If you’re a fan of science-fiction, you’d be hard pressed to find a show that’s more faithful to the genre than The Expanse. Originally a novel series written by James S. A. Corey, the series is set in the far future where humanity has colonized various parts of the solar system. The series predominantly focuses on three main human factions – the Earthers, the Martians and the Belters. Among the factions is James Holden and the crew of the Rocinante ship and they must juggle inter-planetary politics, avoiding space pirates and an alien molecule with unknown intentions. Amazon Prime video is dropping the first three episodes of Season 5 on 16 December, and will then screen the remaining 7 episodes week to week.
We start with the Rocinante crew James Holden (Steven Strait), Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) taking a well-earned break from their adventures in space and allowing the ship to undergo much needed repairs. Going their separate ways to attend to various personal issues that have been lingering. Naomi leaves to go find her estranged son Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), who has become entangled with Belter OPA terrorist Marco Inaris (Keon Alexander). Alex decides to return to Mars in the hopes of patching up his relationship with his own son, and finds himself pairing up with Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) to unravel a conspiracy theory. Amos returns to earth to settle some personal affairs in Baltimore. And Holden teams up with Fred Johnson (Chad L. Coleman) and investigative journalist Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins) to try to uncover a threat to Tycho Station and potential release of the protomolecule.
This is potentially the first time we’ve had multiple individual plot threads for our main characters all occurring simultaneously. In the previous season some of our players were separated but they were still working together albeit remotely. It may initially feel a little daunting to try to keep track of but it also enables the viewer to hone in on particular characters. There are obviously characters that over time we have gravitated to more than others. Personally for me, I’m a little weary of the ongoing saga of Holden and the protomolecule and found Amos’ return to earth more intriguing.
As a character we know fairly little of Amos’ past and why he has a penchant for violence. He has never lied to the audience, making it well known that he can be dangerous and has killed people. However we’ve always felt like his actions have been justified and are done so without malicious intent. In ‘Episode 2 – Churn’ we get to see a bit more behind that curtain. Chatham as an actor really gets to stretch himself so much more here, delivering his always excellent deadpan quips, threats and intimidating body language. We anticipate getting to see a further exploration of this wildcard character, and a solid arc that may not necessarily be redemptive.
The other exciting plot thread worth following is Alex and Bobbie’s investigating into the Martian-Belter terrorism conspiracy. Bobbie is secretly feeding information to her lone financial supporter Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) who is currently working on Luna managing the customs and immigration flows and attempting to readjust to a working life with significantly less political clout.
Avasarala has always been a wonderful, fiery no-nonsense powerful female character. So it’s actually great to see her stripped of some of that power and having to maneuver her way through these issues. Though she is no less fiery, and no less prepared to give up on her mission to hold Marco Inaris accountable for his crimes. Also I’ve always enjoyed the more laid-back Alex bantering with the uptight former marine Bobbie.
However it does need to be mentioned that the actor Cas Anvar will not be returning for the sixth and final season due to ongoing investigations of sexual harassment and assault allegations (read more via the Deadline announcement and The Expanse subreddit). How they intend on playing this out at the end of season 5 or start of season 6 is anybody’s guess.
The Expanse has always done its utmost to make you feel like you’re a part of this universe and give it both metaphorical and literal weight. The physics of the environments are given a sense of realism by how the show is shot courtesy of consistently excellent cinematography. Whether it’s silent sweeping shots of a near-invisible asteroid hurtling through dark space, or the roar of a ship’s engine burn as it takes off into the atmosphere. The clunking sound of mag-boots as they hit the metal decks, or the creepy droplets of floating blood in zero gravity. This show is every bit as exciting and unnerving as a good science-fiction show should be.
The first three episodes, and in particular the cliffhanger of episode 3, will leave the audience having to impatiently wait for its resolution a week later. But this season clearly has just as much momentum behind it as did its predecessors, all of which are derived from the characters who we’ve grown to love. And this time having their own little side-quest adventures that obviously we know will intersect as part of the larger machinations makes for an even more complex and exciting season.
FOUR STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Expanse Season 5 lands on Amazon Prime Video on 16 December with the first three episodes, then weekly episode drops on Wednesday.