Monday, April 09, 2018

A Political History of the Future: The Expanse, at Lawyers, Guns & Money

Just in time for its third season premiere on Wednesday, I dedicate my latest Political History of the Future column to The Expanse, a show with tremendous potential as a piece of political storytelling that is mostly being squandered.

I haven't written about The Expanse since I reviewed the first few episodes, and the impressions I formed then have mostly persisted--the worldbuilding is still great, the production values are still amazing, and the story is still pretty dull.  And, as I observed back then, the show's tendency to downplay the importance of popular organization has led to some frustrating blind spots.  The Expanse has a premise that should naturally lend itself to depictions of labor unions, political parties, and liberation struggles, but like a lot of Hollywood products it is reflexively suspicious of all such bodies.  It thus falls into the traps of dividing the underclass into those who suffer passively, and are to be pitied, and those who act, and are to be viewed with suspicion.  And, as I write in the essay
It’s an emphasis that seems particularly perverse given the event that closes the first season, in which Jules-Pierre Mao’s plans to investigate the protomolecule’s properties reach their horrific next stage. His agents place an activated strain of the protomolecule on Eros Station, which within a day transforms the station’s 1.5 million inhabitants into a blob. It’s Bhopal times one million, except on purpose. It’s an act of war that is also a war crime. It’s, well, genocide. And it’s not something the show really expects us to care about.
If I found The Expanse's first season unengaging, the second has frustrated and infuriated me with its handling of the aftermath of genocide.  I elaborate on that in this essay.

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