‘The Expanse’ Season 4 Premiere: New Terra, New Problems (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse Season 4 premiere, “New Terra.”]
It’s a really, really good day to be a fan of The Expanse, and not just because after a year and a half of waiting, there are finally new episodes. Its new home on Amazon Prime seems like a notable upgrade; if it was living in a one-bedroom studio before, now it has a whole floor to itself, its utilities are covered and its rent is free.
There were a few issues that the show and its fans had to learn to live with when it aired on Syfy — restrictions on how often characters could swear, limited runtimes, a constrained special effects budget and very limited promotion, etc. From its first episode on Amazon Prime, those issues appear to be resolved (just listen to the amount of times Avasarala’s allowed to drop the F-bomb!). But everything else is the same, which will be a relief to those who’ve been following Holden (Steven Strait) and crew since their days on the Cant.
“New Terra” steps into uncharted territory for the show and proves that no matter the turbulent (and lengthy) journey to Season 4, the destination is well worth it.
The Next Clue
The episode opens with the precursor to one of the main conflicts of the season; a Belter ship, the Barbapiccola, heading through the ring gate. They’ve not been authorized to do this, but they don’t much care about the threats the U.N. or the OPA make. They make it through to the other side, and that, for the next eight months, is that.
Then, after Holden asks “tons of times,” as he explains to proto-Miller (who’s back and insistent as ever that they need the “next clue to the case,”) Avasarala summons him to a meeting in New York. She gives Holden permission to do the thing he’s wanted to do for a very long time: She’s letting him go through the ring. So, what changed?
Another F**king Eros
Transmissions were intercepted from the Barbapiccola, from Belters who named the planet ‘Ilus’ and learned to mine its lithium. That’s all fine and good, but there appears to be a protomolecule presence on Ilus. (Dun-dun-dunnnnnnn.) Given the genocide Holden witnessed in his visions, Avasarala (Shohreh Agdashloo)’s concerned something deadly might be lying in wait for them. “Is Ilus a ghost town,” she says, “or another f**king Eros?” It’s up to Holden to find out, and evacuate the Belters and nuke the protomolecule if it is.
As the crew head toward New Terra, Alex (Cas Anvar) reaches out to Bobbie (Frankie Adams). When she asks him how he’s feeling about his mission, he tells her she wouldn’t understand because she’s never been scared. “Sure I have!” she replies, telling him her trick for keeping fears at bay: “You have to believe what you’re doing really matters.” Naomi (Dominique Tipper), after enduring a round of incredibly painful gravity-adapting drugs so she can see Ilus on the ground with her friends, checks in with Drummer (Cara Gee). Her old pal doesn’t agree that the Belters should stay on Ilus, and she’s none too pleased that those who landed on the planet are, in her mind, more “Inner” than “Belter.” Naomi counters by saying they should all have the right to choose their home. Drummer agrees, but her sharp tone and steely glare say otherwise.
A Lukewarm Welcome
Meanwhile, the Edward Israel, a ship filled with scientists and colonists, arrives in Ilus’ airspace and sends out a dropship. Dr. Elvi Okoye (Lyndie Greenwood) chats with her co-worker about what discoveries they might make, while Adolphus Murtry (Burn Gorman) is concerned with getting the job done and getting paid. The ship dissolves into chaos as they’re fired upon by an unknown source, and when they crash on the surface, the Edward Israel is left in pieces. Murtry’s left limping through the wreckage and finding the bodies of his crewmates, and his expression reveals a building rage he’ll undoubtedly unleash on whomever’s responsible for the attack.
A transmission from Avasarala informs the Roci crew about what happened to the Edward Israel’s dropship, and, after a lengthy (and in Naomi’s case, painful) journey, they land on New Terra. There’s a moving scene of her stepping off the ship and falling, since she’s unused to the effects of gravity — then she picks herself up and keeps going, and they walk across the beautiful planet to find the Belter settlement. Their reception is lukewarm: the Belters are concerned they’re there to “take them from their land,” and when Murtry arrives, guns are soon drawn. The whole ordeal is interrupted by a dark cloud that descends upon them… which rarely means anything good.
Leave Us With Dirt
If Earth’s dealing with excited explorers, the OPA is dealing with quite the opposite: They’re trying to catch pirates who’ve been raiding ships. Ashford (David Strathairn) is forced to take one such ship out, but there’s a single survivor, whom he brings aboard his vessel and questions. That fatally injured Belter says there are those who disagree with Drummer and Ashford’s cooperation with the UNN, and they believe when Earthers “find the gold first,” they’ll “leave us with dirt.”
Though Ashford goes along with the agreement, it’s clear he’s not relishing it. When he enters the ring access zone he doesn’t transmit the ship’s code until the last minute, peeved that they need the UNN’s permission. When he gets back to the Medina, Drummer gives him a talking-to for that: “We have enough problems,” she says, “without you agitating the inners.” That, at least, seems to be true.
New Terra, New Problems
As the episode ends, the cloud, which appeared to be made of metal spikes, flutters away across the horizon. It leaves considerable injury and damage in its wake, including to poor Naomi, who receives a gash on her cheek. As Amos helps her and Holden studies one of the spikes, she says what everyone must be thinking: “The f**k was that?”
- One of the best things about this show being on Amazon isn’t the budget or the episode runtimes, it’s the fact that Avasarala can swear to her heart’s content. Her quote about Holden “not putting his d**k” in the Belter conflict because “it’s f***ked enough already” was absolutely hilarious.
- Poor Bobbie. Out of all the characters we’ve seen in the premiere, her situation seems to be the worst; she’s stuck in a culture that has, in many ways, told her it no longer needs her. Mars was her everything, and now it’s telling her she’s nothing.
- I’m already terrified of Burn Gorman’s character and he hasn’t really done anything yet. Granted, I’ve not read the books, but naming your antagonist “Adolphus” seems like a pretty clear indicator of where this dude is headed.
- I wasn’t a huge ‘Nolden’ ‘shipper before — I felt bad for Drummer, who seemed to have feelings for Naomi and was baffled by her love for Holden — but in this episode, they won me over. They’re pretty darn cute. Also pretty darn cute, in a “family” way: Amos stepping forward to help Naomi when she tripped, and Alex making sure she was okay as they were walking on Ilus.
- Dominique Tipper deserves some praise for how well she portrayed Naomi’s first moments in atmosphere. Everything from her expressions to the way she walked was spot on.
The Expanse, Season 4, Streaming Now, Amazon Prime