Review: The Expanse season 5 finale, “Nemesis Games”

Image: The Expanse/Amazon Prime Video
Image: The Expanse/Amazon Prime Video /

Naomi Nagata shines in the stupendous season finale of The Expanse. This is the show’s best season so far. That one character death, though…

This season of The Expanse has already been brilliant, and the finale brings it home. I’m going to break it down into what was great, what was good, and what didn’t set quite right.

The Great

Naomi’s rescue sequence is one of the best scenes I’ve watched in a movie or TV show in over a year. Throughout the season, it seemed that the show was flexing its muscles with its spot-on grasp of real-world physics, but this goes above and beyond. The incredible shot of Naomi from the side as the only stable thing in frame as the entire universe literally spins around her will be ingrained in my memory for quite some while.

Naomi’s story has been one crazy brilliant idea after another — the way she changes the ships course, throws herself out of it, and gives hand signals IN SPACE is one of the most absurd plans I’ve ever seen, but like all the others, it just works here. There’s this incredible moment where she has accepted her death while saying her goodbyes through floating tears, and you just can’t take your eyes off the screen. I even know what happens having read the books, and it’s still a tender, very tense scene.

When we hear the faint scraps of armor and Bobbie’s voice, it’s almost as if it’s happening far away. After a few moments, the realization hits Naomi and she finally lets herself feel the immensity of emotion that had built up over her struggle this season. Nearly everything about her story was a highlight this year, and the finish couldn’t be better.

The Good

Pretty much the rest of the episode. Having wrapped up two of the storylines in the previous episode, the focus here was on Naomi, Holden and Drummer. Drummer makes a last-minute decision to not kill Holden, breaking with Marco. Her move leads to the death of the switched crew member from Marco’s ship but gives Holden enough time to go after Naomi.

Drummer has struggled with identity all season, but in the final moments, she chose her own path over following Marco. This puts a clear target on her back for the Free Navy to find.

James Holden tries once again to sacrifice himself to save his friends. Thankfully, and ironically, he is saved by Drummer, a friend. After minimal fighting, he makes it away from the Belters and is able to give Naomi the medical treatment she needs.

In the medbay, Holden and Naomi have their long-awaited reunion, and Naomi plays the message she left for James to listen to if something happened to her. It is, of course, tear-jerking, a really well-written piece about love and time spent together. It does a nice job of bringing together some of the things she confronted by revisiting her past life, and of putting things into perspective.

They eventually meet back up with Amos on Luna, where Amos tricks Holden into accepting Clarissa onto the Roci before he can even say no. It feels like a teenage boy asking his dad if his girlfriend can come over and not waiting to hear an answer, a light ending to a grim meeting.

The Bad

That grim meeting? It’s grim thanks to the very untimely death of Alex Kamal. This is the first major deviation from the books and it’s not handled the way it should have been. Death itself is very common in this world, but the death of a character who’s been around since day one should hit a lot harder. For Alex to have maybe five lines in the final episode then to just die of a stroke offscreen is not the way to send off a major character. It’s barely a part of the overall story and it leaves a hollow feeling that everyone seems to forget and move on from, except the viewers. This feels rushed and incomplete.

All that said, The Expanse is still the best show of its kind currently airing, and may be of the best out there in any genre. Even with this rare misfire, this is still an incredibly story told in a way that really does it justice. The characters always feel so alive, the writing is excellent, and the new budget helped sell this futuristic world through better special effects and cinematography.

The setup for next season with Laconia and the Free Navy as the major threats is done really well at the end of the episode. The final scene of one of the lost Martian ships being eaten by a ring gates is another interesting problem for next season. I’m guessing season 6 will be a bit less personal, but a whole lot more deadly.

Episode Grade: A-

Season Grade: A-

Next. Review: The Expanse returns for season 5, excellent as ever. dark

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