'The Expanse' EP Naren Shankar Teases a 'Huge' Story for Bobbie in Season 4

Emily Hannemann
Q&A Amazon Prime Video

For The Expanse, Season 4 is a season of firsts.

The next ten episodes mark the first time that the impending threats of war in the galaxy have been quelled. They include the first time Naomi, a Belter who has lived her whole life on spaceships, will set foot on a planet. And of course, it's the first time the show will premiere on Amazon Prime instead of SyFy, meaning it's also the first time fans will get to see slightly longer episodes... and the first time Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) can cuss with impunity. Let those F-bombs fly, Avasarala!

We chatted with executive producer Naren Shankar about how Season 4 signals a tonal shift for the show, the relationship between this season's storylines and the source material (it's not just pulling from Cibola Burn), and why we haven't seen much of Bobbie (Frankie Adams) in the trailers.

It’s been a wild journey to this fourth season of The Expanse. Now that we’re so close to its release on Amazon, how are you feeling?

Naren Shankar: You know, it’s funny — we finished this season such a long time ago, it feels like! [Laughs] The thing that I am now being reminded of is how long we’ve been off the air. For the fans, the last time they saw a new episode of the show was in May of 2018. So that’s a while. I’m really excited to have, finally, the chance to get the entire season out. It was great when we premiered the (Season 4) Pilot in New York, and it’s going to be fun to have people watch the whole season.

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Until now, The Expanse has largely been about preventing war. Now that Earth, Mars and the Belt aren’t constantly at each other’s throats the way they were in seasons past, how have the focus and themes of the show changed?

What it is, is that they’ve evolved. It’s not like we’re suddenly telling a different story; This is the next evolution of what the story is. You’re right — there is that uneasy peace between Earth, Mars and The Belt and that is the end of that chapter on the third season of the show. But what’s happened is that there is this gigantic new thing that has the potential to really change something that’s been settled for such a long period of time.

This has huge ramifications for every single person in the solar system regarding how Earth will respond to this new wealth, how Mars — a culture that’s built on this idea of terraforming, when you don’t need to terraform a planet to make it livable anymore, how does The Belt suddenly acclimate to this environment in which it’s going to become less and less important to have people who can live and work in mines in space, because you’ve got so many planets to now use their resources. The themes of the show have changed, absolutely, because now we’re talking about the destabilizing effects that this new wealth creates. Think of it like when the Europeans discovered North America, and how that changed the balance of power in whole world. That’s what’s going on.

7 Times Avasarala's Insults Were the Best Part of 'The Expanse' (PHOTOS)

7 Times Avasarala's Insults Were the Best Part of 'The Expanse' (PHOTOS)

She's got killer political savvy, killer fashion sense, and killer insults.

This season looks like it takes some of its plot from Cibola Burn, but other elements seem to have been adapted from different materials — or other stories are being told with different characters.

You’re right. Cibola Burn is entirely set on Ilus, basically, except for the prologue. What we realized, though, is that we could tell that story but because we had such interesting characters and situations back in the solar system, we decided that we could build story that isn’t in the novels that bridges book four to book five. What you’re seeing is really what’s happening: We’re telling the story of the beginning of destabilization, and that’s new material. Some material is pulled a little bit forward from book five, too.

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I wanted to talk a little bit about Bobbie, because it seems she’s not in much of the promotional materials. She was briefly in the official trailer, and she didn’t show up in the sneak peek from New York Comic-Con. What’s going on with her?

She’s a really big part of the season! She’s got a big story. Bobbie’s had a fraught history with authority.

That’s putting it mildly!

[Laughs] She tends to follow her own moral compass, in terms of doing the right thing and doing the honorable thing. Oftentimes with her, that means not listening to orders — and when you find her at the beginning of Season 4, she is no longer a marine. She has been stripped of something that she built her identity around, and what she’s forced to do and reckon with is, “I’m still going to be a good Martian.” That’s what Bobbie is doing. She’s trying, because she believes in the idea of what Mars needs or her idea of what Mars needs. She’s going to become a useful part of society, even though she’s been kicked out of the corps. That’s a hard thing to do.

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On top of that, the Mars she built her identity on is starting to change, a little. That’s a culture that’s not used to unemployment. That’s a culture where the entire climate has been designed around the terraforming project, but there are elements of that project that are shutting down. Why would you need to terraform Mars when you could just fly to a planet that already has air and water? For that element of the story, all I’d like to say is: Think of how the Soviet Union fell and crumbled after communism came down. What happened in mass society? That’s really how you should think of Mars, and it’s a huge part of Season 4.

The Expanse, Season 4 Premiere, Friday, December 13, Amazon Prime Video