In the first three seasons, The Expanse established itself as one of the best shows out there. After SyFy decided to cancel the show, Amazon stepped in and bought the rights to produce a fourth season.
The fourth season picks up a few months after season three ended. The Ring has opened up the way to undiscovered parts of the universe. Earth, Mars and the OPA are all looking to explore new worlds, but are dealing with problems. Secretary-General of the UN Avasarala takes a cautious approach and sends research teams to analyze new planets first before allowing refugees to settle.
New Terra is one of the planets where refugees have set up camp. Royal Charter, a private contractor for the UN, claims the planet as its own and wants to evacuate the refugees while also conducting a scientific expedition. Tensions get high after Royal Charter’s spaceship crashes during landing. Avasarala sends in James Holden with the rest of the Rocinante crew to settle this conflict.
Immediately from the first episode it’s clear that the production value has increased under the production by Amazon Studios. The cinematography and CGI create a very pleasant visual experience. Everything, from the costumes to the landscapes, looks crisp. The wide shots on New Terra are impressive to say the least.
After the fast paced and large scale of the previous season, the pace during season 4 is slower. Time jumps are shorter and the scale of events is smaller. The three major political factions, Earth, Mars and the OPA, are at peace with each other and are looking to maintain.
The effects of this peace are most pronounced on Mars, which was established as the dominant military force in the solar system. No longer needing such a large military force, it struggles with unemployment of MCRN veterans, including Bobbie Draper. No longer a marine, she struggles with life as a civilian.
On Earth, Avasarala is struggling during her campaign for the upcoming elections. Dealing with the crisis on New Terra, while also campaigning is taking its toll on her and it’s showing.
The OPA, now a major party alongside Earth and Mars, is looking to retain control of the belt and the ring portals. Like Earth, the OPA is struggling with demands to allow refugees to settle on new planets. The OPA leadership wants to maintain peace, while staying strong itself, but several factions are pressuring the leadership into a more aggressive course.
In the midst of political tensions, everyone is following the crisis on New Terra or Ilus as the refugees have dubbed it. While dealing with the situation on Ilus, Holden and his crew find signs of ancient life related to the proto-molecule.
In previous seasons, the different storylines felt like they were converging, but this season, it’s the opposite. There are events that affects all areas of the universe, but unlike previous seasons, they do not come together to a grand climax like season 3. Instead of feeling as a complete story arc, it feels like this season is the first half of the story.
The setting is smaller, more intimate. The main characters are fleshed out while new characters emerge and establish themselves. The conflicts that arise get into a very dark grey area, where there is no clearly good or evil side. All involved parties have a reason to fight for their rights. The overarching political game is pushed a bit to the background, especially on Earth and Mars. The OPA is still adjusting to its newfound power and political struggles arise. Factions try to maneuver themselves into a more powerful position, while others struggle to hold on.
Season 4 is very nicely paced. After every episode there is a sense of urgency that keeps the viewer interested. Combined with great performances across the board, season 4 of the Expanse makes for an excellent watch. Season 5 is set to air in December 2020 and I cannot wait to see where the show will take us next season.
Season 4 of the Expanse gets a 9/10.