Julien Neaves, Sci Fi Head Writer
Award-winning, critically acclaimed Sci Fi series The Expanse completed its sixth and final season on January 14. For those who haven’t seen it (and trust me, you are missing out big time) the show is based on the novels by James S.A. Corey and is set in the future where humanity has colonised the Solar System and have separated into three main factions, the United Nations of Earth and Luna, the Martian Congressional Republic on Mars, and the Outer Planets Alliance (OPA), a loose confederation of the asteroid belt and the moons of Jupiter and Saturn. The series centres on freighter ship’s officer James Holden (Steven Strait) and his crew as they try to unravel an intergalactic conspiracy involving mysterious alien technology in a system under the strain of a cold war between Earth and Mars. Also seeking answers are police detective Josephus Miller (Thomas Jane) and UN Security Council member Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo).
So, dear Red Mango Reader, you must be wondering why I am doing a season ranking on February 19, over a month after the show ended. Well, full disclosure, I had caught the first couple seasons then fell off and kept meaning to go back and rewatch it. And then I heard the series had wrapped so I had some catching up to do. Don’t judge me, okay. Well I am now all caught up and I can easily that The Expanse is one of the greatest Sci Fi television series (stealing a phrase from Jules from WhatCulture) OF ALL TIME! From the otherworldly opening theme to the fantastic characters, from the extraordinary world-building to the stellar writing, from the awesome action to the intelligent and intriguing Sci Fi concepts, this show is simply a masterpiece. And while the show is deserving of all the accolades heaped upon it I will say I enjoyed some seasons more than others. And since there is so much to talk about I will be breaking this ranking up into two parts. So with a Belt-sized SPOILER ALERT let’s start ranking all six seasons of The Expanse starting with the bottom three:
#6 Season 4
The easiest part of this ranking was choose my least favourite season. I love this show and it is thoroughly entertaining but there were times during Season 4 when I felt bored. I don’t know if it was the switch from Syfy to Amazon Prime Video but something was off. By way of reminder this season found the crew of the Rocinante (one of the best ship names ever btw) on a Belter-controlled planet through the Ring called Ilus investigating structures built by the ancient alien civilization that created the protomolecule.
Let’s talk about what works. Belter leaders Klaes Ashford (the always dependable Strathairn) and Camina Drummer (a superb Cara Gee) facing off against terrorist megalomaniac and Naomi Nagata’s baby daddy Marco Inaros was very good, topped off with Ashford’s glorious attack on Inaros’s ship leading to his (Ashford’s) beautifully tragic death. The Miller stuff was also trippy and cool. The political battle between Avasarala and former UN home secretary Nancy Gao is interesting. And it was kinda nice seeing Amos “That Guy” Burton get a girlfriend and then tragically being forced to kill her. But I found it hard to care about the conflict between the Belters and the RCE expedition. I found the alien slugs and going blind stuff sorta dull. And Burn Gorman RCE leader Murty has to be the most one note and bland villain of the entire series. And I like ex-Mars sergeant Roberta “Bobbie” Draper but the whole side story of her joining a smuggling gang on Mars felt out of character and just didn’t grab me. A decent season overall but the least interesting of them all.
#5 Season 6
When I saw the final season was only six episodes compared to previous seasons of 10 or 13 episodes I was wondering how this massive and multilayered story could be wrapped up so quickly. And like me wrapping gifts Christmas Eve night the final product left something to be desired. Despite so few episodes we were forced to spend time on the alien planet of Laconia and with a sweet girl who uses a strange alien to resurrect her brother. By the finale that storyline is left halfway done, as well as some Martians taking control of a gigantic alien vessel. I mean, why set up this stuff and then leave it on a cliffhanger? It could be nothing more than frustrating.
Thankfully the main storyline of the Earth/Mars alliance battling Inaros’s Free Navy was well executed. I liked former assassin turned ally Clarissa Mao joining up with the crew and her touching relationship with Burton. The storyline of Filip Inaros (Marcos and Naomi’s son) and his internal conflict over killing millions on Earth was enjoyable (I found the character annoying before that). Kathleen Robertson’s Rosenfeld Guoliang provided a great balance to Marcos as his second in command. We get a whole tonne of awesome Rocinante action. And the forging of the unlikely alliance between Drummer and Avasarala (two of the strongest women on a series with its fair share of strong women) was epic. And the final assault was so pulse-pounding it took my breath away with the Roci, Bobbie and Amos all having some standout moments.
If I had any complaint (other than the half baked Laconia stuff) it would be that we didn’t get enough of the entities that wiped out the Ring Builders. Sure Holden figures out that they have been destroying some ships that go through the rings and replicates the conditions to finally take out Marcos but I still needed more. And on a series with outstanding special effects I found the entity killing effect looked plain cheesy. I also found that bastard Marcos should have suffered more, him and his stupid man bun.
But still I felt relatively satisfied at the end, especially with the heartwarming dinner scene. And in my head canon Filip and Naomi have a heartwarming reunion.
#4 Season 5
This season really shook things up, quite literally. Marcos (pre-man bun at this point) deals Earth its most devastating blow with his assault of stealth shielded asteroids, leaving millions dead. And his son Filip takes his mother Naomi hostage. Now Dominique Tipper, who plays the kind and resilient Naomi Nagata, gives a sterling performance throughout the series but in Season 5 she leaves it out all on the table, go finds some more and then leaves that on the table as well. The trauma she goes through aboard Marcos’s ship and then the Chetzemoka was palpable and credit both to Tipper’s performance and writing. After the Earth attack we also had the shocking betrayal by Sakai and the assassination of Fred Johnson which left my jaw rolling on the floor. Excitements indeed. We also see Avasarala both dealing with the loss of her husband and trying desperately to save Earth from another attack.
The season had an overarching theme of going back. Everyone’s favourite pilot Alex Kamal (a fun turn by Cas Anvar) returns to Mars and then has his own adventures with Bobbie on the red planet and later aboard the Razorback/Screaming Firehawk before his shocking death. Man I felt that one. Amos goes back home to Baltimore and faces his past. And then we have his adventure with Clarissa escaping the destroyed prison and then later their dramatic escape to Luna after a pitched firefight. Oh, and the look on Holden’s face when he realises Amos tricked him into letting Clarissa aka the woman who tried to kill him join the crew was priceless. All in all a great season that lets the characters shine.
So that’s my ranking so far. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to berate me in the comments. You can read Part 2 of the list below:
And do check out more great Sci Fi television content below:
Julien “Editor Jules” Neaves is a TARDIS-flying, Force-using Trekkie whose bedroom stories were by Freddy Krueger, learned to be a superhero from Marvel, but dreams of being Batman. I love promoting Caribbean film (Cariwood), creating board games and I am an aspiring author. I say things like “12 flavours of awesome sauce”. Read more.