'The Expanse' EP Naren Shankar on a Very Big Cliffhanger & a Peek at Season 6

Q&A
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse, Season 5, Episodes 1-3.]

Three episodes into its fifth season, The Expanse — which adapts the fifth book in the series, Nemesis Games — has turned the throttle all the way up and broken off the knob. It's reached a velocity that requires some of that handy-dandy serum the Roci crew uses when they’re pulling high-G maneuvers. And to hear showrunner Naren Shankar tell it, the momentum won’t be slowing anytime soon.

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And the action is better than ever as the series takes its rightful place among the greatest shows in sci-fi television.

We chat with Shankar about bringing Nemesis Games from page to screen, whether Holden (Steven Strait) is capable of taking Fred Johnson’s (Chad Coleman) advice, where the season will go, and more.

A lot of the plots threads come together in Nemesis Games. How did it feel to put it on screen? 

Nemesis Games is my favorite book in the series. It was cathartic!

So, I want to ask about Amos (Wes Chatham) and Lydia (Stacey Roca). Their relationship is interesting, to say the least. In the books, as Amos gets older, they become lovers. 

We didn't change anything for the show, but [we developed things] selectively and implicitly. If you don’t know the books you don’t know whether Amos is [remembering] someone who’s real in those [scenes] with the woman and the kid, you only understand at the end that this is Amos’ past.

We weren’t dancing around those things. It was more of a consequence of it being a present-day story that is very judicious in the way it uses flashbacks. It’s not so much about being a mother as it is that Lydia gave Amos tools to deal with life.

The Expanse Season 5

(Credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Something that was modified for the show was the scene where Naomi [Dominique Tipper] tells Holden she’s going to find Filip [Jasai Chase Owens]. 

That's one of the more significant and profound changes we made this season. In the book, part of Marco’s plan is to lure Naomi to him, but I had trouble buying it because what Marco was doing was so big and that felt small. So, because Naomi had been looking for Filip at the end of Season 4, it was natural for her to find her son and then force the situation.

At the end of Episode 1, when Naomi tells Holden she’s going to do this, it [showed] they had matured in their relationship and weren’t hiding anything. That’s the most committed they’ve ever been — it’s like they’ve settled down and have a house together! If she just cut and ran, that [would have been] more like the Naomi much earlier in the show. And it's a rough thing to say to somebody who wants to help you, "I don’t want you to.” From the standpoint of drama, that’s what you want. It reflects the maturity of their relationship that Holden understands it.

I felt like Fred Johnson had a point when he told Holden he should settle down. 

I agree with you! [Laughs] That scene between Holden and Fred is actually quite charming.

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The Child needs some looking after, and his 'adoptive' dad is doing a pretty great job of it.

Do you think Holden is capable of that? Or does he need a mission to feel fulfilled?

I think you’re right, [he does]. That’s in his DNA — he’s just that guy. He’s Don Quixote, he likes tilting at windmills.

Can you say anything about where Drummer [Cara Gee] is headed?

Courtesy of Amazon Studios

Drummer is an amalgam of certain things from the books, and this is a piece that borrows from book 6 [Babylon's Ashes], the Michio Pa story.

Where will that take her?

[Laughs] Well, if I told you where the season ended, that’d probably give you a sense of it. But if you’re enjoying it, I don’t want to spoil it for you!

So what's going on with those asteroids and the havoc they’ll presumably wreak?

Asteroid impacts of that nature are what killed the dinosaurs, so I guess you could run with that. Everyone's on their own paths dealing with emotional stuff and over it all hangs this oncoming threat. The questions for an audience member are, “How are they going to stop this in time?" and "Oh, my God, they’re all in danger because they’re not together!” That’s where we wanted to start the season. Spreading it out over three episodes gives it the feeling of, “Oh my God, oh my God, oh my God.” And then the end of Episode 4 is just “Holy s**t.” It’s pretty surprising!

Season 6 is The Expanse’s last. Will you adapt material from beyond the sixth book?

There’s no intention of trying to cram material from Books 7, 8, and 9 into a season. It would be 45 episodes long! [Laughs] There’s no way. Not even with maximum compression. And I think it would do a disservice to the story. If you think way, way back to Season 1 of The Expanse, we opened that first episode with a title card that talked about the situation in the solar system. In a way, that’s what the end of Book 6 answers.

The Expanse, Season 5, Wednesdays, Prime Video