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YMMV / The Expanse

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    Book series 
  • Complete Monster: Marco Inaros, from Nemesis Games and Babylon's Ashes, is the leader of the Free Navy. When he was younger, Marco tricked his girlfriend, Naomi, into helping him sabotage ships' magnetic bottles, allowing him to destroy any ship he wants without any sign of foul play. When Naomi protested this, Marco forbade her from seeing their son, Filip. When Naomi left him, Marco raised Filip to believe that Naomi was a weak-willed coward who abandoned him out of spite. Marco uses Filip to help carry out an asteroid bombardment of Earth that kills 15 billion people. While Marco claims to be fighting for his fellow Belters, he nearly destroys a large chunk of Tycho Station just to kill Holden for dating Naomi, and cripples Ceres Station through looting just to slow down his enemies. Marco justifies his crimes against the Belters by claiming that they weren't "true Belters", but it quickly becomes apparent that Marco defines true Belters as only those who are personally loyal to him.
  • Crazy Awesome: In Nemesis Games, a power-armored Bobbie Draper surfs on a laser-guided missile to save a free-floating Naomi drifting in vacuum.
  • Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy: Downplayed, but some of the later books (with Persepolis Rising probably being the most notable) suffer from this issue.
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • Chrisjen Avasarala and Bobbie Draper are popular with a lot of readers. The former as one of the few politicians in the series actively working to improve the situation and refusing to take shit from anyone. The latter for her snark, badass Action Girl status, and more or less getting to be a space marine in an otherwise gritty series. In the show, the two are even added to the events of books they weren't present in, Leviathan Wakes for Chrisjen and Abaddon's Gate for Bobbie.
    • Samantha Rosenberg, aka Sam is one of the most popular side characters. Snarky, helpful to the protagonists, and an all around Nice Girl who gets some of the best lines. It's a real shame she's killed off in Abadon's Gate.
      • This character is largely the origin of OPA member Drummer (see the note for Ensemble Dark Horse in the TV show below), though her role in the TV show is vastly expanded with her rising in the OPA to become Fred's second-in-command and getting most of Bull's scenes and plot relevance from Abadon's Gate - and she gets Spared by the Adaptation for both her Sam's death and Bull's.
  • Fridge Horror: After Marco's attack on Earth halfway through Nemesis Games, what happened to the characters we last saw either living there or headed there for other reasons? Basia's daughter? Anna's wife and daughter? Havelock? One or more of them might have been off-world for any number of reasons, but if they weren't, the situation doesn't look good.
    • Thankfully, Anna and her family are all revealed to be alive in the next book. No word on anyone else though.
  • Harsher in Hindsight: The series' version of interplanetary propulsion being called the Epstein Drive, when that name now unavoidably brings to mind the notorious sex ring operator and pedophile Jeffrey Epstein.
  • The Scrappy:
    • Holden's moralistic attitude grates on some readers' nerves, but the only character who really strays into this territory is Elvi Okoye from Cibola Burn. Readers and professional reviewers alike often call her a one-note character whose Celeb Crush on Holden comes out of nowhere, is way over the top in terms of shoolgirl-like behaviour, and is resolved by a coworker verbally deconstructing her feelings and telling her You Need to Get Laid. Which she immediately does, with him. It's later revealed he had a crush on her for some time; and then she apparently falls in love with that guy within a few days. This goes against her character as an obsessive crush isn't quickly brushed aside, there was no evidence she had feelings for him as well and it opens up a can of Fridge Logic
    • Despite the Character Development and the Freudian Excuse of being raised by a complete narcissistic sociopath, a lot of readers still can't find anything redeemable about Filip Inaros. Being the person who orchestrated the near-destruction of Earth will do that.
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Clarissa Mao. By the time she joins up with the Roci crew, she's been through the proverbial wringer, and it's implied she still has nightmares. Having as much blood on her hands as she does, she may never fully come to terms with herself. As of Clarissa's death in Persepolis Rising she still hasn't, although she has gained the forgiveness and trust of the rest of the crew. The implants she intended to use to kill Holden—and which are in turn killing her in the long run—she uses to save him and his companions in a final sacrifice.

