The Expanse has returned for season 5, and there is a bit of a return to normalcy for those of us who have been watching since the beginning. Prime Video listened to fans and went back to weekly episode drops for The Expanse Season 5, the way it was when the show was airing on Syfy, rather than the full-season dump we had for season 4. People have preferences on how to consume media, but for a show like The Expanse, which has multiple plot threads and an ever-growing cast of characters, having the time between episodes to speculate and come up with theories is part of the fun of watching.
However, Prime Video chose to drop the first three episodes at once before going to weekly releases, so we have plenty to analyze while we wait for the next episode. This is a show that never really gives you a chance to breathe, and The Expanse Season 5 is no different. From the very beginning, we are embroiled in the various plot lines that will be the focus of this season, which Dominique Tipper (Naomi) described as their “Infinity War season” at the NYCC Metaverse panel.
For the first time, the crew of the Rocinante are on separate missions: Amos has journeyed to Earth to deal with the death of a friend, Alex has returned to Mars to try to win back his wife and son’s affections (teaming up with Bobbie in the process), Naomi is gallivanting around the galaxy attempting to save her son, and Holden remains at Tycho Station overseeing repairs to the ship. Meanwhile, Chrisjen is on Luna doing her best to avert the coming catastrophe, even though no one is taking her seriously. And Drummer has become the Dread Pirate Roberts.
While it seems like everyone is off doing their own thing, their separate arcs are tied together by one dark, dangerous thread: whatever Marco is planning.
Every part of the galaxy is affected in The Expanse Season 5. Naomi is attempting to save Filip from his father’s influence, but we see right away that he is already too far down the rabbit hole. Bobbie and Alex have teamed up to try and figure out who in the Martian government is supplying weapons to the Belters. Chrisjen struggles to investigate with her newly limited power and is burning through all of her allies, even though she is close to figuring out what’s going on. Holden and Fred uncover a dangerous conspiracy on Tycho after Monica is abducted for investigating the protomolecule. And Amos is on Earth, which, as we saw in the final scene of “Mother”, has just been hit by one of Marco’s asteroid missiles.
It’s strangely prescient that both Holden and Chrisjen, who have experience in these matters and have been proven right a number of times, are being ignored as they try to get people to listen to them about the dangers. It feels a little too familiar, considering what’s going on right now. I’m sure that Gao dismissing Chrisjen’s attempts to steer committee meetings are personal as much as political, but she has uncovered solid evidence of what Marco is plotting and it’s frustrating that people are treating her like Chicken Little.
Still, given how Chrisjen is very much a “this is who I am, deal with it” kind of leader, it’s unsurprising that she’s burned so many bridges in government. She is being treated the way she has treated so many others before her. I sometimes struggle to remember that in a show like this, the audience is a fly on the wall. We often know things that the other characters do not, so we are working with all of the information. We know that Chrisjen is right, but the other characters do not. With the first rock hitting Earth at the end of “Mother”, you have to wonder how that will change.
I am surprised that Fred was so willing to ignore Holden when all the major players should know by now that Holden has a special connection to everything, and that if anyone knows what’s coming, it will be him. I suppose it comes down to character differences; Fred isn’t so much living his best life as he is focusing on the present, whereas Holden is so concerned about the future that it prevents him from experiencing life. But his warning that all of these people traveling through the ring will wake up whatever species destroyed the builders is haunting, and while it isn’t immediately relevant, it surely will be later.
I’ll admit to having a certain bit of glee that no one was having any of what Alex was putting down in these first few episodes. I never had a problem with Alex as a character, but the real-life issues with Cas Anvar have soured my opinion on him, so I’m enjoying that everyone is annoyed by him upon his return to Mars. I do wonder what they intend to do with Alex in season 6 – the show’s last – with Anvar not returning. I can’t imagine they’ll recast the role with only one more season to go, yet killing or otherwise sidelining the character would be a massive departure from canon. For now, though, I will sit here and giggle at Alex getting completely played in his fact-finding mission.
I’m not sure how I feel about Drummer’s turn as a space pirate, but damn if Cara Gee can’t convince me to do anything. (And, oh, that sweet, sweet queer representation.) I wasn’t entirely sure how she fit into the grand scheme of things until she apparently sent Ashford’s recording to Chrisjen; right now she seems to be operating outside of the main plot. I think she may be after revenge for Ashford, and though I loved seeing her with her crew, they seem… temporary. I suspect that at some point in time, they will come across Marco, and when they do, people are going to die. But perhaps it will be Drummer will come to Naomi’s rescue.
Kudos for casting a disabled actor to play a disabled character in The Expanse Season 5. After the blowback that the new adaptation of The Stand is getting for casting a hearing actor as a deaf character, it’s nice to know that there are some productions that are aware of the good they can do in terms of representation. Of course, fans are concerned that he looks too young to have a shared past with Amos, but some allowances must be made. And this is science fiction, after all, so perhaps he takes some sort of age-defying medication.
One thing that really struck me so far in The Expanse Season 5 is the cinematography. I noted the difference in my review of season 4 (the increase in production value is obvious), but something season 5 has brought in is establishing shots. Every character is in a different location, and the establishing shots make the universe seem so much bigger. One particular moment in “Exodus” is the comparison of Alex on Mars and Amos on Luna; on Mars, Alex is struck by the number of liquidation and for sale signs. It really hammers home what Bobbie was telling him earlier about being unemployed, and how being a “good Martian” doesn’t amount to much anymore. Compare that to Amos walking through the port on Luna and going against the flow of traffic as he heads to Earth because everyone is leaving to travel through the Ring.
That final scene, where the first rock hits Earth – somewhere in Africa, by the looks of the language on the sign – was chilling. From the way the fish were reacting to the distant rumbling, that is pulled right from some of my nightmares. That was a very well done scene, showing how bright and fast and violent an impact like that would be. There was even the little detail that the man’s skin started to burn before he was absorbed by the blast.
And there are at least seven more of those rocks incoming. The damage is going to be catastrophic.
The Expanse Season 5 has brought back the intertwining plot lines, which is a big point of interest for this series. In season 4, the action was mainly centered on Ilus, and it seemed like stuff was concocted just to give Chrisjen and Bobbie something to do. But this season has so many threads weaved together, it’s like putting together a giant jigsaw puzzle. How does everything fit together? As much as I loved last season, it’s fun trying to figure out how everything connects.
I also like the pace that this season is moving at. The Expanse was already a show with a limited number of episodes, so there was virtually no filler, but the move to Amazon chopped three episodes off an already small number. This results in a compact, tightly-paced narrative where things happen quickly, which is nice. Three episodes in and Amos has basically already concluded his business on Earth, Naomi has found Filip (with disastrous consequences), Drummer found Ashford’s ship, and the first asteroid missile has struck Earth. This is not a series that lingers or draws something out for dramatic effect.
Man, I love this show.
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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