Blu-ray/DVD review: “The Expanse – Season Three” (2015-present)

“The Expanse – Season Three” (2015-present)

TV Series/Sci-Fi

46 Episodes

Developed by: Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby based on ‘The Expanse’ by James S. A. Corey

Featuring: Thomas Jane, Steven Strait, Cas Anvar, Dominique Tipper, Wes Chatham, Paulo Costanzo, Florence Faivre, Shawn Doyle, Shohreh Aghdashloo, Frankie Adams and Cara Gee

Title Card: “In the 23rd century, humans have colonized the Solar System. The U.N. controls Earth. Mars is an independent military power. The inner planets depend on the resources of the asteroid belt. In The Belt air & water are more precious than gold. For decades, tensions have been rising Earth, Mar & The Belt are now on the brink of war. All it will take is a single spark.”

Released recently on DVD and Blu-ray is the fourth season of the critical hit for Amazon Studios in the form of the fourth season of the sci-fi television show “The Expanse” (2015-present). Based on a series of books by James S. A. Corey this show has gone fro strength to strength especially after being cancelled by the SyFy channel and picked up by Amazon, as well as being recently renewed for a fifth series, with plenty of material to come. It is often favourably compared to both the reimagined “Battlestar Galactica” (2004-2009) and “Babylon 5” (1993-1998) but possibly with better source material as well as the backing of one of the richest people in the world.

The show is set hundreds of years in the future, the Solar System has been colonized by humanity. The three largest powers are the United Nations of Earth, the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a loose configuration of the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn.

There are so many reasons to check this show out, even though this is the fourth season it is worth going back and viewing the entire series to date. The acting from all the new faces is excellent, it is also very well directed and the special effects are among the best seen on any television show airing today.

I recommend this show highly, do yourself a favour and check out all the seasons then go and get this latest one.

Season 1

Chrisjen Avasarala, a United Nations executive, works to prevent war between Earth and Mars. Ceres police detective Joe Miller is sent to find a missing young woman, Julie Mao. James Holden is the unofficial captain of an appropriated gunship that becomes the main setting of the series. Naomi Nagata, Alex Kamal and Amos Burton are the crew.

In the first season, the space-freighter Canterbury and the Martian Navy flagship Donnager are destroyed by ships built by Jules-Pierre Mao, Julie’s father. The crew of the gunship Rocinante, with Miller’s help, investigates and eventually discovers a biohazard that kills off most of the humans on the asteroid Eros, including Julie.

Season 2

Martian Marine Bobbie Draper fights an inhuman figure on Ganymede and later becomes a protégé of Avasarala. The crew try to help a father find his daughter and, in the process, encounters and kills the figure that Draper fought, now known as a “protomolecule hybrid” developed by Jules-Pierre. A research ship, sent to Venus to investigate the crash of Eros, is stopped dead in the atmosphere and completely disassembled by the protomolecule. 

Season 3

The UN declares war as Earth and Mars send science vessels to investigate what’s happening on Venus.

Season 4

A vast land rush begins now that portals to other habitable worlds have opened up. Earth begins to invest vast resources (that it had earlier stinted Mars and the belt) on the new earthlike worlds through the portal. In the outer worlds, the residents’ efforts to enhance life, particularly terraforming on Mars, begin to wane, since much richer worlds are now available, and investment “here at home” is not as attractive.


