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The Expanse: Every Season, Ranked


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by Xtreme HD IPTV

Based on the acclaimed book series by James S. A. Corey, The Expanse is an ambitious sci-fi TV series that ran on the SyFy Channel for the first three seasons before being canceled. When fans protested and campaigned for its return, Prime Video picked the show back up, for a final three seasons.

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Set in the future, the premise revolves around humanity’s conquest of the Solar System, and a grand political conspiracy that threatens to undermine a state of interplanetary peace. To prevent an all-out war, a band of disparate protagonists must work together and combat several different threats.

Although The Expanse has drawn positive reviews during its six-season run between 2015 and 2022, like any great piece of television, the lofty Sci-Fi series took a while to find its creative stride.

Fortunately, following a rocky inaugural season, the show improved over time and reached its most compelling dramatic conflicts in the middle of its run. For those looking to plunge into The Expanse on Prime Video or established fans looking to reflect, here is every season of the show, ranked.

6 Season 1

The crew examines a monitor in The Expanse
SyFy

The first season of The Expanse instantly introduced viewers to its ambitious world-building, and immediately established the tone and tenor of the series. The story follows Captain James Holden (Steven Strait) and his ragtag crew aboard an ice-harvesting vessel as the U.S. and Mars are on the brink of an interplanetary war.

When Holden’s cargo ship is attacked, his crew overtakes a Martian ship that they dub the Rocinante. Meanwhile, a detective from Ceres named Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) is tasked with finding a missing woman named Julie Mao (Florence Faivre).

Gripping Despite a Few Growing Pains

The first season of The Expanse does a splendid job of adapting the sci-fi source novel, establishing the story’s primary conflict, introducing the main characters, and creating an atmospheric visual tableau that remains consistent throughout the series.

Unafraid to kill off compelling characters early and often, highlight moments include Juli’s terrifying alien infection, and the radiation absorbed by Holden and Miller in their attempt to find her. Miller is an especially compelling character, delivering a cool noir feel to the unfolding mystery, amid iconic lines like, “Door and corners, kid. Doors and corners.”

Alas, between the sheer size and scope of the drama that flashes back and forth between outer-space action and grounded UN meetings in the U.S. feels a bit too large and lofty to fully grasp.

Several episodes are saddled with wordy exposition and the slow-boiling tempo makes the show hard to get into at first. While Season 1 of The Expanse may have bitten off more than it can chew, the show made an excellent rebound in Season 2.

5 Season 6

The crew eats a meal together in The Expanse
Amazon Studios

In Season 6, Holden and his surviving mates aboard the Rocinante find themselves in an intense war with the imperial Belter Marcos Inaros (Keon Alexander) and The Free Navy. Fighting alongside The Combined Fleet of Earth and Mars, the ultimate goal is to maintain interplanetary peace.

The continuous assault of asteroids that Marcos launches at the Rocinante leads to a visceral, action-packed spectacle that arguably marks the high point of The Expanse‘s visual splendor. Unfortunately, the truncated episode count tends to short change the series finale.

RELATED: 10 TV Shows That Were Canceled on a Cliffhanger

Feels Rushed Despite Excellent Performances and VFX

The final season of The Expanse goes above and beyond with its incendiary explosions and vivid special FX work to create an unforgettably marvelous experience. Unfortunately, with only 6 episodes compared to 13 in seasons 3 and 4, the final season feels underwhelming compared to the other seasons, and fails to dramatically satisfy viewers as a series finale (not to mention how much the story continues in the novels after this).

While the performances are fine and some of the characters’ personal arcs are tied up nicely, overall, the season feels too truncated. Although the VFX in Season 6 may be the best of the entire series, the repetitive action and recycled storylines wore out their welcome by the time the series finale aired.

The bottom line is that The Expanse deserved a better and more expansive send-off, with the sixth and final season feeling too rushed and forced compared to the show’s most memorable chapters.

4 Season 4

Naomi stands before the crew in The Expanse
Amazon Studios

The fourth season of the outer-space TV show marked The Expanse‘s transition from the SyFy Channel to Prime Video. While some TV shows can have difficulty transitioning from one network and platform to another, The Expanse made the seamless move from a censored cable channel to an uncensored streamer and hardly missed a beat.

Rather than cutting back and forth between Earth and the interplanetary action, Season 4 primarily takes place on the exoplanet of Ilus. Yet, to keep things fresh and intriguing, the exterior exploration of Ilus marks a much different and pleasant departure from the previous seasons’ shut-in enclosures aboard the Rocinante.

