Everything’s changed as Season 4 of The Expanse kicks off, and it’s not just because the show has moved to Amazon from it’s original home on Syfy. CIbola Burn, the fourth book in the series by James S.A. Corey — the pen name used by collaborators Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck— marks a distinct departure from its predecessors. The mysterious Ring Gate has changed everything by suddenly making interstellar transportation possible. The rush to colonize new habitable planets has begun, throwing the balance of power between Earth, Mars and the Belt into disarray. Nobody really understands much about the protomolecule yet, but it’s clearly here to stay.
“I was a huge fan of the books before I even knew they were being adapted into the TV show. So as a fan coming into this, book four is a tonal change,” Steven Strait, who plays James Holden, told Inverse at New York Comic Con back in October.
But for Strait and the other people involved in bringing the show to life, everything is proceeding according to plan. Even if they’re not sure how the story ultimately concludes — Corey’s ninth and final book is due out sometime in 2020 — their confidence in the authors’ vision for the story is unwavering. Nobody among The Expanse cast and showrunners explicitly mentioned Game of Thrones or its spectacularly disappointing final season, though it was clear enough that they wanted to assure fans that this particular adaptation of a beloved novel series was not going to drop the ball just before the finish line. (It’s okay to fall in love with a TV show again, guys.)
“Ty and Daniel knew the end of the book series before they started it,” Strait explained. “It is essential that we stick to this meticulously plotted story, because once you start to get off course… small things in the beginning of the first season of the show become very important later on, and the minute you veer away, suddenly that’s all lost, and then you can’t really go back. We are always aware that these books are beloved for a reason. We’ll always stick to the to the plot because it’s exquisitely done.”
Showrunner Naren Shankar joked that the first thing he does when adapting the next Corey novel is to “cut out the first 300 pages.” Even so, he explained the people behind the camera aim to stay as accurate to the source material as possible: “in those first two 300 pages, there’s a million interesting ideas, and finding ways to express them through our main characters — or moreso through our main characters — is always part of it.”
Like Game of Thrones, one of the reasons fans have become so attached to The Expanse is the complexity and realism of the characters, despite their fantastical surroundings. The crew of the Rocinante aren’t heroes, but people who have made mistakes, with shades of grey to them.
“To be able to play characters that evolve so realistically over time is incredibly rare in this business,” Strait told Inverse. “It’s unusual, and it’s a it’s a very adult story about all kinds of things — identity and politics, who we are and our place in the universe. They managed to do it in such a subtle and beautiful way.”
Dominque Tipper added that bringing the book version of Naomi to life has been “an actor’s dream” for her, because “they take risks on this show, so they’re not afraid to change the tone, like they have done for Season 4. You’ll constantly be given stuff to get your teeth into,” she explained.
Corey’s books suggest Season 5 — filming is already underway — and beyond will only get bigger and weirder for The Expanse. A lot’s about to change for the Roci crew, but thankfully fans needn’t worry that Holden and Naomi will just “kind of forget” about the protomolecule (like Daenerys forgot about the Greyjoy fleet) anytime soon.
The Expanse Season 4 comes to Amazon Prime video on December 13.