New Terra: As portals to numerous different solar systems with habitable planets are revealed through the Ring, UN Secretary General Avasarala orders the UNN to blockade a growing fleet of settler ships, as she, wary of another potential Eros Incident, maintains a cautious approach to the new worlds. Desperate to pass through the Ring Space, a convoy of Belter refugees from Ganymede attempts to run the blockade; most are destroyed or crippled, but the Barbapiccola makes it through, eventually landing on a Lithium-rich alien planet they christen “Ilus”. Avasarala taps James Holden, sending him as her special envoy to contact the Belter settlers on Ilus and identify any risk of Protomolecule exposure or other potentially cataclysmic event resulting from alien lifeforms. While orbiting Earth, Amos is contacted from prison by Clarissa Mao, and she thanks him for his kindness towards her during the trip back from Ring space. Holden, who continues to see/interact with Miller’s apparition, accepts the job, and leaves for Ilus. He is joined by the Rocinante crew, including Naomi, who wants to be able to land with her crew on Ilus; she begins a brutal drug regimen to alter her body composition so she can tolerate a planet with gravitational pull similar to Earth. While in the vicinity of Mars, Alex briefly reaches out to a depressed Bobbie Draper, but communication difficulties cut their conversation short. Similarly, Naomi reaches out to Drummer (who commands the OPA Behemoth as the only human warship in the Ring Space) as they pass through on the way to Ilus; Drummer states the Belters were foolish to attempt to live on the alien planet. Ahead of them, an Earth ship Edward Israel is ferrying an expedition by Royal Charter Energy (RCE), a corporation which has been granted an exploration/exploitation charter by Earth and Mars (but without any involvement by the OPA). As a heavy shuttle descends to “New Terra”, as it is known by Earth and Mars, it is destroyed near the landing pad, resulting in many casualties (including the expedition’s leader and also the ship’s medical doctor) and the loss of a great deal of supplies. Security Chief Murtry (who becomes the de facto leader of the RCE expedition) and some of the other surviving shuttle passengers (including exo-biologist Dr. Elvi Okoye) choose to remain on the planet, but almost immediately come into conflict with the Belters settlers (who are also suspected of bringing down the shuttle). The Rocinante crew arrives to find an escalating situation that results in an armed standoff, which is interrupted when a swarm of alien “bugs” attacks the compound.

Jetsam: Bobbie Draper struggles with the stagnating Martian job market as a veteran, working a menial job dismantling decommissioned warships; she is singled out as a suspect in a violent crime due to her record of military insubordination, and she experiences other harassment as well. When Avasarala visits Mars on a diplomatic mission, she invites Bobbie to a diplomatic dinner; Bobbie becomes offended when she perceives she was used as a prop to show Avasarala’s solidarity with Mars, and refuses Avasarala’s offer of work. Meanwhile, while living with her brother and his family, Bobbie becomes suspicious of a late-night outing by her nephew David; following him, she finds him “cooking” illicit “focus drugs” for a criminal gang; she ends David’s involvement by beating the crew who shows up to collect the drugs (and accidentally but without regret destroys the almost-completed batch). On Ilus, Holden and the Rocinante crew navigate the simmering tensions between the Earther and Belter settlers, while identifying the “bugs” as Protomolecule-based technology. Alex discovers that the drugs Naomi has been taking have not been as successful as she really needs to properly handle the gravity on Ilus, but she coerces Alex into keeping the information from Holden. Amos starts a sexual affair with Chandra Wei, Murtry’s second-in-command, and accompanies Murtry to the shuttle crash site, where Amos identifies the downing as a deliberate bombing. Murtry further antagonizes the Belter settlers, and after another standoff he kills a belligerent Belter named Coop, who made verbal threats. Holden explores a massive alien structure near the settlement; late one night, Miller guides Holden (accompanied by Alex) to remove a root growing through a panel. This seems to activate the structure, triggering a series of lightning strikes.

Subduction: On Earth, UN Home Secretary Nancy Gao resigns from Avasarala’s cabinet and runs for Secretary-General against Avasarala, on a pro-expansion platform, an approach diametrically opposite to Avasarala’s conservative caution. Avasarala’s aides uncover a nepotistic scheme that put Gao ahead in her career, which Avasarala orders leaked as political ammunition against Gao. On Mars, Bobbie’s nephew David is kidnapped by the criminal gang and forced to work off the debt incurred by her destruction of the drugs when she removed him from their operation; the gang offers to release David if Bobbie helps them steal military equipment from the shipyard where she works. Attempting to report the kidnapping, she is shocked to discover the ringleader of the gang is a Martian police detective, Esai Martin, who quashes her effort, pointing out he’s a decorated cop with a high conviction rate, while she’s a disgraced former marine no one will believe. Bobbie demands assurance that no weapons will be taken, then capitulates to save David, agreeing to leave a normally secure door open at her workplace so the criminals can steal military tech she’s been stripping from the decommissioned Martian warships. She is able to identify the people who show up to steal the gear as Belters. Esai keeps his word and releases David from his employment, but later extends an offer to bring Bobbie into his operation; she declines. On Ilus, another Earther-Belter standoff is interrupted when lightning activated by the alien structure strikes the settlement. The Belter’s power generation infrastructure is damaged, leaving them in the dark; Murtry isolates the Earther side of the camp and refuses to provide any aid or supplies to the Belters. Using electronic surveillance, Murtry identifies the group of hostile Belters who were responsible for the landing pad bomb, and has them executed in broad daylight. Naomi helps one Belter, Lucia, escape. Accompanied by Alex and RCE biologist Elvi Okoye, Holden finds another alien structure which became active following the lightning event; it is rotating rapidly, chewing up wide swathes of ground, and moving in the direction of the Belter camp. Despite Okoye’s protests, Holden orders Alex to destroy the structure with a torpedo from the Rocinante.

