'The Expanse' Is Back for One Last Swashbuckling Ride

The final season (for now) is an emotional, exciting send-off for a great show.

the expanse season 6
Amazon Studios
Amazon Studios

The Expanse, the former Syfy and now Amazon Prime sci-fi series based on the ongoing book saga by James S. A. Corey (authors Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham writing under a joint pen name), set in a near-ish future where humanity has colonized the Moon, Mars, the Asteroid Belt, and has harnessed the power of an extraterrestrial force to explore far-flung worlds, was always something of an acquired taste. From its very first episode, which merged hard science fiction and dense political drama with the occasional vibes of hard-boiled detective fiction, you knew whether or not you were likely to stick around to see the rest, but for those of us who did, the rewards were seemingly endless. How do you neatly wrap up a story that gets bigger—more expansive, one might say—with every season (and based on a book series whose ninth installment came out just this year)? With six episodes of white-knuckle outer space warfare, is the answer. The Expanse Season 6 is an appropriate send-off to what is quietly one of the best TV series out there, and, even so, it still feels like the show is just getting started.

We pick up a little bit after Season 5 left off, with maniacal Belter Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) and his rogue Free Navy sling-shotting one asteroid after another towards Earth, leaving death and chaos wherever they crash down. To fight the threat, Chrisjen Avasarala (Shohreh Aghdashloo), Earth's Secretary-General of the United Nations, has to engineer an alliance between Earth, what's left of the Martian fleet, and the Belters who rejected Inaros' Free Navy, who are led by Camina Drummer (Cara Gee). Aboard the free ship Rocinante, Captain James Holden (Steven Strait), engineer Naomi Nagata (Dominique Tipper), mechanic Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), Martian bruiser Bobbie Draper (Frankie Adams), and the rescued Clarissa Mao (Nadine Nicole) must decide when and how they will help Earth fight back against the Free Navy, which is meanwhile jockeying for control of the wormhole network known as the Ring and all the worlds that lie within it. But the Ring is also in trouble, as the sinister entities responsible for blipping its ancient alien creators out of existence seem to be waking back up.

That's a lot to resolve in just six episodes, which is the total number of episodes Amazon Prime greenlit for the show's sixth season, and there are a few times, especially in the supersized hour-plus finale, when it all feels a little too cramped. Storylines are introduced and then completed within an hour or two, and some begin only to go nowhere at all: Each episode of this season starts with an intriguing interlude on the surface of the alien planet Laconia, as a young girl discovers the mysterious abilities of the local fauna, only for that narrative to end almost as soon as it begins in a massive cliffhanger that is likely a bid for at least one more season. Showrunner Naren Shankar has been adamant that Season 6 is the end only for now, and that he and the rest of the cast and crew would be more than happy to continue on.

Even so, the back half of this season is fantastic, with zero-gravity dogfights, lightning-fast chase sequences through space, and interpersonal intrigues and manipulations and rousing speechifying that make the events of prior seasons look like merely a commercial for the real thing. If more is what the people behind this show are lobbying for, and I believe them when they say they are, what better way than the exhilaration of a tightly plotted, all-systems-are-go final(?) season that imbues every episode with everything that made the show a hit? With the whole crew aboard the Roci once more, zipping through space and fighting off bad guys as they carry out impossible rescue missions, it feels like we're back with old friends ready to go somewhere new. It's up to the powers that be to make that happen, or not. Good hunting.

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Emma Stefansky is a staff entertainment writer at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @stefabsky.