I recently started watching Series Three of The Expanse, the brilliant Sci Fi series about a future where humans have colonised the solar system, Mars is an independent planet in a cold war with Earth, and The Belt (asteroid belt) is inhabited by people who live miserable lives while they mine resources for the inner planets. It’s all rather dark in places, contains good science (there is no artificial gravity), and there is as much politics as there is science fiction. I got to the start of Series Three but on the second episode I found myself in rather familiar territory.
That’s not to say that the start of Series Three was a repeat of the previous series. The familiar territory problem was that I couldn’t remember what the hell was going on and that I’d had the same problem when I watched Series Two.
The Expanse, like Game of Thrones, House of Cards and most other modern series has many story-lines, apparently unrelated, that weave together, over weeks, to reveal the story. The characters are all well developed, each having their own backstory with twists and turns, changing allegiances and all that jazz. TV drama has come a long way since the arrival of Netflix and Amazon streaming. Things have changed for the better.
I sometimes wonder, though, if I’m getting older (well I know I’m getting older). I sometimes wonder if it’s a feature of getting older to find that complex plots are more difficult to follow. I also have a mild case of prosopagnosia, or face blindness, that means I sometimes find it difficult to follow who characters are, and I’m also a bit rubbish with names. (If I don’t say hello in the street after we met at a book signing don’t take it personally.) However, I’m sure things were different years ago. I’m sure TV series were not as complex as they are now.
Is it the case that streaming services are commissioning TV series with deliberately complex story-lines so that you are encouraged to watch them more than once? If the programmes are going to sit on their servers for years after being released do they want you to return to them? What difference does this make if you are paying your subscription anyway? I’ve re-watched parts of House of Cards and Game of Thrones, mostly because I was introducing someone else to them, but I still enjoyed the experience and understood more the second time around. Watching The Expanse I’m finding that I’m anticipating events but picking up details of who is important for later episodes so absorbing more. Is this part of their plan?
However, with all this re-watching, I’m wondering if I’m ever going to have time to watch anything new.