A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that The Expanse is a dark sci-fi thriller about a future society with warring factions on other planets and in space. Characters are killed suddenly on-screen; the camera lingers on severed body parts, blood, and gore. Expect space disasters: A ship is blown up with nuclear weapons; men are brutally injured by space debris. Guns and futuristic weapons are brandished and fired. Characters drink beer and cocktails in bars and trade legal and nonlegal growth hormones and serums. Also expect cursing: multiple uses of "s--t" and "hell" with the occasional "a--hole." Characters have sex (showing nude male and female backsides) with thrusting and moaning; references to prostitution include a red-light district with posing women in lingerie. Heroic characters do immoral things to realize their ends.
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What's the story?
Two hundreds years from now, Earth has colonized THE EXPANSE between us and the sun. Now, galactic peace is administered by the U.N., and humans live mainly in three areas: Earth, Mars, and the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Water and air are more precious than diamonds or gold, and it's during an ice-harvesting run when James Holden (Steven Strait), captain of ice freighter Canterbury, is involved in an incident that causes nearly its entire crew to be wiped out. Meanwhile, on the asteroid Ceres, Detective Miller (Thomas Jane) is given an assignment to find Julie Andromeda Mao (Florence Faivre), the daughter of a wealthy asteroid belt CEO, who's gone missing and is feared kidnapped; and on Earth, U.N. official Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is investigating radicals on Mars. What the three don't know yet is that Mao's disappearance is connected to a conspiracy that doesn't only threaten life on Earth but will have consequences for every human life in the galaxy.
Is it any good?
Smart, beautifully written, and intriguingly sketchy on details, this sci-fi drama rises above the usual with well-thought-out details and deft characterization. Soap operas in space are a dime a dozen, particularly after the success of Battlestar Galactica. Since that well-regarded drama ended, Syfy has continually tried to recapture its magic, usually to no avail. But this time, the network may have cracked the code. We've met many of the characters in The Expanse before -- the conflicted cop, the politico who does terrible things to keep even more terrible stuff from happening -- and we're familiar with dramas that basically boil down to someone having a doomsday device, which this does.
But the fine writing here makes the usual unusual. Characters are complex and act in unexpected (yet recognizably human) ways; the view gets a sense that these are not only actors mouthing move-the-plot-along lines but real people living lives we can scarcely conceive of. There's class warfare (Earth denizens are the "haves"; the Belters working out in the asteroids the "have-nots"), a pulpy detective plot line, space-exploring derring-do, political intrigue, and, tying it all together, overarching environmental issues (for example, how are we going to take care of all these humans?) that ring familiar to modern viewers. The Expanse is smart, intriguing drama for sci-fi fans and perfect for whole-family watching with teens and up.
Talk to your kids about ...
Science-fiction dramas like The Expanse are frequently set in space. Why? What types of plot lines does this setting lend itself to?
What's the difference between science-fiction series and movies? What types of stories can be told in a movie vs. episodically on television? Which do you prefer?