It’s been a long dark year, but we were given a light at the end of the tunnel with the return of The Expanse, Amazon Prime’s series based on the books by James S.A. Corey. Season 5 was released on Wednesday with three episodes, with the rest releasing weekly from now until February 2021.
We love the Expanse. While not traditionally thought of as post-apocalyptic due to the high level of human advancement, the plot of human survival against malevolent aliens is squarely in our wheelhouse.
This article will be a little long, as I’m going to include a recap of Season 4 before we talk about episodes 1 – 3 of Season 5.
At the start of Season 4, the team of the Rocinante split up. Alex and Naomi stayed aboard the Roci while Holden and Amos landed on the planet Ilus to settle a dispute between the colonists from Earth and refugees from the Belt. While much more happened in the season, the final two episodes involved the settlement trapped inside a mysterious alien structure, under threat from Ilus’ protomolecule technological network. They narrowly escaped due to Holden’s connection with Miller, who shut down the process. We still are not sure what the structure was for or whether it was connected to the Ring gate.
In terms of character arcs, Namoi revealed that she had a son with Belter Terrorist Marcos Inaros, Holden has come to terms with his connection to Miller, Amos is potentially affiliated with a mob back on earth, Alex regrets leaving his family behind on Mars, Bobbie has gone to work undercover for Avasarala after realizing she can’t get a job on Mars due to rampant unemployment, and Avasarala herself was ousted from her seat as UN president. Oh, and Drummer is now a pirate and Ashford was spaced by Marcos.
As there are three episodes of the new season to cover this week and the show is very complex, I’ve broken it into sections based on the characters and the cliffhanger ending. If you haven’t guessed, this article contains Spoilers!
Season 5 Episodes 1 – 3
The show beings with Inaros launching a large asteroid towards Earth. He and his team then attack a science vessel, murder the crew, and retrieve something. My husband believes it was a “black box” to hide their tracks. I think it’s something else, maybe research? Either way, the asteroid shattered into smaller pieces but are still on their intended trajectory.
It wouldn’t be The Expanse without a slow shot of Holden brooding, which happens in the first episode after he watches Naomi take off on her own after her son.
Unsurprisingly, Holden jumps on board any sort of conversation surrounding the Protomolocule as he learns that Fred Johnson has his scientists working on it. After a super tense kidnapping scenario involving the reporter Monica Stewart, we are left with Holden and Fred trying to track down her kidnappers, whom they believe are after the protomolcule. Perhaps it’s because he’s so grouchy, but I don’t trust that security guy of Fred’s one bit.
Holden and Noami are the example of “Couple Goals”. They have a respectful and emotional discussion, and then Naomi leaves to find Filip and extricate him from Inaros’ clutches. Unfortunately, Filip is not interested in her help. In fact, he turns around and hijacks her ship. It’s clear he’s suffering from anger due to being abandoned as a child, but how much of this has been exacerbated by Inaros’ bad-mouthing of Naomi to him?
There are some big emotional conflicts here to overcome. Will they make amends? Will Naomi be able to turn Filip from Inaros? Or, will Naomi, in a desire to protect her son, be drawn into the terrorist ring again?
For those of us who can’t get enough of the broad-shouldered beefcake, the second episode was a treat. Not only do we finally (finally!) get to learn Amos’ backstory, but we get to see so much of his handsome face. And he also kicks so much ass.
We learn that Amos’ real name is Timothy (I’m sorry to all guys named Tim, but I laughed) and his mother was a sex worker who had recently passed. True to Amos’ particular set of morals, he bludgeons his way through gangsters to meet up with an old friend (another gangster) and demand his mother’s husband be allowed to stay in her house.
There was an interesting trick played on the audience where Amos keeps seeing a little boy, clearly beat up, being comforted by his mother. We’re led to believe that Amos recognizes his past in these scenes, but in the end, it turns out these were Amos’ memories incorporated into the present. We are given a true flashback to Amos and his mother, which explains, somewhat, his take on life.
But my favourite part? When Amos beats up a man and then says, “Do you want to be my friend?”
It was also really cool to see future Baltimore, where no one drives cars and everything is dotted in solar panels. These small details are what make the show so immersive.
Alex and Bobbie
Very quickly Alex and Bobbie are brought together, meeting in a ridiculous faux-Country Western bar on Mars.
Bobbie is trying to track down who is selling weapons to the terrorists and Alex made a failed attempted to reconnect with his family. We see more about how Mars has turned into the “dodgy end of town” in the universe. Alex goes on a date with a woman named Emily Babbage, in an attempt to glean information about her boss, an Admiral he and Bobbie believe might be connected to the smuggling. Emily has her own questions, namely about the protomolocule and the structures on Ilus. Directly after the date, Alex is attacked by a pair of Martian petty officers who are clearly protecting someone. I think Babbage is the one behind the smuggling, with her boss unaware of what she’s doing.
The real question, though, is whether Alex and Bobbie are going to hook up or not?
Camina is my favorite character on the show and it was great to see her tough-as-nails facade break down when she finds out that Ashford is dead. I enjoyed how she finally let herself cry and reached out for help; something I don’t think she would have done back in earlier seasons. And while it was amazing to see her commanding the Behemoth back in Season 3, she seems more natural in the small Belter ship.
Also, a shout-out to Jurassic Park, upon which Ashford clearly based his fire extinguisher hiding place for the data core!
I love how Avasarala is yet again the one who knows what is going down but no one believes her. She is such a fascinating character because you both love and hate how ruthless and ambitious she is. Her aplomb is only elevated by her candor – I laugh whenever she swears.
In this season, she’s trapped on the moon, which she clearly feels is an insulting position for her, and is attempting to persuade Earth to turn their big-ass cannons away from Mars and instead be on the lookout for asteroid fragments. A great deal of tension in these episodes comes from knowing she is right but no one will listen.
Every week I’m going to pick my favourite of her outfits. This week I couldn’t choose between her bright blue pantsuit with navy and silver designs and that sparkly green suit. Seriously, how many clothes does this woman have?
The Expanse is now rightfully part of post-apocalyptic media, given the last few seconds of episode 3. That shot was fantastic: the cannons, sitting idly by, as the asteroid whizzes past them, the explosion reflected in that older man’s glasses. I gasped, even though I knew it was coming.
Will episode 4 start with Avasarala tearing a new one into the UN council? Probably. It was said each fragment could yield a 1-4 megaton blast (about a thirteen-kilometre radius), so who knows how many cities were destroyed given how many fragments hit?
Overall Thoughts of Episodes 1 – 3
The Expanse is as gorgeous as it is complex. The special effects we get (the air bubble used to save Monica from the shipping container, the overhead shots of the planets, and the personal tech) are interesting and believable.
The show is also great at dropping hints. We were given a very brief overview of the situation with the Rings, specifically how a small force could hold the entire gate due to how equal entry access from all angles creates a symmetrical choking point. I’m guessing this isn’t just a passing point of interest but will come to play later.
And Miller is still kicking around, if only behind the camera (Thomas Jane directed episode 3).
One thing is bugging me from episode 3. What was the punchline of that joke Felix was telling at the start?