This review of The Expanse contains spoilers.
The Expanse Season 6 Episode 6
Is it really over? Watching the series finale of The Expanse was an exercise in denial with longtime fans trying to soak in every last moment, pretending the show would continue the way much of the narrative seemed to imply. Now, being able to see season 6 as a whole, it’s clear that the writers made the only choice they could by acknowledging that the protomolecule is still out there while involving the alien forces directly in the defeat of Marco Inaros. It was a beautifully rendered, action packed, poignant tale worthy of a series finale!
Even small moments, such as Clarissa’s chance at heroism, completed the larger picture. The Expanse very subtly showed us that her endocrine system was in danger of collapse if she continued to use her glandular enhancements, then allowed her to save the day by getting the ship’s drive back online under pressure without using those powers. It may seem like a small amount of closure in the big picture, but the extra effort to complete Clarissa’s redemption was very much appreciated.
That’s especially true given that Amos knew the Roci might need a new mechanic if he died in the assault on the ring station. The Expanse did a great job of showing the grand scale of the shipping container strategy while also hiding details of how the attack would unfold until it actually happened. Once viewers realized what was going on, their eyes likely widened as certain amazed expletives escaped their lips. As several soldiers were picked off by the rail guns, it was immediately clear what a long shot the capture of the station really was.
Over its six seasons, the hallmark of The Expanse has been its realism, and Drummer’s disappointing defeat at the hands of the Pella was one of those moments where we realized ship-to-ship battles are a messy affair. At first, we were happy that Drummer’s group would have a chance to take Marco down, hidden as he was among the supply ships. Thankfully, her kamikaze attack was pre-empted by her Golden Bough colleague, but the pain of one of our favorite characters being taken out of the fight reminds us of how this show admirably makes no guarantees for its heroes.
After all, you know things are bad when even Bobbie is pinned down by gunfire despite her MCRN battle suit. The coalition forces wanted to capture the rail gun to use against Marco, but Bobbie had to destroy it instead, and she barely survived the maneuver. She and Amos would likely have died if not for the Rocinante pulling a Millennium Falcon and blowing its cover to secure the area. It was a magnificently difficult victory that was more satisfying because of how hard won (and visually breathtaking) it was.
The same could be said for the resulting negotiations between the UN, Mars, and the Belt. The easy solution would have been business as usual, but even appointing Holden as a supposedly neutral party would not have resolved the pattern of oppression the inner planets imposed upon their more tribal neighbors. The passing of the Trade Union presidency to Drummer was a brilliant move, and one of the biggest regrets, especially for those who have read The Expanse novels, is that we’ll never get to see on screen the leadership role Drummer has in the books.
But its the mere suggestion of things to come that makes this the perfect series finale, and it’s arguably the only way the writers could have ended the story given the circumstances. Duarte’s refusal to send reinforcements to Marco while he excitedly observes the alien shipyards coming to life in orbit around Laconia confirms for viewers that a new enemy will always be waiting in the wings. Similarly, Naomi’s use of the overloaded gates to summon the malevolent force to take out Marco suggests that the fight is far from over if humans hope to continue colonizing the galaxy.
In the meantime, a reconciliation between factions is satisfaction enough, as is the knowledge that Filip escaped his father in the end, changing his name to Nagata before starting a new life. It’s like Naomi, who will never know her son lived, said: “You never know the effect you might have on someone, not really. Maybe one cruel thing you said haunts them forever; maybe one moment of kindness gives them comfort or courage. Maybe you said the one thing they needed to hear. It doesn’t matter if you ever know. You just have to try.”
And so humanity will keep on trying even though the story of The Expanse is left with question marks. They’ll keep trying to get along with each other. They’ll keep trying to survive on the colony planets. But they’ll also keep trying to learn how to combat the thing between the gates and how to deal with new threats from beyond the ring. Life in the solar system and beyond continues off-screen, keeping the realism of The Expanse intact as time marches on.