The Transition to Prime Video Goes in a Bold New Direction

Whereas the first three seasons of The Expanse balanced the open spaces on Earth with the claustrophobic dread aboard the Rocinante and other spaceships, Season 4 literally expanded the horizons of the show by moving the intense battles and exploratory action to wide open areas and vast planetary landscapes.

The series wisely overhauls its settings and world-building at the precise time that it changed networks, essentially revamping the entire tableau and resetting the drama for a whole new audience.

While it may feel like a different show compared to the first three seasons, the fourth season of The Expanse deserves credit for boldly taking the series in a new direction. Of course, Season 4 also introduces Marco Inaros, the brutal Belter leader who remains the show’s primary villain until the end.

3 Season 2

Holden and the crew examine a map in The Expanse
SyFy

Following the slightly clunky inaugural season that established characters and a sense of world-building, Season 2 of The Expanse came into a much sharper and more compelling focus.

Seeking revenge on the space station that resulted in a lethal biohazard on Eros, the crew aboard the Rocinante discover a mysterious alien bioweapon called the Protomolecule. The high-stakes mission gives way to wildly unpredictable story twists and turns, including the shocking death of protagonist Joe Miller.

Apart from the crushing emotional devastation the crew suffers as a result, Miller’s death gives way to the rise of Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), an intrepid leader who helps Holden fight for peace.

RELATED: 10 Underrated Sci-Fi TV Shows Worth Checking Out

Focuses the Story and Refines the Characterizations

With 13 total episodes (three more than Season 1), Season 2 of The Expanse feels bigger, better, bolder, and more substantial than the inaugural chapter. The dramatic stakes are not only increased, but the intense showdowns with the inhuman Protomolecule hybrid entities on Ganymede are unforgettably harrowing.

Although the subplot involving the crew helping a father named Prax find his daughter feels a bit distracting and out of place, the final episode rebounds when the Rocinante ventures to Venus and experiences a terrifying encounter with the Protomolecule.

All in all, Season 2 of The Expanse takes the best parts of Season 1 and refines them with a narrative focus while simultaneously elongating the runtime.

2 Season 5

Alex sits in a pod in The Expanse
Amazon Studios

Docked at Tycho station as a biological calamity threatens Earth’s population, Season 5 of the Prime Video sci-fi show gets back to basics to deliver exhilarating intergalactic warfare.

As Holden and his heroic cohorts are in retreat, the rebel leader Inaros joins forces with the terrifying Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), the son of Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), who happens to be the former lover of both Holden and Inaros. The Shakespearean-like dramatic interplay mixed with the brutal and breathless battle scenes marries story and spectacle better than nearly every other season.

A Visceral Explosion of Interplanetary War

Apart from rooting for the survival of Holden’s crew as they find themselves under siege from Inaros’ forces, the personal storylines are given enough time and attention to sew up several loose threads. Whether it’s Avasarala launching a new division in the UN Council or Amos returning to Earth to search for a missing ally, Season 5 does a great job of answering long-held questions left hanging in the air in previous seasons.

Between the personal character arcs and the visceral bombardment of action-packed battle scenes, Season 5 of The Expanse returns to how it functions best and delivers 10 episodes of must-watch sci-fi drama.

1 Season 3

Holden and the crew hold weapons and wear armor in The Expanse
SyFy

Almost every fan of The Expanse will attest that the show reached its dramatic apex in Season 3. The plot of the rewatchable sci-fi TV show kicks off when the UN declares war with Mars, and research vessels begin to probe the mysterious behavior on Venus.

Meanwhile, the Protomolecule has expanded and formed The Ring, an alien superstructure that begins orbiting beyond Uranus, forcing the governments of Earth, Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA) to send resources through The Ring to shut down its power source.

Apart from the clear shift to a more war-centric sci-fi series, the return of Joe Miller as a hallucinatory projection in Holden’s mind is hard to eclipse.

A Tour-de-Force in Action and Storytelling

After Season 1 established the world and Season 2 explored a mysterious investigative strand, The Expanse found its creative groove in Season 3 by making an overtly militaristic action-adventure. The extraterrestrial threats and human tensions introduced early on culminate in a showstopping blitzkrieg of violent action and incendiary visual effects.

When Miller appears as a projection in Holden’s mind, the two race to destroy The Ring before it’s too late, forcing the main characters to choose sides and make life-altering decisions.

The unfathomable consequences of Rocinante‘s epic battle with The Ring feel as if the entire world hangs in the balance, with humanity facing its greatest existential threat. Season 3 of The Expanse marks the high point of the story’s objective and execution. When the show was canceled after, it was easy to understand why fans were shocked, and started the successful campaign to bring it back.

For more sci-fi, here is a video on sci-fi TV shows that were canceled too soon:

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