The last season of this space opera is coming and you should get caught up.
It’s the future, but not one of the super bad ones. The Solar System has been colonized and mankind has finally found complete and total peace. Kidding, we’re still fighting over stuff. The Earth, Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (Mostly Jupiter and Saturn’s moons) are all constantly at odds, leading Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to try and keep the peace on behalf of the UN. As the series starts, Mars and Earth are basically on the brink of war and a woman named Julie Mao (Florence Faivre) has gone missing. An investigator, Joe Miller (Thomas Jane), is hired to find her. At the same time, an ice freighter is destroyed by a cloaked ship, resulting in the survivors forming their own crew: James Holden (Steven Strait), the captain; Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar), the pilot; Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), the engineer; and Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), the mechanic. Now together aboard the ship Rocinante, the group has to navigate through the solar system as war breaks out and the universe keeps getting just a little bigger.
Until being asked to write this review, I didn’t fully consider how much happens in this series. While we are mostly following the Rocinante, we constantly are having season-long B and C plots that seem unrelated until they end up colliding with our main characters. Main characters in some of the seasons die only a few episodes in. Some characters that are central to one season will become irrelevant immediately afterwards, even if they don’t really disappear. And throughout all of it, we are constantly told about the state of planetary politics, usually through the eyes of Avasarala. While Firefly was the perfect embodiment of the Space Western and the “final frontier” aspect of space travel, this show better represents the Space Noir, and the kind of 1930s-esque political intrigue that is associated with it. It throws back to one of the darkest parts of humanity, that even when we finally can seem to have everything, we still want to fight to keep more of it than the other guy.
As you might expect from a show like this, a lot of the focus is on character development, since it’s cheaper to shoot people talking than to show a space battle. Fortunately, even though a lot of the characters fit into some of the typical molds, they’re all given a lot of traits that make them feel more real than some shows would. The crew of the Rocinante, for example, are given the general philosophical foursome traits: James is an optimist who will try to live up to his morals, Naomi is more focused on the practical (like all engineers), Amos is all about survival over ethics, and Alex just wants to fly the ship. However, their personalities and histories, as they are explored over the series, show why they each are the ways they are and why they believe what they do, and it’s often more interesting than you would think.
The worldbuilding is fantastic and the sets and action sequences are much better than I would have expected for a show that began on SyFy. It helps, however, that the two showrunners are Mark Fergus and Hawk Ostby, the writing team behind the film Children of Men. If you have not seen that film, it is a hallmark of managing to do a ton of worldbuilding efficiently without a ton of exposition.
Overall, just a great show. If you haven’t been watching it, the fifth season just came out and they’re hopefully going to finish the final season this year. Perfect time to check it out on Amazon Prime.
If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All Time, Collection of TV Episodes, Collection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.
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