Follow TV Tropes

This is based on opinion. Please don't list it on a work's trope example list.

Following

Nightmare Fuel / The Expanse

Go To

The Novels

    Leviathan Wakes 
  • From the opening pages: Julie hearing a crewmate, after days of torture, begging not to be jettisoned out into space. It doesn't work.
  • The Eros Station dodging the Nauvoo trying to ram it off course. To give an idea of how alarming that was, it's like watching an immobile mountain suddenly become sentient and went flying.
    Cibola Burn 
  • The Investigator Interludes. Turns out that all those people the protomolecule "ate" really are still in there, some of which are helplessly watching as the alien thing tries and fails to complete its impossible program. They're the lucky ones. One example of an unlucky person is Maria, who is stuck experiencing her flesh falling off her bones constantly. "Please let me die" is a fairly common sentiment among the trapped minds...
  • The reactor explosion. Alex and Basia witness it from space. Both of them watch the shockwaves rip across the planet towards First Landing, and they can't do anything other than radio them and beg them to find cover.
    • The Dahlke family lives three kilometers away from First Landing. Clay Dahlke hears the news, and then heads to get his wife and daughter. They don't make it back in time.
  • The death-slugs. Thanks to an unexpected biochemical reaction, the slime they secrete is a near-immediately lethal neurotoxin that can kill with a touch. That doesn't sound terrible, as long as you pay attention to everything you do...which gets a lot harder when you can't see.
Advertisement:
    Persepolis Rising 
  • The blackout caused by the Heart of the Tempest's main weapon. Turns out they have attracted the attention of whoever took out the people who designed the protomolecule and built the gate network.
    • Moreover, the raw destructive power of said weapon. The main weapon is an Ultra-Strong Magnetic Field Projector, and the magnetic fields of magnetars, the namesake for the Heart of the Tempest's class, can have a strength of up to 10^10 Tesla or higher, and an energy density of 4 x 10^25 Joules/m^3 at 10^10 Tesla. Such strong fields are enough to deform atoms into spindles 200x thinner than normal. As a result, Heart of the Tempest ripped Pallas Station apart at the atomic level when the weapon rent it to dust.
    Tiamat's Wrath 
  • Teresa's ordeal. She's raised as her father's heir, given a superb education, and has access to virtually anything she could ever want...until Duarte is rendered catatonic by the dark gods. She's required to keep up appearances and pretend her father is okay, no matter what. Her kindly mentor, Colonel Jason Ilich, is revealed to be an abusive jerkass who only works with her because it's his job. Her doctor is a sociopathic mad scientist who sees her as a stepping stone to his own immortality, and is planning to kill, resurrect, and vivisect her to learn more about the protomolecule. Her only real friend, Timmy/Amos, gets killed by Ilich in front of her, and then she's subjected to a brutal interrogation. The only people that care about her are Holden, who is a prisoner in his own right, and Elvi, who isn't in a position to help her.
  • Laconia's attempts to study whatever killed the gate builders amounts to 'throw bombs at them and see what happens'. Their first attempt sets off a booby trap that destroys a gate, cutting off a colony world with eighty thousand people.
  • The second attempt gets aborted because they attack. Elvi and her crew are in the slow zone when it happens, and they finally get a look at whatever they are.
    Something was moving through the clouds, dark and sinuous as a dancer slipping through raindrops. And then another. And then more. They were everywhere, sliding through the gas and liquid and solid, scattering the clouds with their passage. They were solid. Real in a way the clouds of matter were not. They were more real than anything she'd ever seen. Tendrils of darkness that had never known light. That could never know light. You've seen this absence of light before. A darkness like the eye of an angry god...you said that to someone.
  • This is followed by an utterly horrifying scene when Elvi wakes up on the Falcon, and realizes that massive chunks of the ship and its crew have vanished, with all the Body Horror this implies.
    • Meaning literal chunks of crew missing. Her husband is lucky and only has a piece of leg removed, while others are missing significantly more vital bits. It's also not that they were torn or cut out, more like the orbs were just acting on matter as an eraser does on a drawing.
  • The final lines of the book:
    Amos: One of the things I know now is that they're going to kill everybody.
    Holden: Yeah, I know that too.
    Leviathan Falls 
  • The dark gods continue to escalate their war against humanity. Early on, they attack one system by altering the speed of light. For those unaware, the speed of light is one of the fundamental constants of the universe, and they're tampering with it like someone messing with the thermostat.
    • Later, they successfully kill off San Esteban, an entire colony world, just by making a tiny tweak to the function of ionic bonds, which shuts down the neurons of everyone in the system. Elvi theorizes that the only reason they didn't do this to every inhabited system is because they didn't realize it worked.
    • It's also revealed that while some of the attacks are obvious, causing everyone to lose consciousness, the Goths were actually staging near continuous attacks and the majority had gone unnoticed until they thought to look for them.
"Changes in virtual particle annihilations in Pátria, Felicité, and Kunlun systems. Lightspeed variations in Sumner and Far-home. Electron mass changed in Haza system for almost two minutes. Electron mass. Sanctuary system had gravity increase by a tenth of a percent throughout the system for six seconds."
"Okay, every single thing you just said fucks me up."
"This was one twenty-four-hour period. The things that are doing this are rattling all the windows looking for ways to make us die."
  • Being assimilated into Duarte's Hive Mind is pretty horrifying. It starts out as intrusive thoughts and memories from other people, increasing in frequency and intensity. Then people start actively seeing into other peoples minds and commenting on each others thoughts. By the time the Hive Mind's fully assimilated most people, it turns into a chorus of voices that's trying to convince the main characters to just give in, implying they'll be killed if they don't. One of the minor characters inadvertently likens it to being constantly, intimately raped.
  • The fate of the colonies at the end of the series. With the ring gates shut down, everyone is completely cut off from each other. If you're on a self-sufficient planet, like Laconia or Earth, you'll probably be fine. If you're not? Starvation. There are hundreds of colonies that aren't self-sufficient.