    TV series 
  • Awesome Music: The show's intro song is an incredible combination of Orchestral Bombing and One-Woman Wail that perfectly fits the intro's Time Lapse of mankind's expansion throughout the solar system.
  • Broken Base:
    • The more initially antagonistic relationship between the members of the Rocinante, especially in comparison to their book counterparts. While many fans have stated that they feel it was a necessary change so as to add more interpersonal drama aboard the Roci and make the show more interesting for a television audience, others have complained that it just comes across as ultimately contrived and makes it harder for the audience to see why the crew would even work together in the first place.
    • The decision to have the "Slow Zone" look more like an alien nebula rather than the starless black void described in the books. Some have described it as more visually interesting and a sensible change so as to better differentiate the region from the "normal" Sol System, while others have complained that it looks uninteresting and loses the more alien emphasis upon the region from the book series. Amusingly, the swirling alien appearance of the TV version of the Slow Zone is exactly what it looks like come the events of Tiamat's Wrath after the aliens unleash the exploding neutron star.
  • Cargo Ship: Alex literally breaks up with his wife so he can stay with the Rocinante.
  • Catharsis Factor: Although "Immolation" is still a super-tense episode, it does allow for some excellent catharsis. All of the primary villains get their comeuppance, and it's immensely satisfying to watch. The vilest of them all, child-torturing Strickland, begs for his life before Amos rightly puts him out of everyone's misery with a bullet to the head. Errinwright is revealed for the manipulative extremist he is and arrested. Nguyen is left to die in a mess of his own making. And Jules-Pierre Mao is taken prisoner by Holden and delivered right to the feet of his old enemy, Avasarala...who, for bonus points, is wearing his daughter Julie's flightsuit from the Razorback, symbolically allowing the now-dead Julie to be present to condemn her father's misdeeds.
  • Complete Monster:
    • The warmongering UN Admiral Augusto Nguyen seeks to use protomolecule hybrid super soldiers to wipe out Mars and its seven billion inhabitants. When Admiral Souther attempts to relieve Nguyen of command for his acts of treason, Nguyen kills Souther and many of his crewmates. When a few UN ships refuse to obey Nguyen's orders, Nguyen destroys one of the ships to set an example. Nguyen fires on this ship himself after his bridge crew refuses to fire on their fellow soldiers. When a damaged hybrid-carrying pod crashes into Nguyen's ship, Nguyen is mortally wounded. He uses his last moments to mock Alex and Naomi for trying to stop him, making it clear that he is motivated purely out of racism against Martians.
    • Dr. Lawrence Strickland appears to be a kindly pediatrician who treats children with a rare spinal condition. In reality, he is a scientist studying the protomolecule for the Protogen Corporation. Strickland discovered that children with the spinal condition he specializes in treating can be transformed using the protomolecule into controllable super soldiers called hybrids. Strickland kidnaps his patients, many of whom trust him like a father, infects them with the protomolecule, and turns them into hybrids to be sold to fight in wars. When Katoa, one of Strickland's protomolecule-infected patients, brutally murders a nurse on orders from the protomolecule, Strickland is fascinated and accelerates the protomolecule's infection of Katoa to interrogate him, only stopping when the protomolecule completely overwrites Katoa's mind. When the crew of the Rocinante come to stop Protogen, Strickland sends the now fully-hybridized Katoa against them as a distraction, leading to Katoa's death. In a last ditch effort to save himself, Strickland murders his remaining nurse and tries to pass himself off as another of Protogen's prisoners.
  • Crosses the Line Twice:
    • After Amos learns that Holden and Naomi are an Official Couple (with him thankfully taking it quite well), he notes that he and Naomi are Like Brother and Sister...before noting aloud that "I'd still do her if she let me." Wes Chatham's perfect delivery of that line, combined with Holden's face (which is an amazing mix of Flat "What" and Too Much Information) makes the whole moment completely hilarious.
    • When the Arboghast is "deconstructed" by the protomolecule on Venus in "Caliban's War," everyone has an initially terrified Oh, Crap! realization...Well, except for Iturbi, whose shit-eating grin at being proven right about the existence of extra-solar life makes the scene (somewhat) darkly hilarious.
