DISCLAIMER: This recap of The Expanse season finale episode “Nemesis Games” is riddled with spoilers. You’ve been warned, Beltalowda. Proceed at your own peril.
Welcome back, Screaming Firehawks! “Nemesis Games” hath arrived and boy was it a masterpiece. Questions were answered and in their stead, more questions were raised. As season finales are wont to do. It’s hard to believe that Season Five is coming to a close. “Nemesis Games” is nearly an hour-long outing rife with breathtaking space action sequences, plot twists (for us non-book readers), stellar performances (I’m looking at you, Dominique Tipper) and even some comedic moments. My primary query going into this episode? How The Expanse Powers That Be would handle Alex’s exit. We knew in advance that he wouldn’t be in Season Six, but “Nemesis Games” answers the “how” of it all. Side note: all hail the badass women of this series. They carry it on their backs.
Ready to delve into “Nemesis Games”? Let’s get to it.
Now, we open with Holden (Steven Strait), Monica (Anna Hopkins) and Bull (José Zúñiga) still en route to the Chetzemoka. However, the Roci identifies a series of MCRN/Belter ships and frigates obstructing their path. Marco’s army, which includes our Drummer. Monica asks if they stand a fighting chance against all that firepower. Holden knows they don’t, but knowing him he’ll try.
Meanwhile, we see Drummer (Cara Gee) and her polyamory Belter family are preparing to destroy the Roci. Drummer and Karal (Olunike Adeliyi) are already butting heads. Oksana (Sandrine Holt) is on a different ship. Bull wants to head back to Tycho, especially since the Roci hasn’t stopped “burning hard” since they left the station. They’re going to run out of fuel. But Holden refuses to flee. After a bit of verbal sparring, the consensus is to stay and face the Free Navy. Holden tells Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Alex (Cas Anvar) that they’ll have to save Naomi by themselves. He’ll attempt to stave off Marco’s forces so the Screaming Firehawk can continue on unimpeded.
Later, Naomi (Tipper) manages to alter the Chetzemoka‘s course after several attempts. She collapses from obvious exhaustion and dehydration. Alex and Bobbie take note of the vessel’s directional change. It appears to be spinning. Alex wants to dock with the ship, but Bobbie counters that it could unexpectedly switch directions again. However, our Martian cowboy believes it may be a fluke, so dock with the Chetzemoka they will.
Next, we see Holden and co. preparing for the oncoming storm. Our cap isn’t planning on winning — Marco’s Free Navy is too great in numbers. But as long as they buy Alex and Bobbie enough time to save Naomi, that’s all that matters. Drummer is lurking behind Karal aboard their ship. She clearly has something up her sleeve. Suddenly, she brandishes a gun on Karal. Drummer proceeds to alter the direction of their torpedoes toward, well, themselves. Yes, now the cluster of vessels are firing at each other instead of the Roci.
The effects here are nothing short of spectacular. Drummer receives a heated message regarding the move to shoot at her fellow brethren. Bertold (Stephen Tracey) jumps on Drummer and holds her in place. During the scuffle, she drops her gun. Karal swipes said gun and aims it at Drummer. But, before she can fire, Michio (Vanessa Smythe) smacks Karal on the head with what looks like a fire extinguisher. Karal cracks her skull on a railing as she’s falling. So … yeah. She’s dead. Marco won’t like that too much.
Then, the Roci gets in on the missile action. Holden starts firing at the Martian/Belter forces. Now that Karal is out of the picture, Drummer seizes control and continues to shoot at her own people. Suddenly, one of the vessels explodes. Bull notes that it’s nice to see Belters turn on each other for once. Holden orders the ships to shut down their reactors. That’s when Drummer answers him. He’s now free to go, uninhibited.
Meanwhile, Naomi receives another message from Alex stating that he’s on his way to her. Since no one is aware that the Chetzemoka is a ticking time bomb, Naomi decides to take matters into her own hands. She puts on her helmet. Naomi opens the door and then jumps. At least she has a suit on this time. However, said suit is bereft of proper oxygen. We see her spinning through space. The camera is close on Tipper’s face. You feel as though you’re really there with her. She prays that Alex will spot her.