Advertisement:

The TV series

    Series-Wide 
  • Pretty much anyone who eats a bullet in zero-g remains upright. Bonus points if they’re wearing grav boots, since they look like they’re still standing... and spraying a lot of blood in all directions.

Season 1

    Episode #1: "Dulcinea" 
  • Julie Mao's breakout in the opening scene. After being trapped in a locker for who knows how long, she breaks out only to find the ship dark, the crew gone, tools and gear left floating, and the halls spattered with blood. When she cuts open her way to the reactor, she finds. . . something growing on the reactor, and it seems to be eating one of the crew, who's only visible from the waist up.
    • What's worse? They're still alive, and screaming.
  • Avasarala having a Belter smuggler tortured by being suspended on hooks for hours, under gravity his body is unable to withstand after a lifetime in space.
  • Cameron Paj on the Cant getting his arm torn off by a chunk of breakaway ice because he and Kay were distracted for a moment. Heavy equipment and space make for an incredibly dangerous combination.
    • We also get to see Shed working on the stump, with the skin pulled back and the tissue inside exposed. Lovely.

    Episode #4: "CQB" 
    Episode #6: "Rock Bottom" 
  • Diogo's uncle kicking him off the ship then attacking a Martian ship before being destroyed while Diogo is just stuck outside floating through space. He turns up later so we know he eventually picks up, but the idea of him having to wait until his suit runs out of oxygen with no hope of rescue is terrifying.
    • For that matter: the entire confrontation between Diogo's uncle and the Martians. The spiteful smugness with which they doom the two Belters to a slow, horrifying death just because they feel disrespected is chilling.
Advertisement:
    Episode #9: "Critical Mass" 
  • Julie Mao slowly succumbing to the protomolecule infection in her hotel room. By the time it finally kills her, what's left behind isn't pretty. And heading into tearjerker territory, she dies just seconds before being found by Miller and the Roci crew.

    Episode #10: "Leviathan Wakes" 
  • We see what killed Julie repeated, en masse, with the entire population of Eros (later explicitly stated to have been over one hundred thousand) falling victim to it. The Rocinante crew managed to save a few people, but everyone else — including many children — are consumed ... and it's clear the conspirators who unleashed it aren't finished yet. This is just the beginning.

