Expanse, The - Season Two (Blu-ray) (2017)

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Released 19-Sep-2018

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category TV Series Audio Commentary-Eight cast and crew commentaries
Trailer-2 Trailers, Preview,
Featurette-Top 9 Job Requirements (2:46)
Featurette-The Powerful Women of The Expanse (1:42)
Featurette-We Love Our Fans (0:39)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2017
Running Time 568:17
RSDL / Flipper No/No
Multi Disc Set (3)
Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Jeff Woolnough
Breck Eisner
David Grossman
Kenneth Fink
Studio
Distributor
ViaVision Starring Thomas Jane
Steven Strait
Dominique Tipper
Cas Anvar
Wes Chatham
Shohreh Aghdashloo
Jared Harris
Chad L Colemen
Frankie Adams
Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Clinton Shorter


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 5.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Expanse is a Syfy channel original series based on the bestselling novels of James S A Corey (the pen name of Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck). There are currently seven novels in the series; The Expanse: Season Two is based partly on the first book Leviathan Wakes but mostly on the second novel Caliban’s War.

     Two hundred years into the future humans have colonised our solar system, but although technology has advanced the adversarial aspect of human nature has not. Three factions are in opposition: Earth is controlled by the UN, Mars by an independent, and advanced, military power while the third faction is the “Belters”, humans who live and work on the Asteroid Belt from which Earth and Mars draw resources; in the belt the OPA, a sort of trade union that is considered a terrorist group by the UN, has pseudo control.

     As Season Two starts James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Joe Miller (Thomas Jane) escape in the Rocinante from Eros Station when a biological weapon with the potential to destroy humanity is tested on the station, killing over 100,000 Belters. They trace a signal sending data from Eros to a small space station but first make their way to Tycho Station in the Belt to get the assistance of OPA operative Frederick Johnson (Chad L Coleman). On Earth, UN Deputy Undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) has discovered that an undercover force within the UN seems set on fermenting a war with Mars and her suspicions centre on UN Deputy Secretary Sadavir Errinwright (Shawn Doyle); he is secretly in league with industrialist Jules-Pierre Mao (Francois Chau), whose companies have been involved in researching the biological weapon. In a new story line, Martian Marine Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) is not so sure that a war with Earth would be a bad thing.

     As the season progresses, the biological weapon is identified to be an unpredictable alien protomolecule capable of absorbing life. Mars and Earth each think that the other has tested the weapon on Eros and mutual tension escalates; to try to head off a war Chrisjen, in an act that would be considered treason, communicates with Frederick Johnson and discovers that the stealth ships which destroyed Holden’s ship the Canterbury and the Martian battlecruiser, the Donnager, thus precipitating the crisis, had been built in secret by Protogen, a company in the industrial group headed by Jules-Pierre Mao. But when Eros Station, an asteroid without power, suddenly begins to move towards Earth, mutual mistrust between Mars, Earth and the Belters reaches an extreme level. In a stunning and unexpected episode the source of Eros’ power is revealed, the story thread featuring Julie Mao is completed and a major character killed. A new story thread, and a new threat to peace, commences as an attack by something unknown occurs at a joint UN / Mars agricultural research facility on Jupiter’s moon Ganymede in which Bobbie Draper, although badly injured, survives and sees something that even she cannot believe.

     The destruction of the research station on Ganymede creates a wave of refugees, many of whom, including Botanist Dr. Meng (Terry Chen), end up on Tycho Station where OPA leader Dawes (Jared Harris) arrives from Ceres Station to challenge Fred Johnson and his lieutenant Camina Drummer (Cara Gee). The crew of the Rocinante realise that another protomolecule may be in play on Ganymede and for some reason Dr. Meng’s 6 year old daughter Mei, apparently still on the moon, may be a key to discovering what happened; with Dr. Meng on board they head to Ganymede. Meanwhile Chrisjen Avasarala, on Earth, tries to establish exactly what is happening, making unlikely allies on her way but facing deadly threats to herself.

     The Expanse: Season Two remains cracking television. While Season One focussed on three story threads, Season Two resolves the detective film noir aspects of Season 1 but opens out to include a number of different environments, including Mars and Ganymede, new story strands and major new characters, including Martians Bobby Draper and Captain Martens (Peter Outerbridge), Chrisjen’s “minder” Cotyar (Nick E Tarabay) and Dr Meng. The sets and CGI look wonderful with the spaceships, space stations, asteroids, Ganymede, Mars and the Earth all impressive with only some CGI debris looking less than authentic. The action sequences in space are chaotic and exciting, with a loud and enveloping audio track with engines roaring, ship metal groaning, the impact of debris on the hull, guns, torpedoes and explosions. Steven Strait is better than in season 1 and is growing into the role, Dominique Tipper is a strong and watchable female, Cas Anvar interesting and Wes Chatham fabulously deadpan as the tough guy. Of the new cast members Frankie Adams is a great force of nature!

     The Expanse: Season Two is exciting and dramatic, with a nice sense of wry humour and some beautiful interplay between the crew members of the Rocinante. This season consists of 13 episodes which aired in the US between February and April 2017; all 13 episodes are presented on three Blu-rays. The series is now up to three seasons and 36 episodes and Season 4 is due in 2019.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Expanse is presented in an aspect ratio of 1.78:1, the original broadcast ratio, in 1080p using the MPEG 4 AVC code.

