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

Premise

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.

High Points

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.

Low Point

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.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Acting: 6/6

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

Lingering Questions

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?