Here's How 'The Expanse' Season 5 Differs From The Book 'Nemesis Games'

The entire fifth season of The Expanse is now streaming on Amazon, and — like the seasons before it — many of the events from the last ten episodes mirror what takes place in its corresponding book in the nine-volume series written by James S. A. Corey. 

This season, however, there are a few major differences between the show and the book; differences that will have real ramifications for the on-screen characters in they enter the sixth and final season. 

Read on for an exploration of some of these differences. Naturally, this post contains major spoilers for season 5 of the show and the fifth book in the series. Check out our non-spoiler review if you want to learn more about the season before watching it. 

The Biggest Difference: Alex Dies in Season 5

/Film's spoiler-full review of the season goes into this in depth, so I won't say too much more here, except that Alex Kamal is very much alive at the end of the fifth book, Nemesis Games. This difference was likely made for very valid real-world reasons, as the actor who plays Alex, Cas Anvar, was removed from the show after several allegations of sexual misconduct came to light. Alex's death happened at the very end of season 5, so we haven't had a chance yet to see what the ramifications of his death will have on the remaining crew of the Rocinante.

Speaking of death, Fred Johnson is another character who died in season 5 but remained alive in Nemesis Games. Johnson, an Earther who was a leader in the OPA and ran Tycho Station, met his end on the show when a crewmember secretly working for Marco Inaros shot him. The same events unfold in Nemesis Games, but Fred survives his gunshot wounds. 

On the show, Naomi tells Holden she’s going to see Filip…

Early on in the book/season, Naomi leaves Tycho. In the book, she leaves without telling Holden the details of why. In the show, however, she tells him the truth—that she has a son named Filip, and that she wants to see him and hopefully get him away from his father's influence. This exchange between Holden and Naomi is an emotional and necessary addition to the show, as television can't have pages of internal dialogue to convey the emotions a character is going through. Naomi and Holden talking through her leaving on her own is a way to communicate not only the emotion state of the two characters, but also to show us how the strength of their relationship has grown over time. 

…and it’s Filip’s decision to kidnap Naomi, not Marco’s

Naomi ends up Marco's prisoner on the Pella in both mediums, but how she got there differs. In the book, it was Marco's plan all along to kidnap Naomi, and he uses Filip effectively as bait to rope her in. On the show, however, it's Fred Johnson who lets Naomi know where Filip is (something that was seeded in the first season, when Naomi asked Fred for a favor). Showrunner Naren Shankar explained how this change gave the show a lot of story to play with throughout the season. Marco, for example, uses Filip's spur-of-the-moment decision to take Naomi as another opportunity to belittle his son. 

Avasarala didn’t stop any of Marco’s meteors in the book

When the meteors finally strike Earth in Nemesis Games, there is no point-of-view from Avasarala. On the show, however, she first plays something of a Cassandra when she voices concern that Marco is likely still up to something, and that the science ship that blew up might have been destroyed for unknowingly stumbling across fragments of one of Marco's stealth meteors. She also wasn't able to stop some of the meteors from striking Earth in the book. This additional storyline, however, is a welcome one—Avasarala is a compelling character, and one that deserves additional screen time. 

The whole subplot with the Martian Prime Minister on the Razorback isn’t on the show

The Razorback didn't just have Alex and Bobbie on board in Nemesis Games; the Martian Prime Minister was there as well. Marco's coordinated attack against Earth and Tycho Station also included an attack the Martian government. While the show mentioned that the Martian Parliament was also attacked, that event took place largely off screen, and Alex and Bobbie never had to handle having the leader or a planet crammed with them inside the tiny Razorback. This subplot was likely removed to streamline the story—with only ten episodes in a season, some events from the book inevitably get cut. Out of everything in Nemesis Games, this plot point is arguably one of the better ones to leave out, as it doesn't directly impact the overarching story or the development of any of the major characters. 

This is a partial list, of course, but even these differences will cause the sixth season to be markedly different than the sixth book, Babylon's Ashes. Add in the fact that Amazon has announced that the next season will be the final one even though there are nine books in the series, and the only thing we can say for certain is that season 6 will be full of surprises.

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All five seasons of The Expanse are now streaming on Amazon.