The Amazon Prime series The Expanse is great. It’s really excellent sci-fi, and shares many parallels with one of my most loved game series, Mass Effect. Today, I would like to tell you about how The Expanse made me less annoyed at one of the major plot points in the very first Mass Effect.
Fair warning, I’m about to drop some spoilers for The Expanse here (not for Season 5 though! I haven’t seen any of that myself just yet), so read on at your own risk.
Throughout The Expanse’s third season, main character (and Shepard-like) James Holden has alien visions of his dead pal who’s telling him how to save the galaxy. It’s like an alien hologram that only he can see, and occasionally he gets caught talking to it. You can imagine the reaction.
Towards the end of the season, he even has an alien vision that’s pretty similar to what Shepard experiences in the opening of Mass Effect (though his is more pictures of pretty planets and less bloody machinery). Holden tells a few people about it, and obviously they’re rather skeptical. As a viewer, we’re put in an interesting position because we’ve been shown the weird stuff he’s seeing, and yet it’s not annoying that no one believes him. Holden acts so recklessly, doing daft things like not telling his pals what he’s up to (even when they’re the ones who would likely help him) because he knows how silly it sounds.
While watching these episodes, I very suddenly realised why no one believed Commander Shepard about her visions until they were literally being attacked by Reapers.
Playing as the main character in a game puts you in a place where everything feels very personal. After Mass Effect’s first mission, Shepard is frustrated and confused because no one believes the strange Reaper-filled dreams she experienced after touching a Prothean beacon. Of course we believe the vision because we’ve experienced it first-hand. And of course no one else believes it, it sounds absurd!
For the longest time, I was so incredibly annoyed that no one just went along with Shepard’s ramblings. She tells everyone exactly what is going on and what is going to happen and they’re all like, ‘Lol nah. U can be an elite space marine if u want tho.’ In time, you gather actual evidence, and more people come to realise the trouble the galaxy is in. But it always feels so offending that right off the bat that no one is listening to me: Commander Shepard! Known war hero!
I suppose this is really a comment on how good both series are: The Expanse puts you in a place where you understand what Holden’s going through, but still doesn’t unrealistically expect you (or other characters) to just go along with it. While Mass Effect’s similar plot is designed to get you frustrated, it makes you want to go and find proof to shove directly in the Galactic Council’s smug faces.
The moral of the story is that Mass Effect fans should watch The Expanse, and The Expanse fans should play Mass Effect. This is my Christmas gift to you, dear reader.