Amazon Prime: The Expanse and Carnival Row

While I’ve been stuck home, I’ve been spending a lot of time watching videos on Amazon Prime. The current one up is The Expanse about which I’ve heard good things. It is interesting to compare it with the series I just finished (so far as it exists for now as a single season–and, dammit I want the rest)

Just finished the second episode of Season 1. And, let’s just say that it is not as engaging as the first two episodes of Carnival Row were for me. But then, Carnival Row started with some “thrilling heroics” and hinted that there was a love story in there. That had me sold and was enough to grab me until the worldbuilding and character development could completely rope me in. (Where’s the rest of it, dammit?)

The Expanse hasn’t really done that. I’m not fully engaged with the characters, at least not yet. The other thing is that we’ve got all these various threads which I’m having a bit of trouble following. Carnival Row had much the same issue but I think they tied them together a bit more tightly. While the plot thread involving Agreus Astrayon and the Spurnroses is off to the side, the other main plot threads tie together into a fairly cohesive whole. Admittedly, it wasn’t until the very end of the first season that they all came together but even before then they made part of a picture that had a bit more cohesiveness than the various threads in The Expanse–at least as I’m seeing them now. The overarching tie in The Expanse–the conflict between Earth, Mars, and the Belt–is a bit too diffuse at this point for it to pull the disparate elements together in my mind at this point.

Part of that is a matter of scope. While there is a bit of time spent elsewhere, the vast majority of the action in Carnival Row takes place within a single city, a single political entity, and a handful of cultures that are tightly bound together even when they’re in conflict. The Expanse spans the solar system with widely different polities with correspondingly less cohesiveness between them.

Both series show some truly excellent worldbuilding. In Carnival Row every main character went through major changes in some breathtaking character arcs. It’s too soon yet to see if the same can be said of The Expanse. There’s material there that shows promise but…we’ll see.

For the time being, I certainly plan to continue.

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