Review: The Expanse Season 4 Goes Down the Gravity Well in a Good Way

Review of: The Expanse
Version:
Season 4
Price:
inc. w/ Amazon Prime

Reviewed by:
Rating:
5
On December 16, 2019
Last modified:December 16, 2019

Summary:

The Expanse Season 4 brings one of the most fully realized visions of an alternative future available. It doesn’t stop at world-building but embraces universe building. Outstanding performances and cool new CGI deliver a must-watch for anybody who considers themselves a SciFi aficionado.

The Expanse Season 4 Goes Down the Gravity Well in a Good Way

If you loved The Expanse on SyFy you will love it even more, because it appears that Amazon loves it. The show that was always on the edge of its own oblivion runs unleashed now on Amazon Prime. Season 4 launched December 13, 2019, and season 5 is already filming. Fans (like me) can only hope that Amazon continues the show through nine seasons, which would follow the general trajectory of current and future books.

A must-watch for anybody who considers themselves a SciFi aficionado.

The Look of The Expanse Season 4

Previous seasons of The Expanse mostly took place in space, and when it involved planets, they weren’t Earth-like, so they tended to internal environments, save a few moments on the surface of Mars or on asteroids. With book four, Cibola Burn, The Expanse shifts primarily to a very alien world, but it also offers incredible sights of Mars and Earth.

Sometimes the cinematographer can’t help but swing the camera around to provide perspective and a few moments to enjoy the CGI that represents the infrastructure of The Expanse.

The Ilus landscapes are also incredible, as are the intricacies of the awakening.

The Story of The Expanse Season 4

The Expanse isn’t all about atmosphere or the lack thereof. At its core, the show revolves around the political triumvirate of Earth, Mars and the Asteroid Belt (just called The Belt). Into this politically charged interplanetary standoff, ancient aliens inject a “protomolecule” that reorganizes everything it touches to meet an unknown objective.

Season 4 continues that narrative, even though the book takes place primarily on the alien world called Ilus, or New Terra, depending on the faction doing the naming. To stay connected to what is essentially a one-off story in the books, narrative elements from other books (most notably Risks of God) have been woven in for continuity and character development, along with the combining of characters, adjustments or loss of side plots to and new elements that bring cohesion to the whole.

Those who read Cilbola Burn will note the following:

  • The Havelock/Murtry/Miller dynamic isn’t employed, likely because that kind of power triangle would complicate a story already filled with tension between groups.
  • A change in who commits an early act of terrorism/protection that sets up a new family dynamic.
  • An early introduction of the Marco Inaros plotline.
  • A little less mediator for Holden and a little more leader/explorer.
  • A missing love triangle.

Clip: Holden Arrives on Ilus

The Expanse Season 4 Performances

The core cast, from the contemplative, worn, Miller-channeling center of the show in Steven Strait as Captain Holden, to the adversarial Chisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) turn in spot-on performances. As discussed in our interview, Cas Anvar settles in with a more sympathetic and comfortable pilot Alex Kamal, while Wes Chatham rediscovers Amos Burton’s vulnerabilities. Dominique Tipper remains brilliant as Naomi Nagata who starts the path toward confronting her past even as she knits the present to keep it whole—not before she confronts the realities of a Belter in a universe where humans evolved in gravity.

This is a broad narrative that reaches from the Earth to Mars, from the Belt to Medina Station in the ring space. This is not a show you listen to in the background and expect to know what is going on.

Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) explores the darker side of a Martin society realizing it isn’t the only option anymore as its economics, morale, and morals start to crumble. Drummer and Ashford continue the delicate dance between the OPA, Earth, and Mars as the OPA attempts to keep control of the ring.

And yes, Miller is back (in Holden’s head–mostly, but not always and not exclusively). All I can say of Thomas Jane’s performance is that in the end, it proved rather transformative.

Lyndie Greenwood offers a solid performance as Dr. Elvi Okoye who wants to understand so badly that she follows Holden down even rabbit holes he doesn’t enter. As Naomi keeps the Roci crew together, Okoye solves the problems and weaves the threads that keep everyone else alive (who isn’t shot by another human).

You will not find an unbelievable performance in The Expanse. Their directorial team has helped the actors craft characters that we can see ourselves in, even as they experience situations no human has yet experienced.

Should you go through the rings?

The Expanse brings one of the most fully realized visions of an alternative future available. It doesn’t stop at world-building, but embraces universe building, surpassing the likes of Larry Niven’s Ringworld and closing in on the intricacies of Asimov’s Foundation series. And neither of those series have found a team willing to take those stories to the screen.

If you haven’t started The Expanse yet, start it now. Ride the protomolecule into Season 4 and then, like the rest of us, you’ll not only be primed for Season 5, you’ll be on the edge of your pilot’s seat ready to hit NOW.


All images (except those from San Diego Comic-Con) and clips courtesy of Amazon Prime Video.

 

Dan enjoying San Diego Comic-Con with Dominique Tipper,
Steven Strait, Shohreh Aghdashloo and Frankie Adams.

 

The Expanse Season 4 brings one of the most fully realized visions of an alternative future available. It doesn’t stop at world-building but embraces universe building. Outstanding performances and cool new CGI deliver a must-watch for anybody who considers themselves a SciFi aficionado.

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