REVIEWED: SEASON 4 (ALL EPISODES | WHERE TO WATCH: AMAZON PRIME VIDEO
The Expanse is a show with an established cult following that only recently escaped cancellation thanks to the good people at Amazon. The premise is broadly ‘hard-sci-fi’ - Earth is ruled by one government, and the humans who have colonised Mars have long since declared independence. Earth and Mars have an uneasy peace, one that constantly threatens to devolve into war, and in the middle are the Belters, a rag-tag coalition of people who mine the rest of the solar system for resources. The show follows the perspective of major players in the unfolding drama, mostly the crew of the Rocinante, a band of misfits that we grow to love.
One of the appeals of The Expanse is that, thus far, every series has been very different. Season 3 ended on a solid cliffhanger, yet again introducing one heck of a game-changer. This is a character-focused drama in which the high-action scenes tend to be set in space, but the drama is all too human and grounded in the human experience. For every thrilling gun battle in the Martian dockyards, we have human tragedy and emotional trauma. This season never goes too far with the human side of things, keeping the motivations believable and giving us just enough drama to keep us watching.
The books the series is based on have sold millions of copies, and the show itself has its own cult following, thanks in part to a very approachable cast but also a thrilling and engaging sequence of storylines. It would have been easy for Amazon to simply produce more of the same. Instead, they’ve taken the challenge on with great gusto, weaving storylines from the novels into one whole and complete tale and taking the time to tell a long and nuanced story from multiple perspectives. The effects are better, the pacing is improved, and boy is the language salty in places. Good stuff.
Though the core tale is about the crew of Rocinante exploring new territory, we get three other major storylines: one focuses on Earth politics, the other on Mars (and its changing society), and finally we learn more about the Belters as they try to form a stable culture. It’s this latter story thread that is the most engaging; they are a wonderful combination of pragmatic and savage, yet they never descend into cliché. All of these threads dovetail into our main narrative, exposing the world of The Expanse as the rich tapestry it is.
The Expanse is a must-see sci-fi drama. It has found a suitable home with Prime, one that seems very happy to give this phenomenal story the love it deserves. Its growing plot has turned a straight-forward adaptation into an amazing example of what the genre can do. Watch the whole thing if you can, just remember to take some regular breaks while you binge it all.