     This series looks anything but cheap; sets, whether on Earth, space ships, stations in space, Mars or on asteroids in the Belt are beautifully detailed, the visual effects generally excellent. The colour palate is grey, dark blue, steel and chrome dominate; space is a monochrome area. Earth considerably brighter and with vivid blues and greens, Mars is, unsurprisingly, a red planet and Venus a cloud of red and yellow. The protomolecule is a luminous blue. The black of space and shadow detail are excellent, skin tones natural, brightness and contrast consistent except for occasional glare.

     I noticed no marks or artefacts except minor motion blur.

     English subtitles for the hearing impaired are available.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     Audio is English DTS HD-MA 5.1.

     This is a loud, enveloping audio track. The surrounds and rears are always in use; in the ships or on space stations there is always the hum or rumble of machinery or engines, on Earth bird calls, rain and thunder, plus the distorted voices of the protomolecule and the music. There are plenty of directional effects including door knocks, the thud of the footsteps of antigravity boots, craft docking and undocking, doors and engines. The action sequences are loud and enveloping, shots and explosions are all around the sound stage. The sub-woofer added rumble to the space craft engines, explosions and impacts.

     The original score by Clinton Shorter is excellent.

     I did not notice any lip synchronization issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

     This Blu-ray set includes 8 audio commentaries plus a few other minor extras.

Disc1

Episode 1 “Safe”

     Breck Eisner (director), Mark Fergus (writer), Naren Shankar (executive producer / writer) and Steven Strait, Dominique Tipper (cast) sit together. They chat, joke around, laugh, talk over each other, say “I love this shot” a lot, make inane comments and occasionally talk about the show and mention locations, plot points, sets and changes from the books.

Episode 2 “Doors & Corners”

     Daniel Abraham, Ty Franck (writers of this episode and jointly authors of the source novels writing as James S A Corey) are with Cas Anvar (cast). There is less frivolity but they do enjoy watching the episode as well as talk about the technology, the cast and characters including composite characters, deviations from the books, the physics of the scenes, the fans and they make reference to developments in Season 3.

The Expanse Season Two Trailer (0:51)

    As it says.

The Expanse Season Two Preview (2:26)

    Minor EPK with cast and crew soundbites, behind the scenes and film footage, stunts.

A New Mission (0:41)

     Really another trailer.

Disc2

Episode 5 “Home”

     Mark Fergus (writer) and Bob Munro (visual effects supervisor) provide a much more focussed commentary. This episode is the climax of the first novel of the series Leviathan Wakes and the two speak about their reaction to the episode, the CGI including the data displays, what is real and what is CGI in the episode and the effects generally.

Episode 6 “Paradigm Shift”

     Daniel Abraham (writer) and Naren Shankar (executive producer / writer) talk about the new storyline that takes precedence from this episode, departures from the books including characters introduced ahead of their appearance in the books, the adaptation process, bringing the various story threads together, themes within the series, how information from short stories were integrated into the series. They do watch and comment a bit on what is on screen but the information provided is not too bad.

Episode 7 “The Seventh Man”

     Mark Fergus (writer) and Frankie Adams (cast) tend to watch the show and talk a bit about what is on screen. Fergus does chat sometimes about plot points and characters while Adams mostly says that “I loved this” or “that’s / he’s amazing”.

Episode 8 “Pyre”

     Naren Shankar (executive producer / writer) and Wes Chatham (cast) tend to watch the show so there are silences. Shankar does say “I love this . . .” a fair bit but he does talk about plot and story points, the change made from the book for this episode, a new character and scripting changes. Chatham’s contribution is better than most cast commentaries as he questions Shankar about story points rather than made inane comments and the two add some fun anecdotes about shooting the show. One of the better commentaries.

Disc3

Episode 12 “The Monster and the Rocket”

     Mark Fergus (writer) plus Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo (cast) chat about the episode. Aghdashloo contributes very little while Fergus and Steven Strait mostly talk about the developments of the characters of Errinwright and Holden in this episode. There is still a bit of “I love this . . .” but there is some insights that are worthwhile.

Episode 13 “Caliban’s War”

     Ty Franck (writer), Naren Shankar (executive producer / writer) and Dominique Tipper (cast) talk a bit about changes from the book, constructing this final episode in season two with the intercut plotlines and the performance capture creature. They do laugh a lot and there is a lot of chat about nothing much.

Top 9 Job Requirements (2:46)

     Behind the scenes EPK type extra with narration, film and some green screen footage.

The Powerful Women of The Expanse (1:42)

     A brief look at the characters played by Dominique Tipper, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams.

We Love Our Fans (0:39)

    The cast say thank you to the fans.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The US region free Blu-ray of The Expanse: Season Two is the same as our release.

Summary

     If you are in any way interested in quality sci-fi and have not caught up with The Expanse, do so. This is cracking television, blending genres, with a thought provoking script, great characters and action and excellent production values. Of course, don’t start with Season Two as it follows on directly, without pause, from Season One. Fans of the series however should not hesitate – Season Two is just as good, maybe even better, than the first as the stakes for the human race are raised.

     The video and audio are excellent. The eight audio commentaries are of varied quality and the other extras are minor, but we get what is available in the US, so we cannot complain.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Monday, October 08, 2018
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

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