Retrograde: Since the truce between Earth, the Belt and Mars, Ashford has operated as an OPA peacekeeper, tracking down and neutralizing renegades. Meanwhile, Drummer is in command of Behemoth, which controls the Ring Space. They identify Marcos Inaros, an infamous OPA pirate (not unlike Ashford had been some years before the Ring opened), as the pirate responsible for capturing a UNN colony ship, Sojourner, and for spacing the Earthers aboard and stealing the ship and its cargo. With Earth and the UNN demanding the OPA take action against Inaros, Ashford and Drummer (who have resolved their differences and now cooperate with mutual respect) enlist several other OPA factions to capture Marco Inaros. Initially, the factions seem united in putting Inaros to death for violating the truce. Inaros appeals to Belter solidarity and makes the case that while the OPA members think they act in the interest of the truce, they actually only act in the interest of Earth. Ashford, Drummer, and other faction representatives hold a vote and ultimately set Inaros free, accepting his offer to forfeit his gains from the Sojourner and to sit on the sidelines. Privately, Drummer explains to an angry Ashford her decisive vote to free Marcos as a purely political move; if she had voted to kill Inaros over the objections of two major OPA factions, it might have sparked a civil war within the OPA; however, if Inaros breaks his pledge to remain on the sidelines, then no faction would stand against killing him. On Mars, Bobbie attempts to confess to her supervisor her cooperation with the theft of the military tech, but is disillusioned when he instead enthusiastically seeks to get involved in the scheme. Bobbie quits the job and is later arrested for her participation in the crime. She reaches out to Esai; the charges are dropped as she agrees to join his crew on a “full time” basis. On Ilus, violence breaks out as Naomi flees with the Belter doctor Lucia Mazur, who was complicit with the landing pad bombing; Amos creates a diversion by attacking Murtry’s forces and is captured, his life spared by Wei’s intervention. Naomi, her body becoming dangerously weak from the effects of gravity and failure of the drugs, attempts to get Lucía to the parked Rocinante; Murtry pursues them but is forced to retreat when Holden and Alex intervene, firing at the security team with the ship’s PDCs. Alex, Naomi and Lucia leave the surface and go into orbit on the Rocinante, while Holden stays behind, punching Murtry and taking command of the settlement as Avasarala’s envoy.

Oppressor: On Earth, Avasarala preps for her first public debate against Gao. Initially, Avasarala gains the advantage, playing up her role in neutralizing the Eros Incident, but her attempt to use accusations of nepotism against Gao backfires, and then the debate is cut short by a security threat; Avasarala is rushed out of the building on camera. The threat resulted from an unidentified ship approaching Earth. Initially claiming to be a civilian ship experiencing multiple system failures, it goes silent after altering course towards an Earth asteroid defense platform, and based on drive signature is identified as the Sojourner, the ship Marco Inaros had captured and claimed to have broken up to sell piecemeal. Avasarala promptly has it destroyed. On Ilus, Holden takes command of the settlement but is unable to resolve the escalating tensions between Belters and the RCE crews. Okoye pieces together Holden’s connection to the alien technology. Believing the settlement is in danger from reactivating alien tech, Holden attempts to rally the Earthers and Belters to put aside their differences and leave the planet, but neither faction budges, both unwilling to accept the risk of forfeiting their claim. In the orbiting Rocinante, Lucia learns from her husband (who is still in the settlement) that their daughter has disappeared; following an acrimonious conversation with him, and blaming herself for splitting up her family due to her involvement in the landing pad bombing, Lucia attempts suicide. Alex finds and saves Lucia, and Naomi counsels her to deal with her guilt, drawing from her own life experience as a lover and accomplice to Marco Inaros. Later, Alex discovers that an island on the far side of Ilus has exploded in what appears to be a massive fusion reactor failure, generating a gigantic shockwave that begins to speed across the planet’s surface.

