The Expanse Review: “New Terra” and “Jetsam”

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

6 replies on “The Expanse Review: “New Terra” and “Jetsam””

  1. J_W_W says:

    I’m a little further in the season and this season seems a bit slower than the last. Some of the threads aren’t as compelling as others. The New Terra storyline is good and the intrigue of the UN storyline back on Earth picks up steam as the season goes on. But the Mars storyline is pretty weak, still two episodes to go for me so maybe there’s a big payoff, but it’s moving along really slow. The OPA storyline is as confusing and meandering as the belters themselves, but has had interesting revelations throughout (Drummer is one of my favorite characters).

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      I hope to get through the series in the next week, posting one or two reviews.

      (Drummer is one of my favorite characters).

      It’s hard not to like Drummer and Ashford. I don’t always agree with them but, as characters, they could almost carry their own series. At least, I‘d watch it.

      • zocalo says:

        The Mars storyline is based on one of the novellas, albeit considerably expanded, presumably to give Bobbie something to do this season since she isn’t in the season’s main book, which is probably the reason for the pacing issues. Still, while the original novella was mostly a side-story with a little character development, I really like what they did with the expanded version as it now fits into the overall series arc and ties in with the conclusion of the OPA arc, so pay attention. :)

        +1 on Drummer and Ashford. Drummer has long been one of my favourite Belters, almost the ideal Belter really, but Ashford really grew on me this season. I thought the divergence from the books really worked well here too; some really good chemistry between the two actors, and nicely getting across the point they were in different factions with different objectives, but also the same vision of what the Belters could become.

  2. AveryRegier says:

    I tried again to start this series. I keep falling asleep. Does the series significantly change in its style from the earliest episodes?

    • JD DeLuzio says:

      While I liked the first season, it moves more slowly than the others. I would argue the show improves over time. No question: it changes direction a couple of times in other seasons. For example, although the earlier relationships and politics matter in Season Four, the direction of the show is quite a bit different from last season, and Seasons 2-3 depart in notable ways from Season One.

    • J_W_W says:

      This series is amazing in the fact that each season is unique within itself. The first season starts out very film noir with the gumshoe Miller trying to get to the bottom of a case. That affects the pace greatly in season 1, but the pace of season two is almost frantic, huge solar system altering events take place in season two, and then in season three, stuff gets weird.

      I’d say stick with it, its a Great show!!

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