‘The Expanse’ Season 5: The Gang’s All Here & the Story’s Better Than Ever (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Amazon Prime Video
Amazon Prime Video

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Expanse Season 5, Episodes 1-3, “Exodus,” “Churn,” and “Mother.”]

Typically, when drama shows reach their fifth seasons, cracks start to show. Characters make illogical, out-of-character choices. Plot lines swerve toward shark-jumping territory. Storylines or references that once felt charming feel trite. Someone’s long-lost brother/sister/parent shows up (bonus points if they’re back from the dead!). With all that in mind, there’s something to be said for telling a meaningful story in as few seasons as possible.

But The Expanse seems to be among the rare exceptions.

Book fans, of course, knew to hope for a thriller of a Season 5 given that the book from which its adapted, Nemesis Games, is one of the most suspenseful and action-packed of the series. And so far, it seems they’re getting their wish: This sci-fi, yet again, delivers on every front: character development, overall story, visuals, scientific accuracy, and even music. Let’s break down the first three installments via some very important characters:

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Holden & His Heroic Struggle

Holden (Steven Strait) is a leader without a mission, an uncomfortable position for him. But a chance meeting at Tycho Station — where Naomi (Dominique Tipper) leaves him, saying he’s safer there, when she chases a lead on Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), who she’s determined to wrestle from his father’s toxic influence — gives him a course of action.

It’s at the station that he meets Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins), the reporter from the third season, who tells him experiments with the protomolecule are continuing. Holden goes back to find Monica, only to discover she’s missing and her room is trashed, which results in a suspenseful search-and-rescue on Tycho with Holden, Fred (Chad Coleman) and Bull (Jose Zuniga). They find her stowed in one of hundreds of shipping containers awaiting pickup, seconds away from death. (Begging the question, of course, of who wanted her dead, and why.)

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Naomi’s Battle for Her Son

Naomi follows her lead and discovers Filip is at Pallas Station, where she first encounters Cyn (Brent Sexton), an old friend from her pre-Roci days, and his pal, Karal (Olunike Adeliyi). While they say Filip won’t want to see her, Cyn convinces him to talk to her. As one might predict, the conversation goes badly. Filip’s still angry Naomi abandoned him as a child, and refuses to leave with her on her ship. “Everything my father told me about you is true,” he says, storming out. He does return — but with a shock baton in hand, as he takes Naomi prisoner aboard her ex-lover’s ship. Yikes.

Drummer’s New Mission

It’s seemingly a pirate’s life for Drummer (Cara Gee), who’s out on her own taking care of looters and those who give the Belt a bad name. She has a new “family” in her crew, but doesn’t seem as comfortable with them as she was with Fred, Naomi, and Ashford (David Straithairn).

Speaking of Ashford, Drummer finally locates his ship, and her suspicions are confirmed when she hears his recorded message: Her friend is gone, and Inaros is to blame. She returns to her crew, grieving, and is comforted by a member named Oksana; they sleep together. When she wakes, Drummer forwards Ashford’s message and says she hopes it can do some good for the Belt, but that this is “not my fight.”

Amos Heads Home

While Season 5 doesn’t adapt The Churn, Amos’ backstory novella, it does give a glimpse into what his life was like before the Roci — and, as we know, it was horrible. Amos heads to Baltimore to “settle some affairs” for Lydia, his mother figure after his real mother abandoned him. (Lydia was no saint, but Amos remains loyal to her memory thanks to her kindness to him.)

At her house, Amos meets Charles (Frankie Faison), who Lydia had been living with for years; they considered themselves married. Charles is packing to leave, saying that he’s being evicted by someone named Erich. That name rings a bell for Amos, who, after some punching, threatening and general Amos-ness, gets an audience with the shady guy. He and Erich seem to have a history, and when Amos requests that Charles stay in Lydia’s place, Erich allows it.

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Bobbie & Alex’s Dangerous Investigation

Continuing her work for Chrisjen Avasarala (Shoreh Agdashloo), Bobbie (Frankie Adams) tries to figure out just who’s selling Martian weapons to the Belt. But she’s burning leads left and right. Meanwhile, Alex (Cas Anvar) is back at the station trying to talk patch things up with his estranged wife and son, who he left after his days as a Martian marine, trading family life for adventure. She’s none too pleased to see him and tells him to stay away.

His welcome with a frazzled Bobbie is only slightly less frosty. But Alex comes in handy: Bobbie has a theory that all of this goes up higher in the chain of command than she’d thought, and Alex has connections that can get her the intel she needs. At personal cost to himself — like, getting-beaten-up levels of personal cost — he succeeds in making the connection, and they have a potential mole as well as the name of a ship to track. They head out in the Razorback to follow it, suspicious that they’re making a deal with the Belt.

Avasarala Knows the Sky Is Falling

Most miserable of the main group just might be Avasarala, who’s on Luna to continue her diplomatic work far, far away from new Secretary General Nancy Gao (Lily Gao). She still hasn’t heard from her husband, Arjun (Michael Benyaer), and her political influence weakens seemingly by the day; she knows asteroids are headed for Earth and wants to investigate, but Gao keeps shutting her down.

Yeah, as it turns out, Avasarala is very, very right. As the third episode ends, several of those rocks are headed toward Earth with no guided systems striking them down as the officials had promised. One makes an impact as a man stands on a beach and it seems fair to say The Expanse, as we know it, will never be the same.

The Expanse, Wednesdays, Amazon Prime Video