A good measure of a TV series is how you feel when that series gets canceled. For example, when Syfy announced earlier this month that it wouldn’t move forward with The Expanse following its third season, my entire life was derailed. I was quite literally getting texts from friends that started with, “Hey man, sorry to hear about The Expanse,” as if a loved one just passed away. There were questions I just couldn’t answer: Why this is this happening? What’s even the point of Peak TV if the best sci-fi show since Battlestar Galactica gets an early ax? Should we just end television as a medium forever? My point is: The Expanse is a great show.
And thankfully, it’s not dead yet. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Amazon and the show’s production company, Alcon Entertainment, are finalizing a deal to bring The Expanse back for a fourth season on Amazon’s streaming platform, which already owns the North American streaming rights to the series (Netflix owns The Expanse’s global rights, which is probably one of many things being sorted out in negotiation).
This potential move is, for starters, extremely dope, and enough to make me pull back the curtains in my apartment and consider living life again. It’s also apparently something Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has been clamoring for for years. The Reporter notes that Bezos was “livid” when Syfy first acquired the series, and smartly points out that making this new deal would fall in line with Bezos’s vision of finding the “next Game of Thrones” for his streamer.
The forthcoming Lord of the Rings series is Amazon’s flashiest new IP, and the one that’s bringing the most hype, but The Expanse shares a lot more of Thrones’ DNA than you might expect. Based on the book series of the same name from James S.A. Corey (a pen name for writers Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham ), The Expanse dovetails narrative threads from across the solar system that slowly start coming together; there are moments when someone from Earth finally runs into characters from a stolen Martian spaceship, and it packs the same wallop as Tyrion Lannister bumping into Daenerys Targaryen. There’s also a mysterious biological substance called the protomolecule that could potentially wipe out all of humanity—the show’s equivalent to the White Walkers. I could keep going, but I’ll just say this: Abraham has collaborated with George R.R. Martin and clearly took some lessons from the author in regard to world-building and subversive narrative twists.
Still, the question would remain: Can The Expanse ever come close to the popularity of Game of Thrones? The underlying numbers at Syfy weren’t too promising: The show hit around a half-million viewers per episode, which likely spelled its demise on the network, along with an agreement with Alcon that placed a greater emphasis on first-run linear rights—meaning there was a greater emphasis on live-viewing, which is an increasingly archaic way to profit off of a show. The Expanse’s live-viewership numbers don’t account for DVR plays or the number of people who’ve binged the earlier seasons on Amazon—or, if you live overseas, on Netflix. Amazon and Netflix keep their metrics close to the vest, but the fact Amazon is even considering acquiring The Expanse suggests it’s seen enough interest from subscribers to warrant a fourth season.
However, even if the numbers aren’t overwhelmingly high, fans of The Expanse are nothing if not really passionate about the series. In the week-plus since the cancellation was first announced, fans created a Change.org petition for Netflix or Amazon to pick up the show (yeah, of course I signed it); the likes of George R.R. Martin, Wil Wheaton, Patton Oswalt, an actual astronaut, and Paul Krugman voiced their support; and, most impressively, the most ardent fans raised enough money to fly a #SaveTheExpanse banner over Amazon HQ in Santa Monica, California.
We’re here & it’s incredible. Our fans, everyone banding together, you’re incredible. We’re emotional & we’re humbled & we’re thankful. No matter what happens, we are ALL part of something special. Thank you. ✨ #TheExpanse #SaveTheExpanse pic.twitter.com/MuGQdrLWYk— The Expanse Writers (@TheExpanseWR) May 15, 2018
The Expanse even got an uptick in viewers in the first episode to air following the cancellation news, with #SaveTheExpanse trending on Twitter last Wednesday evening. The whole enterprise lent The Expanse its own miniature news cycle; last week was probably the most the show has been discussed online since it premiered in 2015. All of it may seem like noise, but there’s a fact at the heart of it: The Expanse is a great, special sci-fi series. When the hoopla around it begins to dissipate—i.e., whenever the news of Amazon reviving the series becomes capital-O Official—it still deserves to be part of the zeitgeist. A show that deals with tribalism and international (er, interplanetary) relations, features a supernatural metaphor for nuclear armageddon, and champions onscreen diversity without ever making a big deal about it never should’ve been on the brink of cancellation. If Jeff Bezos and Amazon do pick up The Expanse—and so help me God, they better—they wouldn’t just be getting the next Game of Thrones. They’d be getting something better.