The Expanse is back on Amazon Prime with a vengeance. This season isn’t as much about the little blue meanie of a molecule, but about the people who have been more pawns in previous seasons, even with Holden’s near messianic aura. This season is about personal demons coming back to haunt in full gravity and in no gravity. Those who read the books will not be surprised at the emotional toil. It envelops everyone: Amos, Bobby, Naomi, Chrisjen Avasarala, Fred Johnson, even Monica Stuart. The balance of power in the solar system teeters, shifting toward rouge belters leveraging stolen technology, and stolen leverage. If you found all the protomolecule mumbo jumbo a bit overwhelming early in the series, turn to season 5 for some good old fashioned human conflict and emotion as characters lash themselves together over history and future—and no one comes out unchanged, if they arrive on the other side of the season at all.
The show remains a visual feast, with inventive technology rendered with precision and care. And the acting rises to a level that should get the attention of the television academy. I know genre shows often get overlooked because they are genre shows—but The Expanse consistently wrings incredibly subtle performances from every actor, no matter how long they reside in the lens.
While I have criticized the protomolecule McGuffin for taking a potentially human-only story away from the extrapolation of humanity’s struggles to redefine themselves during the stress of their own technological and extraterrestrial expansion, this season, and the book Nemesis Games pushes the erstwhile centrality of the protomolecule into the background. These stories of people trying to figure out their way in a solar system made of Earth, the Moon, Mars, and the Belt—and now beyond. But the beyond introduces alien elements. The human struggles at the center of the evolution that shaped politics and social constructs offer fodder for rich narratives about central characters, and as the novellas in the series prove, characters on the peripheral of the main narrative thrust.
If you care about the characters wrought by Abraham and Franck (under the guise of James S. A. Corey), then you will not want to miss The Expanse, Season 5 as it streams free to Amazon Prime patrons.
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