The Expanse: New Terra

"They were foolish to think they could live there."

Of the many shows cancelled in the May Massacre of 2018, The Expanse was the one that hurt the most.

At the time I may have loved Brooklyn Nine-Nine more, but it was in its fifth season and starting to lose its edge. The Expanse, however, was still in its prime, still had so much more to do, so much more to show us, it didn't deserve to to be cut down like that. Fortunately, a miracle happened and the show was saved. Unfortunately, that miracle came via Amazon and Jeff fucking Bozos. So now I can't watch one of my favourite shows without supporting a man and company I am ideological opposed to in every way. Shit like this is how we're all going to end up in the Bad Place.

Season 3 ended with a humongous game changer for the show and for the human race. The opening of the Ring network has given us free and unlimited access to the farthest reaches of the galaxy. The next great expansion (geddit?) of humanity has begun and like all the others it is going to be bathed in blood. The show has no delusions that this event will bring about a new age of peace and prosperity for the human race. It's a nice thought, but this isn't Star Trek.

As Holden predicted, it has become another Gold Rush. Fearful of what horrors might be waiting on the other side, the major powers are trying to control the rush by establishing a blockade at the Ring.  But too many have lived too long under the boot of Earth and Mars and aren't going to wait for the Inners to give them permission to get out from under it. A group of Belter refugees, homeless after the Earth/Mars conflict destroyed Ganymede and unable to sanctuary anywhere else, have ran past the blockade and fled through the Ring and settled on a habitable planet which they have named Ilus (brother of Ganymede). For most of them this is a guaranteed death sentence, but they're willing to make that sacrifice if it means future generations will have a world to call their own.


ILUS

Eight months pass and nobody has bothered to do anything about the Belters until they announce that their new planet is rich in valuable resources. Oh, and there's a lot of Ring Maker tech scattered all over the place. Now Earth is suddenly worried about the safety of the valuable resources Belters. Which is why they've contracted a private company, Royal Charter Energy, to go to Ilus (which they have unimaginatively renamed New Terra) and assess the situation. Assess being code for kick out the Belters and steal the land that they technically stole first. I mean, with the original owners all dead isn't this really just a form of colonial grave robbing?


With all the action centred on this remote frontier colony, The Expanse has effectively become a Western this season as the Roci crew, those lone gunslingers loyal to no one but themselves, try to maintain the peace between this group of poor settlers and the black hat uniform wearing corporate goons there to clear them out so the fat cats back on Earth can claim all the planet's resources for themselves. It's basically a sci-fi Blazing Saddles, but with fewer fart jokes and fourth wall breaks.

This was unquestionably a table setting episode as the writers carefully took their time putting all the various piece into their right place. It didn't really give the crew of the Roci much to do except make a long trip to Ilus/New Terra and catch up with their various friends and allies along the way. Which was a good way for us to check in with everyone not boldly go off into the final frontier and see what they've been up to since the end of season three.


It was also a nice little reminder that even with Epstein drives and stargates, solar systems are still fucking huge and it takes a while to get anywhere. Naomi certainly needed that time to prepare herself for the hardships ahead. Like most Belters, her body just can't handle the pressures of planetary gravity. She had to sit out spending time with Jim and his family on Earth and didn't want to be stuck in orbit of Ilus. So she's had to undergo weeks of painful treatments to make her body strong enough to survive the gravity. But it was all worth it for that wonderful scene of her and her friends, her family, taking those first few awkward steps onto a new world.

MARS

One notable absence on the Roci was Bobbie. At the end of season three it looked like she'd left the Martian army and signed on with them full time. I suspect that was done to give her character a bit of closure just in case the show really did end up being cancelled for good. I haven't read the books, but I know from interviews that Bobbie is absent from the fourth book, so while I saddened that she won't get to hang out with her Roci mates this season, I was grateful that the writers have given her own adventure instead of trying to awkwardly force her into everyone else's.

Now dishonourably discharged for helping the crew last season (which seems to be a bigger deal for the Martian military than the time she literally defected to Earth), Bobbie's gone back home to Mars and is working in a military scrap yard while crashing on her brother's couch. I'm not sure where they are going with this yet, but I'm guessing it will have something to do with her nephew. Judging by how worried he was when his "study date" arrived early I'm guessing they're doing more than algebra. If anything, this storyline will at least give us a chance to see what life is really like on the Mars Congressional Republic. The detailed world building is one of the things I love so much about this show. So far it is very reminiscent of Ceres, except richer and cleaner and slightly totalitarian. I'm not sure what a Civil Accountability Committee is, but I'm hoping it is just a scarier name for tax office.


BEHEMOTH MEDINA STATION

Since they have the only ship that can double as a space station, the OPA has managed to get themselves a piece of the Ring action. Too bad it still isn't a very big piece. The Inners have basically got them policing their own people so all the UN and Mars colony ships stuck by the blockade don't fall victim to pirates. Ashford isn't too happy having to fight against his own people to protect his oppressors while Drummer is afraid that this mass exodus will result in the very extinction of her culture. They're content to toe the party line for now, but it's clear neither of them is happy with this new status quo and it might not take much to push one or both of them towards one of the more fanatical Belter factions.

