The next review that slipped off the schedule at the end of last year, The Expanse’s fourth season was everything the first three were, which comes as a relief after the change in company. Yes, it’s so good it came second place in my best TV series of 2019 list, so I’m happy to finally pool together my notes in a proper review. Let’s get started then, shall we?
With the Ring Gates now open to thousands of new planets, a blood-soaked gold rush begins, igniting new conflicts between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Meanwhile, on one unexplored planet, the Rocinante crew gets caught in a violent clash between an Earth mining corporation and desperate Belter settlers as deadly, new threats from the Protomolecule emerge.
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“Holden, did you just touch the evil looking structure built by the Protomolecule race?” “Yeah, the person in my head told me to do it!” “…. Great.”
Where to start? I guess with the main plot! A bunch of Belters have established a colony on a far-away planet thanks to getting through the Ring system blockade, and now a Mining Corporation known as “Royal Charter Energy” has been sent to sort them out, but James Holden (Steven Strait) has also been sent there as there are signs of the Protomolecule civilization there. James is soon joined by the rest of his crew in Naomi (Dominique Tipper), who as a Belter has to take drugs to be able to cope with gravity, pilot Alex (Cas Anvar), and Amos (Wes Chatham) the ship mechanic and “musclehead”. Sadly when the Rocinante crew arrive they find the RCE ship shot down and the survivors eying the Belters as the cause, specifically Adolphus Murtry (Burn Gorman) who becomes the leader of the Earth group after the mission leader died in the crash.
So we soon have the old colonists vs. greedy corporation storyline, a cliché storyline really, but with the big twist coming in the form of a large structure belonging to the civilization that created the Protomolecule and the Rings thrown in, a structure that soon activates as Holden arrives on the planet’s surface and is guided to it by the weird mental projection of old ally Joe Miller (Thomas Jane). It starts by shooting lighting all over the planet, then sending weird giant drills across the surface, but soon a massive explosion on the otherside of the planet sends a massive tsunami heading their way. Everyone takes refuge in the alien structure, and if you thought the surface stand-off between the Earthers and the Belters was perilous (and it was, dead on both sides and some great tense stand-offs) just wait until they’re in an tight environment and slowly going blind thanks to an alien parasite. Holden is immune and turns out it’s because of the anti-radiation drugs he takes (a callback to season 1!) and soon everyone can see again… just in time to make a dangerous journey to an underground structure…
The Miller-vision is being manipulated by the Protomolecule, but manages to gain control of his own personality long enough to tell Holden where a weapon that could take out the alien technology that’s currently threatening the planet is, and they soon take a weird portal to its location. They’re followed by Murty and his second-in-command Chandra (Jess Salgueiro), and soon Amos and Elvi Okoye (Lyndie Greenwood), a biologist who came to the planet with the RCE and is fascinated by the alien tech. Cue more tense stand-offs and great alien room design as Miller activates the tech that saves the planet. Holden, who had finally shot, but not killed, Murty, brings him and Amos (who was injured in a shootout with Murty and his love interest Chandra… who he killed) to recover (and soon face trial in Murty’s case) as they soon head back to Earth, the remaining Belters happy to continue living on the alien world now the deadly tech has shut down. That’s a quick, three paragraph sum up on the great overarching plot, but it really only skims the surface. So many great moments and dialogue, I have nothing but praise for the writers and all the actors involved.
Lights on the jacket rather than carrying a torch around? The future really is here!
There is also a subplot in the space above the planet in the latter half after the “crazy Protomolecule tech” disables all the spaceships’ fusion drives, leaving them floating in space with no power. One of the ships has Lucia Mazur (Rosa Gilmore) on it, who helped shoot down the RCE craft but regretted her decision and just wanted to help her daughter. She’s rescued by Naomi (who had to return to space due to her gravity meds not working) and Alex. Lucia is tempted by suicide when her daughter becomes disgusted with her actions, but is eventually convinced to move on, being allowed to live on the planet after Holden faked her death in his report. It was a good bit of drama, and gave Naomi something to do!
Another big story is based on the OPAS Behemoth, the massive ship of Belters that’s currently working with the Earth and Mars in protecting the Rings, Captained by Camina Drummer (Cara Gee), with help from Klaes Ashford (David Strathairn), who is caught between what would be best for his people, their default option of rebellion or Drummer’s deal with their old enemies. In the end Klaes is captured and killed by Marco and Filip Iranos (Keon Alexander and Jasai Chase Owens), Belter rebel leaders and Naomi’s old flame and son, respectively. Kales manages to record and broadcast his last moments, but it’s too late to stop them from launching cloaked asteroids towards Earth as we cut to end credits. Roll on Season 5!
“Hello everyone. I don’t give a fuck if you like my segments of the series or not.”
While not THAT bad, I didn’t really enjoy Chrisjen Avasarala’s election campaign. Shohreh Aghdashloo is once again great in the role of hard-arse politician, and her opponent brought up some good points which did make you think it could go either way, but it still wasn’t terribly interesting.
Likewise, former Martian Marine Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) adjusting to civilian life, getting involved in the seedy Martian underworld and then uncovering a plot linked to the Iranos rebel group was fine, but did feel like it was treading water a lot. Had its moments, but stood out amongst everything else that was going on as a little bit pointless.
Our lead baddie for the season, with the natural end point of mobile phone: see-through plastic with displays on them…. looking forward to it?
Another Season of the Expanse, another review of pretty much nothing but praise. Who knew well-regarded sci-fi books + great cast + high budget = great television? Oh right, everyone. Still, it happens so rarely that I can’t help but sing this series’ praises from the rooftops. Just like the end of Season 3 led me to be excited for this season, I now can’t wait for Season 5. Thank goodness Amazon rescued this show!