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The Expanse - Episodes 5.01-5.03 - Review

As near perfect as The Expanse has been, one key ingredient that had been missing up to Season 5 was character depth. A minor flaw in both the book and its adaptation. Sure, there have been plenty of memorable character moments, but until we truly know their motivations and who they really are, it had been difficult to fully connect with these diverse group of characters. 

That is why many fans would agree that Nemesis Games, book 5 that this current season is adapting, is by far the best in The Expanse series. The story finally takes a breather as Amos, Alex, and Naomi go home. No more hints or passing remarks of another life once upon a time, we finally see them confronted with the pain, fear, anger, hope and all of the raw emotions of their past. 

To no surprise, the first three episodes of Season 5 fully captured the soul of Nemesis Games and what made it such a great novel. There was minimal action, but it was nevertheless engaging, as for the first time these characters we have passionately followed over the past few years are sprawled out across space, and to see them grow as individuals was so refreshing.

The fact they are alone, gives way for some reflection. We feel this with Holden who solemnly looks around him as he stands alone for the first time ever in the Rocinante. And we feel it also as Amos, no longer leashed by the moral compasses of his Rocinante crew, is let loose among the stars in all his rage and violent passion. 

That scene on the Lunar transport ship was so brilliantly directed. The directors could have gone with a straight up action scene, but instead we saw splices of his melee with the Belters. The focus being on Amos post-fight as he bathed in the glory of his victory and in the blood of his enemies. It was a haunting moment that reminded us what Amos is capable of, especially when alone. But we also feel sympathy for him because quite frankly, he is alone and having family around him means a lot more to him than he even knows. 

Amos' story was the most thrilling, despite it being the least connected to Marco Inaros' plot. Actor Wes Burton has consistently been a revelation in the role. Badass, unintentionally funny, and despite being a cold blooded homicidal maniac, Amos has another side of him that cares or at least wants to care even though he is unable to feel it. His scene with the old man Charles is an example of this. As Charles broke down in grief, you could see the confusion and awkwardness in Amos' face, but it could also be sensed that he wanted to console the guy. Watching Amos bumble out, "I can have some tea," was so hilarious, while also reminding us what makes Amos such an endearing character. We later find out that why Amos is this way is because of Lydia, his adopted mother, who we find out was not a good woman at all, in terms of being a criminal, but yet there was a tenderness to her personality that rubbed off of young Timothy, now known as Amos. This explains the dual nature of the character - someone who is not a good guy at all, but yet in his own way, cares so deeply. Burton has done a tremendous job bringing this eccentric character to life. 

We never got to spend as much time with Naomi, but we will see more and more of her as the season progresses.  In the first three episodes, we do learn about who Naomi is as a mother. She cares for Filip and that is felt so deeply when she explains to Holden how badly she wants to stop him from being like his father. In episode 3, Naomi finally reunites with her son, but not in the way she imagined. He has already been corrupted by Marco and after rejecting her advances, he drugs her and takes her ship (that was originally brought for him) and brings her along. We have only seen just the tip of the iceberg for Naomi's storyline this season, and if the book means anything, it will be quite an emotional ride.

Elsewhere, Alex goes back home to Mars. His storyline is as heartbreaking as the others when he is instantly spurned by his ex-wife for abandoning her and their child. Alex is a stranger in his own home after spending so many years amid the stars. His name in context with the Rocinante has become legendary, as emphasized in his meeting with Lt. Babbage, but in reality to his people back home he is just an ordinary man who abandoned his Martian way of life to pilot a ship for an Earther. The best part of his storyline is his reunion with Bobby as they investigate the Martian contraband that is being sent to the Belt. Bobby and Alex have such good chemistry and it will be exciting to see them work together as the season progresses. 

The only one from the Rocinante who did not go back home was Holden who, unlike his crew mates, didn't really have any unfinished business. Instead he stays with the Rocinante on Tycho, sleeping in the headquarters despite all the noises of the tools as it was being repaired. In a way, the Rocinante is his home and to see it so empty in these first three episodes is just as despairing as watching Alex, Amos, and Naomi being rejected in their own home. At least through Holden's storyline we got more of Monica Stuart portrayed by the the returning and always wonderful Anna Hopkins.

We cannot also forget about Drummer. Though she technically has no home to go to,  as per the theme of this season, Drummer does momentarily find herself, in the words of her lover Oksana, going back to who she was. As Drummer grieved for the death of her dear friend Ashford, thoughts of revenge and violence plague her mind, the type of emotions that defined her years ago. It was such a touching moment to see Drummer being vulnerable for once and since she is not a character in the book, it'll be interesting to see where her emotional journey takes her. And though Drummer decides to not take things into her own hands by hunting down Inaros, she does help Fred Johnson and Avasarala in their search after releasing the recording of Ashford's final moments. To hear that scene over and over again throughout the episode was so darn heartbreaking. Rest in Peace Ashford. 

As much as I want to watch all episodes of Season 5 at once, I am kind of glad they decided on a weekly format as there is just so much to process in one episode alone, let alone three. Especially for this season where each character is going through their own spiritual journey. These first three episodes were simply fabulous. They had a soul that had been missing in season's past and it never once got boring despite the limited action. Amidst all the great character building, these first three episodes really amped up the rest of the season with Naomi in the enemy's hands, her own family at that, and the comet hitting Earth to bring episode three to black. Things are about to get crazy!

 Stray Notes

*I was remiss to not talk about Avasarala's arc in this review. Her fall from grace was another heartbreaking storyline in these first three episodes. Like Amos, Alex, and Naomi, Avasarala is depicted as just an ordinary citizen with a history of once being in the centre of things, but powerless in the context of her current situation.

*I only noticed it when looking on IMDB, but for fans of the book it looks like the high ranking OPA official by Fred Johnson's side is Bull portrayed by Jose Zuniga. And we saw glimpses of Michio Pa on Drummer's ship portrayed by Vanessa Smythe. Both were amalgamated into the character of Drummer for this show, but it is good to finally see a live action version of them (even if their role won't be the same).

*Who is Amos visiting on Earth that he needed Avasarala's go ahead? Readers of the book sure know and it is too bad we didn't find out in Episode 3 and have to wait a week! Such an anticipated interaction. One interaction we did get with Amos was his chat with Avasarala on Luna. The two personalities couldn't be any different and it was hilarious to watch them clash, especially Amos' insistence to call her 'Chrissy'

*Is it just me or does it seem like they are putting more of the budget into the VFX? Those shots of Lunar, Mars, and Baltimore on Earth was just so breathtaking. The camera work in some scenes, like when Amos' ship landed on Lunar, as the perspective swept across the sky before sweeping down to ground level felt like a virtual tour of the future. Just awe inspiring.



About the Author - Kollin Lore
Kollin is a writer and a film and television freak, having grown up during the 90s and 2000s a dedicated fan of Buffy, and moreso, Angel, before Supernatural took up half his life. Kollin's nightly hours are occupied mostly by genre TV, in particular, sci-fi and fantasy with especial love for space operas and shows about things that go bump in the night.
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