The Expanse Is Back, And Everyone Is At Rock Bottom In Strange Dogs

The first episode of the final season of "The Expanse" is finally here! It's so great to have more time with these characters and meet some ... strange new ones as well (sorry, not sorry). Below is my spoiler-full recap/review of season 6's first episode, "Strange Dogs," which also includes some quotes from the cast and creative team about certain scenes.

Read on for more and this is your final warning — spoilers abound below for "Strange Dogs!"

We're Introduced to Laconia

The beginning of "Strange Dogs" may have "Expanse" fans, especially those who haven't read the book series, scratching their heads. We see a young girl in a forest greeting a wild menagerie of alien creatures. One of these alien creatures she names a dog, though it doesn't seem particularly dog-like. Before she get to know this dog better, however, one of the flying creatures dies and, upset, she grabs it and runs away. We then pull up from the forest and see the words "Ring 673 planet 2," followed by the name — Laconia – right before we get a glimpse of a damaged ship glowing with protomolecule.

Those who've read the "Expanse" novella, "Strange Dogs," know what's going on here. I'm going to keep it vague for those who haven't read the books by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (AKA James S. A. Corey), so all I'll say is that this season will also give us a glimpse of some of the goings-on in this particular planet as the episodes unfold.

Including the "Strange Dogs" novella is an interesting choice, and one that the creative team addressed when I interviewed them for /Film. "We had the questions of the protomolecule and the breakaway Martian folks from season 5 and we didn't want to just drop those and not have that figure in it all," Abraham explained. "This is a way to have that story touch the mainline and inform it, and keep everybody in place."

The Solar System Is A War Zone, And It's Taken A Toll on Everyone

Most of our time, however, will be spent away from the protomolecule and in the trenches of the war in a future version of our solar system. As we leave Laconia, we get a barrage of newscasts telling us that Earth is still being battered by asteroids; that Marco's Free Navy has taken over much of the Belt; and that the Roci crew is fighting against Marco as well.

A following scene on Earth with Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) and Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) hammers home that it's been six months since Marco first pummeled Earth and that the planet remains a total mess, with the UN fleet tied up shooting down additional rocks that the Free Navy continues to throw at the planet. It's a powerful and efficient scene in terms of getting us up to speed, and it's always good to see Avasarala and Bobbie together, though neither of them are in anything close to good spirits.

Speaking of people not feeling so great, the crew on the Roci are a complete wreck. They've been fighting against the Free Navy for 187 days, and you can see in all the faces the toll it's taken on them. Steven Strait, who plays Holden, said he even lost weight to reflect the strain his character was going through. It worked — he and the rest of the crew look haggard. The crew isn't getting along so well either — Amos' (Wes Chatham) decision to have Clarissa (Nadine Nicole) join the crew hasn't been received well by Holden and Naomi (Dominique Tipper). Alex's death is still weighing on them all as well, and we see both Amos and Naomi having moments of missing him.

When they notice a drive engine strapped to an asteroid, they almost look too tired to deal with it. Eventually, however, they do deal with it, but it's clear they're all breaking apart at the seams. There's a silver lining, however — Naomi realizes that she can chart the path of the Free Navy spotter ship that has been triggering drive engines like the one they found to drive rocks toward Earth.

Meanwhile, Within the Free Navy...

You know who should be feeling a bit better? Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander). We spend time with him and Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) on the Free Navy-run Ceres Station. Filip is all grown up and we first see him in one of the show's few sex scenes. Alexander jokingly shared in my interview with him that he "had to close my eyes and was slightly grossed out to watch my TV son doing the nasty." Filip isn't my TV son, but I get where he's coming from. They grow up so fast!

But back to Ceres. A post-coital Filip meets up with Marco, Ceres' new administrator Nico (Joanne Vannicola) and Marco's Number Two, Rosenfeld (Kathleen Robertson). It's here we find out that Marco killed Dawes (played in an earlier season by the very talented and very busy Jared Harris), and that Ceres is facing a food shortage. Filip, however, cares more about getting it on with the bartender than listening to Free Navy administrative matters, and his father notices.

But Marco has other things on his mind — he gives a rousing speech calling Ceres the capital of the Free Navy. The Belters feel good about it, and Filip looks like he might feel a bit better after Marco's speech as well. Filip, however, is still very much messed up, his emotions a whirlwind as he grapples with the fact he killed billions. He's so screwed up in fact, that he ends up killing his friend after getting rejected once again by the bartender.

"Strange Dogs" also spends time with Drummer (Cara Gee) and her family. We first see them hiding out from a Free Navy bounty hunter. They ultimately get away but Michio (Vanessa Smythe) almost gets them killed. Later on in the episode, Drummer and her other polyfamily member Josep (Samer Salem) have the hard talk with Michio about dropping her off somewhere out of the battle zone. It doesn't go well, and these scene hammers home how Drummer's remaining family is breaking up after all that they've been through. 

Things Are Dark, But Avasarala Sees a Spark of Hope

The end of the episode includes a scene with a floating Avasarala on the UNN Zenobia talking with Bobbie. "We need something big. Something to give us hope," Avasarala says. Bobbie asks her if she has something in mind and she smiles as we cut to the Roci burning away after blowing up the asteroid.

"Strange Dogs" is a heavy episode, and establishes that almost everyone is near rock bottom after the events of season 5. Things could always get worse of course, but everyone is trying to crawl their way out of horror that Marco has caused. We now know the mindset of the main characters, and we also know what's at stake. "Strange Dogs" thankfully, however, ends on a hopeful note, promising us that there is at least a path toward making things better.

Other Thoughts

  • There's a quick reference to Laconia in the main part of the episode when Marco and Rosenfeld mention giving platinum to the planet.
  • In my interview with Shohreh Aghdashloo, she talked about filming that floating scene on the Zenobia. "Our director, Breck [Eisner], is holding my feet," she told me. "I have the picture. You don't see it in after CGI, obviously. They've removed him from the set, but I love that picture. And Avasarala is in a floating position. And the director is holding to her shoes, trying to make sure that it's in the right place."

New episodes of "The Expanse" drop Fridays on Prime Video.