When it last left off, The Expanse threw a lot (literally) at fans with its Season 4 finale on Amazon. Belter baddie Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) had just hatched a devious plot to send a cluster of cloaked asteroids toward Earth, setting up a cliffhanger start to Season 5 that finds the Rocinante heading back toward a Solar System home that — unbeknownst to anyone — is basically a sitting duck in danger.
With an alien planet gold rush underway and the Roci’s crew unwittingly stalked by old demons, showrunner Naren Shankar tells Entertainment Weekly that the new season — mostly drawn from Nemesis Games, Book 5 in the James S. A. Corey series on which the show is based — is all about learning that you can’t outrun what you’ve done. Earth may or may not dodge its big space bullet (those who’ve read the books can perhaps guess), but those stealthy asteroids serve up a meteoric metaphor for the idea that there are some things you just can’t escape.
“The theme really is about the sins of the past,” Shankar told EW. “To one extent or another, that's every single story line, whether it is Naomi personally confronting the fact that she had a son with this very charismatic, and now quite violent, revolutionary-type leader. Whether it's Amos connecting to his past, or going back to Earth for reasons that we're not quite sure of…It is connecting all of the things that we have done in our lives to the moment of the present that we are in. It's like everything comes to a head all at the same time.”
Woven into Season 5 will be story elements from The Churn, the Earth-based, Expanse-themed novella that Corey (actually a pen name for author duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) dropped as an eBook back in 2014. In particular, the new season will follow The Churn into Baltimore as Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), the mechanic with a shady past, scours his hometown for answers that may pay off in ways he doesn’t expect — or want.
“There's a lot of mystery attached to Amos' backstory around Baltimore,” said Shankar. “Without telling specifically why he heads back, you're going to get a lot of answers to it. Things are going to feel really, really satisfying because it illuminates a side of him that nobody else on the Roci gets to see. Nobody else really knows, but the audience is going to get to go with Amos to experience it.”
Being blindsided by the circularity of your own choices may cut to the heart of what makes the new season tick. But there are also real threats — the Belters, the chaotic race to exploit the alien potential of Ilus, and, yep, even those asteroids — that won’t give The Expanse’s characters much time for deep reflection. That’s where those asteroids, hurtling toward Earth at the start of Season 5, are likely to do more of the symbolic heavy lifting.
“Well, it's coming,” Shankar said. “It's coated in stealth, so it's very hard to see, and there's a whole bunch of them. From the end of Season 4, the last image that we left with was Marco looking at the plotted trajectory of all of these asteroids. The last image that you see is a whole lot of them that are lined up to hit Earth in its orbit. So, they're coming.”
If you haven’t picked up on it from Shankar’s remarks, The Expanse team has a knack for playing story details close to the vest until after each new season releases. But whatever awaits, at least the fans will all get to discover it together. Watch for The Expanse to return to Amazon for its 5th season beginning Dec. 16, when the first three episodes in the 10-episode arc arrive all at once. After that, watch for new episodes to land each Wednesday, culminating on Feb. 3, 2021 with the Season 5 finale.