'The Expanse' Season 5 Review: The Intense And Thoughtful Science Fiction Series Hasn't Lost A Step

The fifth season of The Expanse doesn't have much protomolecule action going on in it. In that regard, it's different from season 4, where the crew of the Rocinante found themselves thousands of light-years from the solar system on a planet rife with ancient alien technology. 

But even though the protomolecule doesn't directly interact with humans this season, it still remains the impetus of everything that comes to pass in the series' latest 10 episodes (or the latest nine episodes, at least; the number that was made available for this non-spoiler review).

Since season 1, the geopolitical balance in the solar system — the dynamic between Earth, Mars, and the Belt — has been upended by the protomolecule. It's not until this season, however, that ramifications from the protomolecule, specifically the creation of the ring gate, become painfully clear. And the consequences are severe. Very severe.

We, as usual, get to see how bad things get on the inter-planetary level through the experiences of the Rocinante family. Like many families these days, the crew finds themselves in different parts of the solar system, unable to reconnect for various reasons. Their separation, however, gives us an on-the-ground look at what happens across the worlds that humanity has carved out for itself. And so we see what happens on Earth through Amos' eyes (and also through Avasarala's, although she's on Luna); we see what's up with Mars through Alex and Bobbie; and we see what's happening with different factions of the Belt through Naomi, Holden, and Drummer. 

There are lot of moving parts, and in less skillful hands, it could be easy to get lost in the back-and-forth between the different locales and plotlines. Viewers become oriented to each new place, however, not only through the excellent storytelling, but also because of the time invested in creating each location, from impressive establishing shots to the look of each Martian building and Belter ship. 

And of course, viewers become invested in what is happening to civilization because of what specifically happens to The Expanse's characters. Like the seasons before it, season 5 also delves into the personal, especially for Naomi and Amos. We know from the trailer that Naomi's son, Filip, will be in the latest episodes, and it's not much of a spoiler to say there are a lot of painful emotions for all involved when it comes to a potential reunion between Naomi and the son she hasn't seen since he was a baby. 

And then there's Amos. The show has suggested he had a checkered past in Baltimore, and we learn more about where he came from this season, including how his upbringing  has defined his worldview, including how he knows people will behave when there aren't institutions in place to keep humanity's basest instincts in check. 

In short, season 5 of The Expanse is great TV, and it's great because it makes you think as much as it makes you feel. And it will make you feel a lot, maybe more than you're ready to feel given we're in the tenth month of a global pandemic. But if you're in the headspace to experience it—and I have a feeling that most Expanse fans will be—the season is a rich one, and one that will leave as much of a mark on viewers (well, almost as much of a mark) as the protomolecule has left on human civilization.  

***

The first three episodes of season 5 of The Expanse drop on Amazon on Wednesday, December 16. The remaining seven episodes will then be released every week on Wednesday, with the season finale dropping on February 3, 2021.