'The Expanse' Season 4 Concept Art Goes Beyond the Rings

In The Expanse Season 3 finale, passageways dubbed "the rings" connected the Sol System to 1,300 new inhabitable systems. In exclusive concept art from Entertainment Weekly, we're introduced to Ilus, poised to become the battleground of new settlers, security forces and the protomolecule in The Expanse Season 4.

the expanse season 4 concept art ilus rings amazon
First look at what's beyond the rings in 'The Expanse' Season 4. North Front/ Amazon Studios / Entertainment Weekly

For readers of The Expanse novels, the fourth season will cover the fourth book Cibola Burn. Most of that story took place on Ilus, but showrunner Naren Shankar promises the series will not forget what's happening on Earth, Mars and The Belt while it explores new words. Shankar describes the fourth season as a Western. "In the book, it reads like southwestern desert," Shankar tells Entertainment Weekly. "It's rugged, it's a frontier, it's a remote place. We keep talking about how the first European ships that came to Australia must have felt when they landed on that continent."

Shankar says he's in the process of scouting locations for Ilus now. "What we're really going for is that sense of feeling like you're truly in new territory that hasn't set up," Shankar said. "Along with that, there's not knowing how the biology and the flora and fauna are going to treat you. How is your body is going to react to these places where there are things that you never experienced before?"

Exposure to the protomolecule has certainly changed Holden, who has been communicating with the protomolecule alien via the late Detective Miller (who merged into "hybrid-Julie Mao-Eros protomolecule" and crashed into Venus). As the Rocinante ship passed through the ring for the first time, there was a burst of energy that previewed what's to come. Holden realizes the beings and civilizations who built the protomolecule and rings are gone, teasing a fourth season that will be about discovering what happened to them.

"When the Roci goes to the Ring at the end, it comes to kind of an ominous little harbinger of things to come," Shankar told EW. "That there is something inside that Ring space, in places between the Ring gates, that's gonna come into play at some point as the series goes on"

Think of Season 4 as a clean slate, but in turn "another blood-soaked gold rush," Shankar said. "You've got an entire species and several societies that have defined themselves on the fact that the solar system is all they've got, that those resources are what they have. But suddenly that all changes."

With Mars, Earth and The Belt all competing for resources and power in the first three seasons, suddenly there's new land, new resources and new opportunities to make tons of money, which drove the corruption we saw come to a violent conclusion in Season 3. "The idea that these new habitable worlds that have opened up through the Ring gate, that destabilizes Earth and the Belt as well as Mars," Shankar said. "We've never been to Mars, really. We've never been to the planet Mars in the course of the series. I'll leave it at that."

Any predictions for The Expanse Season 4 with its new home on Amazon? Sound off in the comments.