The Expanse: Nemesis Games

“I want you all to take a good look around. This is what Marco Inaros hates. This is what he is afraid of. Why he tried so hard to destroy you and your ship. All we have to do now is turn every Belter, Martian, and Earther into this. This how we win.”

This finale was a mighty feast full of epic space battles, thrilling rescues, shocking twists, surprise deaths, tearful reunions, joyful reunions, painful breakups, and one hell of a tease for season six.

Overall I think this has been one of the show's best seasons. It was marked improvement on season four, which was marked improvement on the book it was based on. It wasn't perfect. Ranked against the other seasons I'd put it behind season three, but just ahead of season two. The first half of the season was amazing, but it wobbled somewhat in the second half, which is what held it back from ultimately claiming the top spot.

Alex and Bobbie's plotline, which primarily consisted of them sat in their ship looking at screens, was by far the weakest part of the season. Holden's was stronger, but dragged in places, especially towards the end where, as with Alex and Bobbie, every scene just became some variation of “We need to get to Naomi”. Chrisjen's plot was great throughout until the penultimate episode, where they raced through getting her to replace the new Secretary General. All the really great stuff this season belonged to Naomi, Amos and Drummer. Naomi's plot was the most compelling and firmly established Dominique Tipper as the season's MVP.

THE RINGOS

I knew that Drummer would not go along with the attack. She made a lot of compromises this season for the sake of her family, but helping to kill Naomi and the Roci was one line she was not willing to cross. The real question was whether or not her family would back her play? Would they side with her and save the Roci or remain loyal to Marco? Turns out it was both. Half of them stayed loyal to Marco while the other half sided with Drummer. Michio killed Karal to protect her, and Josep fired his missiles at the other Free Navy ships, turning what would've been a heroic last stand for the Roci into a victory.

But they paid a heavy price.

Marco spaced Serge in retaliation and Oksana and Bertold left, unwilling to stay with Drummer after she willing sacrificed one of their own to save the Roci. As heartbreaking as it was seeing my beloved poly Belter family fall apart, at least they are out from under Marco's thumb and free to do whatever they want. I'm hoping Drummer's side will team up with the Roci to help fight the Free Navy (was anyone disappointed that we didn't get to see the two crews meet up here?). I'm not sure what Oksana and Bertold will do or even if we'll see them again next season. I doubt they'll go back to Marco.

THE SCREAMING FIREBIRD/THE CHETZEMOKA

Naomi was in the difficult position of needing to be rescued and needing to make her rescue as difficult as possible for her rescuers. And she had to do all this with barely any strength left in her. This whole experience took a massive physical and emotional toll on her. And it just kept getting worse and worse. She kept coming up with ingenious ways to stay alive and warn her friends, but it just wasn't making any difference. The Screaming Firebird was still speeding towards her like a bat out of hell and she had no way to warn them of the danger. She was tired and hurting badly, but still as determined as ever not to give in.

To save her friends and escape a literal flying death trap, Naomi was forced to make the latest in what has been one long, painful series of desperate gambles and throw herself out of an airlock (with a suit this time) for the second time this season. I love how this was all shot in tight close up from Naomi's POV. You felt the immense isolation and claustrophobia of her situation, not to mention the euphoria at the sound of Bobbie's muffled voice and air flowing into her tank.

Alex's death was unsurprisingly rushed, an obvious last minute rewrite to get Cas Anvar off the show as quickly as possible. It certainly made sense within the context of show. A stroke is one of the things you risk when making multiple high g burns and Alex wasn't exactly a young man any more. I know many would've preferred that he'd lived and either been recast or left off screen between seasons, but I kinda prefer it that he went out like this. Recasting would've been awkward and it wouldn't have been believable that Alex would leave his crew, the only family that still cares about him, during a time like this. At least this way he got something of a heroic farewell, dying saving someone he cared about.

LUNA

Alex's death made the crew's long awaited reunions bittersweet, but the show didn't dwell on it too long. They were all sad by his loss, but accepted it and were ready to move on. Or, in Clarissa's case, move in. This episodes deserves top marks just for the look of confused horror on Holden's face when he realises exactly what Amos has just talked him into. I can't wait to see what life's gonna be like on the Roci next season with all these new characters onboard. I'm still not keen on Bull being the new pilot. I'm guessing he was originally going to head back to Tycho, which is why he isn't in the party scenes, but that was changed when the ship suddenly needed a new pilot. I really would've preferred someone else, but if he's going to be sticking around at least Holden's put a stop to his constant racism.
The ghost of Alex Kamal hangs over the final party scene. Not because anyone there is missing him. No, it's because the whole thing has obviously been re-edited to remove any trace of him. Considering the number of extras involved, not to mention the possibility the bar set had been demolished after the season wrapped, completely reshooting this scene was likely not an option. So it isn't much of a surprise that no one here is really acting like one of their closest friends has only just died. The only line that even acknowledges Alex's passing was obviously dubbed over a random take they had of Frankie Adams looking sad.

THE RING

Just when you think it's all over and they're going to end the season on the hopeful image of all the (surviving) members of the Roci crew together with (most of) their allies, we return to the character we've all come to truly detest this season: Marco Inaros. We've seen little bits of him planning an attack on the Ring throughout the season and now he's put those plans into action. Marco hits the UN and Martian ships on multiple fronts, attacking them directly with his fleet, bombarding their flank with stealth covered micro asteroids, and from the rear by Median Station. All three ships are destroyed, handing control of the Ring space and all the world beyond to the Free Navy. All, that is, except one.

