The Expanse, Season 4 on Amazon Prime
Reviewed by Galen Strickland
Posted on December 13, 2019
If you're not already a Prime member, now would be a good time to check out a Free Month Trial. Using that link will earn this site a commission, even if you cancel before your account is charged. The first three seasons that aired on Syfy (reviewed HERE) are also available on Prime.
Amazon gave Expanse fans an extra early Christmas present. Season 4 was due to drop today, December 13, but it was available at least six hours ahead of schedule. I saw a notice on Twitter around 6pm Central last night, watched the first four episodes, with another two early this morning, then finished up around 2pm. I'm not sure why they used a different aspect ratio, super widescreen, but it gave it a cinematic feel, and perhaps that would be even more noticeable in 4K. Even though I've read all the novels and stories up to this point, I'm still occasionally surprised by the TV adaptation. Reasons for that include a compression, some times a rearrangement, of story lines, including shifting actions or dialogue from one character to another. There was only one thing that displeased me about these episodes, but I won't elaborate. I kept expecting, hoping, for a different reveal of a characters motives, but I'll give them the benefit of the doubt that they can redeem the situation in later episodes.
All ten episodes were made available at the same time, and I was surprised that they were not much longer than average, about 42 minutes not counting credits. That makes it even more amazing that they were able to complete the arc from the fourth book, Cibola Burn, considering they also brought in characters early, ones who did not appear until the fifth novel, Nemesis Games. In addition to that, the scenes on Mars with Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) included her story from the novella Gods of Risk, as well as part of her story from NG. It's been about four years since I read Cibola Burn so my memory may be faulty, but I'm sure neither Bobbie or Chrisjen Avasarala appeared, but it was appropriate that Shohreh Aghdashloo was featured again, as she was in the first season. That gave the show a balance of everyone's stories, the political and social turmoils on Earth, in the Belt, on Medina Station (formerly the Nauvoo, then the Behemoth), as well as Ilus, one of the first of the new planets accessible through the ring gates.
Earth calls that planet New Terra, but the first people to make landfall there were refugees from Ganymede, and they named it Ilus after a brother of the mythical Ganymede. Ilus has rich lithium deposits, which the settlers have been mining for a while, then an Earth corp. with an authorized contract shows up. Avasarala tasks James Holden and his Rocinante crew to go to Ilus to settle the dispute between the two parties. Unfortunately, Ilus also seems to be a repository of residual proto-molecule, so nothing goes according to plan. Even though the OPA in the Belt has negotiated for peace and cooperation with the Inners, all the old rivalries are still alive. Holden is once again stuck in the middle of multiple disputes, but it's hard for him to concentrate on them since the dangers of the proto-molecule takes precedence. Add to that mix a charismatic Belter who repudiates what he considers the OPA's capitulation, whose agenda has the potential to bring all of humanity to the brink of war once again.
Great writing and acting, lots of action, but also quieter emotional moments, dramatic tensions between fictional characters and groups that also feels eerily timely to contemporary events. There has been a lot of excellent SF on TV over the years, but The Expanse has a chance to be my #1 favorite of all time. Even if it doesn't match everything in the books. I'm okay with that, and I refuse to make a choice as to which version is best. It's going to be an excruciating wait for Season 5, and the only thing that might ease that pain a bit would be an early announcement for Season 6. Just two points I'm wondering about now. I hope Brian George is doing okay, wondering why he couldn't reprise his role as Arjun Avasarala. Also wondering what Drummer thinks of Naomi's new do. She may have said something about it, but if so I missed it. I suppose I'll just have to watch the season again.
My reviews of the first three seasons of The Expanse on Syfy.
Reviews of the books: Part 1 (first five novels), and Part 2 (books 6-8 so far, 1 more to go).
The Expanse Wiki - concerning both the books and the TV series.
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