The Expanse Season 5 Ending Explained

The final scenes in The Expanse season 5 finale were chock full of details open to interpretation, so what really happened in the end?

Holden and Naomi make a toast in The Expanse
Photo: Amazon Studios

This article contains The Expanse spoilers.

The reunion of the Rocinante crew (minus one) and Avasarala’s return to power provided some measure of resolution in The Expanse season 5 finale, but even with season 6 being the final outing for the show, the story of the protomolecule is far from over. Showrunner Naren Shankar helped shed some light on those final moments, including the nature of Laconia and the status of several characters whose arcs are ongoing.

The Rogue Martians Bring the Protomolecule to Laconia

Let’s start at the end and work backwards. There was something dangerously familiar about the dark swirls that engulfed Sauveterre and Babbage as the Barkeith passed through the gate to Laconia.

“These are the things that Holden’s been concerned about from the very beginning of the season,” explains Shankar. “When he goes to Fred’s office, and he says, ‘I think there are entities inside the Ring. I think they destroyed the protomolecule builders. I think we’re waking them up.’ And at the end of the season, sure enough, the audience sees he’s right. They have been woken up! They are taking an interest in our world in a very dangerous way.”

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That may mean the Barkeith disappeared from existence on its way through whatever dimensional warp the gates use, but plenty of other Martian defectors did make it to Laconia, a planet with significant Builder technology, including an orbital station.

“You’re not sure what is up there!” says Shankar. “You see a structure… the only reference point you have is what they discovered on Ilus back in season 4: that there are giant machines of some nature on these planets, that these are, to some extent, constructed planets built with the technology that built the Ring gates — the protomolecule technology.”

The Return of Cortazar

Cortazar, who has been the foremost expert in the protomolecule since The Expanse season 1, is talking about entering phase 3 construction, and it’s clear that the protomolecule sample for which the Martians traded their warships to Marco Inaros is a key element in activating the technology. Could we be looking at a Builder spaceship? And if so, what could the MCRN breakaway faction want with it? Although a minefield protects Laconia from anyone trying to pass through from Sol system, there’s nothing keeping the ex-Martians from returning with some serious firepower.

What’s Next For Drummer?

In the meantime, the fate of other characters might also benefit from some clarification. What of Drummer, for example, and the split within her family?

“She commits them to a course of action that essentially destroys the thing she was trying to preserve, and there’s no way around it,” Shankar says. “She does it for a perfectly believable, sympathetic, ethical reason: she’s not going to kill people that she cares about no matter who commands it. But it comes at tremendous cost. That absolutely has ramifications.”

Is Filip Beginning to See Marco’s Manipulations?

Filip seems to have come to a realization about his father as well in The Expanse season 5’s final moments in which he loads a gun and speaks nonchalantly about Marco’s plans.

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“It’s an interesting moment, and it would probably support lots of different readings of it,” Shankar notes. “This is a soul who’s in turmoil, and he’s in a very confused and conflicted place: still bound to his father’s side, but maybe not as emotionally attached to his father as he once was. But also, where can he go? You’re sort of trapped in the house with your emotional abuser.”

The Rocinante’s New Crew Member

While some families fracture, others grow. The Rocinante crew may have lost Alex, but they gained Clarissa. “Amos wanted to keep her on the ship, and Holden said yes — or Amos said Holden said yes,” Shankar says, laughing. “These are two souls who have constantly resorted to violence to solve their problems. The difference between them is that Amos feels nothing when he does it, and Clarissa feels everything. She feels the weight of every terrible thing that she has done, and Amos I think senses that and is trying, to the extent that he can, to give her a path for getting through the world.”

The Expanse season 5 finale is, in some ways, merely an intermission before the conflict continues in the sixth and final season. Marco is still a threat; the protomolecule and the Martians who have it are even more dangerous; and whatever lives in the Ring-space that killed the Builders is even more terrifying. With a series finale only ten episodes away, the stage is set for this epic space drama to conclude in explosive fashion.