    • Manéo Jung-Espinoza's Cruel and Unusual Death is easily one of the most horrifying moments in the entire series...but has also become a source of dark humor within the fandom, with many simply describing him as the "Red Splat Guy" (since that's all that was left of him when his ship hit the "Slow Zone").
  • Ensemble Dark Horse:
    • MCRN Lieutenant Lopez underwent such rapid character-development that it made him very likable and memorable despite only appearing in two episodes.
    • After casually executing two of her previous captors while having a bullet lodged in her stomach in "Pyre", OPA member Drummer became a fan favorite. As a result, her screentime and plot relevance is vastly expanded in the TV show compared to her book-counterpart (Samantha Rosenberg), she gets many scenes that were part of Bull's plotline in Abbadon's Gate (instead of Sam's function in the plot of that book, which is given to Naomi and a mauve shirt OPA member), and she even survives Bull's death scene from the book.
    • Klaes Ashford, having been a particularly unlikable antagonist in Abbadon's Gate, has turned into a fan favorite as well. Unlike his book counterpart, Ashford in the series is a competent, respected leader who doesn't let politics get in the way of common sense, and has a greater vision than most of the OPA leadership except perhaps Fred Johnson.
      • It also helps that he gets parts of Bull's characterization and plot from the booksnote , doesn't start out as the ship's captain, and gets a new backstory as a space pirate who tragically lost a child.
  • Evil Is Sexy:
    • More "Morally Ambiguous Is Sexy," but Amos (being played by Wes Chatham) is very good-looking for a near-sociopath. Bobbie Draper also initially falls into this category, though it's later inverted upon her Heel–Face Turn in the second half of Season 2.
    • Melba/Clarissa Mao is quite beautiful for a psychologically unstable murderer and saboteur.
    • Inverted with Holden and Naomi, who are probably the two members of the Rocinante with the most "acute" senses of right and wrong, and are both played by the attractive Steven Strait and Dominique Tipper.
  • Friendly Fandoms:
    • With the revived Battlestar Galactica, what with both series being (relatively) hard sci-fi Space Operas that give a fundamentally cynical and philosophical analysis upon humanity as they progressed into the stars.
    • With Game of Thrones. In fact, a very popular turn of phrase when The Expanse first started to get significant critical acclaim was describing it as Battlestar Galactica meets Game of Thrones.
  • Funny Moments: Has its own page.
  • Growing the Beard: Season 1 was critically acclaimed, but Season 2 is where the show became significantly bolder and the plot became more intricate, with the characters becoming significantly more interesting and well-developed as consequence. Amusingly enough, this was also around the time the series got the cred for being able to use the occasional Precision F-Strike (albeit censored, muffled, or replaced with "forget you" on some broadcasts) to better match its characters to the ones in the books. Season 3 introduces the Belter Creole equivalent 'felota', which allows the writers to get away with a lot more than in previous seasons (at least for Belter characters—Drummer and Ashford make copious use of it in particular).
  • He Really Can Act:
    • While his performance was never seen as necessarily bad, Steven Strait's performance as Jim Holden was often seen as being the comparative "weak link" out of the Rocinante crew. However, his surprisingly captivating depiction of someone undergoing rapid Sanity Slippage in "It Reaches Out" was widely praised and seen as some of his best work on the show.
    • Wes Chatham's performance as Amos Burton has been one of the most consistently praised aspects of the series, with his genuinely convincing depiction of a near-sociopath attempting to find a moral compass being both surprisingly engaging, genuinely unsettling, and weirdly endearing. Many fans have even favorably compared his "I am that guy" line from "Immolation" with "I am the one who knocks!"
    • While initially seen as just an unlikable jarhead, Frankie Adams as Bobbie Draper got a much better reception as Season 2 went on and she was able to show more of her own impressive acting range beyond the generic "tough guy" marine persona originally shackled to her.
  • Heartwarming Moments:
    • Miller's Heroic Sacrifice in "Home," with him successfully convincing the "resurrected" Julie Mao to steer Eros into Venus instead of Earth. What really clinches it is them embracing each other with a kiss as they head to their mutual doom.
