Syfy’s The Expanse is one of the best, most diverse science fiction shows on television, and we’ve been eagerly awaiting the next season. Last weekend, Syfy brought several of the writers and actors from the show to New York Comic Con, giving us our best glimpse yet of what’s to come when the show returns in 2017.
The Expanse is based off of a series of novels by James S.A. Corey (the pseudonym for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), set in an inhabited solar system two centuries from now. Political factions have sprung up between Earth, Mars, and the Outer Belt, and when a ship hauling water is destroyed by an unknown party, two men are put squarely in the middle of what could become an interplanetary war: Holden, a crewman on a water hauler, and Miller, a detective on Ceres.
The show’s first season left off with a stunning revelation: someone was orchestrating the conflict in the solar system, and they’d just unleashed a contagion on a settlement on the inhabited asteroid Eros. Holden and Miller were left barely clinging to life after being rescued, leaving the fate of the solar system in the balance.
Season 2 picks up moments after the end of Season 1
Where does season 2 pick up? "Moments later," Daniel Abraham told The Verge. "We have a solar system at the end of season one that has a lot of tension." Devoted followers of the novels will note that the first season of the show didn’t cover the entirety of the first entry in the series, Leviathan Wakes. While the remainder of the book will be covered, the show will also quickly move on to pulling in parts of the next installment, Caliban’s War.
During the panel discussion, the panel showed off a new trailer for the show’s second season, as well as a dramatic clip of the crew going into battle over a massive space station. The footage was amazing to watch, and was on par with what you might see in a big-budget summer blockbuster.
One of the newest additions to the show is Bobbie Draper, a Martian Marine portrayed by Frankie Adams, a New Zealand actress of Samoan heritage. "We’re going to do something with Bobbie similar to what we’re doing with [Chrisjen] Avasarala," Abraham explained. "In that she’s coming into the story before she did in the books."
The show had some specific requirements for casting Bobbie
We’ve previously geeked out about Bobbie’s introduction, but the importance of such a character in this show is worth noting. For one, Bobbie is portrayed in the book as a 6-foot-tall Polynesian woman, which presented some challenges when it came to casting her. "We had a really specific set of requirements for that actress," Ty Franck told The Verge. "We needed somebody who was Polynesian or Samoan, so we could keep the ethnicity from the books. We wanted somebody who had some physicality, so they were believable as a soldier. And of course, more than anything, you need somebody who can act, so finding that combination of things was tough. It took a long time."
They eventually settled on Adams, an actress and amateur boxer. Franck noted that trying to find the right actress for the part was challenging, but they’ve faced similar challenges in bringing together a purposefully multicultural cast. "The only reason we’re able to do it is because the studio that produces the show, and the people who are in charge of the show, and the showrunners and executive producers, are very supportive of keeping that." He says casting agents simply don’t have deep rosters of non-white actors. "It’s not that they don’t want to cast people of different ethnicities, there’s no malice in it, it’s just who’s in the rolodex right now."
Bobbie will bring a Martian viewpoint to the show, which largely underrepresented the planet’s perspective in the first season. In this world, Mars is a politically and technologically advanced powerhouse. During the panel, writer Mark Fergus said, "The Martian perspective is coming in," and that the audience will get some new ideas about Mars’ motivations, chiefly through Bobbie.
"There’s no evil for the sake of evil."
One of the main takeaways is that there are no clear-cut villains in the mix: everyone is fighting for their own side. "Our rule [was], everyone has to have a good argument for their side," Franck said. "There’s no evil for the sake of evil."
"You’re never sure whose side you’re on," said Dominique Tipper, who portrays Naomi Nagata in the show. A main element of the next season seems to be a level of uncertainty for the characters and where everyone stands. The central cast comes from all walks of life, and from all corners of the solar system. "We’re piloting this hugely sophisticated ship, and none of us are military," said Cas Anvar, who portrays Alex Kamal. "We’re a completely civilian group. There’s no hierarchy or governance. Everyone has to get along to survive."
The crew will work hard toward that goal. Steven Strait said his character, James Holden, came out of Eros traumatized by what he saw. "We see him grow into a leader where his optimism chips away. His worldview gets a bit more dark." This will cause some problems with the crew as they figure out their next steps.
Family will be a major focus of the next season, according to Wes Chatam, who plays Amos Burton. "The rest of the crew of the Roci become family, and it’s the closest that [Amos] has ever gotten to people." Tipper echoed the sentiment. "You’ll get to see everyone’s human struggles more clearly this season. We’ll see a bit more about what makes them tick."
Abraham and Franck were both optimistic about the future. While the first season didn’t pull in stellar numbers on in the initial nightly broadcasts, Abraham said there was a "huge uptick in the live-plus-7 numbers," showing views for a new episode over the course of the week after it premieres.
"What that tells you is that our audience is an audience that uses their DVR," Franck explained, "While the show was on, we were in the top five in iTunes, we were in the top five on Amazon, we were like in the top five or ten in Google Play."
Build a good show, and the fans will come
Both authors say Syfy and its parent company, NBC/Universal, are aware of that dynamic, and the network is willing to give the show the time it needs to shape a quality story. "Their game plan is is to build a good show and something that's widely available, and then believe the fan base will come," Abraham explained. "If Alcon Entertainment [the production company behind The Expanse] decides to cancel us, there will always be some books to finish up the story."
At the panel, the authors said the show is about to get wider distribution, which should help boost awareness among prospective viewers. It will be coming to Amazon Prime on December 14th. And international audiences will get to stream the show on Netflix in November, just in time to get caught up before season 2 premieres in January 2017.