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‘The Expanse’ 5.04 Review: Gaugamela

Nothing’s ever going to be the same.

Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros in Season 5 of "The Expanse" on Amazon Prime Video.
(Image: © Amazon Studios)

Our Verdict

This week's episode of 'The Expanse' turns the solar system on its head.

For

  • ☄️Avasarala shows off some impressive ingenuity.
  • ☄️The assault on Tycho Station is very exciting.
  • ☄️The shake-up to the status quo is something to behold.

Against

  • ☄️Not every character gets a full moment to react to events.

This article contains spoilers for The Expanse. Check out our review of last week's episodes here. And be sure to read our preview of The Expanse Season 6.

How do you react in the wake of a tragedy beyond comprehension? How do you cope with a loss of life so massive that the quickness and violence of its passage doesn’t register? Those of us who remember 9/11 are familiar with this sensation, as are those who recognize the enormity of the COVID-19 crisis that has ravaged the world in 2020, albeit in dreadful slow motion. The latest episode of The Expanse puts all its major players in this position, as Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) succeeds in a multi-pronged attack against Earth, Mars, and Tycho Station.

We first realize the enormity of what’s happening as Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Alex (Cas Anvar) chase down Martian military ships to catch them in the act to trading weapons to Marco’s “Free Navy.” Just as they are pondering their role in a dying civilization, left without purpose after its stalemate with Earth, the news comes in that there has been an attack on Martian Parliament. At the same time, Amos (Wes Chatham) reconnects with an old acquaintance just as the deadly asteroids start to hit Earth. We don’t get to see their reactions beyond initial surprise, but other characters take action in ways that betray a compromised emotional state.

The biggest takeaway comes from Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) as she continues to push warnings to Earth that the asteroids were not a chance collision, but are a coordinated attack from Marco using stealth technology. Avasarala keeps calm under pressure and creatively finds a way around a bureaucracy that would rather wish she shut up and stay out of the way, but the urgency of her actions is a rare side to see for a woman whose entire persona is based on her composure and acerbic wit. Aghdashloo has always been this show’s secret weapon as an actress, and while she isn’t a spotlight player in this episode, she’s putting in some of her most nuanced work.

Holden (Steven Strait), meanwhile, gets a front row seat to an attack on Tycho Station, as their sting against Monica’s (Anna Hopkins) kidnappers goes belly up and an all-out assault takes the station over. The result is one of the more memorable setpieces of the show’s recent memory, carrying with it a multilayered sense of loss and betrayal that sets Holden’s world reeling.

The episode concludes with Marco taking the stage, televising his victory speech on behalf of Belters everywhere and declaring a new world order, a victory for the oppressed from a demagogue who narcissistically insists that he speaks in the interests of all Belters. It’s a familiar visual shorthand, the gloating of a terrorist after a successful attack from the safety of an undisclosed location. The Expanse has positioned Marco as this series’ Bin Laden, and it did so in a manner that pulls no punches. Now, as the Inner Planets pick up the pieces of their worlds’ destruction, the question remains how they can strike back, or even more immediately, survive the next assault.