'The Expanse' sets up an epic story arc in episode 2 of season 5

Spoilers ahead

Fans of "The Expanse" may have heard by now that the next season, the sixth, will be the last of the series on Amazon Prime, and many have wondered how the show will end. Each season of the TV show, which is based on the sci-fi books by James S.A. Corey, has more or less equated to one book, and the seventh in the series, "Persepolis Rising," is set after a 30-year time jump from the events of book six. That would obviously require everyone to be aged either digitally or by makeup, or possibly recast altogether. However, the writing duo Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck — who write "The Expanse" novels under the single pen name James S.A. Corey — have said that they came to Amazon prepared for a six-season arc.

Speaking to Polygon, Franck said, "We have what we think is a very natural pause point for the story after Season 6. It'll feel like a satisfying end to the story we've been building over the first five seasons. I think one of the things that is sort of an outmoded idea is the idea of being canceled."

"This is a conversation we've been having since we were canceled the first time," Abraham said. "We've been talking about what the shape of the show could be, and this six season arc was always one of the options that was on the table. This is not something that we're having to scramble for."

Moreover, in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Naren Shankar said that despite the show coming to an end after Season 6, it might still have a future. "They [Amazon] control the property, but what I will say is that there's definitely more to tell and I'm sure Ty and Daniel would say exactly the same thing."

Related: 'The Expanse' Season 5 premiere reminds us what makes quality, cerebral sci-fi

The second episode starts straightaway with an exciting buzz; while scouting a debris field, Camina Drummer (Cara Gee) and the crew aboard her ship, the Dewalt, detect a mayday from someone named Captain April Molina of the Sulaiman Al Mahri, out of Earth, who is being attacked by an unknown vessel. Since the death of her friend and mentor, Commander Klaes Ashford last season, she's been living in a polyamorous family and operating mainly as a salvage crew, occasionally as a pirate crew. She attempts to reason with the pirate captain of the vessel attacking the Sulaiman Al Mahri but instead it target locks Drummer's ship. She orders the second ship in her band of merry men and women, the Mowteng, to fire missiles and disable it, which it does. 

Certainly no "detached nacelles" nonsense going on here, the Rocinante undergoes a refit at Tycho Station. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Life aboard the Dewalt seems casual and carefree. Drummer confirms with the pirate captain that he has his cut of the raid and that no innocents were killed. She tells him that she is control of this area of space now, further asserting her already imposing reputation. Drummer informs the Sulaiman Al Mahri that their distress call has been forwarded to Earth and someone will come to their aid, reminding their furious captain that they were lucky to have escaped with their lives. The crew celebrates their success over dinner, they have the spoils of the raid and no one was hurt. However, they soon detect another, derelict vessel this time, and it turns out to be Klaes Ashford's old ship, the Tynan. "I'd never thought I'd actually find it," Drummer says. Roll opening credits. 

We join Amos Burton (Wes Chatham) and he's reached Baltimore, Maryland, on Earth and the show's creators and in particular, 10-time "Expanse" director Breck Eisner, have done an incredible job of making Earth feel…alien, as it no doubt would be to Amos. This is not the kind of sci-fi show where our gallant gang of galactic do-gooders go back and fro, to and from deep space and Earth. To them, bulkheads, zero gravity and environment suits are the norm, not autumn leaves, streetlights and wide-open spaces. It's an inspired direction to take us and what makes it so effective is how beautifully executed it is. 

The producers of "The Expanse" have kept the continuity of the devastated state of 24th century Earth  (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

This also marks the first time we've seen any other major city on Earth in "The Expanse" aside from New York. Lest we forget, it's the mid 24th century, and as we saw in the early seasons — and again when Bobbie Draper visited Earth in Season 2 — how the Big Apple had, at some point, needed a giant coastal wall build around it to protect it from rising sea level. In previous seasons opening credits we even see how the Statue of Liberty now sits in a 30ft high protective bucket. And it appears like a similar barrier was needed to preserve Baltimore: a far cry from the rosy future predicted in "Star Trek: The Next Generation" also set at this point in time.

