After six seasons, The Expanse ended its television run when its last episode “Babylon’s Ashes” streamed on Amazon Prime Video this week.
The sixth and final season of The Expanse was the culmination of the long-running storyline of the tensions among human societies in the solar system. Based on the novels by James. S.A. Corey (the pen name for Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse takes place in a future where humans have an uneasy existence throughout our solar system. Earth and Mars are locked in a cold war with each other, while at the colonies in the outer planets, people, called “Belters”, live under harsh and meager conditions. They detest the “Inners” for their lush lifestyle and strive to be recognized as a legitimate power. During the TV series an alien substance called the protomolecule was discovered. It was able to alter both organic and inorganic matter and eventually formed a gigantic Ring structure near Uranus that functioned as an intergalactic gateway to other solar systems. The latter seasons dealt with the ramifications of this event as humanity began spreading to other worlds.
In the fifth season, a Belter terrorist named Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) rose to power in the colonies and decimated Earth by bombarding it with multiple asteroids. Meanwhile, he joined forces with rogue Martian factions to form the Free Navy and seized control of the Ring and the gateway to other star systems. By the start of the sixth season, Earth was on the verge of becoming uninhabitable from the fallout of the asteroid impacts. In the final season Earth and Mars allied with each other to hunt down Inaros regain access to the Ring and negotiate a peace with the Belters.
The show centered on the crew of the Rocinante, James Holden (Steven Strait) of Earth, Naomi Nagato (Dominique Tipper), a Belter who bore a son with Inaros, Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), a tough mechanic from Earth, and Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole), a former criminal struggling to find some measure of redemption. Together they joined the fight against Inarus and his followers. Other characters include Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams), a battle-hardened Martian marine allied with the Rocinante crew, United Nations Secretary-General Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), a caustic and practical leader who wants nothing more than to save Earth and end the war, Naomi and Inaros’ son Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens), who joined his father in the struggle but started questioning his father’s fanatic ideaology, and Camina Drummer (Cara Gee), a Belter pirate who rebeled against Inaros and the Free Navy.
The final season of The Expanse is quite satisfying as it brought to a close many of the storylines and character arcs while leaving room for future adventures. As with previous seasons the show had a grounded, gritty feel to it that featured realistic space travel and living conditions. The ships did not have artificial gravity or used energy weapons and shields. Instead, currently known methods of creating gravity in ships were used. Weapons of choice were torpedos and rail guns, while the thickness of hull platings were what protected a ship. Speaking of battles, the combat depicted in the sixth season were very exciting and gripping, especially in the episodes “Force Projection” and “Babylon’s Ashes”.
The former episode had a tense ship-to-ship combat sequence between the Rocinante and Inaros’ ship the Pella. Despite the standard sci-tropes of energy weapons or having spaceships battling right next to each other,the scenes were thrilling and explosive. The attention to detail with the space battles and how humans actually might live in space added to the enjoyment of the season and the show, overall.
What was even more memorable were the characters themselves. The actors, as always, delivered fine performances, especially Shohreh Aghdashloo, who was quite commanding and charismatic as the Earth leader. Other standouts were Cara Gee, whose character underwent legitimate growth as a cynical and embittered pirate who became the leader of the Belter resistance against Marco Inaros, and Wes Chatham as his character fought against a fatalistic outlook and sought for a cause to believe in. This brought Amos into personal conflict with Holden since Amos could not agree with Holden’s nuanced and conflicted view of the war against Inaros. On the other side of the conflict, Chase-Owens was quite good as Filip, who was genuinely torn between earning his father’s respect while being tortured by his conscience. Thankfully, the season was able to wrap up their arcs in a satisfying method, although if the season had more episodes the conclusions would have been better.
The fact that the season only had six episodes instead of its usual ten was a detriment. This is a growing problem with other shows like Hawkeye where they introduce many characters and plot lines that cannot be well concluded. What happens is that often the conclusions were rushed. That feeling is persistent with the final episodes of The Expanse even though they were presented well. The show should have been given at least two more episodes to fully flesh out the plotlines.
One such plot that was jarring took place during the opening prologues of each episode on a world called Laconia and featured a young girl called Cara (Emma Ho), who encountered animals that can reanimate the dead. This storyline does not have anything to do with the rest of the episosdes and is not concluded. Readers of the book series know that Laconia is a prominent element in the later books but here the showrunners ran out of time to properly tell its story. To their credit at least they did not rush through and finish it, but it is a lingering plot that should have been dropped in favor for the main stories. Of course, this was probably done to tantalize viewers of where the show would go in case it were to continue, but it will not.
The characters’ stories have been concluded and without giving anything away, the final moments of “Babylon’s Ashes” gives many of them well-deserved endings and hint at where their journeys will go next. But, one of the characters makes a decision that will have lasting ramifications, which was true to this character, but it did not feel realistic and somewhat naive. Again, if the series had more time perhaps this decision would have been better developed and natural.
As sad as it is that The Expanse has ended it was able to be able to tell its story, for the most part, given that it was cancelled after its third season until it was revived by Amazon Prime Video. The Expanse will be missed but, as one of the greatest and epic sci-fi TV shows of all time, we can still enjoy its six seasons worth of stories.