Reviews

TV Review: THE EXPANSE Season 6

With the end of the book series and now of the TV version of this saga, I can certainly consider myself an Expanse orphan: both versions of this story are leaving a big gap in my SF horizon, one that will be hard, if not impossible, to fill…

This final season of The Expanse proved to be even more epic than its predecessors, leaving a great deal of room to well-orchestrated space battles – which might be the reason that the number of episodes was cut to just six, probably in consideration of the high budget that they required. But while the episodes were less than usual, there were no shortfalls in the characters’ evolution or in the political angles that have been the backbone of this saga, in both mediums.

In this season we have, on one side, the family of the Rocinante finally reunited after the harrowing events of the previous season, and if offscreen troubles required the removal of Alex’s character, the inclusion of Clarissa “Peaches” Mao to the ship’s complement leaves room for some welcome bonding scenes; on another side, Avasarala is battling with the practical and political aftermath of Earth’s bombing, still backed by former Martian marine Bobbie whose career switch as Avasarala’s aide has not changed her energetic approach to problems.  And again, Camina Drummer and her crew are still carrying out their rebellion against the darkly charismatic Marco Inaros, whose outer façade of Belter liberator is showing several cracks as his megalomania becomes more and more evident.

Individuals, and their reactions to events, have always been at the core of The Expanse, and they are still front and center here at the end of the journey: Naomi was put through the wringer in the previous season, and I approved of the choice of showing how she’s not over those trials, as dramatically proven through a scene where she freezes as she’s about to begin a spacewalk; Amos seems to have mellowed down a little – although with him one can never know – and his choice of adding Clarissa to the crew represents his unspoken willingness to give her another chance, just as he was when he joined the Roci’s family. Clarissa herself is dealing with her past and the heavy consequences of her actions, so that the first sign of acceptance from Holden looks to her like something of an absolution.  Holden is probably the one who seems to have changed less, but this makes sense because he’s the focus of that family, its moral compass if you want, and he needs to represent a fixed point for the others, which is the main reason for a very difficult choice he makes early on in the season.  As far as Alex is concerned, I appreciated how he’s mentioned in fond remembrance by his crewmates, placing a firm divide between the character and the actor who played him, whose actions forced the storyline to remove Alex from the Rocinante’s complement.

There are however two characters I have barely mentioned before and who drew my attention more keenly in this final season of The Expanse: one is Camina Drummer, who was fleshed out more on screen than she is in the books, and who thanks to the amazing performance by Cara Gee quickly became one of my favorites. Drummer’s journey through the series has been a long and complicated one, and I simply loved the combination of outward strength and inner, well-masked frailty that turned her into such a fascinating personality. In these last episodes of the show she looks even more determined and daring than ever, openly challenging Inaros in a scene that surpassed even the famous shipboard address from the bridge of the Behemoth we saw a couple of seasons ago. The message she sends to the leader of the Free Navy, whose actions have revealed his self-serving ruthlessness, is short but very powerful, and gives the full measure of this awesome character:

For his part, Inaros is depicted as your typical, irredeemable bad guy, who gathered almost unanimous consent from the Belters by unleashing their pent-up outrage through the vicious attack on Earth: his charisma barely hides a cruel, manipulative disposition that at times seems to come from deep-seated and unacknowledged insecurities. In other words, he’s the villain we all love to hate, and much of his successful portrayal is due to actor Keon Alexander who had the far-from-easy job of bringing him to life. Playing a convincing bad guy, and one who tethers on the edge of madness like Inaros, is far more difficult, in my opinion, because it requires a fine balancing act that not everyone can manage successfully: Keon Alexander did an amazing work on this character, one that left me divided between my loathing for Inaros and my admiration for the actor’s skills.   Which compels me to also mention Jasai Chase Owens as Filip Inaros, equally successful in showing the young man’s torn loyalties and his slow but inevitable drift from the toxic orbit of a father who had been his whole world for a long time.

Even though The Expanse has been given an appropriately wrapped-up finale, it’s impossible for book readers to forget that there are three more unexplored books in the saga, especially when the final TV season hinted at some of the Laconia storylines that make up the core of the final trilogy: those hints, which look disconnected from the rest of the story told in the final season, made me hope that there might be a remote possibility for a continuation, if not immediately maybe some time from now.  Whatever happens, though, I am aware that both the books and the TV series have merged together in my imagination, despite the differences between the mediums: The Expanse remains one of the best (if not THE best) space opera series I have known in my “travels” and one it will always be a joy to revisit in either form.

My Rating for Season 6:

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13 thoughts on “TV Review: THE EXPANSE Season 6

  1. I’m so glad it has you approval! I’ve read some negative reviews, and I need this to be good, I love all the seasons up to the 5th one and I haven’t read the books, decided I don’t have time for both and the show was really good…
    You are right, it should join the lists of best TV space operas, it’s better than the new Star Treks in my opinion 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. If you lack the time for this 9-books series (but never say never… 😉 ) the TV show is a good substitute: even with the differences required by the translation from book to screen it’s a wonderful way of following the story – even though it stops short of the final trilogy…

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Camina Drummer’s speech was fantastic! I definitely want to get to know her character, and even though you say she isn’t as fleshed out in the books, I’m looking forward to meeting her😁

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  3. Yessssss it’s such a good adaptation! Drummer steals the show for me – my favourite character, alongside Avasarala and Amos, and the one I have missed the most on my reread of the books. She is so fierce and so angry and so competent and feels so deeply and I love her completely.

    I have some minor quibbles, inevitably. I’m not entirely on board with the changes they made to Naomi and Bobbie over the seasons (they work in context; but I love the book versions so much) although I’m grateful for the changes to Show!Amos – for me he only hits his stride in Nemesis Games, and they brought that sense/understanding of Amos in right from the start, which I appreciated. And I’m really not sure why they inserted Laconia in Season Six if they are not making Season Seven – they could have spent that budget on fleshing out the battle for the Belt! (I missed the Prax subplot, okay?) – as it is such a tease to leave hanging. I understand there may be some kind of spin off in the works though, so I wonder now if that will focus on Laconia…? Which would be terrifying, to be honest.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Where some characters are concerned, the books are certainly better, but some changes were required by the pace imposed by TV. On the other hand, we had a form of compensation through enriched characters like Drummer, where inspired writing and outstanding performance turned into a memorable figure.
      As for the “Laconia Teases”, it’s also my hope that they were put there as connections to…something else: given the success of the series, I want to hold on to my hope that we’ll see something of the Laconia narrative thread…

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