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Amazon’s The Expanse season 4 trailer and release date explode out of Comic-Con

The crew of the Rocinante flies again

Charlie Hall is Polygon’s tabletop editor. In 10-plus years as a journalist & photographer, he has covered simulation, strategy, and spacefaring games, as well as public policy.

The Expanse is back. Shortly after being canceled by Syfy in May 2018, the spacefaring drama was picked up by Amazon for its Prime streaming service. Now, more than a year since Alcon Entertainment moved the cast and crew over the to Jeff Bezos’ pet media platform, the show is back for season 4.

Today’s trailer, which we’ve embedded above, does not disappoint.

The Expanse has its roots as a homebrew setting for an elaborate tabletop role-playing game. That years-long campaign was chopped up for parts and recycled into a series of wildly popular novels by James S.A. Corey, the pseudonym for authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham. In their version of the future, humanity has been strung out across the solar system for so long that it’s broken into different tribes, each one played to type. There are the crass politicians at the United Nations on Earth, the Spartan-like soldiers of Mars, and the Belters who eke out a hardscrabble existence in our solar system’s asteroid belt.

Left to right: founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing Chris Pramas, authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, and lead designer Steve Kenson.
Founder and president of Green Ronin Publishing Chris Pramas, authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck, and lead designer Steve Kenson. Together they created The Expanse Roleplaying Game, published in June 2019.
Photo: Charlie Hall/Polygon

The fourth season follows the novels chronologically, and fans will have a lot more terrestrial action to look forward to than in years past. Cibola Burn, first published in 2014, takes place on a distant planet called Ilus, thousands of light-years from our Earth. It’s a tale of post-modern colonialism and corporate greed, overshadowed by the unknowable menace of a mysterious, long-dead alien civilization. Showrunner Naren Shankar tells io9 that it’s very consciously played as a space western, a la Firefly. Here’s the official synopsis from Amazon:

With the Ring Gates now open to thousands of new planets, a blood-soaked gold rush begins, igniting new conflicts between Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Meanwhile, on one unexplored planet, the Rocinante crew gets caught in a violent clash between an Earth mining corporation and desperate Belter settlers as deadly new threats from the protomolecule emerge.

I’m only part-way through the book myself but, if I had to describe it, I’d say it feels lot like season 3 of Battlestar Galactica but with the pacing of Homeland and just a dash of Arrival. If that sounds like a good time to you, then feel free to get caught up before the premiere. The show’s previous three seasons are available right now on Amazon Prime.

Of course, the show’s writers and the rest of the team at Alcon Entertainment have shown an aptitude for folding multiple novels together in the past. Shankar tells io9 that fans will get to spend more time with what’s left of detective Miller, for instance. Early press photos also show both Alex and Naomi planetside, which wasn’t the case in the novel. We’ll have to wait until the first episode to see how things shake out.

Along with the trailer, Amazon announced that the series would drop on Dec. 13, 2019, and unveiled a full clip from season 4 and a poster. See both below.

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