HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Expanse: Season 1
HTS Overall Score:73
Shows that defy boundaries and strength the genre are few and far between. I remember watching “Babylon 5” as it aired and being amazed at the world building Michael Stracynski was able to create with a limited budget. The same thing could be said of “Farscape” and its constant serialization for a seemingly episodic premise. The Wachowski Brothers (or sisters I guess now) tried to do that with Michael Stracynski on their new show “Sense8”, however the show just had a novel concept and tried too hard so it just fell back into clichés and standard norms (albeit with a more “fluid” take on genders). However, while “Sense8” was trying SOOOOO hard to break down boundaries, “The Expanse” was doing so right under our very noses. Full of multi layered politics and motivations, “The Expanse” is a gritty show that makes you feel like you’re in a completely alien environment, even though all of the old familiar tropes are there in small doses.
The show centers on the idea that we’ve all grown older, but never really grown up. Earth has grown past its solar system and has put out Colonies on Mars and now on an asteroid belt to mine resources for the two planets. However, even though factions of humanity has come together, that doesn’t mean that our baser instincts for war and discord have been erased. Mars and Earth (which is run by the U.N.) are at odds with each other and a sort of cold war is in progress. The “belters” (those living in the asteroid belt and its subsequent space stations) are caught in the middle, mining supplies and basically supporting the wealth for both Mars and Earth. Mars is highly militarized and a BEAST on the warfare front, but the “Earthers” have the home field advantage of the highly advanced state of being on Earth while the “Dusters” live their lives on the hellish landscape of a red dust planet.
Politics aside, the entire delicately balanced co dependence the three factions has is about to come crashing down as it becomes very obvious that SOMEONE wants a war between the groups to happen. The OPA belters are an almost terrorist, almost freedom fighter group that wants more rights for the people who seat and toil for everyone else, while the cold and militarized Dusters arm themselves for what they consider to be an inevitable war.
What makes “The Expanse” work is not the sci-fi action, or the in depth politics, but rather the characters themselves and the extremely vivid environments and settings. Thomas Jane is gumshoe detective on one of the Belter bases, and he seems oddly out of place in the space setting. He looks and acts like a 1950’s detective and really could fit in anywhere you put him. He’s rough, tough and got his eyes set on a rich girl who’s gone missing. It seems like a simple side project for the detective, but this missing girl is actually the center of the entire conflict and all three sides want her equally. That is, if Thomas Jane’s Detective Joe Miller doesn’t get her first.
The show really encourages you to look closer and to soak in the environment. Watch the characters, how they interact with each other, and look at the parallels to our life. The future is here and while it may have some fancy upgrades on the surface, we really are the same people. Conflicts happen between factions, cell phones may be slimmer and cooler, but we still have accidents and crack the displays. People are angry about oppression, and those in power refuse to give up power. As much as it is a science fiction story with some great action and political intrigue, “The Expanse” takes a long hard look at humanity, and pokes us in the conscience as we try to “evolve” the best we can.
“The Expanse” borrows little bits from “Babylon 5”, “Battlestar Galactica” as well as just bending and twisting all sorts of genres into a pretzel knot and creates something unique and really good. The only real downside to the show is that it takes about 4 episodes out of the 10 before things really get going, but once they do the show doesn’t stop until the very end. An end that had my jaw handing down and REAALLY looking forward to the already announced season 2.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68650[/img]“The Expanse” tends to stick to a rather grim and dreary looking image that is rather flat and desaturated to boot. There are some complimentary blues and splashes of other primary colors, but most of the time we have a very grey and blue dominated landscape that is both inhospitable and off-putting at times. This is nothing to do with the encode, but rather accentuating the very noir style elements of the show. Blacks are ok, but sometimes suffer from crush, and the bleak color palette makes the viewer feel the oppressiveness of the locations. Earth is brighter and more colorful, but no less sterile and bleak than the harsh grey and blue of the asteroid belt. Detail is great for the most part, showing off every individual pore of a person’s face, but other times the grey and blue imagery is a deterrent with lack of background detail. Overall it’s a very unique and stylized transfer, that does well on the Blu-ray discs included.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=68658[/img]The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as good as the video encode, with all sorts of space sounds coming in with razor sharp audio clarity. Vocals are crisp and defined, with strong surround usage throughout. I was actually rather surprised as the soundstage was utilized in all directions, from the beeps and boops, to the creaks and groans of a metal ship floating in space. The more rambunctious moments seem to happen on the belt space station with riots happening and fisticuffs smashing into things. However, the incredible ambiance of the well utilized surrounds make for more than just an aggressive experience. The directional queues are quite impressive as the individual ambient noises shift around the 6 speakers with great dexterity. LFE is powerful and adds some weight to the action oriented bits, and really amps up the ships travel through space. There’s some rawness to the spit and polish in the track, but it’s still a great sonic experience for a TV show.
• Dulcinea - Deleted Scenes
“The Expanse: Season 1” was a sleeper show that totally flew under the radar for me until it came out on Blu-ray. Being a SyFy channel original I was expecting something COMPLETELY different, especially with SyFy releasing “Dark Matter” around the same time (which is a fun show in its own right but almost polar opposite to “The Expanse”). Witty, deep, dark and very intriguing, I am eagerly awaiting for the show to resume with its second seasons in the next few months. Audio and video are great, with the only real downside being the VERY limited extras (or shall I say, Extra). Reccomended.
Starring: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar
Created by: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby
Aspect Ratio: 1.78:1 AVC
Audio: English: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 427 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: April 5th, 2016
Buy The Expanse: Season 1 Blu-ray on Amazon
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