The Expanse: The Complicated Legacy of Alex Kamal

The Expanse season 5 finale has fans asking what was behind the change in the journey of Alex Kamal from the books to the small screen.

Alex Kamal piloting the Razorback in The Expanse
Photo: Amazon Studios

This article contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse. Proceed with caution.

“That was one hell of a ride.”

Yes, it certainly was, Alex! The Expanse season 5 finale gave us plenty of surprises, twists, and shifts in perspective, but the character arc of Alex Kamal shocked everyone with its significant departure from that of his counterpart in the James S. A. Corey novels. Showrunner Naren Shankar was able to shed some light on the narrative decisions that were made, knowing the impact that the changes would have but realizing that, in many ways, they needed to happen.

Was Alex’s Death Added With Reshoots?

The sexual misconduct allegations leveled against Cas Anvar, who plays Alex Kamal, came after production of The Expanse season 5 was complete. When asked whether Alex’s death was inserted into the finale via reshoots to explain the actor’s announced departure from the series, showrunner Naren Shankar carefully answered, “The conversations went way back. Without getting into detail, the conversations had been going on for awhile.”

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In short, even though Alex Kamal does not die in this manner in The Expanse book series, the stakes are different for television. “We started talking about losing a major character in the show very early on in season 5, and part of that was we realized we were telling a story about war and struggle and violent people and cataclysm and just kind of scraping through it,” said Shankar. “And if everybody made it at the end, there was no cost… nothing’s going to happen to them; they’ll always get out of danger. And at a certain point, you start feeling like that doesn’t feel real.”

How Did the Death of Alex Happen?

The death itself was very much in keeping with the scientifically accurate space travel The Expanse is known for. The Razorback was burning hard to rescue Naomi, and Bobbie even warned Alex that trying to match the Chetzemoka’s aberrant spiral could cause them to stroke out. Even aided by “the juice,” spacefarers’ blood flow is greatly affected by g-forces, and heavy acceleration can lead to hemorrhaging, with possibly fatal results if it happens in the brain. Such was Alex’s fate.

Holden confirms that they all take that risk every time they maneuver in space, and the fact that it happened to Alex while saving Naomi won’t go unnoticed. “Especially when you think of the message that Holden gets from Naomi: ‘If something goes wrong…’ Shankar added. “To play that in the context of a loss that’s so close to the characters in the show… it is a profound loss for all of them, and dealing with that is part of the journey in season 6.”

Perhaps Bull will take over as pilot of the Rocinante, but it’s unlikely anyone will ever match the cowboy antics and spectacular maneuvers Alex was known for. The truth is fans of The Expanse would probably rather remember Alex for his heroic deeds than see the character recast. Cas Anvar had already altered the balding, pudgy Alex from the books and made the character his own. Alex’s death is simply one more change among many that television adaptations make all the time.