THE EXPANSE. Is it really ‘Game of Thrones in space?’
I won’t make you read the whole article for the answer even though I’m a dick that way sometimes.
No, it’s not Game of Thrones in space. Not even close. It’s much more a mix of Firefly and Star Trek: TN. WTF Mord? Sorry, put it in your pipe and smoke it. Now allow me to tell you why I think you’ll like it anyway. Bitter goons. When the credits rolled and I saw ‘Bitter Goon 1, 2, and 3,’ I grinned. Who doesn’t like world-building rich with bitter goons? But, but…..
“Game of Thrones in space,” the commercial said!
“Bullshit,” I say.
While it’s true G.R.R. Martin’s name does appear on screen (editorial comment only), there’s no incestuous sex, no cruel spoiled super-powerful brats, no dragons, no dire wolves, no lions-stags-or any mythical beast… nor does Sean Bean die in it. THE EXPANSE does have something Game of Thrones does not: TWO talented writers combined under the same pen name James S.A. Corey, who are responsible for creating an interesting (even though at times a touch generic) grim idea for what our solar system may look like in the future.
Let me begin with this anecdote. I described THE EXPANSE to #TeamMcGhee this past weekend after I’d caught up on Season One. I couldn’t help but give them the whole picture as I saw it. After a few minutes of describing the flimsy premise and wobbly first two episodes, I convinced them (and myself perhaps) of something I hadn’t realized at first: Hey, I thought. I like the Expanse anyway. It’s not bad and I liked Firefly.
Team McGhee laughed.
They told me, “I thought you said The Expanse was good? Doesn’t sound so good.”
That was the moment I understood there was enough good to outweigh the heavy nerdy-techno speak. I’ll give one brief explanation of what I mean by ‘flimsy and wobbly’ but then let it go. It’s the way the producers went and you either go with it or you bail. Here’s my take.
A group of deep space workers (Pur N Kleen) spend the first two episodes investigating an S.O.S. signal (ignore the periods, it’s not evident why the writers used them yet). The SOS came from a ghost ship filled with dead, floating bodies. While onboard, a stealthy warship appears. It fires 3 torpedoes which pass the group’s shuttle and then blow up their mothership (The Canterbury… soon to be known as ‘The Cant’). The group now has no mothership and 50 friends are dead. They take space debris damage and are forced to climb around the exterior of their own shuttle to repair an antenna… all because they didn’t file a report or disclose location (or even hit their own S.O.S. button a hundred times) to the main corporation that owned the ships and had them working in deep space in the first place.
I want to tell you about some of the cool.
James S.A. Corey gets something which most writers don’t get: Utopia is garbage. Star Trek is a great example. I’m sorry, get upset if you like and feel empowered to call me an asshole that doesn’t know what I’m talking about. Here’s the thing… you can’t point out one period (no matter how brief) in humankind’s history where we’ve had anything even vaguely resembling utopia. The hard reality is that it’s not dystopia to think history repeats itself. Game of Thrones gets it and so does THE EXPANSE. We’ve always been shitheads, we’ll always be shitheads. More people die every day doing crappy jobs than they do in wars around the world. It’s a fact of life that almost 5000 men and women (yeah, look it up… OSHA has a live scroll) continue to die in the U.S. every year since the early ’70s and implementation of OSHA… (AND THAT’S ONLY THE U.S. of A. people…) but utopian future writers ignore this truth.
That’s where The Expanse kicks ass.
Enter shitheads of all walks of life.
Dictators. Terrorists. Greedy corporations. Liars. Cheaters. BITTER GOONS(1-2-and 3 baby). Backstabbers. People dying on the job all over the universe for a few bucks. That’s right, the same scum that’s been around since the first monkey on this stupid planet picked up a stick and beat another monkey until his brains popped out of his bloody little skull. That’s not dystopia, that’s good writing.
The main characters are a complex combination of terrorists (such as Dominique Tipper), soldiers (Cas Anvar), hardboiled cops (Thomas Jane), master politicians (Shohreh Aghdashloo), determined labor (Jared Harris), innocent children, and many more. Much of the series first season takes place in a neutral space station (Ceres) where the ‘Low-G people’ have evolved after a hundred years of working in deep space. They mostly harness water (more highly valued than gold) because somebody has to. The long-term effect of gravity on the body has changed arms, legs, torsos, etcetera into long, slender (and alien) parts. It’s a nice addition to the intrigue and politics. I find myself often looking at the actors and thinking… ooh that’s a Low G or no, he’s not one.
I don’t love the technology in the show but it’s not the most important factor. Who cares if the future population still has smart phones (clear ones, but very similar to tech today). Who cares if everyone has suddenly become interested in politics instead of watching stupid ass television shows. Who cares if politicians are actually doing their jobs instead of hobnobbing with Mary Jane Monroe or the hot new Hollywood starlet… as if Hollywood disappears in the future. I say the twists, turns, and dramatic upheaval are plenty enough to make me come back for more. I know it’s not exactly horror television but there is enough dread with rich powerbrokers, OPA saboteurs, bitter goons(!) chanting ‘remember the Cant,’ and mutant Low-G’s to squeak into my definition; therefore The Horror Within Magazine. I give THE EXPANSE a solid 3 Great Cthulhus out of 5 and my hope is that it climbs over 4 with a strong season ending.
It’s also hanging in that awkward place that could also take a dump into the 2’s. So…
…until next time remember it’s not the clear plastic iPhone that makes the cop, it’s the tough guy hat covering a silly, futuristic hairdo.