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The Expanse, Season 1, Episode 1

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    Posted: Jan-12-2016 at 10:15am
Review of SyFy's The Expanse, Season 1, Episode 1: “Dulcinea”

By Nicholas Ponticello, Author of Do Not Resuscitate

The Expanse starts out exactly as title suggests, expansively, with a sweeping overview of multiple confused story lines that the viewer hopes disentangle by the episode's end. Alas, the episode never fully resolves into something tangible and is likely to lose would-be fans within the first twenty minutes of the series premiere.

The first episode was such a garbled mess that I can barely synopsize what I saw (or think I saw). There was some kind of officer who gets promoted to a top job of some sort on a spaceship (an ice freighter, maybe?). Definitely, there are space miners (living on Ceres in the Asteroid Belt). There is an ambassador of some sort whose appearance in the episode is brief and pointless (why not let her enter in Episode 2?). There is a detective on Ceres that is investigating the disappearance of a young woman (A student? A socialite? A politician's daughter?). Except for the captain of the ice freighter, all the men look identical—plucked out of the nearest 24 Hour Fitness. And then there is some kind of distress signal from a deserted ship, which the captain insists must be ignored, but which some ne'er-do-well insists on tracking down. Which ne'er-do-well is it? I think it's the one that got the big promotion at beginning of the episode. But who can tell when they all look like Ken dolls.

A nice touch to the premiere—the subtle tension between the people raised on Earth and the people raised in the Asteroid Belt. The Belters are tall and brittle due to their physical development within a low gravity environment. Belters appear to suffer from myriad health problems that mirror many of the environmental health issues of today's socioeconomic divide right here on Earth. These Belters are doing the work no one wants to do, and they are paying for it with their limbs (seriously, one guy loses an arm in a mining accident) and their lives. The subtle interplay between Earthers and Belters is intriguing—there are tangible differences in your quality of life if you're born on Earth or if your born in the Belt, and those differences promise to lead to some real upheaval down the road.

The first episode of The Expanse takes on too much. It wants to address socioeconomic inequality and discrimination, political corruption, and you-name-it, which is all good and well. But why not give us viewers some time to adjust to this new world (200 years into the future) before throwing every possible conspiracy our way? One storyline would have been enough for one episode. There are hints of Battlestar Galactica and Blade Runner aesthetics woven throughout the episode, but they don't make up for the gross lack of originality in character development. There is no one to fall in love with. No one to hate. No one worth remembering. I seriously almost cut and run halfway through the episode. My recommendation is that you save yourself the time and revisit Battlestar Galactica if you're looking for a real space opera to sink your teeth into.

Nicholas Ponticello resides in Los Angeles with art historian, Nico Machida, and their six freshwater fish. Mr. Ponticello received degrees in Mathematics and Astrophysics from UC Berkeley, and has studied under Kim Krizan (Before Sunrise, Zombie Tales 2061) and Bruce Miller (Eureka, Medium, ER). His debut novel, Do Not Resuscitate, received honorable mention at the 2015 Green Book Festival, which spotlights "books that contribute to greater understanding, respect for and positive action on the changing worldwide environment," and was a semi-finalist in the 2015 Kindle Book Awards for Literary Fiction.

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