    • The reunion between Prax and his daughter Mei in "Immolation." Additionally, Prax referring to Amos has his "best friend in the whole world" in the same episode.
  • Hilarious in Hindsight: Over a private dinner, Chrisjen Avasarala states after learning of the protomolecule's extrasolar origins that the idea of aliens existing is completely terrifying as they are unequipped to handle them if they are a threat. Fans may find this hilarious as Chrisjen's actor, Shohreh Aghdashloo, played a similar authority figure character in another science fiction franchise who was herself an alien.
  • Les Yay:
    • Naomi and Drummer have copious amounts of sexual tension from the moment they start bonding during "Static." When Naomi leaves the Behemoth, it's treated very similarly to a break-up, leading fans to speculate.
    • Ambiguously Bi Tilly Fagan has a fairly flirty relationship with canonically gay Anna.
  • Memetic Badass: Drummer, who many fans have openly claimed is only kept from single-handedly conquering the entire universe by her loyalty to Fred Johnson. Her badass reputation only increased after she built working mechanical legs/prosthetics for herself and continues to kick ass in the Season 3 finale.
  • Memetic Mutation:
  • Misaimed Fandom: In-universe, Holden was read Don Quixote as a child, and he took it at face value as the story of a noble hero rather than an old man lost in his fantasies.
  • Moment of Awesome: Has its own page.
  • Moral Event Horizon:
    • One of the OPA refugee ships coming from Ganymede in "Pyre" takes all the people from Earth and Mars and throw them out of the airlock.
    • Jules-Pierre Mao crosses it in "Assured Destruction" when he backs up from his Heel–Face Turn and agrees to keep experimenting on the children. The scientists doing the experimenting themselves, including Dr. Strickland, also count here.
    • Admiral Nyugen's cold-blooded murder of long-time colleague Admiral Souther and his subsequent slaughter of the other mutineers in "Triple Point", all so he can commit genocide against Mars.
    • Melba/Clarissa Mao wades into this when she blows up a UNN supply ship and frames Holden for it in an attempt to get him killed. Interestingly deconstructed though, in that she's extremely conflicted about her actions (both before and after pressing the button) and ultimately pulls a Heel–Face Turn in the season finale, saving the entirety of humanity in the process.
  • Nightmare Fuel: Being a pretty damn hard sci-fi take on the Space Opera genre, the series has its own page for a damn good reason.
  • One-Scene Wonder:
    • Jonathan Banks appears for all of three minutes in the pilot episode, playing a man suffering from Space Madness, and milks every moment for all it's worth.
    • Veteran character actor Daniel Kash only really has one scene as head protogen scientist Dr. Antony Dresden (excluding a Season 1 cameo toward the end via a recording) but he is highly memorable and deeply chilling in his portrayal of someone who truly believes the ends justifies the means. Even after all the horrors he's wrought, he somehow manages to make the promise of what the protomolecule can do not only vital, but strangely attractive. It's little wonder that Fred and Holden almost immediately start to become convinced by the sheer passion and logic of his argument.
    • The scenes with Manéo Jung-Espinoza in "Delta-V" ultimately aren't very long, but Zach Villa's surprisingly endearing performance and his memorably horrific death have made it nearly impossible to forget him.
  • Rescued from the Scrappy Heap:
    • Some fans found Bobbie Draper to initially be incredibly annoying for her frequent gun-ho behavior on the Earth/Mars conflict, viewing her personality as largely flat outside of this trait. However, after the Ganymede disaster, learning about Mars' experiments, and getting a healthy dose of Character Development, Bobbie began to convince non-book fans that there was more to her character, and has now become a fan favorite.
    • As alluded to above, Klaes Ashford went from being a largely unlikable and unsympathetic mutineer in the books to an incredibly likable Reasonable Authority Figure in the series, to the point that some fans have argued that he honestly might actually be a better fit for the captain of the Behemoth than Drummer.
  • Retroactive Recognition: Anderson Dawes is played by Jared Harris, better known for his role as Valery Legasov in Chernobyl (although Harris was already a famous actor well before either series premiered).
