So, what was all that about? In the end, season 5 of The Expanse felt like a bridge to yet another season; season 4 felt like a pause before season 5. Yes, season 5 had rocks falling, but that was at the beginning of the season. “Nemesis Games” suffers from many of the problems that the last five or so episodes of the season had. Naomi is still suffering, Chrisjen is there far too little, Alex and Bobbie are mostly stuck on the Screaming Firehawk, and there are plots that hard to comprehend unless you’ve read the books. That’s not even touching on the death of a major character which is absurd if necessary.
This won’t be a traditional recap, like the previous ones. This is more of a wrap-up of the season as a whole. I didn’t get “Nemesis Games” when I got the other nine episodes; no one did. If they had, I wonder if the reviews would have been so positive. Because “Nemesis Games” feels both rushed and anti-climactic, with an ending that is puzzling, with our heroes mainly watching in horror on a 3-hour delay as Marco takes over the Ring, and an MCRN faction decides to head for Laconia—a planet, that, if you’ve read the books that follow Nemesis Games, has a significance that I still don’t quite get.
Maybe the glory days of The Expanse have passed for me; I preferred the political intrigue and the consequences of biological warfare. Now, it’s all of our heroes united against a common enemy, Marco, where before, they all seemed at each other’s throats. The Expanse has transitioned from a successor to Battlestar Galactica to more of the final seasons of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s not what was promised in the first couple of seasons.
Let’s talk about that character death: Alex Kamal has a stroke after a few too many injections of juice and burns, dying seemingly instantly. It’s a sad moment but colored by the fact that Cas Anvar, Alex’s actor, has many accusations of sexual harassment leveled against him. The production company behind The Expanse did a full investigation, and apparently, the accusations were true. That’s the only way I can explain away killing off Alex so ignobly. Alex as a character deserved better, even if Anvar as an actor deserves nothing.
That’s not even covering Amos, Holden, and Naomi reuniting, where they seem happier to see each other than sad over Alex’s passing. I can only assume that scene was covered in reshoots; it can’t be possible that Alex’s death was planned from the start—he lives on in the books. Anvar’s alleged behavior really is disgusting, and it’s too bad it affected a truly interesting character.
Filip is still seemingly on Marco’s side, so nothing has changed for him. Naomi and Holden are still in love, so nothing has changed for them, and Naomi gets rescued and heals up fairly easily. Amos does force Holden to take on Clarissa in a hilarious moment, and I am truly excited to see Clarissa’s dynamic on the Roci unless it gets brushed over. Camina has betrayed Marco, finally, but her polycule has also broken up, so I’m excited to see what the sixth season will bring for her. And Avasarala is in full control of Earth’s government, even if she has softened somewhat.
The major issue I had with “Nemesis Games” is the ending. Something…happens to the MCRN splinter group that goes through the Laconian Ring. They appear to have the protomolecule, and they appear to be consumed by something that lives in the Ring because of that protomolecule. But I’m not sure that’s what actually happened, and it follows a whole season where I was puzzled over Naomi’s actions—I didn’t know what she was doing half the time—as well as other characters’ motivations. Holden not making sure the protomolecule was destroyed baffles me; Camina’s betrayal, while well-executed, seems ill-planned on her part.
I’m curious as to whether or not my questions will be answered next season. Probably, but I’d rather know now. It’s good to see the main cast together again, even if they are now minus Alex, but they did gain a Clarissa, so that’s lovely. I’ll keep watching The Expanse until the bitter end, but I’m not sure I’m going to enjoy it. Its sixth and final season will be released someday, pending COVID-related production delay. I look forward to it, with bated breath.
Watch The Expanse Season 5 now on Prime Video.
“Nemesis Games” concludes a season that was simultaneously great and mediocre.
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