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THE EXPANSE Season 4 Premiere Introduces a New Threat
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It’s impossible to talk about The Expanse without talking about its tumultuous and ultimately triumphant journey from cancelation after three great seasons on SyFy to soon-to-be Amazon Prime favorite. Naturally, there’s a ton of excitement surrounding the show’s return to TV. And, having seen the season four premiere at New York Comic Con two months ahead of the season’s release on December 13, I’m genuinely thrilled to report the excitement is more than warranted.

We begin, as ever, in media res with a Belter ship. We’ll later learn they’re making their way to a new planet beyond the Ring, where, over eight months, they colonize, forming the kind of shantytown that calls to mind District 9 and, appropriately, USA’s Colony (RIP). It’s worth noting that the Belters are met with resistance from government forces upon their initial entry into the Ring, and that resistance leads to the episode’s first big, beautiful space battle. I expect we’ll be seeing a lot more of these with the show’s new budget, which is considerably larger, judging from the scope of the CGI and sets on display here.

Back on Earth, Jim Holden is spending time with his family before taking a meeting with U.N. Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala. (It’s nice to see Frances Fisher put in an appearance here, even if it’s just so Holden’s mom can lament that she hasn’t met Naomi in person yet.) As soon as his mom leaves the cozy campfire they’ve built, Holden gets a visit from everyone’s favorite dream ghost, Miller. Thomas Jane, as ever, chews a little scenery and says something a little cryptic. It’ll probably be significant somehow later, but we’ll table that, just as the show does.

This is around the time we discover that the Amazon changeup means we’re going to hear (and, in this case, read) the F word a lot this season. Chrisjen, while in a U.N. council meeting, furiously, colorfully texts an aide about Holden’s lateness. When they do meet, she convinces him that he should take the Rocinante and his crew to the Belter settlement on the planet they’re calling Ilus. Holden gamely accepts the mission. We’re getting the band back together!

Now, and this happens more seamlessly than I’ll make it sound, we catch up with the crew (pilot Alex Kamal, security chief Amos Burton, and engineer Naomi Nagata), plus now disgraced but actually heroic Martian marine Bobbie Draper and OPA higher-up Camina Drummer. This is cleverly done primarily through a series of video chats—Alex’s with Bobbie, Amos’ with an imprisoned Clarissa Mao (though this was a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it so all apologies if I’m wrong), and Naomi’s with Holden, then Drummer. (That last one comes later in the episode. There’s a lot going on here. After all, it is The Expanse.) We don’t learn a ton through any of these scenes, but it’s good to know everyone is present and accounted for, if nothing else. (Plus, Drummer has an extremely cool spinal implant now!)

When it’s time to prep for the mission, Naomi informs the rest of the crew that she’ll be joining them on the surface of Ilus. Holden has his worries, but Naomi assures him that whatever they encounter, they’ll do it together. I wasn’t quite sold on the relationship between the two of them when it first began, but over a couple seasons, I’ve come to appreciate it, mainly because of Steven Strait and Dominique Tipper’s chemistry. This scene further solidified that.

Meanwhile, Royal Charter Energy sends a ship to Ilus before the Roci’s arrival. Aboard that ship, along with scientists eager to explore the surface, is security chief Adolphus Murtry (Burn Gorman, whose familiar face immediately clues us into the fact that he’s going to be around for a bit). Mid-flight, their ship is all but destroyed by a force we can’t identify. The force penetrates the ship’s surface like gunfire, but it becomes clear by the end of the episode that this is an organic substance—one that attacks the settlement in a cloud-like formation after Holden and his crew land and get unfriendly with the locals.

So here we have what looks to be our Big Bad for the season: a mysterious murder cloud that takes out 23 scientists. The episode draws to a close as Holden grasps a piece of murder cloud in his fingertips—and it moves, sharpens, responding the Holden’s touch. It’s a perfectly maddening note to end on. We don’t know what’s coming next but we know it’s big and scary and the Roci crew will be taking it on yet again with aplomb. December 13 can’t come quickly enough.

Featured image: Amazon Prime