We’re a little late here; Amazon Prime, which saved The Expanse from cancellation, dropped the entire fourth season a month ago. However, we’re finally catching up, and we’ll be reviewing it in two or three bits— flotsam and jetsam, as it were.

Titles: “New Terra” and “Jetsam”

Director: Breck Eisner
Writers: Mark Fergus, Hawk Ostby, Laura Marks
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)

Steven Strait as James R. Holden
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
David Strathairn as Commander Klaes Ashford
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Frances Fisher as Elise Holden
Thomas Jane as Joe Miller’s Ghost
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa Mao
Burn Gorman as Adolphus Murtry
Patti Kim as Carol Chiwewe
Kris Holden-Ried as Coop
Rosa Gilmore as Dr. Lucia Mazur
Lyndie Greenwood as Dr. Elvi Okoye
Jess Salgueiro as Chandra Wei
Ahmed Moustafa as Grizzled Belter
Chad Allen as Belter Pirate
Chris Gillett as Father Cesar
Craig Warnock as Mission Commander
Daniella Zappala as Rana
Dayle McLeod as Leelee
Graham Gauthier as UNN Commander
Isaiah Adam as Tynan Crewman
Kolton Stewart as David Draper
Kyla Madeira as Felcia
Lily Gao as Nancy Gao
Michael Xavier as Thomas
Nabeel El Khafif as Scotty
Pearl Ho as Heavy Shuttle Scientist #1
Soroush Saeidi as Heavy Shuttle Technician
Steven Allerick as Benji Draper
Zach Smadu as Fayez
Seth Mohan as Martian CEO
Clyde Whitham as MCR Prime Minister
Dana Thody as Marine

Premise

The Ring opens us the universe to humanity, and some rough settlements have already been established. Avasarala sends the crew of the Rocinante to one such settlement to settle a land dispute and investigate both an ancient alien device and the possibility of proto-molecule activity. Not everyone on the colony offers a warm welcome. Meanwhile, Ashford and Drummer pursue pirates, while Bobbi Draper receives an offer that family circumstances may force her to accept.

High Points

New Terra proves messy and dangerous without being self-consciously edgy. It feels like an alien planet, albeit one on which humans can survive. While worlds like this one have long been the province of written SF, the early scenes there recapture for me the feeling I had as a little kid, watching Charlton Heston and the other astronauts as the began to explore a certain simian-plagued planet.

Low Points

I can’t imagine the Inner/Belter tensions will disappear, even with so many worlds to conquer, but from a narrative standpoint, aspects of them are growing a little tiresome.

Does anyone know anything about a show called Fleabag? Why does AmazonPrime keep pushing this show, so that the slightest misclick or delay brings me to an ad for it?

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6 It’s challenging to do anything truly original in SF at this point, though this season takes some original directions for this particular series. While The Expanse adapts existing material, it feels decidedly different than most televised SF.

Effects: 5/6 The show features so many excellent visual effects that I remain impressed, despite the fact that some of the CGI looks like, you know, CGI. For the most part, The Expanse continues to launch plausible-looking ships into breathtaking space, and it regularly includes scenes set in microgravity.

Acting: 5/6 The show features a solid cast, but also a large cast, and some actors do better than others.

Emotional Response: 5/6 The Expanse is back. Other shows set in outer space may be glitzier and easier to follow– we’re approaching a Game of Thrones sized cast by this point– but none can touch this one for credible SF drama.

Story: 6/6 We do not know how all of the plot threads will entangle, but I have every confidence that they will.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 6/6 It’s difficult to assess the first two episodes of a show so invested in its overall arc. Season Four promises the same level of drama and danger viewers have come to expect, with a decidedly different setting, and a little more light.

In total, the first two episodes of Season Four receive 36/42