The Season 5 Finale of The Expanse Is A Deadly Adventure - Comic Years
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Review: The Season 5 Finale of The Expanse Is A Harrowing End To A Character-Driven Season

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BY February 6, 2021

The Expanse wraps up its penultimate season this week with the finale of season 5. After announcing recently that the 6th season of the popular sci-fi series would be its last, the show made moves to set up the endgame this season. The focus for this season of The Expanse was largely on the conflict between Earth and The Belt. In keeping with this theme, the major character arcs of the season also belonged to an Earther and a Belter: Naomi Nagata and Amos Burton.

Naomi Travels Deep Into Enemy Territory In Season 5 of The Expanse

The Expanse - Season 3 Image via Amazon Prime

After receiving a tip early in the season about her long-lost son, Naomi leaves Holden behind on Tycho Station to find answers. She journeys to Pallas, the mining station where she spent years of her life. There she encounters some old friends – who have become enemies. Many Belters view Naomi as a traitor for working with Mars and Earth to save the system from the threat of the Protomolecule. They also strongly disapprove of her relationship with a man from Earth – James Holden.

Journeying into her old life forces Naomi to confront these issues head-on. Her former friends and lover will never let her forget how they feel about her choices. They constantly belittle her for ‘abandoning’ them when Marco kidnapped their infant son and disappeared. When Naomi finally finds her son Filip, she is distressed to learn that he has been deeply radicalized by his father – Marco Inaros. Soon she finds herself captured and taken aboard the flagship for the “Free Navy” that Marco has created.

Naomi Nagata Is The Real MVP of The Expanse

The Expanse Naomi Nagata Image via Amazon Prime

Deep in enemy territory, Naomi finds herself with few friends as she struggles to make a connection with her son. It also becomes abundantly clear why Naomi left her ex-lover Marco in the first place. He constantly manipulates everyone around him in order to achieve his goals. Marco turned Naomi into a murderer during a mission in their past. And now he has made their son a terrorist responsible for the deaths of millions.

All of Marco’s bullying, gaslighting, and attempts to hurt Naomi leads to a bold escape attempt where she literally jumps into the vacuum of space. She spends the last half of the season alone on a ship that has been rigged to blow up when the Rocinante approaches. Gravely injured, alone, without food, tools, or supplies. Naomi desperately tries to prevent a disaster.

Actress Dominique Tipper deserves all of the awards for her work this season. The depth of acting that she has to do in the final episodes to show Naomi’s grief, pain, and determination with very little dialogue is astounding. Tipper does some truly excellent work in these episodes, and it is with Naomi that we find ourselves at the most human heart of the show.

Marco Inaros And The Complicated Legacy Of The Belt

Marco Inaros The Expanse Season 5 Finale Image via Amazon Prime

Inaros is the primary villain in The Expanse season 5, and the finale makes it clear he will stick around for the final season. Marco Inaros has long been branded by Earth as a terrorist. And while it may be true, the designation feels like one more way that Earth is ignoring very real problems between Earth and the Belt. It is clear that Earth has treated Belters like slave labor for far too long. And the Belters are sick of it. Marco’s motives for all of the death and destruction he has caused actually make a certain amount of sense. At the end of last season he launched a massive strike against Earth by throwing some stealth-shielded asteroids at the planet. This season, those rocks hit and kicked off a (literal) tidal wave and a (metaphorical) storm.

Marco made a bold tactical strike that forced Earth to pay attention and take the Belt seriously. Along the way he blackmailed, threatened, and manipulated the rest of the Belt into uniting with him. Inaros is a solid villain because his motivations are understandable, even sympathetic. He is charming and well-spoken, but he is also full of fury and ego. He is clearly narcissistic, and abusive even to those he claims to love (like his son Filip). Inaros took violent action to create change, and that does not sit well with some of the other Belter factions. And with Naomi’s presence on the ship affecting everyone’s emotional state, even his son Filip is starting to view his father in a new light.

Meanwhile, Back On Earth…

The Expanse Amos Image via Amazon Prime

The other major storyline in season 5 of The Expanse takes place on Earth. While we have visited Earth before, we have primarily seen the planet from the viewpoint of the wealthy and powerful like Avasarala. In season 5, we see the slums of the planet as Amos takes a trip back to Baltimore. The woman who raised him recently died, and Amos has come to settle her affairs. We get some insight into his backstory, including his real name (Timmy!). And we get to meet some of his old pals in the Baltimore crime syndicate.

But the real story begins when Amos takes a trip to a high-security prison where Clarissa Mao is being held. Fans of the show should remember that Clarissa’s sister – Julie Mao –  was the missing person who kicked off Miller’s investigation in the first season. Clarissa was first introduced in season 3 of The Expanse, seeking revenge for her sister’s death. She blamed Holden for what happened to her sister, and sought to smear his reputation and kill him. However, a change of heart at the end of season 3 saw Clarissa stepping up to save everyone. But she still ended up in prison where she apparently kept in touch with Amos (who gives her the nickname ‘Peaches’).

Amos and Clarissa Are The New OTP For The Expanse

The Expanse Season 5 Clarissa & Amos Image via Amazon Prime

Amos arrives in Clarissa’s cell right around the time that asteroids hit Earth. Being in a facility deep underground ironically saved both of them. There was a fun prison break episode where Amos and Clarissa team up with some prison guards and mod-powered inmates to find a way out. From there the two of them embark on a road trip across an apocalyptic Earth. Along  the way their relationship deepens and I found myself really rooting for a relationship for the first time on this show. (I love Naomi and Holden of course. But there is something special about the way both Amos and Clarissa are deeply broken and balance one another that I find compelling.)

