This The Expanse review contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 5 Episode 10
So it turns out, it seems, that The Expanse season 5 was one giant setup for season 6, the show’s final run. There’s nothing wrong with that per se, especially since the season does resolve somewhat with the reunion of the Rocinante crew and with Avasarala’s return to power, but Marco is still at large in a severely damaged solar system — and the Martians are apparently just getting started. Even the death of Alex and the onboarding of Clarissa felt more like turning points than resolutions.
Starting the episode with Holden’s self-sacrificial burn and blast to buy Alex time to rescue Naomi was totally the right move, though. It gave The Expanse fans the space battle action they’ve been craving while skillfully merging several of the season’s storylines. There was even time to explore Monica’s suspicions about the fate of the protomolecule and Bull’s continued disregard for the “skinnies,” even the ones that saved them from annihilation.
Drummer’s bold assistance was not without its consequences either, though we’re left wondering whether the departure of Oksana and Bertold will have a lasting effect in The Expanse season 6. Technically, it was Michio who killed Karal and others who actually shot down the Koto and Serrio Mal, but Marco will treat them all with the same malice that he showed Serge, the man they left behind in exchange for Karal who was brutally floated. Drummer’s arc definitely shifted in the final moments, but it didn’t really achieve adequate closure.
The same sort of question mark hangs over Marco himself, who has only rarely appeared actively engaged in a systemwide rebellion. Likewise there’s the sudden chilly resolve shown by Filip, who is shown loading a gun just before failing to react to his father’s news that the Chetzemoka trap didn’t work. When Filip coldly tells his father, “Doesn’t alter your plan. There’s more to do,” it seems to indicate that Filip himself might have a “knife in the darkness” that will have to wait until The Expanse’s final season to come to fruition.
And speaking of the Chetzemoka trap, we finally got to see the remaining tricks up Naomi’s sleeve: a spiral maneuver that would make it hard to dock and a desperate space jump using Belter hand signals. While the resulting death of Alex lost some of its impact due to the announced departure of Cas Anvar, the static shot of Naomi’s face during Bobbie’s surprising rescue, spinning breathlessly until the marine steadied her, was a magnificent cinematographic choice.
Only her story and that of Amos felt truly finished in The Expanse season 5 finale. Amos even got to have a bit of fun in the end, and not only because he bamboozled Holden into allowing Clarissa, a former sworn enemy, into the crew of the Roci. The pouring of alcohol on Luna has already given us a few visually interesting moments in previous episodes, but the slow motion descent of the tequila bottle while Amos shouted, “A little help!” was a rare moment of levity in a heavy season.
But of course the celebration on Luna is cut short by the news that a Martian military faction in league with Marco has taken out the battleships guarding the Ring in order to take possession of a colony world called Laconia. This stunning twist caps off a somewhat introspective season by reminding us about the missing protomolecule sample and the mysterious dead civilization it represents. The price Marco paid for his Free Navy ships is revealed, and in some ways, the hidden Martian plan ends up being more compelling than the terrorist villainy at the center of The Expanse season 5.
So the Roci crew has been reunited just as Avasarala appears to have averted all-out war with the Belt, and that gives us some measure of satisfaction. But thi finale mostly frames The Expanse season 5 as a backstory diversion from the mystery to come. We still know little about the dark force that swallowed the Barkeith on its way through the Ring, and we’re left wishing we could just skip to the story of that massive orbital station above Laconia and its related intrigue.