What is 'The Expanse' Saying About the Future?

The Expanse takes place 200 years in the future, where the Sol System has been colonized by millions. The Expanse is predicated on this fact, and while we aren't privy to the details of the colonization itself, one thing is certain: a future in space doesn't mean it's a better place. The same problems that exist today exist in the world of The Expanse. Perhaps it's because the show's writers are inspired by current events, or maybe it's because people in power just don't change.

The Expanse is starting to suggest the latter, hammering home the fact that if we can't solve our problems now, it can't be any better when we get to Mars. With each episode comes a cold dose of reality. Are hope, perseverance and faith how we change the course of humanity? Or, are they just our only options?

This article contains spoilers for The Expanse Season 3 episode 4, "Reload."

The Expanse season 3 episode 3 assured destruction recap spoilers
Caution: 'Expanse' spoilers ahead. SyFy / Rocco

When The Expanse introduced Dr. Anna Volovondov in "IFF," it was a relief. Finally, here's someone ready to fight for the little guy. She's not stuck on a spaceship, which actually gives her the capacity to affect change on the ground, unlike our heroic space protagonists. And that's exactly what she's doing in her first scene.

When we meet Anna, she's helping a young man brutalized by the police. There's thousands of civilians protesting the war between Earth and Mars, holding signs like "Eros was an inside job," "Timothy 4:1," "UN-trustworthy" "Is it Aliens?" and "The end is near." She takes the man's hand, helps him up, and refuses to leave unless the police bring the man to a medic. It takes some convincing. Apparently, the police can be as ruthless hundreds of years into the future as they are now.

Anna is introduced as an ethical, level-headed and articulate advocate for the everyman. She believes in God, has a wife and child and heads a Methodist church. She's also a longtime friend of Esteban Sorento-Gillis, the Secretary General of the United Nations. His Excellency recruited her to help him write speeches. More specifically, a speech to justify Earth's war against Mars. Considering the thousands of people protesting outside UN headquarters, Esteban's going to need the words of someone who genuinely cares.

Everything we learned about Anna in the first five minutes suggests she'd chew out this trigger-happy, power-hungry man from the jump, but that's not what happened. She feels if anyone could sway Esteban the right way it'd be her, and he's willing to let her try, so why not? This dynamic proves just how blurred the lines are in the future The Expanse presents. Even someone as gentle and caring as Anna has adapted her mindset to a hostile political climate. She makes a deal. She'll help Esteban if he funds her free clinic for undocumented immigrants. The organization currently has to barter with drug dealers for meds they cannot afford. Anna is willing to cross certain lines for a greater good, but that's still not her weakness. It's that she still has faith in people, something our main protagonist Holden lost at the end of last season. He's stopped fighting battles he thinks he can't win.

Unlike Holden, it doesn't take more than a few episodes for Anna to come to grips with the idea that one person can't affect substantial change. Minutes before episode's end, she's ready to retreat back to the comfort of her wife and child. She's ready to give up and return to her bubble where she's able to help one person at a time. Her actions are still heroic, but they're not heroic enough. Turning your back when there's even the slightest chance you have the capacity to influence someone in power is tough to digest. It's a common fight that most people lose. Her wife articulates this very idea, encouraging Anna to press on in the face of ignorance. But Anna doesn't have it in her (though hopefully, she at least reluctantly stays after that secret message from Avasarala at the very end of the episode).

We were very close to seeing the fruits of Anna's faith, which is what made the latest episode of The Expanse so devastating. Esteban might have made the right choice, taking diplomatic steps to peace instead of blowing stuff up. Instead, he took the inspiring speech Anna wrote him and turned it into a hate campaign against the Martians. Errinwright, who is the little bird in Esteban's ear, exerts pressure where it's most effective, bending the truth to ignite fear and justify an arms race. The war, he hopes, will solidify Earth's position as the most powerful planet in the solar system.

In its third season, The Expanse is finally asking the questions that have been at the front of our minds since the very first episode of the series introduced a distant future plagued by the same injustices we have today. How can we create a fairer society where nobody is treated as lower-class citizens, where good agendas aren't manipulated into evil and where one person's survival doesn't depend on the death of another? It will be interesting to see if The Expanse concedes to the idea that it takes a villain to defeat a villain. In that case, then who's the hero?

The Expanse airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on SYFY. Any thoughts about the future presented in The Expanse? Let's discuss in the comments.