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Chrisjen Avasarala, a United Nations executive, works to prevent war between Earth and Mars. Ceres police detective Joe Miller is sent to find a missing young woman, Julie Mao. The space-freighter Canterbury and the Martian Navy flagship Donnager are destroyed by ships built by Jules-Pierre Mao, Julie's father. James Holden, Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal and Amos Burton escape in a Martian gunship named the Tachi. They subsequently rename the ship Rocinante which becomes the main setting of the series. The crew of the Rocinante, with Miller's help, investigates and eventually discovers a biohazard that kills off most of the humans on the asteroid Eros, including Julie.
Martian Marine Bobbie Draper fights an inhuman figure on Ganymede and later becomes a protégé of Avasarala. The crew tries to help a father find his daughter and, in the process, encounters and kills a figure akin to the one that Draper fought, now known as a "protomolecule hybrid" developed by Jules-Pierre Mao. A research ship, sent to Venus to investigate the crash of Eros into the planet, is stopped dead in the atmosphere and completely disassembled by the protomolecule.
The UN declares war, as Earth and Mars send science vessels to investigate what is happening on Venus. The protomolecule forms the Ring, a structure which takes an orbital position beyond Uranus.
A land rush to other solar systems with habitable worlds opened up, accessed via the Ring. Refugee ships from the belt and overcrowded Earth are stopped at the gateway. The crew of the Rocinante are sent through the portal to investigate the situation on an exoplanet that has been settled by Belter refugees, who have been joined by an officially backed scientific expedition with private military support. Efforts to terraform Mars begin to wane as ready made habitable worlds are now available.
A deadly conspiracy threatens Earth, as the crew of the Rocinante pursue personal missions while their ship is in drydock at Tycho Station. Draper and Avasarala investigate the Martian military's ties to a growing threat from a rogue faction of Belter terrorists. Belter captain Camina Drummer amasses a pirate fleet unaligned with either side.
In May 2015, before the first season aired, writing commenced for a second season, which was ordered in December 2015. The second season of The Expanse premiered on February 1, 2017.
On March 16, 2017, The Expanse was renewed by Syfy for a 13-episode third season to air in 2018. Filming for season 3 began on July 12, 2017.
Four digital comics based on the books and tying into the television series have been published by ComiXology. The first focuses on the origin of James Holden and was released February 1, 2017. The next three, highlighting the origins of other characters are: Naomi Nagata, released April 19, 2017; Alex Kamal, released May 24, 2017; and Amos Burton, released July 12, 2017.
The show's title sequence was animated and directed by Australian studio Breeder and its VFX team.
Cancellation and renewal
On May 11, 2018, Syfy did not purchase the rights for future seasons because of restrictive distribution arrangements, and announced it was cancelled. Alcon looked for other channels to distribute future seasons.
On May 26, at the International Space Development Conference, Jeff Bezos announced that Amazon had picked the series up for additional seasons. Production on the fourth season began in October 2018 and debuted on Amazon Prime Video on December 12, 2019. On July 27, 2019, Amazon renewed The Expanse for a fifth season. Ahead of the fifth season's release, Amazon renewed the series for a sixth and final season on November 24, 2020. Additionally, it was announced that Cas Anvar would not return for the final season after receiving multiple sexual misconduct allegations.
The show's soundtrack was composed by Clinton Shorter.
The first season's soundtrack dubbed The Expanse Season 1 - The Original Television Soundtrack, consisting of nineteen tracks, was released by Lakeshore Records, on May 20, 2016, via iTunes, and on May 26, 2016, via Amazon.
Genre and themes
The series has been described as a space opera by critics. Emily VanDerWerff of Vox describes the first season of the series to be a "blend of science fiction and noir-infused detective drama, with a backdrop of political intrigue".Vice has referred to the series as a "sci fi noir mystery-thriller" and as hard science fiction. Prior to the series premiere, Mark Fergus spoke of the series' western themes: "Everywhere is kind of back to the frontier rules so it gives us all that stuff back that we lost. Cellular technology. You can get a little more western about it." The fourth season, according to the writers, also has "space western vibes".
