‘The Expanse’ Season 5 Finale Review: Nemesis Games

Looks like Season 6 is going to make for one hell of an ending.

Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper) in 'The Expanse'.
(Image: © Amazon Studios)

What to Watch Verdict

The season finale explores the consequences inherent in holding to your ideals and loyalties, both harmful and rewarding.


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    ☄️Look, everything awesome about this episode is a spoiler, okay?


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    ☄️They could have handled Cas Anvar's departure from the show a little better.

This article contains spoilers for The Expanse.
Check out our review of last week's episode here.

This season of The Expanse has been all about finding one’s people. Naomi (Dominique Tipper) confronted a past that she once thought represented her allegiances. Amos (Wes Chatham) coped with the absence of his chosen family while finding kinship in an old foe (Nadine Nicole). Camina (Cara Gee) struggled with keeping her family and crew safe and whole, even if it meant betraying their ideals and ethics. Holden (Steven Strait), Alex (Cas Anvar), Bobbie (Frankie Adams), and Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), each in their own way, were confronted by the artificial boundaries of their nationalities. Even Marco (Keon Alexander) and Filip (Jasai Chase-Owens) are ostensibly fighting for their people, on behalf of Belter interests, though Marco’s egotism is a much stronger motivator. If there’s one thing this finale does well above all other things, it explores the consequences inherent in holding to your ideals and loyalties, both harmful and rewarding.

There’s plenty of requisite freewheeling space action in this episode, as Holden confronts Belter ships while Camina has to grapple with the decision of her crew’s lives on the other side. But it’s also an episode of reunions as Alex and Bobbie race to save Naomi from a ship they are unaware is rigged to blow. Each of this episode’s climactic resolutions to season-long anticipations is alternately thrilling, heartwarming, and cathartic. In a couple of cases, it even boils over into heartbreak, as hard costs are paid for doing the right thing.

But one of those tragedies in particular could have been handled a bit less clumsily. We’ve known for a while now that Cas Anvar would not be returning for the show’s final season, but my presumption was always that Alex would simply be written off the show between seasons. Alex’s story comes to a definitive conclusion in this episode, but it feels somewhat unearned, especially in light of where the majority of the episode’s emotional stakes reside. To be fair, Alex’s departure could have been shuffled off much more callously and unceremoniously, but it’s so sudden and thematically disparate from the rest of the episode that it still feels like an aggressive last-minute change made in the writers’ room after Anvar’s removal.

The final scenes of the season tease big things for the future, melding the threat of the protomolocule with the alien unknown beyond the ring gate and the political infighting of a fractured human race. The only justice of this season comes in small victories, while the biggest threats imaginable loom on the other side of an unfathomable void. Even as a fan of the novels, I don’t know what to expect as the show must necessarily either condense four remaining books worth of material into one season or contrive an entirely new ending that still feels satisfying and whole. Season 6 of The Expanse is a wild unknown, but that’s always been the allure of The Expanse. It’s heartening to know that the show will continue to focus on the human element, the breadth of the entire human tribe, as it expands outward into more cosmic possibilities.

Leigh Monson

Leigh Monson has been a professional film critic and writer for six years, with bylines at Birth.Movies.Death., SlashFilm and Polygon. Attorney by day, cinephile by night and delicious snack by mid-afternoon, Leigh loves queer cinema and deconstructing genre tropes. If you like insights into recent films and love stupid puns, you can follow them on Twitter.