Next, Alex pulls the Screaming Firehawk near the Chetzemoka. The tricky part is docking with her, especially since the opposing vessel is in motion. But Bobbie sees Naomi aimlessly rotating in the big … wait for it … expanse. Alex notices that she’s gesturing with her hands. It’s Belter sign language. He translates that her comms are down and that the ship (Chetzemoka) is explosive. God, Naomi is so damn smart.
Now, we see Naomi is starting to lose consciousness. Going that long without oxygen in space will do that to you. We hear Bobbie’s voice next to her, but it’s muddled. Clearly indicative of Naomi’s spacing out (I’m done, I swear.). Bobbie is donning a suit and out there with her. She gets oxygen flowing for our favorite engineer.
Then, Bobbie is preparing to head back to the Screaming Firehawk. She relays to Alex that Naomi is suffering from hypoxia, dehydration and radiation burns. Bobbie is escorting Naomi toward the vessel when she stops hearing Alex. The last thing he says is, “That was one hell of a ride.” The camera zooms inside the Screaming Firehawk and we see that Alex is dead. Blood is pooling outward from his nose. RIP Alex Kamal. He was a good egg.
Meanwhile, Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) appears to be preparing for battle. Marco (Keon Alexander) is irked because he hasn’t heard back from Karal or his other ships. He knows that the Roci was able to escape unscathed. Marco ushers in Serge (Wilex Ly), the other member of our Belter polyamory family that’s serving as a tribute. A token of Drummer and Marco’s now shattered alliance. I have a sneaking suspicion that Serge won’t last the episode.
Next, Naomi and Holden are reunited on the Roci. She’s receiving medical treatment and loads of fluids. My girl survived a harrowing ordeal and came out on the other side. A total badass. Holden reveals that Alex had a stroke, which isn’t uncommon when you’re constantly going into hard burn. It’s a risk they all take. Naomi feels guilty since Alex died saving her. Holden comforts her. Additionally, he divulges that their next move is a trek to Luna. Naomi is worried that Avasarala will mark her as a terrorist, but the former was Marco’s prisoner. She’ll actually be an invaluable asset in finally taking Marco Inaros down.
Meanwhile, Monica shows Bobbie the intricate ship records she’s been keeping since she left Tycho. Bull is sipping something steamy out of Alex’s cup. We see “Kamal” emblazoned on the side. I have a theory that he might be the Roci’s new pilot beyond this excursion. Holden tells Naomi that he never opened her earlier message because then he’d have to face the reality that “she’s gone.” Naomi plays it for him. It’s an immensely touching ode to their relationship and the family they’ve cultivated with Amos and Alex. Admittedly, Alex’s death packs more of a punch now. It’s a stark reminder that the Roci crew’s close-knit bond is the heart of The Expanse.
Then, we see Marco is spacing Serge on video for Drummer and co. to bear witness. Everyone is sobbing — Drummer, Oksana, Michio, Bertold and Josep (Samer Salem). After he pushes Serge out of the airlock, Marco faces the camera. His look of utter contempt and hatred says it all. They’re on his sh*t list now. Oksana decides that she’s going to leave. She’ll take one of the other vessels. Drummer attempts to persuade her to stay. Now they answer to no one! But Drummer’s act of betrayal is too much for Oksana. Bertold decides to leave with her. Michio and Josep remain with Drummer. This spells the end for our polyamory Belter family, and I don’t like it one bit.
Later, Amos (Wes Chatham) is hanging out on Luna. Erich (Jacob Mundell) gets off an elevator and joins him. He wants Amos to stay with the gang. Amos is preoccupied because he notices that the Roci is currently docking. His family. While he rejects Erich’s offer to stick around, Amos procures a bottle of liquor to mark their sojourn to Luna. Unfortunately, he drops it. Amos’s reaction to losing alcohol is, without question, how I would react when in that situation.