  • Sacred Cow: In part after the "#SaveTheExpanse" fan campaign which successfully got the series Un-Cancelled, this attitude has started to seep into the fandom.
  • Scapegoat Creator: SyFy got a lot of flack after the series was initially cancelled by them, and was often criticized for some of the more awkward and glaring censorship issues in the latter half of Season 3.
  • The Scrappy: Come Season 3, Diogo Harata has become very unsympathetic and his once-amusing self-delusions have turned him into an infuriating Smug Snake.
  • Signature Scene:
    • The Donnager battle in "CQB" is frequently cited as one of the most realistic Space Battles ever put to screen. And it's no less exciting for it.
    • On a more spoiler-ridden note, Miller meeting with Julie Mao for one last time on Eros at the climax of "Home" and Chrisjen's epic Badass Boast in "Paradigm Shift" are often held up as two of the best moments in the entire series.
  • Special Effects Failure:
    • When walking up to the Belter undergoing gravity torture in "Dulcinea", Chrisjen bizarrely shrinks as she goes from the left of the screen to the right, indicating that they were shooting on a forced perspective set.
    • Minor case, but most of the more complex Belter tattoos are pretty obvious decal tats. The one on Drummer's neck is just the most prominent example, and it gets especially grating in Season 3 due to the large number of Belters on the Behemoth.
  • Spiritual Adaptation: Downplayed, but some fans have favorably compared the series to the Honor Harrington novels, especially in regards to the main similarities in how their long-term world building, political maneuvering and progressive technological developments that dramatically alter the military and political landscape are utilized within the narrative.
  • Squick: As with the books, virtually anything to do with the protomolecule, though special mention probably has to go to Katoa's "disassembly" of his nurse in "Reload."
  • Take That, Scrappy!: After becoming an insufferably arrogant and idiotic Jerkass throughout Season 3, Diogo Harata gets a vicious verbal and physical beatdown by Ashford before having an elevator dropped on him by Naomi in "Abbadon's Gate."
  • Tear Jerker: Has its own page, though special mention must be given to when Miller finally meets Julie face-to-face in "Home" and he prevails upon what's left of her humanity to steer Eros away from Earth.
  • They Wasted a Perfectly Good Plot: Heavily downplayed, but some fans were disappointed with the mid-Season 3 Time Skip only focusing around the Ring, as they felt that the intervening events (i.e., the uprooting of the Protogen conspiracy within both the UN and MCR governments) would've been interesting enough to watch in its own right.
  • Visual Effects of Awesome:
    • The effects used for the spaceships and space battles are pretty cool to look at, but the opening sequence for episode 1 (and the entirety of Season 2) deserves special mention. It shows the progress of humanity over the next two hundred or so years and is simply gorgeous.
    • The inside of Eros after the protomolecule has fully taken over in "Leviathan Wakes" is truly a sight to behold, and it gets ever more gorgeous the closer Miller draws to its core.
    • The slingshot maneuver in "Here There Be Dragons" may be Artistic License – Physics, but it's absolutely stunning to look at.
    • The fate of the Arboghast, which takes a seemingly simple shot and turns it into something intricately beautiful.
    • The climax shot of Caliban's War where The "Caliban" Protomolecule creature is crawling over the hull of the Rocinante is just breathtaking.
    • The show is generally amazingly good at making the audience believe that characters are floating in Zero G whenever she ships aren't under thrust and the characters couldn't lock down to the floor with magnetic boots. Case in point: the forced-slowdown situation in the Season 3 episode "Fallen World".
  • Woobie, Destroyer of Worlds: Melba/Clarissa Mao might be a villainous saboteur and murderer, but she's clearly unwell and suffering for her father's sins. She's tormented by her actions, but feels she's come too far to stop now, and we get a good view of how abysmally she was treated by her own father.note  Furthermore, Anna immediately likes her instead of realizing "This woman wants to kill me" just from looking into her eyes the first time they met, which helps give Melba more moral ambiguity as consequence. Also, given that we don't get her narrative POV and self-justification thoughts in the TV show, she comes across as far less of a sociopath than in the first half of the novel-version of Abbadon's Gate.)

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