The Expanse Showrunner Naren Shankar Discusses Season 5 Finale's Surprises and Teases What's to Come In Season 6

The Expanse concludes its fifth and penultimate season today by releasing the finale episode "Nemesis Games" on Amazon Prime. The episode sees the Rocinante crew, spread across the solar system due to circumstances and various threats, coming together once again to save one of their own and to consider what's next. On top of all of that, they also had to say goodbye to a crewmember for good. Between seeing characters off and learning about new threats, there's plenty in this episode for The Expanse fans to wrap their heads around, and a lot more to come as the series heads into season six. caught up with The Expanse's showrunner, Naren Shankar, to help with all of that by discussing the finale's twists and surprises and what fans should expect to see next season. Keep reading to see what he had to say.

The Expanse Season 5
(Photo: Amazon)

Can you tell me a bit about the conversation you had about how to handle Alex's exit on screen?

Naren Shankar: We started talking about it very early in season five, actually, because as we were developing the story, what we realized is that we're telling a story about war and people who do very violent things and a group of people that we care about struggling to reconnect with each other and help each other and find each other in the midst of this tremendous cataclysm all around them. And it started to dawn on us that we were telling a story about all of those things with no consequences. And it felt like we were running into that same old issue in science-fiction -- not only, but often -- this idea that certain characters have 'plot armor,' that danger to them isn't real, that consequences don't occur, that they don't really experience loss. And so we started talking about losing a major character on the show.

And so they are tough decisions to make, but what it does is, at the end of the day it's a creative choice to really give context to what the characters are going through. And the loss of this character is so important, with the show at five seasons, in this way, saving the life of somebody else is something that hangs over the show going forward. And this is something that, dealing with that loss, dealing with how to continue and fight through it, that's part and parcel where you find our people in season six. So it's a tough thing to do. It's always a tough thing to do, but there's an honesty to it.

In a way, that kind of builds on that other big death this season with Fred Johnson too, right?

Yeah. And by the way, you've identified the other one, which is, those are changes from the novel. In the novel, Fred does not die in that raid on Tycho. And actually, Alex's death is how Fred dies, a book later. But again, we felt like a great opportunity to really make a really strong and poignant point about the kind of story that we're telling.

What can tell me about how the new character math aboard the Rocinante -- minus Alex, but adding Clarissa and Bobbie -- changes the character dynamics in the final season?

One of the things that [The Expanse creators] Ty [Franck] and Daniel [Abraham] always talked about, that was part of it. If you think about how the people onboard the Roci have changed sort of season by season by season, that makes it feel feels like a living ship. There's certain people who are always there, but this season, really, it's just Holden. I mean, we know Monica, you've met Bull in season five, but that's just Holden on his ship. And that's actually what we were trying to underscore at the beginning of season five in that moment when Holden's alone on the ship and nobody else is there. Science fiction, it tends to do this a lot. I started on Star Trek: The Next Generation, it was always the Enterprise, the same people were always there, and that never changed. I mean, that's a different era of television and a different kind of storytelling, but there's something invigorating when you can bring new people on board the ship, explore new relations and new combinations and new dynamics. It makes it feel like a real place.

I was honestly a little surprised to see that final scene dig into the Martian defection and other stuff that factors into the later books in the series. How much of that is going to factor into the final season of the show?

It isn't disconnected from the narrative of season five. It's fundamentally intertwined with it. And in reality, the end of episode 10 is the epilogue to the fifth novel. That is the scene. Sauveterre gets evaporated. We introduce him a little bit differently in the show than the character is introduced in the book, but it has to do with plenty of plot threads that would have not had an explanation. Like how did Marco get those ships? How did he pay for them? Why was he stealing the protomolecule? And that's the answer. Now those things have ramifications.

What do you think The Expanse has to say or reflect about our reality at this moment in time?

Wow, that's a big question. We seem to sadly find ourselves reflecting events of the present day, and it's not by design so much, as Ty and Daniel would often say, but just by the fact that human beings keep doing the same stupid sh*t that they do throughout history. So I think maybe the concept that does speak most closely to the present day is the problem of factionalism and tribalism. That's been really, I think, one of the significant themes of the show from the very beginning is this issue that if we are constantly at war with one another over identity, over philosophy, over all of the kind of petty, small things, as opposed to just reasoned conversations about them, is that being able to solve the problems will elude us. Because there are certain things that simply take collective action and may require you to pledge your best efforts to a collective good. And if you're constantly saying, "That person's evil or that person's the enemy or they're not like us," you can't attack those things. And so one thing that immediately comes to mind is the climate crisis. It's like, that is a big deal. People have to get their sh*t together to deal with it rationally. And yet it gets embroiled in identity and politics and tribalism and just while away time and things get worse.

Now that you're approaching the end of the series, have you had a chance to sit back and consider where The Expanse sits among the history of great sci-fi shows? The Star Treks and the Battlestar Galacticas, etc.?

That's honestly not for me to say. Definitely, it seems that people have us in that conversation quite a bit, which is incredibly flattering. I think Battlestar Galactica is an amazing show, is a masterpiece, I think, in so many ways. And if people are talking about us in that kind of company, that's great to hear. I don't know if I'll be able to appreciate it while we're still in it, maybe a little bit later when you can take a look back on things, but I think it's been great to see the response to the show. Not just the fandom, but people who understand really the big story that we're telling. It's unique. I don't think there has been a science fiction show like this, certainly not since Galactica, but I think maybe not ever. But there's more to come.



The fifth season of The Expanse is streaming now on Amazon Prime.