He finds his way to a particular apartment in a very modest residential block. Upon knocking on the door of the apartment, an elderly black opens the door and greets Amos by the name "Timothy." Back in the Season 3 episode "Delta-V" (S03, E07), we got our first clue that there might be more to Amos that we previously suspected. While aboard the Rocinante documenting the crew's journey into Ring Space, journalist and filmmaker Monica Stuart (Anna Hopkins) said that she could find very little evidence of his existence and that there was another Amos Burton in the Baltimore area who was a mob boss. It seems we are destined to learn more about this. 

This whole set piece is beautiful as, at first, Amos is more interested in learning about the details of his friend — Lydia's — death, talking bluntly and unapologetically to this man, named Charles (Frankie Faison). But then as Charles begins to get upset, Amos realizes his mistake and corrects himself by changing his tone and considering the situation from this man's perspective — he misses her too. It's enough to put a lump in your throat. 

Bobbie hasn't had the luck she was hoping for in pinpointing the key Martian black market arms dealers. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

The two talk over a nice cup of tea and form a bond. Lydia obviously helped Amos shake his gang involvement when he was young. Amos learns that Charles will soon have to leave the apartment now that Lydia is gone as it was some sort of favor from her days working for the Baltimore mob. Amos simply instructs him to stop packing.

The Rocinante is in "dry dock" receiving repairs modifications within Tycho and Jim Holden (Steven Strait) is living aboard as a distraction while Naomi Nagata is on her way to the asteroid Pallas where her estranged son and his father and Naomi's Evil Ex are reported to be. Holden plays a recorded message left by Stuart saying that she has evidence that other people are going after the protomolecule. She asks him to meet with her at the hotel she's staying at. Upon arrival, Holden finds the hotel door open, the room ransacked and Stuart missing, but he finds her phone lying under the bed.

Meanwhile, back on Mars, Alex pays a visit to see Bobbie at her apartment. She knows she's been a bad friend, so she apologizes and lets him in, so to speak, on the bigger picture. She shows him the sizeable arms cache she's been collecting and shares the information she's gathered up till now. She tells him that even the police are in on it and basically Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo) — who is funding her — is the only one she knows for sure isn't in on this. However, someone high up is involved. Alex notices a man named MCRN Admiral Emil Sauveterre is on the list and tells Bobbie it has to be a mistake since he's a decorated officer that he actually served with. However, Bobbie tells him that this guy was actually her entry into the black market, so something is a foot. Sauveterre is currently a senior lecturer at the War College, so Alex makes plans to pay him a visit. 

Bobbie hasn't had the luck she was hoping for in pinpointing the key Martian black market arms dealers.  (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Back in Baltimore, Amos sits in the shadows and patiently watches dealers at work on the street. When he spots his opportunity, he walks up to one and asks if this "is Erich's corner." The seller reacts badly to this stranger poking his nose in where it doesn't belong and gestures toward the gun he has stashed in his pants. In the blink of an eye, Amos disarms and pistol-whips him. "I understand you're just doing your job," Amos says. "But I need a friend who will take a message to Erich for me. Do you want to be my friend?" He asks. "Tell Erich Amos Burton wants to talk."

He's escorted to what looks like a particularly run-down part of town and taken up into a beautiful, luxurious living and office space that overlooks the whole city. There are paintings on the wall, sculptures on shelves and vintage motorcycles that must be very valuable antiques in the 24th century. We hear the voice of the man we presume to be Erich. "Amos Burton wants to talk. That's weird, right? Everyone knows Amos Burton's been dead for, what, a couple of decades? Long enough that no one's even asking who killed him anymore."

So we have a big clue to how murky his past life might have been. Erich (Jacob Mundell) doesn't react well to seeing Amos again and during the tense exchange we learn that he killed the original crime lord named Amos Burton, when he was meant to be killing Erich, then took his name. As way of thanks, Erich made sure Lydia was supported after Timothy-now-Amos left Earth, but now he wants to know why he's back. Amos explains that he hasn't returned to the Baltimore underworld and is therefore not a threat; he tells Erich of Charles and asks that he can continue to live in the apartment. They share a drink and part ways amiably, but Erich tells Amos that if he returns to Baltimore again, he will kill him.