EARTH

Chrisjen didn't get to do much in this episode except play M by giving the Roci crew their assignment and deliver the single best line of dialogue of 2019 (see below). Chrisjen is trying to limit access to the Ring until they can determine that all these new systems are safe. Which is smart. The Ring Makers may be all gone, but like most extinct ancient alien civilisations they've left their technology just laying all over the place. And like all the tech of extinct ancient alien civilisations, it has an exceptionally long shelf life. If they just allow people to rush into these system willy-nilly it could lead to another Eros-like epidemic. But I doubt Chrisjen's motives are entirely altruistic. She's got to know that if Earth doesn't get hold of all this advanced tech first, its enemies will and use it against them. Unfortunately, others in her government are itching to get out there and colonise, mostly as a means of solving Earth's massive unemployment problem by basically getting rid of them. I expect they'll be causing more trouble for her going forward.

Notes and Quotes

--Cara Gee has finally been added to the main cast.


--In order to make them more cinematic, the show switches aspect ratios for all the scenes set on Ilus. Which is a little jarring at first, but you get used to it after a while.

--I really do prefer Miller as the voice in Holden's head and loved the scene by the campfire where he broke free of his programming long enough to wonder what the rain tastes like.

--In the same scene Holden had a vision of whatever destroyed the Ring Makers. Is that what keeps passing over him when he goes through the Ring or is it just Miller getting a software upgrade?

--Amos and Clarissa being sort of friends now was a little out of the blue. Anna calling him would've made more sense since they actually bonded last season. I'm not sure Amos even spoke to Clarissa.

--When Bobbi is getting the train home from work, you can briefly see a news report about "Former MCRN Tachi en rout to Ring." Earth may recognise the Roci as legitimate salvage, but the Martians sure aren't going to let it go.

--I'm guessing it was the swan we saw at the end that brought down the drop ship, not the Belters.

--Naomi is probably glad she had a good excuse for not spending time with Holden and his folks on Earth. Meeting the parents is awkward enough as it is, imagine meeting that many parents.

--New faces this season include Burn Gorman (Torchwood) as Adolphus Murtry, chief of security for Royal Charter Energy, Lyndie Greenwood (Sleepy Hollow) as Dr. Elvi Okoye, one of the scientists sent to study the Ring Maker's tech, and Kris Holden-Ried (Lost Girl) as one of the Belter colonists.

Chrisjen: "Holden, do not put your dick in it. It’s fucked enough already."
Amos: "It's good advice."

Miller: "Gonna be a real turd-floater, huh?"
Holden: "Perfect words for every occasion."

Drummer: "Only the gas station on the new frontier. We're putting in a souvenir shop."

Bobbie: "Tell you what, sailor. Hang on to that uniform. Keep it tip-top. You can be damn sure there are plenty more wars coming."

Three out of four valuable resources.

Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

6 comments:

Paul Reed said...

My least favourite book in the series--mainly because it features so little of the characters I love, and introduces some real turds--but so far I'm encouraged. The switch from SyFy to Amazon doesn't seem to have made much of a difference to the show's style or quality, and the inclusion of characters not in the book is welcome. I just hope they don't run my least favourite book thread. I won't say what it is, because I know you haven't read it yet, but good gawd it stinks.

magritte said...

Mark, are you going to give us episode reviews for all the episode this season. I'm looking forward to it--it's a great show. I have mixed feelings about the inclusion of Bobbie if they're going to create an entirely new plotline for her. Personally, I prefer tighter narratives that don't have too many different disconnected stories going on at the same time. I hope they find some way to connect her story to what's going on with the crew of the Rocinante, even if she's not physically present. Also, in general I'm wary of shows based on novels creating plots and characters from whole cloth rather than adapting material already present. It's more difficult to do and it can easily come across as distracting filler. But we'll see. Obviously, novelists can bring characters in and out as they choose. When you have live actors, I can see not wanting to lose a major cast member as they might not be available in a year's time if you don't keep them on.

@Paul, what do you think of the novels? I read an excerpt of one (the beginning of the first, I think) that appeared at the end of an Ann Leckie novel, and the writing style didn't really work for me. Should I give them a try anyway?

milostanfield said...

Agree with Paul that "Cibola Burn", the fourth novel, was weak in an otherwise strong series. No Bobbie Draper and we left the Sol System mostly behind. The authors have built an amazing world of the same shitty human politics we have now, only writ large over an entire system, and I missed being immersed in that. So the novel seemed like a very long Star Trek episode (been there done that yawn). Kept expecting that orange sky and dead redshirts. Plus the villain is just a villain. No depth or ambiguity. Just someone to hate until he’s beaten.

Shoutout to Wes Chatham and his awesome Amos, our thug Bhudda. Just love him as long as he stays on the other side of the screen from me.

Frankie Adam’s Bobbie Draper is my other favorite in Expanse. Glad they are keeping her in it. Her face is so sweet puppy dog and cold blooded killer at the same time.

Hate the Smile Monster but I’m so glad they kept Expanse alive.

Mark Greig said...

magritte, right now the plan is to review all of season four and then hopefully go back and get seasons 1-3 done before season five starts.

Paul Reed said...

@magritte I think the TV series gives a decent flavour of what to expect in the books, so if you like them you'll probably like the novels. But if you didn't get on with the writing style, I'm not sure I'd encourage you to slog your way through eight volumes (plus one to come and assorted sundries.) Watching the TV adaptation is a decent way of consuming the story in lieu of reading the books, I'd say

Onanymous said...

Other than Lucifer (because it ended on a huge cliffhanger), The Expanse's renewal was one of the bits of TV news that made me the happiest in 2019.

I think Bobby's storyline is based on the 'God's of Risk' novella, but I do hope they are able to tie it into the larger storyline eventually.