In case you haven’t heard, Amazon recently released Season 4 of The Expanse. To some it couldn’t have come soon enough. The Expanse is one of those sci-fi shows that come along every now and then and totally take people by surprise. It wasn’t until Season 2 that I joined the bandwagon (back when the show was still owned by SyFy).
Fans’ perceptions of what makes the show great differ but a general consensus emerges that the attention to detail and the realistic portrayal of space set it apart from run-of-the-mill sci-fi. Personally, I love the deep mystery surrounding the show’s central narrative device, the protomolecule.
All right, time for a super quick recap of The Expanse (spoiler warning). In the future, humankind has colonized Mars and the asteroid belt. Thus there are three territories: Earth, Mars, and the Belt (the residents of which are called belters). Strange glowing blue space stuff is discovered in the solar system and a team of eclectic space miners, aboard a ship called The Rocinante, set out to investigate. Throughout Seasons 1–3, we gradually learn that the glowing blue space stuff (called protomolecule) is actually a molecule engineered by a super-advanced alien civilization and planted within our solar system many millions of years ago. We learn that this protomolecule can do many remarkable things like disassemble a spaceship in mid-air, make you hallucinate, turn you into a blue glowing hulk, or form a giant planet made of alien space stuff.
At the end of Season 3, we discover that the protomolecule can open gateways to thousands of different solar systems which house a vast variety of habitable planets. We later learn that the protomolecule is somewhat sentient and is desperately trying to figure out what happened to the civilization that created it, which was then wiped out while it lay dormant in our solar system for millions of years. Season 3 ends in a cliffhanger. Thousands of gateways have just been opened. Where could they lead? Will one of them lead to the answer as to who made the protomolecule? The answer to who destroyed the civilization that created the protomolecule? The answer to life the universe and everything? Who knows! We’ll have to come back next season to find out.
If you have been following the show for some time, odds are you’ve probably already binged your way through season 4. However, if you’ve heard quite a bit about The Expanse but are still on edge let me just say, give it a shot. While The Expanse isn’t a sci-fi filled with overused AI tropes (in fact, I can’t recall AI even being in the show at all) it is filled with overused alien tropes.
Well, sort of. It certainly follows the vein of thinking that an extraterrestrial civilization will be our god and imbue us with knowledge and wisdom about life, the universe, and everything. However, its focus is more on the mystery rather than the abstract.
What The Expanse does so well is this: It keeps you wondering what really happened. It leaves you with a mystery so perplexing that not immediately watching the next episode is almost inconceivable. Good sci-fi like The Expanse doesn’t come around often and when it does it sometimes disappears under most viewers’ radar.
Don’t let this one fall under the radar. There is plenty of action, futuristic sci-fi weapons, quirky space team dynamics, lovable characters, future politics, and mystery—something for everyone. Heading into Season 4, I thought, “just watch it one episode a day so that you don’t end up binging the whole season in two nights.” I ended up binging the whole season in one night. So, needless to say, this show gets a high rating in my book. That being said, it took two or three episodes before I was fully hooked. So give it a chance.
My Rating: 9/10
If you enjoyed this review by Adam Nieri, you might want to check through these as well for thoughts about films that might interest you, brought to you by Mind Matters News Sci-Fi Saturday:
Nightflyers: A Mind Matters TV Series Review Despite its flaws, Nightflyers does not deserve all the criticism it received. It’s the saga of a ship of scientists making their way through the cosmos to unlock the secrets of a mysterious entity known as Volcryn. It turns out that Volcryn is not the only mystery; the Nightflyer holds many of its own secrets.
The Feed: A Mind Matters TV Series Review: I started out thinking that the show was just the usual ho-hum tyrant-AI-takes-over flick and it is so good to be wrong! Imagine a world where your mind is stored on social media. Now, what happens if someone steals, then abandons it. What will you do?
How To Become Human: A Mind Matters Short Film Review. This new film turns a conventional sci-fi storytelling premise upside down. Rather than an AI struggling to become human in a human-dominated world, we watch a human struggling to be more like an artificial intelligence in an AI-dominated world.
The Outer Worlds—A Mind Matters Game Review: You must discover the dark secret of the Halcyon space colony, despite the greed and corruption of a handful of powerful corporations. After the raging dumpster fire that Fallout 76 (2018) turned out to be, I hesitated to invest my time and money in another role-playing game (RPG) epic. But I am glad I did.
Another Life All fun and games till an AI falls in love. Then it descends into a convoluted drift of uncertain storytelling. And the victim is not primarily the viewer, who has other options. The victim is the art itself.
Alita, Battle Angel A Mind Matters Review: If you love anime and felt betrayed by the flop of Ghost, I would highly recommend Alita.
Ad Astra: The Great Silence becomes personal. The film images the fate of those seek significance in the stars and may well wait indefinitely. In a world where the divine touch of extraterrestrial intelligence doesn’t elevate human existence to any level of significance, we are left with Ad Astra: a slow, methodical decay of human significance.
Love, death, & robots Despite the trash and ruined expectations, several shorts were enjoyable and downright fun to watch
Simulation: Would a simulated universe even make sense? A well-crafted short sci-fi film suggests, intentionally or otherwise, maybe not. I’ve seen quite a few sci-fi short films over the years and Simulation is certainly one of the better ones. However, beyond that, I’m not sure this film knows what it is; it’s an identity crisis.
Sprites: Will plausible robots replace movie stars? A short film prepares us to think about it.
Terminator: Dark Fate—A Mind Matters Movie Review. Aside from the fact that it felt like a retextured version of Terminator 2, I was constantly being reminded of the film’s obvious political agenda. Movies like Terminator: Dark Fate don’t seem to be made by people who care about the narrative. They seem to think that they need only make something that looks like a movie but acts as a medium for broadcasting their message to the masses.