With “Nemesis Games”, the fifth season of The Expanse comes to an end. Quiet reunions and discussion of the future are bookended by heart-pounding action sequences and a lingering question of just what the hell is going on in the universe right now. The Rocinante also says goodbye to a longtime crew member.
Considering everything that the Roci has been through, it’s kind of amazing they haven’t really lost anyone yet. But in “Nemesis Games”, Alex succumbs to a stroke after a hard burn while he and Bobbie engage in a daring rescue of Naomi. Fans have been speculating what Alex’s fate would be after the news that Cas Anvar would not be returning for the sixth and final season, and while many suspected he would be killed off, I think most of us thought it would be something that happened off-screen, between seasons.
It seems, though, that TPTB didn’t want to wait. The news broke just a few months ago, after season 5 would have finished filming. I won’t get into discussing everything that was reshot, but it wouldn’t have been difficult to CGI some blood into a freeze-frame of Alex, and keen-eyed fans caught the traces of Alex being removed from the party near the end of the episode. The most compelling piece of evidence, though, is how Bobbie barely reacts to his death after having spent most of the season with him. It’s clear that giving Alex a stroke was a simple, relatively effective way to explain his absence next season.
And by featuring a shot of Bull drinking out of Alex’s mug, they are letting us know who will be piloting the Roci in season 6.
That said, Naomi’s rescue in “Nemesis Games” was amazingly done. From the way Naomi’s body was drifting in the vacuum to Bobbie’s muffled voice when they finally reached her, that entire sequence was steeped in tension. I figured that nothing was going to happen to Naomi, but up until the very last minute, I honestly thought she was going to die. The close-up on her face as her oxygen ran out made my heart stop. I was so relieved when Bobbie finally showed up.
Alex’s death makes the reunion of the rest of the crew a little bittersweet, but I’m happy to see the Roci back together finally. The scene where Naomi played her message for Holden was incredibly powerful, and it worked as a nice farewell to Alex, too. (Whatever I feel about the actor, Alex as a character deserved a good sendoff, and I think this was it.) I loved Amos’s surprise when Naomi hugged him.
Alex wasn’t the only death in “Nemesis Games”. While he was the most important character, Karal’s death at the hands of Michio will have the greatest effect on the plot going forward. I’ll admit to being surprised that it wasn’t ultimately Drummer who killed Karal, considering she’s almost done it multiple times over the season, but I am fully glad she’s finally dead. Shout-out to Oluniké Adeliyi for doing such a good job at making Karal so hated; that’s the mark of a good actress right there.
I do feel sad for Drummer, whose space family is breaking apart. I’ll admit that I really haven’t let myself get invested in Drummer’s crew, mostly because I don’t think they got much development. I didn’t even know Michio’s name until I saw it in an episode discussion thread. This is a downside of having time skips in television shows. When we last saw Drummer in season 4, she was standing up to Fred, and when we see her in season 5, she’s on a ship with a bunch of strangers (to us). Much of the season was relatively slow, establishing new characters and dynamics, and it would have been very easy to feature a flashback or two showing how the polyamorous family aboard Drummer’s ship came to be.
It makes me wonder whether Oksana and some of the other crew actually supported Marco. Back when they were voting on if they should join, some of them seemed more willing than others, so it makes sense that when the “insurrection” happens in “Nemesis Games” they would want to leave the ship because of it. No doubt Oksana and Bertold are trying to distance themselves from what happened so that Marco won’t come after them, but Marco is hardly the most rational human being. It’s hard to say what their fate will be, but I can’t honestly say that I care.
So while “Nemesis Games” doesn’t immediately resolve the overall conflict that defined season 5, it sure as hell does leave us with a lot more lingering questions. I mentioned last week that I wished we had spent more of the season on Mars so we could see what was going on in the aftermath of the explosion at Parliament. We know that the explosion was separate from Marco’s attack on Earth just on the basis of Marco never talking about it, and we know that at least some of the Martian brass were in on it because of the theft of the ships. And we figured that Sauveterre was involved because everything about him was shady as hell.
But the question is now how much of Mars is involved with what happened? This is more than just selling the Free Navy ships on the black market. Sauveterre and some of the others directly fired on their own ships. (Or did they? Do we know the ship was manned when it was destroyed? Maybe all the personnel were evacuated.) They were the recipient of the protomolecule, and they’re using it to establish a new system in the Ring. Is the entire Martian government in on it? Is the dream of Mars truly dead? Why waste time terraforming a planet when there are so many habitable planets available to them?
And Medina Station is with Marco and the Martians, which means Earth will have a hell of a time regaining any power in season 6. (And because I can’t really figure out where else to fit this in… Is something going on with Filip? I think something’s up with Filip.)
OK, how have I made it this far into my review and not mentioned whatever the hell happened to the Barkeith at the end of the episode? Because what the hell happened to the Barkeith? I’m sure that it will be explained, but I’m also guessing that the explanation goes well into spoiler territory, so I’m just going to have to sit here and try and guess. If I had to guess, I’d say it’s similar to what happened to the Arboghast. The red tint is most likely to differentiate it from the friendlier blue of the Ring Gate, and red tends to indicate something more menacing.
Therefore, “Nemesis Games” has likely shown us the return of the extradimensional beings that Holden sees every time he passes through a Ring – the civilization that destroyed the Builders. Why they specifically chose the Barkeith, we may never know, but they are back and they are pissed.
It looks like we’re back to existential threats against all humanity.
All in all, I enjoyed “Nemesis Games” and The Expanse Season 5 as a whole. It was a little slow at times but it allowed for some amazing character moments. Dominique Tipper in particular deserves every acting award ever invented; in fact, let’s invent some new ones just to give them to her. With how this episode ended, I’m really looking forward to seeing how everything comes together in the final season.
Author: Jamie Sugah
Jamie has a BA in English with a focus in creative writing from The Ohio State University. She self-published her first novel, The Perils of Long Hair on a Windy Day, which is available through Amazon. She is currently an archivist and lives in New York City with her demon ninja vampire cat. She covers television, books, movies, anime, and conventions in the NYC area.
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