Finally, it’s reunion time! Amos embraces Holden and Naomi. Naomi holds on for a little while. It’s a sweet moment between two besties. They mourn Alex. Amos asserts that Alex went out in the best way possible — by saving his family. He ushers Holden aside for a query. In typical Amos fashion, he simultaneously skirts around the question while blatantly asking it. Can Peaches hitch a ride? You know, the woman who tried to kill Holden. After Holden reassures Amos that he’d never actually murder him now that they’re family, we see Peaches (Nadine Nicole) hop on board. Holden is bewildered, but he silently allows her to join them. It’s a nice comedic moment after some devastating hits. Gotta have levity!
Now, it’s party time! Holden, Naomi, Amos, Bull and Monica are at the bar on Luna drinking it up. Peaches, of course, is a fugitive who must remain on the Roci. Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) is also present. Bobbie and Avasarala reunite. It appears that the latter has appointed Bobbie to serve in some capacity on her cabinet. Avasarala’s message is one of unity, especially since the bar currently houses Earthers, Martians and Belters. It’s time to unite against Marco. She delivers a short and heartfelt speech conveying just that. They all have a common enemy. I just love seeing the crew back together again.
Next, Monica informs Holden that one of the Zmeya‘s missiles from way back is still active. The Roci must have missed it. She ponders whether it potentially contains the protomolecule sample. Avasarala pulls Holden aside for a briefing. Monica is barred from said meeting though, so no press allowed. There’s activity near the Ring gate. Apparently, Marco’s forces are shooting down the UN ships stationed there. Holden notes that torpedoes are also being released from inside the Ring gate, meaning that Marco is in cahoots with Medina station. Some rogue Martians have allied with the Belter rebel. After successfully decimating the UN vessels, we hear Marco’s crew raucously cheering for him. He proceeds to go through the gate.
Later, we see Admiral Sauveterre (Tim DeKay) and Lt. Babbage (Lara Jean Chorostecki) aboard the Barkeith. Sauveterre is chatting it up with Marco. It turns out they’ve been surreptitiously working together. Paolo Cortázar (Carlos Gonzalez-Vio) is currently on a planet within the Ring network called Laconia. He reveals that all the planets, like Ilus, are interconnected. We see the Barkeith is preparing to enter the Laconian gate. Sauveterre monologues about the importance of what they’re doing. They can create a better world than Mars.
Additionally, he goes on about establishing order and rigorous decorum. Even the slightest infractions could result in fateful punishment. He orders Babbage to hand over her bracelet, which is a gift from her mother. It’s a violation of the dress code, of course. They momentarily freeze in mid-action as we see them go through the ring to Laconia. The effects are astounding here. It almost looks as if they’re enveloped in fiery flames while they pass over to the other side.
Holy crazy good episode, Batman! The Expanse hasn’t had a subpar season finale yet. The stakes for the next installment are higher than ever. Traitorous MCRN officials have joined hands with Marco’s Free Navy to terraform the worlds beyond the Ring gate. Now, they’ve chosen Laconia to plant their roots. I can’t wait to see how that unfolds in Season Six. Alex’s passing was tragic. I had an affinity for him right from the get-go. But I’m glad his exit was written in a way that made sense in the context of the story. Whether Bull will take his place as the Roci’s resident pilot extraordinaire remains to be seen. And the rogue protomolecule sample!
Tipper’s scenes were, as per usual, brilliance personified. I really dug those moments when Naomi was spinning through space waiting for Bobbie and Alex to arrive. The close-up on her face and Tipper’s nuanced work really made me feel like I was there with her. Not to mention, I loved her scene with Holden in the med bay. It was awfully sweet. The action sequences involving the Roci and Marco’s ships may have been some of the best since The Expanse‘s inception. Bravo.
Overall, I wholeheartedly enjoyed this season. I only have two complaints: not enough Bobbie and we need about 20 more episodes per outing. The character work was a thing of beauty. The Expanse deftly weaves together character development and plot like no other. Particularly, Tipper and Chatham had a chance to shine in Season Five.
I have so many questions. But while I wait for The Expanse‘s return, I’m going to binge-watch the first five seasons. For science. Until next time…
All of The Expanse Season Five is now streaming on Amazon Prime.
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