The Expanse season 5 returns the series to the weekly format it enjoyed while it aired on Syfy, but it’s still probably best that Amazon is dropping the first three episodes on December 16 given the amount of exposition in the opening installments. Fortunately, the triple installment ends with a bang, and the series doesn’t let up from then on. Not only are fans in for a ton of action and intrigue; there’s also plenty of rich backstory to please those anxious to revisit with their favorite characters.
The buildup in the initial episodes is not without suspense, but it’s difficult to depict the danger presented by asteroids that are weeks away from colliding with Earth. There’s an early encounter with a science vessel looking into rogue asteroids that creates some clues to follow, but other than that there are only whispers of dark shapes passing in the void of space and holographic displays that plot the course of the weaponized rocks.
As a result, much attention is initially directed towards the scattered members of the Rocinante crew, each of whom is attending to personal business in various parts of the solar system. Only Holden and Naomi begin the season together, but it quickly becomes clear that the son we found out about last year will be the focus of a mission the estranged mother must undertake alone. It’s an attempt at reconciliation that brings heartfelt moments for Naomi and wonderful insights into the extreme fringes of Belter culture.
The Expanse writers do a brilliant job of allowing Bobbie Draper to be the vehicle for uncovering the treachery within the Martian military, but it’s still a comparatively dryer aspect of the larger political intrigue. Alex joins her on Mars to add his contacts to the investigation, but it’s difficult not to associate the awkwardness the Roci pilot experiences with the family he abandoned with the discomfort of the real-life controversy surrounding the actor, Cas Anvar.
It’s much easier to get sucked into Amos’ story, not only because he provides the eyes on Earth during the heightened action later in the season, but also because his backstory is among the most interesting The Expanse has ever presented. Amos continues his streak of memorable dialogue, but the nobility behind his penchant for violence takes on new heights in season 5 — a wonderful thing to behold through Wes Chatham’s expert acting.
Because The Expanse season 5 centers on a terrorist plot and its aftermath, it falls to Holden to remind us that this all began with the protomolecule, and the manner in which the alien life he thought was gone for good resurfaces is a plot that embroils Fred Johnson and reintroduces the intrepid reporter, Monica Stuart, to great effect. Fred’s involvement reminds us how different the goals of the various Belter factions really are.
In fact, Camina Drummer and her new crew present the most compelling picture of Belter culture yet. Fans will no doubt embrace the character’s polyamorous family and be pulled into the drama of Drummer’s search for justice after the death of Klaes Ashford at the end of last season. Marco Inaros presents a formidable enemy for all, but between Naomi’s history with him and Drummer’s guilt-tinged desire for vengeance, the terrorist plot becomes quite personal.
And that’s not even taking into account Avasarala’s familial motivations that arise alongside her political machinations behind the scenes. The emotional stakes are high in The Expanse season 5, and although the action takes a few episodes to really kick in, once things shift into high gear, it’s full speed ahead. Even knowing that next season is the series’ final run can’t diminish the power of this year’s story, which outdoes its already excellent predecessors.