[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers through the Season 6 finale of The Expanse, “Babylon’s Ashes.”]
Years on, it still feels like a miracle that The Expanse managed to live long enough to end on its own terms. The cult hit sci-fi show, which enjoyed critical acclaim (if not exactly high ratings) during its first three years on Syfy before being unceremoniously canceled, was the beneficiary of a staggering, ambitious fan campaign that was just as notable for its scope (fans sent a model of the show’s hero ship, the Rocinante, into space!) as its success.
Now we’re here, three Amazon-funded seasons later, with the finale of a shortened sixth and final season of the show that had a lot to wrap up in just six short episodes. And short they were, the show rushing to close as many loose ends in the plot as it could, while curiously opening up new ones from the James S.A. Corey-penned source material, threads they couldn’t hope to tie up in time.
But even inside that shortened runtime, and with the commensurate flattening of character and momentum that entails, The Expanse ends the only way it could have: a hail Mary play for hope and unity, amidst the dark forces of hatred and division.
By the end of Season 5, The Expanse had a lot of ground to cover for its remaining hours. Most immediately, of course, was the war with Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander), the Free Navy Belter who kickstarted an all-out war with the Inners by chucking a huge asteroid at Earth; in the short time between seasons, he’s thrown even more rocks at the planet, pummeling the biosphere and essentially fast-tracking a total ecological collapse.
When we’re reintroduced to Shohreh Aghdashloo’s Secretary-General Avasarala, all the piss-and-vinegar bio we associate with her vanishes as she looks over the desolate wasteland where a thriving agricultural center used to be. She’s in mourning, not just for a slowly-dying Earth, but for the woman she used to be — the kind of person who likely provoked such animus against Earth from the Belt in the first place.
Chrisjen isn’t the kind of person who would hang a Belter up by hooks to torture them in Earth’s gravity anymore; she’s grown wiser as a leader, more diplomatic. This season saw her struggle to reconcile those two halves of her personality.