 Stuart has been kidnapped and is being kept in a cargo container in the vast docks inside Tycho Station.  (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

It's a simple, elegant scene that despite giving us new snippets of info about his backstory leaves us hungry to know even more about our favorite character, Amos.

On Tycho, Johnson, Holden and Bull, the Tycho Chief of Ops (José Zúñiga) are looking into the disappearance of Stuart. It seems the blood Holden found was hers and the hotel security camera footage has been deleted. But since Johnson closed down every port, she must still be on the station, dead or alive. Stuart's phone starts bleeping and they can see through that cool, camera eye mod she has that's in being held captive in what looks like a cargo hold or a shipping container. Inside the container itself, Stuart tries to force open the locked doors and inadvertently breaks the airtight seal causing the precious oxygen inside to leak out into the vacuum of the giant Tycho container docks. 

Holden and Bull venture out in environment suits as Johnson searches from his workstation for signs of a thermal signature. All the while, Stuart's precious air supply is dwindling. The clock is ticking and they've wasted valuable time breaching a container full of agricultural supplies instead. Finally, as we watch Stuart slip into unconsciousness, Holden and Bull cut into the right container this time and save her life.

 Working together, Bobbie and Alex identify a potential lead, a highly decorated Martian Admiral. (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Alex goes to catch a lecture at the Martian War College by Sauveterre. However, his efforts to introduce himself after the admiral has finished giving his lesson do not go well. Still a little shell-shocked, he's approached by Lieutenant Emily Babbage (Lara Jean Chorostecki) who flatterers Alex instead and — as we find out — has been instructed to do so by Sauveterre in order to learn why he's there to begin with.

For the first time in the TV show, we see Ashanti (Nazneen Contractor), Avasarala's daughter. The two meet to say goodbye as Ashanti is soon returning to Earth. She asks her mother to join her, but Avasarala says there still much to do on Luna. The purpose of this brief scene is to reinforce how committed Avasarala is, especially given a) what she suspects and b) the information she is gathering independently of any official channel; the work Bobbie is doing, for example. Afterwards, Avasarala is on a conference call with several heads of Earth government, where she attempts to raise concerns with the destruction of the UNS Hasami, however, since she has no concrete evidence, the (relatively) newly appointed UN Secretary General Nancy Gao (Lily Gao) dismisses them.

Finally, at the end of this truly epic episode, we realize that the mother and child that we've seen Amos watching from a distance and numerous points throughout his visit to Baltimore have in fact been a memory of him, with a woman that we can deduce is Lydia (Stacey Roca). We learn that she was tough but fair on young Amos — or Timothy as he would've been back then. With blood on his face, he sits and looks out over the water with her who praises him for what sounds like having the mental strength to not escalate a fight into a worse situation. It all makes sense when we think back to the conversation he had with Charles and even Erich and it tantalizes of what's to come in future episodes.

Both the visual and practical effects, together with attention to detail make "The Expanse" very believable.  (Image credit: Amazon Prime Video)

Finally, Amos calls Avasarala and says he's going to need her help seeing just one more person on Earth while he's there and then he's gone, never to return, ever.

This is just the second episode of this season and already it's lightyears ahead of any other sci-fi currently on television. We cannot say enough how good this show is. Sure, you can gorge on a great big bucket of popcorn and enjoy "The Mandalorian" for a breathtaking blaster fight served with a side of nostalgia, but when you want your mind blown, watch "The Expanse." 

The first four episodes of Season 5 of "The Expanse" are also now available to watch now on Amazon Prime, along with Seasons 1 to 4.

Follow Scott Snowden on Twitter @LorumIpsum. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook. 

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Scott Snowden

When Scott's application to the NASA astronaut training program was turned down, he was naturally upset...as any 6-year-old boy would be. He chose instead to write as much as he possibly could about science, technology and space exploration. He graduated from The University of Coventry and received his training on Fleet Street in London. He still hopes to be the first journalist in space.