Must See TV, Indeed!

I've talked about The Expanse, before; a book series, written by James S. A. Corey, that deals with intersecting storylines surrounding events that begin with the disappearance of a wealthy dilettante and the destruction of a cargo ship, and ends with... well, given that it's a still-ongoing series, and given what's happened in the series up until this point, it's hard to say where it's going to end.  Though given how quickly things spiral out of control once it really gets going, it's safe to say that it's certainly not going to end with anything that looks all that much like where we started.  The Expanse is brilliant, it's massive, it's detail oriented without being impenetrable, and it's vast without losing track of those all-important human relationships.  It's definitely one of the best book series I've read in a long time.

And now, it's one of the best television shows I've seen in a long time, too.

This actually slipped under my radar, a fact I blame in no small part on how busy the Christmas season is at work, and the fact that I've basically abandoned watching broadcast television at this point.  If it doesn't come up on a blog or news media site, I don't really hear about it, and apparently the places I frequent just weren't covering this.  Well, that, or I'd forgotten what 'The Expanse' refers to, since when I did first hear about it I was briefly confused as to whether it was the series or just the first entry that went under the Leviathan Wakes heading.  So yes, that may be part of it.

That said, once I learned of its existence, I devoured the first four episodes in an afternoon, and waited impatiently for the fifth to makes its appearance.  The show is, honestly, fantastic.  The characters are beautifully cast, with particular praise going to the work of Steven Strait as Jim Holden and Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata.  The former's simple earnestness and the latter's unsympathetic pragmatism are pitch-perfect to their book counterparts.  Shohreh Aghdashloo's turn as Chrisjen Avasrala is likewise strong, though since she doesn't actually appear in the first book there's nothing to compare her against, and Thomas Jane's Detective Miller, while not what I initially pictured for him, is really growing on me.  The actors are given tight scripts to work with, with good dialogue and interpersonal moments, along with silent periods during which they can stretch their non-vocal range, something that Wes Chatham's Amos is particularly nailing.  That man does a lot with just a look, which is good, because Amos is a man who lets his actions speak for him.

As an adaptation of the story The Expanse is not only faithful but actually improves on the original presentation, using the larger canvas of a multi-episode television serial to flesh out the wider universe, introducing characters like the aforementioned Chrisenjen earlier, to let them more fully participate in the system-wide unfolding plot, and expanding greatly on things like Miller's associates in Star Helix to help grow the world around the characters.  Apparently the book's writers (James S.A. Corey is a pseudonym for a pair of authors working together) have even consulted with the show's writers, to help make sure that the non-book elements line up with what the characters 'should' have been doing during that time, which helps preserve the feel of the characters as they transfer mediums.

And, as you saw from the trailer, it's just freaking gorgeous, too.  SyFy has gone all out on The Expanse, to the point that, during the first episode, I was genuinely concerned that some plot elements weren't going to unfold as expected; surely, I thought to myself, they wouldn't have spent so much on sets, crafted such fantastic props and background elements, on something that's not going to be on screen much longer?  But no, SyFy didn't skimp on what I can't help but suspect is going to be their flagship series for the immediate future, to the point where there are multiple zero-g scenes per episode, something that must add monumentally to the budget.  And boy, was it money well spent.

The Expanse is fantastic television, and I absolutely recommend it to anyone looking for smart characters, beautiful sets, and a gripping story that keeps you wanting more.

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