Season 2

    Episode #3: "Static" 
  • Cortazar is one of the creepiest Mad Scientists ever put to film. Like everyone else on the protomolecule research team, he was put through surgery that burnt out the empathy centers in his brain. The result is an eerily calm dead-eyed psycho who talks about genociding Eros station like he's ordering lunch. He only ever perks up when Amos starts describing the gruesome Body Horror the protomolecule inflicted on Julie Mao and it only serves to make him even creepier.
    Episode #8: "Pyre" 
  • The fate of so many refugees from Ganymede who are given hope, only to be flushed out the airlock just for being "Inners".
    Episode #11: "Here There Be Dragons" 
  • This episode has a really nasty scene where the mad scientist’s team throws a grenade in the room, Amos tosses it back into their room, and pull the door closed. The screams immediately afterwords suggest the grenade REALLY messed them up without killing them. Then the screams keep going, with the sound of something heavy slamming and guns firing. By the time the good guys enter the room, they’re only met with the bloody aftermath and a destroyed cage. Whatever was in the cage was what killed everyone.

Season 3

    Episode #4: "Reload" 
  • Katoa's "disassembly" of his nurse is quite horrifying on the first viewing... and the second... and the third... and...
    Episode #7: "Delta-V" 
  • The poor slingshot racer who decides to be the first to check out the mysterious ring. His ship slams into a gateway which immediately halts its momentum, causing the racer to liquefy because his momentum hasn't stopped (since the mysterious force grabbed only the outside of the ship).

Season 4

    Episode #2: "Jetsam" 
  • The Investigator gives, rather casually, a horrifying description of what goes on in his head. He doesn't just have Josephus Miller's memories in there, he has the memories of everyone who died on Eros — including the memories of their painful screaming deaths which they are constantly reliving.
    Episode #8: "The One-Eyed Man" 
  • The survivors on New Terra are trapped in an ancient artifact after a tsunami engulfs the continent, slowly going blind because alien parasites are nesting in their eyes, and lethally poisonous alien slugs infesting every wall and corridor.

    Episode #9: "Saeculum" 
  • "Miller's" perspective from within the Investigator construct over the course of the season is shown, and it's hellish. Any time the real Miller surfaces and does anything that doesn't help the protomolecule accomplish its goal, he's quickly killed and reconstructed in a way that sounds extremely painful. This can be anything from going out of his way to help Holden and the people on Ilus survive, to something as innocuous as engaging Holden in too much chit chat. It's clear by the end of the montage that this version of Miller has been forced to experience this horrific loop numerous times. Even his final break from the protomolecule's programming is clearly agonizing, represented visually by the last moments of the stowaway Hybrid that was burnt up in the Rocinante's engines (a visual worsened by the addition of Miller's screaming, robotically distorted voice).
    Episode #10: "Cibola Burn" 
  • Amos' Slasher Smile after Murtry punches him. He's in a situation where he can unleash himself and the fact that it makes him so happy is deeply unnerving.

Season 5

    Episode #3: "Mother" 
  • The episode ends with the first of Marco's rocks making contact with Earth. We're treated to a beachcomber seeing a massive explosion on the horizon before being vaporized by the resulting heat wave.
    Episode #6: "Tribes" 
  • Clarissa Mao uses her implants to save Amos. Because of the camera angles involved, we don't get really see what happens, but she appears to be able to clear a distance in a second, and furiously attacks Amos's attacker, before finally shooting him. It's over in seconds, and even Amos is in shock. If it wasn't for her using the gun and the apparent time limit and strain of her mods, it's likely she'd have beaten the man to death in a literal heartbeat.
    Episode #10: "Nemesis Games" 
  • The Free Navy's assault on the Sol ring gate is a frighteningly one-sided affair. The UN and Martian defenders (two Truman-class dreadnoughts and a Donnager-class battleship, the most powerful warships of their respective navies) are first pummeled by meteoroids that were coated in stealth tech, damaging their railguns and armor, then they come under fire from the incoming Free Navy ships and missiles from Medina Station and Admiral Sauveterre's "reinforcements". All three defending battleships are overwhelmed and destroyed in graphic detail in the space of a few seconds, with no indication of survivors.
  • The ring aliens were already becoming increasingly belligerent each time Holden saw them in the space between portals. Then just as the Martian defectors report their use of the protomolecule to jump start creator tech on planets willy-nilly, they are utterly enraged to the point that they demolecularize Sauveterre's entire ship as it passes through the portal without any warning or so much as dust left behind in the wake of its destruction.
Top