Amos and Clarissa’s storyline was one of the unexpected highlights from season 5 of The Expanse. It allows the show to spend more time on Earth than ever before, and really shows the amount of destruction that Marco’s stealth asteroids wrought. We also gain a better understanding of Earth politics, and the way the criminal organizations still function as they always have. While Amos and Clarissa’s storyline did not affect the main plotline in the Belt very much, it was still an important exercise in world-building and character-building. I anticipate that Clarissa will have a much larger role in the final season of The Expanse, and finally getting her onto the crew of the Rocinante is a vital step towards that storyline.

Drummer Shows Us The Belter Way

The Expanse Season 5 Finale Drummer Image via Amazon Prime

There is one other major character arc in season 5 that must be mentioned. Camina Drummer is a bit of a composite character from the books. But she has become one of the breakout characters of the show. In season 5 of The Expanse, Drummer is still grieving her friend Klae Ashford who died at the end of last season.

Drummer has found a new ship family, and some measure of happiness with her new lover. But that doesn’t last long, after Marco attacks Earth and demands Drummer’s loyalty. She hates him for killing Ashford, and for dragging them into war. But with no other options, Drummer must go along with his plans. That is, until she finds out what he has done to her friend Naomi, and cannot stand by any longer.

The Season 5 Finale of The Expanse Shows The Belt Is Not An United Front

The Expanse Naomi & Drummer Image via Amazon Prime

The Drummer storyline is important in season 5 of The Expanse not only for her characterization, but also because it gives us a glimpse into Belter life. It is vital to see the way lines are drawn even in Drummer’s polyamorous family crew. Some of them want to join Marco, others detest him. Drummer’s ship is a good encapsulation of the diverse attitudes from Belters. It clearly shows that they are not all united behind Marco Inaros.

In the end, Drummer is the one that takes drastic action against Inaros. She chooses to fire on her own people, to help the Rocinante escape an ambush. In the end, Drummer says they are now free from Inaros and can go their own way. Many members of her crew choose to leave her. However, with Fred Johnson dead and Drummer on the outs with the Free Navy, we imagine it is only a matter of time before she becomes leader of the OPA.

Catching Up With The Rest Of The Ensemble Cast

The Expanse Cast Image via Syfy/Amazon Prime

Meanwhile, we still have a lot of other cast members that are out there doing their own thing. Chrisjen Avasarala is on Luna where she fails to save Earth from the attack that she saw coming. However she is also responsible for preventing further destruction of Earth. She grieves her husband lost in the attack, and has to deal with petty politicians bent on revenge against the Belt. In the end, we know that Avasarala will come out back on top. She is really the only leader that Earth has left.

Back on Tycho Station, James Holden spends time hanging out with Fred Johnson and journalist Monica Stuart. There is a bit of dramatic action here when the Belter workers rise up against the OPA. They kill Johnson and steal the Protomolecule sample that he had hidden away. Once again, Holden is in charge of tracking down the Protomolecule that has shaped his life. But eventually he gets drawn into the fight with Inaros, and the desperate attempt to rescue Naomi.

How Did The Expanse Resolve The Cas Anvar Problem?

Cas Anvar The Expanse Image via Syfy/Amazon Prime

On Mars, we have Alex and Bobbi teaming up to investigate the stealth tech Mars is selling to Inaros. The two of them spend most of the latter half of the season in space, flying around in Julie Mao’s old ship. Eventually they hear the fake distress call from Naomi, that is designed to lure her friends into a trap. Alex burns hard to rescue Naomi, and eventually dies of a stroke at the exact moment that Bobbi is pulling Naomi into the ship.

This is a drastic change from the books, where Alex is still alive and well. But it seems that this is the way the showrunners decided to write off Alex’s character after allegations of sexual misconduct against actor Cas Anvar. I do have to say that this death felt a little abrupt. I would have preferred recasting the role for the final season, to give Alex’s character some much needed closure. But still, it wasn’t a bad way to go. Alex got a noble, heroic death and the show has one fewer character arc to resolve in the last season.

Looking Forward To More Aliens In The Final Season of The Expanse

The Expanse Image via Syfy/Amazon Prime

In the final moments of the season 5 finale, a strange thing happens to close out this season of The Expanse. We see the Martians who were working with Inaros receive the Protomolecule sample. They have put it to work on one of the planets beyond the ring where they are seeing “beautiful results.” There is a shot of some mysterious alien structures floating in the sky above one of the planets. These structures appear to be connected the monoliths spread across the planets beyond the ring. This is obviously setting up for more alien shenanigans in the final season of The Expanse. Which was really the only thing that was missing from this season.

As the Martian ship travels through the ring, everything freezes. Slowly, the image starts to fade and a red wave washes over the screen. This is followed by a mysterious black smoke that appears to rip the ship apart… or perhaps it is shifting it and its crew to an entirely different dimension? This is certainly a confusing moment for anyone who hasn’t read the books, and ends the season on a puzzling cliffhanger. We don’t know exactly what just happened. But we are certain that it has to do with the alien species that originally created the ring gates. The sixth and final season of The Expanse should clarify this mystery, as it prepares its final flight in the Rocinante.

All episodes of The Expanse season 5 are now streaming on Amazon Prime. What did you think of the season 5 finale of The Expanse? Join the conversation with Comic Years on Facebook and Twitter today to share your thoughts.

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Emily O'Donnell is a writer and photographer with roots in some of the earliest online fandoms. She cut her genre teeth on the Wizard of Oz books at the tender age of 6 years old, and was reading epic adult fantasy novels by the age of 10. Decades later, she still consumes genre fiction like there is no tomorrow. She is delighted to be living through the golden age of sci-fi and fantasy popularity. She is unashamed of the amount of fanfiction that still lingers online under her name.

AdaptationsAmazon PrimeJames S.A. CoreySeason 5The ExpanseTV Review

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