LACONIA

Marco's Martian allies have finally revealed themselves. They aren't just a few high ranking officers looking to make a quick buck for themselves. It's an entire fleet, under the command of the unseen Admiral Duarte, looking to break away and set up their own extreme version of Mars in the Laconia system. They supplied Marco with ships and resources so he would procure the protomolecule and Cortázar for them and then leave them alone to do whatever the hell they're doing on Loconia. They've found something there, some massive piece of Ring Maker tech that they're trying to wake up. Whatever it is, it's sure to be something bad. Nothing good ever comes from playing around with ancient alien technology, but it probably isn't going to be the worst thing our heroes will have to contend with next season.

THE BARKEITH

Well, I was wrong about this. Looks like Tim DeKay was just a high profile red herring. They gave Sauveterre a promotion and an earlier introduction to make us book readers think he was going to replace Duarte. But that clearly isn't the case. Sauveterre shared the same fate as his book counterpart, blasting into nothing along with Babbage and everyone else on Barkeith as it passed through the Ring. The race that destroyed the Ring Makers has been lurking in the shadows since the end of season three, but it looks like they are finally ready to step out and deal with this new alien menace.
Ch-Ch-Changes

--Alex obviously does not die. How he dies is actually similar to how another character dies in Babylon's Ashes, but I won't say who.

--All throughout Nemesis Games there's this mystery of colony ships disappearing after travelling through the gates. Monica originally reached out to Holden on Tycho to find out what was happening to those ships. This eventually crossed over with Alex and Bobbie's search for missing Martian ships. Once they find out those were going to the Free Navy everyone assumes they were hijacking the colony ships too. It was Naomi who figured out that the colony ships were just not emerging on the other side after travelling through a gate. After that we see what happens to the Barkeith.

--Originally Bobbie saves Naomi by, I kid you not, riding a missile like a surfboard. I'm glad they cut that out because I always thought it was rather silly.

--Serge originally died back in Abaddon's Gate where he was shot dead by followers of Ashford.

Notes and Quotes

--Eagle eyed fans spotted that the gate we see at the end of the credits every week was labelled Laconia.

--Clarissa and Monica emerged as much stronger characters this season than they were back in season three. I know we'll see more of Clarissa next season now that she's part of the crew, but I hope we get to see Monica again as well.

--This is the first time we've seen most of the cast all dressed up and fancy. There are a few celebratory events in the book, but were likely cut for time.

--At the party Chrisjen was wearing Martian red and black while Bobbie was wearing Earth blue.

--Chrisjen become Secretary General and immediately declared martial law. Is she trying to make sure they can't overthrow her like they did her predecessor?

Sauveterre: “On Laconia, we won't have a civilian world to cushion us if we fall. Dishonorable discharge will be a bullet or worse.”

Bobbie: “This is a tough little ship.”

Naomi: “We're an independent ship. We don't fly anyone's flag.”
Holden: “That's right. But this isn't a fight we can stay out of.”

Four out of four high profile red herrings.
Mark Greig has been writing for Doux Reviews since 2011 More Mark Greig

4 comments:

Billie Doux said...

Mark, thanks so much for your fine reviews of this season. I also thought it was a really good one. I just wish that the crew had been together for more of it. Maybe season six.

It was definitely Naomi's season. That final scene in space before Bobbie's rescue was just so claustrophobic, so well done. Amos had a good season, too, and I loved everything they did with him and Peaches. :)

I wasn't aware that they had written out Alex after the fact and that he'd been in those party scenes. Wow. Makes sense, but wow.

Very much looking forward to season six.

NomadUK said...

I'm one of those who would rather have seen Alex recast rather than hurriedly done away with; the techniques used were pretty slick, but it was all a bit too obvious and doesn't really sit well. The whole question of what to do with characters whose actors become (for one reason or another) unavailable has been around for a long time in both TV shows and film franchises. My earliest recollections are of Darrin Stephens of Bewitched switching from the unforgettable Dick York to that other guy — oh, yeah, Dick Sargent; and of Hannibal Hayes of Alias Smith and Jones being played first by the wonderful and tragic Pete Duel and then by the (again forgettable) Roger Davis.

I suppose the fact that neither of those replacements was particularly successful is an argument against recasting. It happens all the time in film franchises, of course; how many Batmans and Alfreds have there been? On the other hand, replacing Tom Cruise in the Mission: Impossible film series seems inconceivable.

The whole subject would make for an interesting Doux article!

Anonymous said...

I prefer to watch The Expanse all at once rather than weekly, because the story is so good it's always "just one more before bedtime..." So I didn't watch this season until all of the episodes were out and I had a free chunk of time, which turned out to be this past week (late Feb 2021, well past the air dates).

I also avoid reading things online about this show, because I have not read the books yet and don't want to be spoiled. So I was unaware of both Cara Gee's pregnancy and Cas Anvar's issues while watching the season.

That said, I didn't notice anything different or out of place while watching. I only found out about both things from reading these reviews after the fact. So maybe don't assume the filming cuts were so very very obvious; those in the know were probably watching for it, but for at least some of us "out of the loop"-ers it was not obvious at all.

Just wanted to mention that, since a couple of people were using it as a slight negative. I think they did great, knowing what I know now, since I didn't feel anything was awkward or out of place at the time.

As for the review, I agree season 5 was way better than season 4 and I would also rank it top two, at least. Thanks for the great reviews, I especially appreciate the care taken to not spoil the future seasons / episodes with book knowledge!

Kayne said...

Those last two seasons both felt rushed, as if they were missing 3 episodes like season 2 and 3. Still love the whole thing though!