TL;DR – This is and continues to be the gold standard to adaptations of literature, capturing the heart of the books, even if it does not hit every plot beat along the way.
Score – 4.5 out of 5 stars
I mentioned back in my look at the New Golden Age of Science Fiction that The Expanse is one of the best adaptations on TV at the moment. Here in Australia, I got to watch the first two seasons on Netflix and was constantly entranced with just what a good job they did of bringing James S. A. Corey’s books to life. The third season has been tricky to find but today I was able to hunt it down on Amazon and gave it a watch. Well, how does it do? Well, I can tell you that I watched the entire first arc of the season in one session, being so completely engrossed that I didn’t realise how late in the evening it had gotten … so that it is always a good sign.
So to set the scene, we open in the aftermath of season two and the turn that put Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) from a position of absolute power to her running for her life after being betrayed by Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle). Stuck on a ship that has just been fired upon by her own side there is not much hope for escape but then that is why she brought Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) a former Martian marine along. They manage to escape, but they are still under pursuit, and while they were gone the whole solar system has erupted into war and the Jupiter planetary system is ground zero for the conflict. Meanwhile, on the Rocinante the crew are dealing with two big problems, the fact that Naomi (Dominique Tipper) lied to them, and they have done nothing really to help Prax (Terry Chen) find his daughter. With everything falling apart the question is: will James Holden (Steven Strait) going to step in and help stop this war, or is he going to sit back and let others make the tough calls?
are a number of areas where this season shone but the first one I want to talk
about is a crew becoming a family. In the first two seasons, our core group of
Holden, Naomi, Alex (Cas Anvar), and Amos (Wes Chatham) where people thrust
together by being there at the right time and riding out the chaos around them.
At the start of the season, they have their first real test when it is
discovered that Naomi betrayed them, but more they discovered that they didn’t
really know each other as much as they thought they did. This meant that for
the first time there is a chance that it all might unravel. But as time went on
throughout the season each member had to look at their own past and their own
failures and discover that they all have a past but what they want is a future
Where that is really highlighted is in the character of Amos who has some real growth throughout the season while confirming who he is as a person. We get a bit more of Amos’ past when he was interviewed by Monica (Anna Hopkins) but there is a lot that has yet been revealed but the telling line is “I stopped feeling fear when I was five.” In many ways Amos is a broken man who is looking out for himself first and those who are his second and then almost let everyone else be damned. But throughout this season he had two very important relationships, the first with Prax and the second with Anna (Elizabeth Mitchell). With Prax, Amos gets to see first-hand someone starting to walk down the same path as him, though his own encouragement. We get to see that moment of self-reflection that no one should walk that life if they don’t have to and in the end he made sure that Prax never crosses that line by doing the dirty work for him. We see that same relationship mirrored with Anna, where Amos sees someone that is the personification of the goodness that is still in the world. All of this works because the actor Wes Chatham can pull off this difficult role and he is supported by the cast, writers, and directors. This is one example but everyone here is giving some truly amazing performances.
area where the show shines is in the production that brings the worlds of
Earth, Mars, Jupiter, The Belt, and more alive. Everything feels real and
tangible as if I could walk into a ship and blast off into space. But more
importantly they make each ship feel like it is part of a design tradition as
if this is a production of hundreds of years of development. There are the
small (and not so small) differences between the Earth, Mars, and Belter ships
that make you know immediately where you are even before the title card pops
up. This extends to every facet of the show, with a musical score that can be
downright haunting at times, pacing that knows when to breathe and when to go
for the rafters, and some of the best special effects on a TV Science Fiction
show. One thing I really appreciate about The
Expanse, a show with so many characters and locations, is the way that they
always take a moment to give you the geographic overlay of where everything is.
This is not only visually stunning, but it is an important grounding technic to
make sure the audience is never lost.
For a show to work when being adapted for another source like in this case a novel, it needs to be accessible to those who have not read the source material. However, as this is one where I have read the source material Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s Gate (but not Tiamat’s Wrath yet so please no spoilers in the comments) you do get to see those moments come alive in front of you. Overall the show continues to excel in adapting the works of James S. A. Corey bring out its warmth and heart even if things don’t quite hit all the same notes. One change up that was good was following the trend in past seasons in bringing in a character early, in this case, Rev. Dr Annushka “Anna” Volovodov. Because the back end of the season was a little shorter than usual (one book in half a season and they still made it work) it was a good choice to bring her in early both because Elizabeth Mitchell nails the character but you get to see more of her past and what drives her explored.
in that back half of the season we see the most changes to the plot with
characters in places that they are not in the books and a lot of characters
missing or merged together. However, it never falls apart because all the
changes feel either understandable like Cohen (Brandon McGibbon) being the
combination of the multiple film crew and Drummer (Cara Gee) taking on a larger
role. Or they felt like they made sense for the character, for example Naomi
spending more time on the LDSS
Nauvoo/OPAS Behemoth. Even though this was not what happened in the books,
it thematically helped us explore more of how Naomi lived in that Belter world,
it also gave her more to do than what happened in the books. However, if there
was one moment for me that they did not quite nail, it would be the reveal of
The Investigator (Thomas Jane). It is one of the biggest wow moments in the
books and it just didn’t quite land here.
In the end, do we recommend the third season of The Expanse? Yes of course we do. The Expanse shows the strength of modern Science Fiction by having characters that feel real, not shying away from real issues like class, religion, politics, and war, and by creating a world that feels immersive. I am so glad that we are getting at least two more seasons because this show is amazing and I can’t wait to see how they adapt what is coming. But also it means that I will get to see my favourite conversation in the book series put to screen and I can’t wait.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow
Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV,
he’ll be talking about International Relations,
or the Solar System.
Have you seen The Expanse yet ?, let us know what you thought in the comments below, feel free to share this review on any of the social medias and you can follow us Here. Check out all our past reviews and articles Here, and have a happy day.
Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of The Expanse
Directed by – Breck Eisner, Thor Freudenthal, Jeff Woolnough, Ken Fink, David Grossman, Jennifer Phang & Simon Cellan Jones
Written by – Daniel Abraham, Alan DiFiore, Ty Franck, Mark Fergus, Hallie Lambert, Georgia Lee, Dan Nowak, Hawk Ostby, Naren Shankar & Robin Veith
Created by – Mark Fergus & Hawk Ostby
Based on – The Expanse by James S. A. Corey (Ty Franck & Daniel Abraham)
Production/Distribution Companies – Alcon Entertainment, Sean Daniel Company, Syfy & Amazon Studios
Starring – Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Frankie Adams, Shawn Doyle & Shohreh Aghdashloo with Thomas Jane, Terry Chen, François Chau, Nick Tarabay, David Strathairn, Nadine Nicole, Anna Hopkins & Elizabeth Mitchell and Florence Faivre, Jonathan Whittaker, Natalie Lisinska, Morgan Kelly, Atticus Mitchell, Chad L. Coleman, Byron Mann, Martin Roach, Ted Atherton, Leah Jung, Raven Dauda, Genelle Williams, Paulino Nunes, Brandon McGibbon, Jaeden Noel, Jordan Dacol, Elias Toufexis, Alain Chanoine, Kelly McCormack, Sabryn Rock, Yanna McIntosh, Andrew Rotilio, Brock Johnson, Chris Owens & Sean Baek
Episodes Covered – Fight or Flight, IFF, Assured Destruction, Reload, Triple Point, Immolation, Delta-V, It Reaches Out, Intransigence, Dandelion Sky, Fallen World, Congregation & Abaddon’s Gate
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