Displacement: Alex and Naomi contact Holden, informing him of the massive explosion on the other side of Ilus, and warning of the impending effects: an earthquake very soon, followed by a dangerous shockwave packing winds in excess of 200 km/h, which itself will be followed some hours later by a catastrophic tsunami that will reach the settlement the next day, destroying the buildings and submerging at least a third of the continent. With this knowledge, the settlers finally agree to evacuate the camp, but the Belters only agree on the condition that Holden call for Avasarala to support their claim; Holden’s agreement to these terms further antagonizes Murtry. The explosion also activates the planet’s defenses, which shuts down the fusion reactors on the orbiting ships. When the Edward Israel dispatches a conventionally-powered shuttle to begin evacuations, it is incinerated mid-flight; evacuation from the planet becomes impossible. Holden and the settlers alter their plan, seeking refuge in the nearby alien structure, hurrying to get everyone there before the surrounding area is flooded. Anticipating further violent conflict inside the structure, Murtry reaffirms to Wei the prioritization of their survival over Belters, including Holden and Amos. On Mars, Bobbie joins Esai’s team as muscle. During a heist, their inside man turns out to have false information as his code fails to get them past a security door. Bobbie risks her life by going outside to climb a maintenance tower and disable the door’s hydraulics manually. Tracking Marco Inaros’s location, Ashford and Drummer identify an image of him on a Belter ship called the Pizzouza.

A Shot In The Dark: The settlers on Ilus split into different areas of the alien structure, with Murtry and the Earthers hoarding their resources from the Belters while Murtry minimally cooperates with Holden and bides his time. Murtry reveals to Wei that in order to maximize his profit from the situation, he has always intended to eradicate the Belters from the planet. Okoye discovers a condition spreading in the settler population: green micro-organisms are colonizing their eyes, which will lead to blindness. Several settlers are also killed by different larger, parasitic green slug-like creatures. The fusion reactors of the close-orbiting ships remain neutralized by Ilus’ defenses, and the low-orbiting Barbapiccola has mere days before atmospheric drag will pull it out of orbit to burn up in the atmosphere. Finding out that her missing daughter had made her way to the Barbapiccola, Lucia devises a solution to save the ship by tethering it to Rocinante. As information of Marco Inaros’s sighting on the Pizzouza makes its way to Earth, Avasarala coordinates an attempted capture. Rather than destroy the Pizzouza with a missile, she orders UNN marines to board the ship to capture Inaros alive, with minimal casualties. However, Inaros is not found; a firefight breaks out, followed by an explosion that destroys the Pizzouza, and kills everyone aboard.

The One-Eyed Man: After the destruction of Pizzouza, Drummer and Ashford both resign from their respective positions, upset that their information led to senseless Belter deaths. Ashford plans to hunt down and kill Marco Inaros independently and asks Drummer to join him, but she declines, weary of “politics”. On Earth, Avasarala is blamed and condemned for the Pizzouza fiasco, and her marine general resigns. At a memorial for the marines who died on the ship, Avasarala delivers a heartfelt speech referencing her own son, also an Earth marine who died in the line of duty, killed by the OPA. In a last-ditch gambit to salvage her re-election campaign, she leaks images of the environmental disasters on Ilus/New Terra, drawing public favor for her cautious approach to intergalactic settlement over Gao’s eager expansionism. However, Avasarala’s husband is alienated by her ceaseless political maneuvering and her use of their son as a talking point. On Mars, Bobbie becomes suspicious of Esai’s contact for a mysterious new job and opts out, trying to persuade him to drop the job as well. However, Esai is preoccupied with the potential payout, which would allow him and his family to migrate through the Ring to better opportunities. In orbit around Ilus, the crews of the Rocinante and Barbapiccola successfully tether the ships together in a feat of engineering, saving them from the planet’s gravity for a time. Stranded below on the surface of Ilus, Dr. Okoye determines that the large green slugs (which are literally crawling out of the walls all around the alien structure in which the floodwaters have the settlers trapped) secrete a powerful neurotoxin that kills humans on contact. To make matters even worse, all of the colonists are now blind, with only Holden immune. As blind settlers wander too far from their bases, more are killed by the parasitic slugs. Many begin to despair, with Amos in particular showing a major psychological toll though he bonds with Wei. Okoye determines that Holden’s immunity is the result of his cancer medication (which he must take for the rest of his life after he was exposed to radiation on Eros); she devises a cure, and is soon able to restore sight for the colonists. After a long absence, Holden has another vision of Miller, who screams at him.

