We continue our reviews of Season Four of The Expanse, with a consideration of episodes three through to seven.
Titles: “Subduction,” “Retrograde,” “Oppressor,” “Displacement,” “A Shot in the Dark.”
Cast and Crew
Directors: David Petrarca , Jeff Woolnough, Sarah Harding
Writers: Dan Nowak, Matthew Rasmussen, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham, Hallie Lambert
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)
Steven Strait as James Holden
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Roberta “Bobbie” W. Draper
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
David Strathairn as Klaes Ashford
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Burn Gorman as Adolphus Murtry
Paul Schulze as Esai Martin
Kris Holden-Ried as Coop
Rosa Gilmore as Dr. Lucia Mazur
Lyndie Greenwood as Dr. Elvi Okoye
Jess Salgueiro as Chandra Wei
Lily Gao as Nancy Gao
Bradley Gordon as Kellan
Chai Valladares and Vicki Kim as Avasarala’s Aides
Dayle McLeod as Leelee
Kolton Stewart as David Draper
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Kyla Madeira as Felcia
Michael Benyaer as Arjun
Michael Brown as UNN Aide Lt.
Nabeel El Khafif as Scotty
Nathaniel McParland as Chike
Patti Kim as Carol Chiwewe
Steven Allerick as Benji Draper
Steven McCarthy as Jakob
Zach Smadu as Fayez
Aniko Kaszas as RCE Scientist on the Israel
Daniel Malik as Black Sky Leader
Ayisha Issa as Matar Kubileya Leader
J.D. Nicholsen as Golden Bough Leader
Jonathan Gajewski as Segundo Arriaga
Justin Gajewski as Primo Arriaga
Deney Forrest as Secret Service Agent
Ahmed Moustafa as Grizzled Belter
Brian Frank, Andrew Butcher, Moses Nyarko, Adriana Crivici, Jaret Wright as RCE Guards
Internal tensions are heightened when the devices on New Terra jeopardize both the survival of the colonists and the possibility of escape. On Mars, Bobbie Draper gives into pressure and begins working for the underworld. On Earth, Secretary Avasarala faces challenges to her position, forced by the situation on the Belt and in the Ring. Ashford and Drummer disagree on a decision, and they confront the consequences of the path they choose.
All of the stories work, but the situation on New Terra presents the greatest opportunities for drama, and the show takes advantage of the fact. We do not know what will happen if we ever step foot on an extrasolar planet. Short-sleeve weather, familiar-looking life-forms, and awesome beaches seem unlikely. Ecosystems that make coexistence difficult or impossible? Creatures making their homes in our eyes? Toxic slugs? Technology we do not or cannot understand? These things seem far more likely, and The Expanse explores them in a credible manner, forcing its stellar cast into difficult and often dangerous circumstances.
There is no chance everyone we like survives this season. That’s an unhappy thought, but it makes for gripping drama.
Despite the challenges Avasarala faces and her colourful and often hilarious responses, I find her plot, thus far, notably weaker than any of the others. The crew of the Rocinante and the colonists face very serious dangers with no obvious means of escape. Ashford and Drummer are sailing though a metaphorical mined sea, and one which occasionally kills people. Bobbie faces genuinely difficult choices. By comparison, Avasarala seems rather protected. Her decisions will affect the lives of other people and certainly will weigh on her, but at this point in the season, she just doesn’t feel interesting enough.
Emotional Response: 6/6
Story: 5/6 The pacing really picks up in these episodes, and the story puts several characters into a situation from which no escape seems possible. I’m certain they will make it, but not without consequences.
Effects: 6/6 The space-shots in these episodes have been consistently impressive. The people making this show understand that CGI is just one tool, and not an end. The larger site on Mars where Bobbie works is entirely CGI. Much of New Terra has been created with CGI. However, the colony on New Terra was constructed in a quarry outside of Toronto, and uses no CGI…
Production: 6/6 …All of these locales work for what they represent.
Overall: 6/6 I have long wanted to see a space-faring series that breaks as much ground (space?) for its time as the original Star Trek did for the 1960s. Arguably, we have that show.
In total, receive 38/42
The characters swear quite a bit more often on Amazon Prime. An odd thing, tied to genre and expectations: obscenities sound wrong (to me) on Discovery, because that’s never been the world we’ve seen in Star Trek, which was always framed by certain network and broadcasting standards. Here, it’s entirely in keeping with the tone of the show. Avasalara made me laugh more than once during theses episodes. It’s as though Lyndon Johnson were reincarnated as a woman.
How does anyone else feel about this topic?
It’s true that Avasalara’s plot really drags. I also found myself hearing Gao’s election stances and agreeing with Gao more than Avasalara. The Mars plot drags a bit too. There is a huge payoff for that plot in episode 10, but getting there is a slog.
I agree that the belter plot is interesting too. I find myself watching the Earth and Mars storylines and wanting them to get back to Illus and the belter plot line.
The Avasarala plot did drag quite a bit, but I think that as part of the point. And as far as not really being on board with her actions, I think that was also rather the point. Something of a power corrupts theme. But I get how her story didn’t really seem to integrate with the rest of the narrative. But that’s not really new. It was the same with her plot line in the first season.
Aside from the colonial stuff, everything else felt a lot like moving pieces into position for major events to come, at least from a narrative sense. On the other hand, it does give us world building and I, at least, appreciated that aspect of it. And, I think we’ll probably appreciate more of it when the next season comes around. At least those of us who haven’t read the books, and, thus, have no idea what’s coming.
Oh, I don’t think it’s a bad plot, per se. It’s less interesting, making it a Low Point in the context of the show.
Have to agree with this, but feel it’s still important to the overall arc. We have context on what might happen when two cultures that have been isolated mix with our own colonisation efforts on Earth, so the Avasarala-Gao debate would absolutely happen. Yes, both on the show and IRL, Gao’s point of view is always going to win because of story needs and a chance for adventure/landgrabs/obscene profits (as we see with Murtry). The loaded gun is now there though; the chance of consequences are high, and there’s no way that trigger isn’t getting pulled.
I guess it’s similar with the eventual payoff on the Mars plot. The tensions haven’t gone away; they’ve just shifted focus and a new antagonist is now pulling the strings, so there’s another loaded gun setup for future seasons as well. The Expanse being The Expanse of course, it’s just not going to go how, or be as straightforward, as you probably first expect.
Spot on. And that’s why I love this show.
Every season is different and unique, but still moves the story about the Expanse universe along. It’s stunningly good TV.