***Non-Spoiler Review of Season 6 Only***
The Expanse returns for its sixth and final season with an episode titled “Strange Dogs.” It’s a bittersweet title that hints at a future that will not be seen by fans. However, the final season does give fans a sense of closure. The first episode’s nonstop action foreshadows the entire season as The Expanse ends its series run.
The season continues and concludes the stories and conflicts from Season 5, including:
- The war to stop Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander)
- The mysterious disappearance of ships transiting the Ring
- Filip’s growing erratic behavior.
- Life aboard the Rocinante after the death of Alex.
- Amos creates new tension when he brings Clarissa “Peaches” Mao (Nadine Nicole) onboard the Rocinante as a crew member.
- Avasarala’s (Shohreh Aghdashloo) struggle to hold together the fragile alliance with Mars, Earth, and the Belt.
- Drummer’s (Cara Gee) new role fighting Marco and the problems that this causes for her and her family.
Season 6 also introduces a new storyline that unfolds on Laconia, the planet settled by the Martian separatists. In fact, the title of the first episode is taken from the eponymous novella about strange happenings on the planet and the interaction between the settlers and one of the “indigent species.”
One of the major draws of The Expanse has been the show’s incredible writing, directing, and acting. An example of this would be how the series shows the original crew members adjusting to the loss of Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar). For Naomi (Dominique Tipper), the loss of Alex has been especially heart-wrenching, since she blames herself for his death. Viewers feel her pain and guilt. However, the brilliance of the series is juxtaposing her obvious pain with the stoic Amos (Wes Chatham). When Amos pauses for a moment to stare at the ship registry, where all of the original crew members are listed, the poignancy of the moment reverberates as powerfully as Naomi’s tears.
Alex’s death has an additional and potentially dire consequence. With the fight against Marco escalating, the tensions on the Rocinante are running high. Add Clarissa “Peaches” Mao (who tried to kill Holden and Naomi) into the mix and the frustrations turn into open conflict as the crew starts fighting amongst themselves. In the past, Alex would have played the role of the peacemaker to keep the crew together. Now that task falls to Holden (Steven Strait).
In Twelfth Night, William Shakespeare wrote: “Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon ’em.” I would argue that Holden has had greatness thrust upon him. He started with a small ethical action in the first season when he logged the distress call, and now he is literally in a cosmic life-and-death struggle (he saw the death of billions of beings when the gate builders were killed) to save Earth and the people he loves.
Throughout the season, Holden struggles with his love for Naomi and his duty to the crew and Earth. As a person who has only recently fully accepted the mantle of leadership, Holden has to make split-second decisions, the consequences of which could endanger his crew, Earth, his relationship with Naomi, or in the worst case, all of these.
For Avasarala, her responsibilities make Holden’s problems seem almost insignificant in comparison. Avasarala has to coordinate efforts to stop the bombardment of Earth while trying to save and feed the survivors of the rock bombardment. But she must also try to negotiate an alliance with Earth, Mars, and the Belt. Aghdashloo brilliantly portrays the frustration of Avasarala as she struggles to save Earth and negotiate the necessary alliances to stop Marco.
Meanwhile, Avasarala’s assistant, Bobbie (Frankie Adams), the former Martian marine, is frustrated by her lack of active involvement in the war. The season masterfully shows how Avasarala and Bobbie both handle their respective problems in order to defeat Marco by doing what they do best: Avasarala’s behind-the-scenes manipulation and Bobbie’s direct actions.
Drummer (Cara Gee), like Holden, has greatness thrust upon her. When she broke away from Marco in Season 5, she and her family became marked people. As the only powerful Belter who openly opposes Marco, she became a de facto leader of some of the Belters who do not support Marco. Throughout Season 6, viewers see her grow into her new role as an alternative leader of the Belters, as well as deal with struggles within her family as they cope with being soldiers instead of being simple rockhoppers, ice haulers, or salvage technicians.
The primary driving force for Season 6 is Marco Inaros. He has the adulation of the Belters, he has pinned down the Earth forces, who must stop the rocks that he is throwing at them, and he has the support of the Mars separatists. But who is Marco Inaros? One answer reveals itself to anyone who has ever seen him: Marco has no Belter tattoos. The leader of the Belters has never seen fit to visually identify himself as a Belter. Is it narcissism, vanity, or some other reason?
In playing Marco, Keon Alexander pointed to Marco’s desire to fight the oppressors (Earth and Mars). By not having tattoos, Marco could blend in and study his oppressors without being discovered. Luckily for Marco, no one has ever questioned him about this. Also, with his charisma, he has always charmed those around him such that he has attracted such competent people to carry out his commands that no one initially questions his decisions.
In Season 6, Marco has an exceptional new second in command: Rosenfeld Guoliang (Kathleen Robertson). Rosenfeld is the perfect complement to the narcissistic Marco. She is cool, competent, and rational. She also acts as a peacemaker between Marco and Filip.
Unfortunately for Filip, at a time when he needs the love and guidance of his father, not only does he not have it, but Marco burdens Filip with his scorn. In reality, it is not clear that Filip ever had Marco’s love. Marco always saw Filip as a tool for his own aggrandizement and used him to punish Naomi.
Filip’s behavior becomes more erratic as he deals with the trauma of the loss of his mother (again) and the deaths that he caused on Earth. Additionally, as the season progresses, Filip begins to realize that Marco is not the man he admired as a child. Filip’s realization is something most adolescents go through as they realize that their parents are only human and not infallible. Unfortunately for Filip, Marco is a narcissistic madman who is only in it for himself.
With all of the problems in the Sol system, viewers are treated to interesting events that are taking place on the planet of Laconia. Laconia is the planet settled by the Martian separatists who helped Marco in return for him giving them the Belter Protomolecule sample. The separatists migrated to Laconia to secure the working orbital station left by the Builders of the Gate system. Along with the Protomolecule sample, they have plans for this station.
The events on Laconia as portrayed in Season 6 chronologically occur after the novel Babylon’s Ashes. The inclusion of the “Strange Dogs” story is bittersweet, as it hints at what could have been had there been a season 7, which unfortunately will not be seen on television.
Season 6 is an exciting and satisfying end to what many consider to be the Star Trek of the 21st Century. However, the story is not finished. For those who have only watched the series, the novels and novellas offer a broader glimpse into this detailed universe. With the publication of the final novel, Leviathan Falls (see my review in a few weeks), the epic tale finishes in an incredible and beautiful denouement. The final episode of Season 6 will provide the viewers with some measure of closure without the tale being finished.
The final season of The Expanse is the quintessential roller coaster ride that is exciting and leaves viewers satisfied, while at the same time leaving them yearning for more. The writers have always remembered that the human drama in this cosmic arena is what compels us. As fans and viewers, we can only thank the brilliant cast and crew for their exceptional work in bringing this story to the small screen. It has been a great journey.