‘The Expanse’ Season 4 review

Nicholas Solomon

It was worth the wait.

One of my favorite book series I have enjoyed thoroughly is ‘The Expanse’ written by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham under the pen name James S.A. Corey. This sci-fi saga spanning eight novels is one of the best I have ever read. There have been several great short stories and novellas in between as well. The series is set in the future where humanity has colonized the solar system.

In December 2015, the SyFy channel released a television adaptation of the series. It lasted for 3 seasons. It had a rough beginning but the series progressively got better and won the hearts of many fans. It was praised for its visuals, character development and political narrative. When SyFy decided to cancel it a couple years ago, a movement quickly formed to bring back the show for several more seasons. Those prayers were answered when Amazon picked it up. The fourth season was released on Prime Video this December. It was a very long wait and I can safely say that The Expanse’s fourth season is phenomenal. It is some of the best sci-fi I have seen in a long time.

The season is split into four separate storylines. The central crew of the Rocinante  gunship has returned. This includes protagonist James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), and my personal favorite, Amos Burton (Wes Chatham). Martian Marine Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams), Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), and Drummer (Cara Gee) also star as part of the ensemble cast.

In this slower paced season, the crew of the Rocinante find themselves on the newly discovered planet Illus with two different factions vying for dibs on the planet. One faction is the RCE (Royal Charter Energy) corporation lead by Security Chief Murtry, who is brilliantly portrayed by Burn Gorman. The other is the OPA (Outer Planets Alliance).

The first thing most positive about the transition to Amazon is the production budget. The past three seasons had good visuals, but not necessarily anything to write home about. Season 4 is an entirely different beast. The difference between the first three seasons and season four is staggering. The cinematography is excellent with sets that are incredibly immersive. Whether it be on a barren planet, a Martian city, or a cramped spaceship, the production values are excellent. I found myself mesmerized. It can be compared to the excellent Blade Runner 2049 in sheer sci-fi beauty.

This adaptation goes beyond the source material. The season is based on the novel, ‘Cibola Burn.’ It is often derided by the Expanse fanbase as having a filler storyline that bridges the gap between meaty novels. This season changes that. The character’s roles are expanded in positive ways all around, particularly Amos and Bobbie’s. Several plots are streamlined. This is an improvement and provides a course correction on Franck and Abraham’s part.

If you have a Prime subscription, I strongly recommend watching this series in its entirety. Fans of sci-fi and any well-written series with well-planned stories (I am looking at you, Star Wars), need to watch this show. It fills a vacuum of well-made sci-fi that only ‘The Orville’ seems to inhabit nowadays. I cannot wait for the fifth season.

Edited by Jason Morrison, Adam White