Saeculum: Murtry orders his crew on the Edward Israel to fire a weaponized shuttle at the Rocinante, hoping to destroy it and the Barbapiccola. Okoye’s geologist friend learns of this plan and warns Alex in time for him to destroy the shuttle, though debris endangers Lucia and Naomi and damages the Rocinante. Unable to use half of their thrusters, Alex devises a plan to maintain their orbit by using the Rocinante’s railgun as a makeshift thruster. In the alien structure on the surface, Miller reveals that he has overcome his Protomolecule programming; now able to act independently, he seeks to end his tormented, ghost-like existence. He identifies the creatures who created the Protomolecule as “the Builders”, and tells Holden that he found a place on the planet that seems to “kill” the Protomolecule technology, explaining it essentially as unexploded ordnance fired at the planet by the race that destroyed the Builders. Miller leads Holden to a portal in the floor, which transports him to another structure on a different part of the planet, where they find a glowing circle of energy; Miller cannot see it, but Holden tells him it looks like “the eye of an angry god”. Hoping that he can both commit suicide (“If you can call this living”) and also deactivate the planetary defenses responsible for trapping the ships in orbit, Miller seeks to physically inhabit the technological network on Ilus, then deactivate both himself and the planet using the glowing circle. As Holden waits for Miller to integrate into the Ilus network, Murtry (accompanied by Wei) chases after him, seeking to neutralize Holden as the primary threat to the profitability of his claim on the planet. In turn, Amos and Okoye follow as well. As Amos exits the portal, Wei confronts him, and each tries to convince the other to stand down, but neither gives in. Amos reluctantly kills Wei, but is ambushed and shot in turn by Murtry as Okoye flees to find Holden. Hearing from Okoye that Amos was injured, Holden leaves her with the glowing circle before Miller can integrate. She witnesses Miller emerging from the material of the structure as a spiderlike mechanical being and explains Holden left, so Miller asks for her help. Holden confronts Murtry and, after a standoff, incapacitates and disarms Murtry, but spares his life, resolving to put him on trial for his crimes. After Miller is attacked by other mechanical beings operated by the planet, and Okoye hides under the glowing ring to escape a swarm of “bugs” (which fall to the ground, inert, upon contact with the phenomenon), he directs Okoye to maneuver his badly-damaged physical form towards the glowing ring, and Holden returns just in time to see the two of them fall into it.

Cibola Burn: Miller’s plan is a success, destroying himself while completely deactivating the Builder technology on Ilus; Okoye suffers an ominous vision after falling into the glowing circle, seeing something similar to what Holden sees during his passages through Rings. With the planet deactivated, the Ilus settlers are finally able to evacuate, although many of the Belters opt to rebuild their settlement on the planet now that the danger has been neutralized. Holden brings Murtry and a wounded Amos onto the Rocinante to return to Earth’s solar system, where Murtry and Lucia will stand trial for their respective crimes. However, after Naomi points out the similarities between herself and Lucia, Holden sets Lucia free, reporting that she died as a result of the suicide shuttle launched from Edward Israel. Heeding a warning from Miller, Holden finds a small sample of Protomolecule still on the Rocinante, which he removes and fires into the sun, using the sample as a proxy to say goodbye to Miller. After Amos recovers from his wounds, he visits the recently-recovered Murtry (who is in custody on Rocinante) and provokes him; when Murtry throws the first punch, a grinning Amos thanks him, then viciously attacks Murtry as revenge for having been forced to kill Wei. As the situation on Ilus becomes one of successful settlement and peace between Earth and Belters, Avasarala’s re-election campaign on Earth is ruined; Nancy Gao wins the election and prepares to take over as UN Secretary General-elect. On Mars, Bobbie attempts to stop Esai’s deal with a mysterious contact, but fails to prevent an ambush in which Esai and most of his crew are killed. Now certain of a wide-spread conspiracy to steal Martian military technology, Bobbie reaches out to Avasarala for help and to rejoin the team of the defeated leader, who as a lame duck laments Bobbie’s poor timing. Ashford tracks down Marco Inaros, independently discovering his connection to smuggled Martian military technology in the process, and boards Inaros’ ship. After a shootout, both crews are killed, and Ashford corners Inaros, only to be ambushed by Filip, the son of Inaros and Naomi, who is revealed as his father’s right-hand man. Inaros and Filip execute Ashford, then carry out their plan, using asteroids cloaked with stolen Martian stealth technology launched directly at Earth. Unknown to the Inaroses, Ashford recorded their conversation and trasmmitted it to an unknown party before being blown into space.

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