The crew of the Rocinante are back, only this time they have gone their separate ways. In a risky move, season 5 of The Expanse has taken the crew on their own journeys where we learn more about their past, and see how they’ve grown since the show first started. Season 5 brought us closure and progress to various storylines that we have been tempted with since the show began, as well as treating us to the usual epic space battles and politics.

Since season 1, the crew have been hunting down what remains of the protomolecule in order to destroy it. The events of season 4 lead the crew to a planet where ancient structures built by the seemingly extinct beings that created the protomolecule have been discovered, revealing to humanity its true dangerous power. After neutralizing this threat, the Rocinante crew are taking a break, believing that all remnants of the protomolecule have now gone. That is until journalist Monica (Anna Hopkins) reveals to James Holden (Steven Strait) that she has received a tip on the possible existence of more protomolecule. She and Holden then go on a mission to investigate this, aided by Fred Johnson and newcomer Carlos “Bull” c de Baca, the Chief of Security on Tycho Station.

On top of this, tensions between Earth, Mars and the Belt have grown – especially with the discovery of the planets beyond the rings which each faction now fights for territory over. Season 4 ended with the assassination of Ashford at the hands of Marco Inarus (Keon Alexander), a Belter political extremist who wants to start a war between the Belt and the UN in order for Belter’s needs and problems to be taken seriously. The finale of season 4 also introduced Filip (Jasai Chase Owens), Marco and Naomi’s son whom Naomi (Dominique Tipper) apparently abandoned and is now been raised solely by his father.

James Holden is approached by Monica who has some information about the protomolecule.

Season 5 was definitely a slow burner and, to begin with, felt like it was going to be full of filler episodes. But tensions slowly grew as the series progressed and we were treated to some of the best character development we have seen since the show began. Naomi held the spotlight this season after discovering that her son is still alive. She’s now looking for him and wants to make amends in order to protect him from the manipulation of his father. This was Tipper’s most impressive portrayal of the character yet as we learn about her past mistakes that lead her to abandoning her own son. We finally get to see more of her skills and intelligence, which have become increasingly nullified since season 1. However, she’s now apart from the Rocinante crew and we see her fully utilize her abilities.

Marco has come as an absolute delight as he is possibly the best and most complex villain on The Expanse yet. This is because his reasoning for wanting war with the UN is actually kind of valid considering the abuse the Belt has suffered from both the UN and Mars, reducing the quality of living for Belters drastically. Marco wants their needs to be finally taken seriously and fulfilled, and he’s willing to undertake the most extreme measures to ensure this. Following him is his son Filip who came as a disappointment. This was mainly due to his lack of his own personality other than the brainwashed sideman that his father has turned him into. Despite this, there is certainly room for him to grow in later seasons, especially with hints that his loyalty towards his father may be starting to falter.

Speaking of child abandonment, Alex (Cas Anvar) has always been the least developed member of the crew with not much going for him other than his weird obsession with the Rocinante… as in the actual ship. On top of this, we’ve always known that he allowed his family back on Mars to believe he was dead, and now they know he’s alive he is suffering the consequences of that decision. Before now, Alex’s family were always weirdly pushed out of way and only brought up around once every season to remind the viewers that Alex is a terrible father. Now, Alex finally has some time on his hands, he has returned to Mars to attempt to repair the relationship with his son. Finally, we have been able to see Alex as more than the ‘pilot’ character who has a weird relationship with his ship.

Although she’s no longer in charge, Chrisjen is still a powerhouse when it comes to space politics.

Bobbie (Frankie Adams) is arguably the character who has developed the most since we first saw her back in season 2. She’s been brought up on Mars with one goal in mind: seeing the planet fully terraformed in her lifetime. Because of this, she has strived in her military career – following her utter devotion to her planet and her hatred for the UN, who are the reason it has taken so long to terraform Mars. Season 5 has been the final step for Bobbie to let go of Mars. After the war between the UN and Mars ended, many Martians, including Bobbie, are now struggling with employment outside of the military. In season 4 she was breaking the law to make ends meet, now she’s working for Chrisjen (Shohreh Aghdashloo) to investigate a possible weapons black market being run on Mars to sell weapons to the Belt. A character who started off as dislikeable and stubborn has really grown since she was introduced and we really saw this in season, which did major justice for her character. Chrisjen has taken Bobbie under her wing which is a major step for two people who were once natural enemies. We also see Chrisjen in a new light as she’s lost a significant amount of power in the aftermath of the election and now resides in a lower position. Despite this, she’s as determined as ever to make the best out of a bad situation and is still the ruthless Chrisjen we love.

Camina (Cara Gee) has also returned and has a much more prominent role now Ashford has passed and she has moved on from working with Fred Johnson. She’s been a great character in previous seasons so it was good to see her with her own storyline this time. Now with her own crew and making a living out of scavenging, Camina is approached by Marco with a proposition which could potentially save her crew from harm but also go against her beliefs in what’s best for the Belt. We also see Camina at her lowest point after the death of Ashford and recovering from that trauma.

As Bobbie finds her footing after the closure of her military career, she begins to uncover criminal wrongdoings which could cause a war.

Amos (Wes Chatham) has always been a tough character to like due to his rash decisions which are often motivated by violence. In this season, Amos returns to Earth after the death of the woman who raised him. We find out more about Amos’ past before he left as well as seeing a much softer side of him. This also gave viewers the opportunity to see more of Earth. In previous seasons, scenes on Earth are usually within UN buildings or filming just outside them to introduce Chrisjen’s scenes. We also had a brief look into life on Earth when Bobbie travels through the streets of New York to find the sea and encounters Earth’s massive unemployment and homeless problem. This time Amos spends most of the season on Earth, though there wasn’t much to see in terms of futuristic topics or technology developments. It’s now much clearer why The Expanse is set in space the majority of the time.

Despite being a slow builder, season 5 of The Expanse continued to excel in the show that never fails to deliver a brilliant season. With all its character development, we still saw the same exciting space battles and political drama which has made the show so great. Season 5 has not only closed a few doors on some ongoing storylines, it’s also neatly set up the premise for an exciting season 6.