Everyone’s favourite sci-fi show is back! … well, it’s my favourite anyway. The fifth season is somewhat bittersweet as it was announced to be the penultimate season, with the sixth officially classed as the final. Does it do a good job of setting up the finale? Is it actually good in its own right? Let’s find out!
The Rocinante crew is separated. Holden is contacted by Monica Stuart about protomolecule research she’s heard about while he waits for his ship to be repaired at Tycho station. Amos is going to Earth to investigate the death of an old friend, Alex is headed to Mars to try and make amends with his family, and Naomi gets word that her son is on the asteroid Pallas while mixed up with the wrong gang of Belters, and makes plans to go alone…
*spoilers appear from here on out!*
“I don’t care if you want to hang out with friends, you’re killing millions of people with me tonight!” “Ohhhh Daaaaaaad…”
Spliting the crew up and looking at their backstory is a good idea for a brief reprieve, but it lasting the whole season (and presumably the whole book) was a bit much. That being said there were some great moments, mostly revolving around Naomi (Dominique Tipper), her son Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) and his father Marco (Keon Alexander).
The biggest and most interesting moments of the season happens due to Marco Inaros and his Belter group launching stealth asteroids at Earth, with three hitting their targets on the planet and killing countless millions. The scenes of the devastation and how people respond to it is gripping stuff, and the dynamic of Marco pushing his son to join him on this murderous quest while he is more interested in seeing his mother again is a good story. Naomi tracks her son down but is devastated to know he’s now got the blood of millions of innocents on his hands, and is soon kept captive on Inaros’ capital ship. For the sake of his son he allows Naomi to walk freely, but all that does is give her a chance to help her allies on the Rocinante and nearly kill her ex-husband. Filip goes back and forth between wanting to reconnect with his mother and not wanting to disappoint his father, and it’s all played so well. Inaros eventually sets Naomi’s ship into space rigged to blow with a false message from Naomi for help, but she manages to jump across open space to climb on board.
This is where Dominique Tipper really comes into her own and she spends hours and hours alone and in great pain on her ship, unable to deactivate the explosives and equally unable to stop her friends from trying to rescue her. Scene after scene of her trying different methods to accomplish one or the other with absolutely zero dialogue is great and pulled off with skill. The Martian duo of Alex (Cas Anvar) and Bobbie (Frankie Adams) eventually rescue her right at the end, but not before some skilfully pulled off “all is lost” scenes where you do wonder for just a second if maybe… then no. I’m sure it was the same reading the chapters in the book, but probably lost its impact had you read it beforehand! Marco manages to convince Filip that Naomi had abandoned him again and that she clearly doesn’t care for him, and now it seems the two are on the same page as they lead the “Free Navy” to take the Ring and have dominion over the countless worlds beyond the ring-gates…
It’s safe to say Naomi had better days…
The James Holden (Steven Strait) side of the story had some good moments too. He is with Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) on Tycho station, the two hitting it off despite different viewpoints, but that changes when our lead protagonist finds out that Johnson had hid away a sample of the Protomolecule that he believed was finally wiped out. This all becomes irrelevant when Marco’s men assassinate him, steal the sample and head off into space, leading to a chase from Holden and Johnson’s right hand man Carlos Baca (José Zúñiga), plus reporter Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins), in the Rocinante. That was all good, but much like the series as a whole, it all slowed down to a crawl around the middle of the season. The final episode sees Holden and the Rocinante’s new temporary crew take out a bunch of Free Navy ships with the help of Drummer (Cara Gee) and her Belter crew who had no intention of helping Marco… well, she didn’t, anyway, her crew were unconvinced (there were a few good scenes of tension there too, for the record).
The cliffhanger going into what is now the final seasons sees the Protomolecule in the hands of some rather cult-like Martians who end up going through a ring-gate and causing it ominously glow all red, so I guess the final season with include more Protomolecule plot, which is good because I do find that interesting.
Amos hears he doesn’t get to be in a cool space ship this season.
Amos (Wes Chatham) and his whole story arc in this season was rather dull and not very… Expanse-like. He’s back on Earth, which despite what you’d think doesn’t look all that different to modern day Earth, at least not Boston anyway. He originally goes to visit where his Mum was staying before she died and met a kind old man who looked after her, then made sure he could keep the house they were staying in by meeting back up with old crime syndicate buddy Erich (played by Jacob Mundell who is legitimately is missing a hand, just in case you feel the need to google it) then he goes to a nearby prison to see Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) as one last stop before he leaves Earth behind for good, but then the whole asteroids thing happens and it gets a bit hard to leave. With the exception of a scene where Amos throws a convict down a lift shaft with a German suplex there wasn’t much to talk about until the duo meet back up with Erich and leave on a ship, a gunfight or two and a dramatic launch being very entertaining, but the rest was rather dull and just seemed out of place. So once again the middle of the season was a bit “meh”.
Sadly the same can’t really be said about Alex and Bobbie, who meet on Mars and then end up tailing the Martians who sided with Marco, spending the majority of the season sitting in the Razorback ship and talking a bit. To make matters worse after Bobbie saves Naomi Alex is killed off, apparently having a stroke due to the Gs involved in space flight, it being a “risk we all take” to put it in Holden’s words. This was so unfitting and out of nowhere that I knew something had to be up, and sure enough Cas Anvar is being investigated for sexual misconduct and so they had to write the character out. What happens to the character after this point in the books will have to remain there, sadly…
Finally, while Shohreh Aghdashloo is still endlessly entertaining as Chrisjen Avasarala (man, my poor spellchecker…), her story isn’t the most interesting. The political landscape is rocked when the asteroids hit, and soon a completely inexperienced nobody is made President and becomes easily convinced that killing random Belter settlements whether they support Marco or not is the best way to go about solving the issue, so Chrisjen leaves his council in disgust, but then so does a lot of people so soon she’s put back in charge by a majority vote. Nothing too bad, but it never got me hooked, and given the sag in the middle of the series it didn’t help matters…
Also: here’s James Holden. Have to get a screenshot of our lead protagonist in somewhere!
The Expanse Season 5 gets off to a blinding start and has a good end, it’s just some storylines sag in the middle, while others never get off the starting block. A more uneven season that usual then, but still high quality. Let’s hope they can pull it all together for another perfect 5 for the finale!