Here comes the juice! Gear up for 'The Expanse' Season 5 with our guide to the interstellar action

Get ready for the churn! After what seemed like an interminably long wait since we finally left the Ring Gate planet Ilus last year, "The Expanse" took flight one day early last night ahead of its official Dec. 16 premiere date. 

Amazon Prime Video generously offered up a trio of episodes as an early holiday gift to light the fuse on an electrifying new 10-chapter run. Additional episodes will launch each subsequent week, ending in the season finale on Feb. 3, 2021. Beware, private ghosts and demons abound!

This penultimate season chapter promises to be one of the most anticipated of the entire series as it's mostly carved from "Nemesis Games," the fan-favorite fifth book of James S.A. Corey's bestselling novels. However, there are some plot threads taken from the sixth book, "Babylon's Ashes," as well as the short story entitled "The Churn." 

Also, the ninth and final book in the bestselling series, "Leviathan Falls," is due out in 2021, so "Expanse" faithful have plenty to be thankful for moving into the new year.

As we step into the sci-fi fray this year, a flood of colony ships are surging for Medina Station, the only port inside the Ring Gate, creating fresh opportunities for precious mineral mining and creating a planetary land rush of exponential proportions for Belters, Earthers, and Martians. 

Meanwhile scientists are puzzling over the protomolecule’s machine ruins being discovered on colony planets, and the mystery of the ancient beings who wiped out the extraterrestrial builders.

But the biggest threat to the Sol System are the cloaked space rocks flung by the villainous Marco Inaros with the bullseye targeted at our Big Blue Marble.

"Well, it's coming. It's coated in stealth, so it's very hard to see, and there's a whole bunch of them," showrunner Naren Shankar told EW. "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."

The Expanse Season 4: Here's a recap to get ready for Season 5!

So who are the new faces? Where has the main cast scattered to as the season commences? When will Marco Inaros' rogue rock hit Earth? Will Camina Drummer ever smile? There's a lot to unpack for this pivotal season so let’s start with Amazon Studios' official synopsis:

"Season 5 of the series picks up as multitudes of humans leave the solar system in search of new homes and vast fortunes on the earth-like worlds beyond the alien Ring, and a heavy price for centuries of exploitation of the Belt finally comes due and a reckoning is at hand. 

"For the crew of the Rocinante and the leaders of the Inner Planets and the Belt, the past and present converge, bringing forth personal challenges that have wide-reaching repercussions throughout the Solar System.

"Amos (Wes Chatham) returns to Earth to confront his past and the legacy of the life he fought to leave behind. Naomi (Dominique Tipper) reaches out to her estranged son in a desperate bid to save him from his father’s toxic influence. 

"Bobbie (Frankie Adams) and Alex (Cas Anvar) confront the collapse of Mars as they chase a shadowy cabal with ties to terrorists and criminals. Holden (Steven Strait) wrestles with the consequences of his own past with the protomolecule, the aliens who built it, and the mystery of what killed them. 

"Drummer (Cara Gee), with a new crew, fights to escape who and what she used to be. And Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), refusing to be relegated to the sidelines, fights to prevent a terrorist attack unrivaled in history."

Season 4 was mainly set on Ilus, the recently-settled planet on the other side of the alien ring, with most of the Rocinante crew defusing a conflict between RCE security forces and Belter colonists trying to make their fortune mining lithium while alien technology comes alive.

Related: How Amazon (and Jeff Bezos) Saved 'The Expanse'

Keon Alexander portrays villain Marcos Inaros on Season 5 of "The Expanse." (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Now that the protomolecule crisis has been averted (for now) and eerie entities have been awoken nothing will ever be the same. It's a chaotic land grab for colonization, jobs, and resources on the new frontier planets and moons as characters are scattered amid the stars each seeking redemption, salvation, and forgiveness in their prospective spheres.

