover and a code for a Digital Copy. It must be noted that the menu home screen provided by SyFy and Universal is infuriating. All that's present are small simple icons from which you must infer their meaning. It's confusing to say the least.
The 1080p presentation of 'The Expanse' outdoes its broadcast counterpart in just about every way. I watched the show as it aired on SyFy, and I can assuredly say that the Blu-ray is definitely the premiere way to experience this show.
Detail is top-notch. Close-up shots are absolutely chock-full of fine detail. Mid- and long-range shots are just as detailed and revealing. The special effects are great too. That's the real standout piece of this series. The special effects look cinematic. Here the high definition only enhances the graphics and doesn't call attention to any hokey, low-budget stuff.
In the broadcast version of the show I noticed banding around spaceship boosters and the blackness of space never really appeared to be inky. Here, however, that banding is nowhere to be seen. Likewise the vacuum of outer space is as black and foreboding as one would imagine. Just a fine video presentation all around.
It's hard to say, but I'd be willing to be that the DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track outdoes its video counterpart. This has got to be one of the most immersive and satisfying television Blu-rays I've ever experienced.
Surround channels are constantly active. Panning effects are aplenty. As ships move from one side of the screen to another the sound originates behind the listener, and then gradually moves forward as the ship fills the frame, and then the sound continues to whichever side the ship is flying. Pinpoint precision is taking place in these panning effects and its evident every single time.
Bass is equally nice. Explosions are sufficiently deep and rumbling. There are plenty of opportunities for LFE to play a role here. Everything from the show's soundtrack to spaceship battle provides fantastic, deep LFE. Dialogue is crystal clear. Directionality is precise. Again, this is one of the best TV tracks I've ever listened to on Blu-ray.
Universal and SyFy really missed the boat on this one. 'The Expanse' provided a prime opportunity for some wonderful special features. Commentaries, discussions about adapting the source material, or how about in-depth looks at the special effects? Sadly, the only special features provided are three throwaway deleted scenes. That's it. Inexcusable for such a great, innovative show.
Deleted Scenes (HD, 2 min.) – "Dulcinea" These three deleted scenes are located on the first disc and are only two minutes long. Every one of them are extended expositional conversations between Detective Miller and his partner Havelock (Jay Hernandez).
'The Expanse' is a thrilling, multifaceted show that promises to become only more intricate as it progresses. It was one of my favorite new shows in 2015. With strong video and stellar audio, this one is recommended. It would be highly recommended if Universal and SyFy had put any thought whatsoever into the supplment package.