We’re now mid-way through The Expanse Season 5. Just halfway in, this penultimate season is proving to be an exclamation point on Amazon Prime Video’s acquisition of the franchise. The tension that’s arisen in the wake of Marco Inaros’ asteroid attack on Earth is palpable, and the acting superb. There is one way, however, in which Season 5 is truly remarkable. So much so that it’s abundantly clear how the show is able to succeed where the Star Wars sequel trilogy failed miserably.
It’s a tried and true storytelling trope to separate the main protagonists into their own challenges. The goal, of course, is to bring them all back together with each character having grown through the process. There’s no better example of how this works, the right way, than with The Expanse Season 5. Contrarily, the Star Wars sequels serve as an illustration of how it doesn’t. Through just the first five episodes of the season, each member of the Rocinante crew has already faced something extraordinary. What’s even better is that the secondary characters have, as well. To a character (or actor) there hasn’t been a story arc or performance that hasn’t been exceptional.
How The Expanse Season 5 excels where Star Wars failed
As episode 5 ends, Naomi finds herself captive aboard Marco’s ship, barely able to warn Holden about the danger he faces on the Roci. He, of course, is off to hunt Marco Inaros to retrieve the protomolecule and avenge Fred Johnson. Amos, after facing his past demons in Baltimore, finds himself trapped in a maximum-security prison with “Peaches” (Clarissa), struggling to escape and survive. Alex, faced with the reality that he truly has lost his family, must deal with the notion of whether he truly wanted them back at all. The answer is seemingly no, as he has no hesitation in running off with Bobbie Draper on a mission. In just this Expanse Season 5, these characters have seen/will see more progression in their individual story arcs that Poe, Finn or Rey saw in the entire Star Wars sequel trilogy.
Poe started off as a hotshot flyboy and really didn’t progress further, if we’re being honest. Finn? Finn renounced First Order. That’s really it. That’s his story. As a main character he added little, and did little to make fans appreciate him, or even want to. Rey’s story arc completely mimicked Luke Skywalker’s, right down to the final, familial confrontation. There really wasn’t anything new there, either. Despite the trio being the Star Wars sequels’ main characters, the franchise did very little to make them interesting, or even likeable. Enter The Expanse Season 5.
Even secondary characters get their due in The Expanse
This season, as with those past, you can’t help but care about the characters. You feel the main characters’ pain and drama. And it doesn’t stop there. Perhaps one of the best subplots this season is the inner struggle facing Drummer. She’s lost Ashford, and now Fred Johnson. Her world is falling apart and leading to either an inevitable alliance, or destructive showdown, with Marco Inaros. Cara Gee has been nothing if not phenomenal in The Expanse Season 5. We never got that depth from even Rey, the main character, in Star Wars.
And let’s not forget – Naomi’s character arc is shaping up to be focal point of the rest of season. Her struggles, sadly, have barely begun despite how challenging they’ve already been. It’s not easy for shows or films to make the viewer really, truly feel for and care about its characters. That’s why The Expanse is one of the best things on television, and one of the best pieces of science fiction there is. Had Lucasfilm taken better care with its sequel characters, perhaps it could have been, too.
The Expanse Season 5 airs new episodes every Wednesday on Amazon Prime Video. Star Wars is available on Disney+.