In the United States, seasons 1 to 3 of The Expanse were broadcast by Syfy and streamed on Prime Video. In Canada, these seasons aired on Space and streamed on Crave. In New Zealand, these seasons aired on Sky. In all other countries where Netflix is available, seasons 1 and 2 were streamed until September 30, 2018. On February 8, 2019, Prime Video took over exclusive distribution of the first three seasons worldwide in preparation for premiering of the fourth season later in 2019.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the first season has a score of 77% with an average rating of 7.12 out of 10 based on 43 reviews. The site's consensus states: "The Expanse blends sci-fi elements and detective noir into a visually compelling whole, though it takes a few episodes for the story to capture viewers' intrigue." The first season received a rating of 65 out of 100 on Metacritic based on reviews from 23 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
Reporting on the pilot screening, io9s Lauren Davis declared herself "blown away" by The Expanse, appreciating its "incredible sense of scale" and its "deeply thought out future world that reflects on our present one, with high production values and characters who speak and act like real people". Max Nicholson of IGN characterized the pilot as "grim and dramatic", and a "very dense hour of television", with the terminology and large cast sometimes difficult to follow for viewers unfamiliar with the novels, but highlighted the pilot's "gorgeous" visuals and effects reminiscent of Battlestar Galactica, Dune and Firefly.
Writing for Variety, Maureen Ryan was unimpressed by the first four episodes "awkwardly linking a series of somewhat muddled stories" and the series' stereotypical characters but credited it with tackling "issues of class, representation and exploitation" and a convincing design. At Tor.com, Justin Landon highlighted The Expanses "bold and unique cinematography" and its claustrophobic, discomforting set designs, as well as the "extremely faithful" characterization, but remarked that the patois spoken by the Belters, the natives of the asteroid belt, made the series difficult to follow.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a score of 95% with an average rating of 8.95 out of 10 based on 21 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Expanses second season offers more of the show's excellent signature production values while increasing character development and politically thrilling narratives." On Metacritic, it has a score of 77 out of 100 based on 5 reviews.
Writing for io9, Katherine Trendacosta noted how the show had become "shockingly prescient", insofar as many of the issues and ideas explored by The Expanse mirrored contemporary trends in global politics. Brian Tallerico, in "Why The Expanse Is the Best Sci-FI TV Show You're Not Watching" for Rolling Stone, praised the show for its contemporary political relevance and called its willingness to mix tones, and its protagonists, laudable. He summarized that at its core, The Expanse was all about people responding to fear - fear of the other, fear of the new, fear of inequality, fear of death. Writing for 13.7: Cosmos & Culture, a blog hosted by NPR, astrophysicistAdam Frank praised the show and its writers for the scientific realism. He wrote that "more than any other TV space-themed show, it gets the science right".
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a score of 100% with an average rating of 8.57 out of 10 based on 25 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Building on earlier potential and extending character arcs throughout a solidly crafted third season, The Expanse continues to impress - and shows no signs of abating."
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a score of 100% with an average rating of 8.97 out of 10 based on 28 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "Smart and thrilling as ever, The Expanses fourth season doesn't miss a beat, successfully navigating network changes without losing any of its rich character work or narrative complexities." Writing for Den of Geek, Michael Ahr gave it a 5/5 review and wrote, "With its brilliantly crafted, multilayered plot, The Expanse season 4 proves itself worthy of Amazon's rescue in a nearly perfect season." Sadie Gennis of TV Guide also praised the fourth season, giving it a score of 4.5/5.
On Rotten Tomatoes, the season has a score of 100% with an average rating of 8.82 out of 10 based on 23 reviews. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Expanses many threads come to a head in an excellent fifth season that expertly capitalizes on everything that makes the show work while setting the stage for an epic final season."