Official trailers don't shy away from the unsettled visage and unhinged anger of renegade OPA terrorist Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), as he attempts to gain power and revenge against the longstanding oppression and exploitation of the Inners. His mission is unleashing the Belter’s Free Navy to destabilize the power structure in the Sol system propels the narrative throughout the new season like a juggernaut.

Character backstories are pushed to the forefront this year, with a fantastic balance of character-driven stories unfurling as the looming threat of doom hangs over Earth due to the fanatical Inaros wreaking havoc on multiple fronts. Those viewers familiar with the books will have the advantage of knowing all the jaw-dropping calamities that occur.  For now, we'll remain silent on those developments, but suffice to say, they're staggering!

At last fall's New York Comic Con virtual panel, Dominique Tipper gave a superheroic description of the upcoming season. "I call this our Infinity War," she revealed to Inverse, indicating how the previous seasons have all been a simmering lead-up to the events yet to come.

Nearly all the prominent cast members are back for the new adventures but the unfolding narrative splits everyone up to pursue isolated agendas. Here's where we tracked them down: 

Holden and Naomi start the season together at Tycho Station while the Rocinante sits in dry dock getting needed repairs for metal fatigue and stress fractures, but they soon part when Naomi enlists Fred Johnson's (Chad L. Coleman) help to find Filip.

On Luna, Avasarala is chairing a commission to accelerate immigration to ring colonies after losing the Secretary-General political race to her rival, Nancy Gao. She and Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams) are sniffing out an illegal weapons ring on Mars that might lead to Inaros and his hellbent splinter cell.

Alex Kamal (Cas Anvar) hooks up with Draper on Mars after he makes a surprise visit to his estranged wife and son. He and the former Martian marine make a formidable pair and their team-up is invigorating.

Sadly, David Strathairn's Klaes Ashford met his demise at the hands of Marco Inaros at the end of Season 4, dying in the cold vacuum of space after he was tossed out an airlock.

Camina Drummer, played by actress Cara Gee.

Camina Drummer, played by actress Cara Gee, on Season 5 of The Expanse. (Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Badass Belter Camina Drummer is elevated to the position Ashford once held and she's now strapped with the added responsibility of being a respected leader in the OPA and head of Medina Station, formerly the OPAS Behemoth. Carefully guarding her grief over the loss of Ashford, Drummer forms her own fierce faction and sets out on a quest to kill Inaros and claim the skyrocketing bounty.  

Also promoted to series regulars this year are Jasai Chase Owens (Filip Inaros) and Nadine Nicole (Claire Mao), whose enhanced abilities might be demonstrated again this year.

It's difficult to fathom, but "The Expanse's" stellar cast expands the talent pool with impressive new regulars for Season 5. Namely Bull (José Zúñiga), Fred Johnson's f-bomb dropping Chief of Operations on Tycho Station. He's a seething wolverine of manic energy and bureaucratic efficiency who quickly becomes a valuable asset to Holden and the whole Roci gang.  

Another performer who will leave a marked impression is actress Olunike Adeliyi, who plays the menacing Belter extremist Karal. She’s an OPA operative and part of Marco Inaros’ faction who exudes a controlled ferocity in every scene she inhabits. 

"The theme really is about the sins of the past," Shankar told EW. "To one extent or another, that's every single story line … That's really what the season is about. 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."

Now that the Ring Gates are the new great hope, what are you most excited about for "The Expanse" Season 5? Have you got the fortitude to ingest all the insanity to come because it’s going to be a bumpy ride you won’t forget. Be audacious, strap in, and enjoy!

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Jeff Spry
Contributing Writer

Jeff Spry is an award-winning screenwriter and veteran freelance journalist covering TV, movies, video games, books, and comics. His work has appeared at SYFY Wire, Inverse, Collider, Bleeding Cool and elsewhere. Jeff lives in beautiful Bend, Oregon amid the ponderosa pines, classic muscle cars, a crypt of collector horror comics, and two loyal English Setters.