The Expanse is a show that loves to surprise people. And the only reason the series still exists is because Amazon Prime surprised the world with a renewal after Syfy’s cancellation. But through all the twists, turns, and ring gates, there’s been one constant: Bobbie Draper, the steadfast Martian Marine who would never do anything to jeopardise her honour. At least, until now.
Gizmodo recently visited the set of The Expanse in anticipation of season four. In the first six episodes of the season, which were provided to Gizmodo, one of the biggest shockers is Bobbie Draper’s (Frankie Adams) storyline, most notably her career change. Season four of The Expanse is based on the fourth book in James S.A. Corey’s series, Cibola Burn, which Bobbie isn’t part of. Instead of keeping the character out of the season, showrunner Naren Shankar gave Bobbie a new arc created for the show, one that fits well in the overall story and fleshes out what’s happening on Mars.
“I had no idea [I would be in the season]. I’d read Gods of Risk, but that’s kind of all about the nephew [David Draper], and then she’s not in book four. So, I sort of was, like, ‘Maybe I’ll just do like one episode, who knows?’” Adams said in a group interview. “Then, I read it and I loved it. I was like, ‘Oh, this is exactly what we should do with the space in the books, with her.’ Because you get to see what it’s like to be at her home, in a really familiar environment that’s crumbling.”
Bobbie’s story this season takes place on Mars, exploring the civilian parts of the planet that haven’t been seen in previous seasons. Following a dishonourable discharge from the military (due to her actions in season three), Bobbie is working in a warehouse breaking down old Martian military hardware, which has been made obsolete following the end of the Earth and Mars conflict. Mars was the embodiment of the Military Industrial Complex, with the war keeping people employed and fed. In this postwar climate, life is hard. Joblessness is high, with veterans struggling the most to find work.
As Shankar told Gizmodo during a group interview, the old way of Mars is dying out. “[It’s] a society that’s essentially been driven by two things, which is terraforming Mars, so Mars can be turned into a habitable world on its own, and a military, building a strong military to protect themselves against Earth. Both of those things have been kind of kicked out from underneath them,” he said. “You think about what happened when the Soviet Union fell. Suddenly, you had all of these generals who had access to tremendous amounts of military hardware and material, and they started selling it. They started selling it because that’s the only way that they could get money and get a hard currency because the economy was collapsing.”
Given these planetary changes, and all this technology ripe for the taking, some folks have turned to breaking the rules to make a quick buck. Bobbie learns that her nephew has stumbled into a life of crime – a storyline taken from the Gods of Risk novella. In trying to help him, Bobbie is pulled into a criminal underworld that she can’t escape from. Eventually, she doesn’t want to escape it, and she starts to embrace her new life as part of a criminal syndicate on Mars.
Gizmodo asked Adams what she liked about taking Bobbie in this direction. After all, it’s a big ask to take a character typically bound by her code of honour and turn her into a criminal.
“I think if you ask me how I feel, like, I love it. She’s consistently been searching for her identity since she left the Marines, and then went back, and then was dishonorably discharged. This season really highlights that,” Adams said. “I think, like, it’s the first time she’s really fought for herself, has had no real purpose and is just trying to navigate that space. ‘What does this mean for me? What do I do with my life now?’ And it’s interesting that she says, ‘I’m not a criminal.’ And then she becomes one.”
Shankar compared Bobbie’s story arc this season to that of an “ex-con who’s done their time and they try to get back into the world, and the world just keeps putting them down.” She spends several episodes trying to do the right thing, including when she intervenes to help her nephew, but it keeps blowing up in her face. She can’t do the right thing, so she embraces doing the wrong one. As Shankar told Gizmodo, you can only push someone down so many times before they say “fuck it” and become the person everyone says they are.
“How does anybody end up in those situations? The answer is slowly and in increments. She tries to save her nephew, that has repercussions because of who she beats down. Then you try to do one bad thing and you go, okay, that’s going to end it. And it doesn’t,” Shankar said. “At a certain point you go, ‘Fuck it. If the world says I’m a criminal, it’s like, okay, I’m going to be a criminal. Because they’re the only ones who are actually, you know, giving me a shot.’”
“She’s trying to do it and the world is not letting her. Then, you know, the answer is go fight the world,” he added.
Amazon’s The Expanse returns with season four on December 13 and, unlike when it aired on Syfy, all 10 episodes of the season will be made available. The show has already been renewed for season five, but an expected release date has not been announced. Be sure to stay tuned for more looks behind the scenes from Gizmodo