The Expanse – Season 6 Episode 6

Jan 19, 2022 | Posted by in TV

“Babylon’s Ashes”

The Expanse comes to a final conclusion as desperate choices bring to an end the conflict with the Free Navy and also the series as a whole.

After seven years, six seasons, two networks, a cancellation and pickup, and thousands of new fans for an already successful novel series, The Expanse has come to an end. Unlike a certain other contemporary TV saga based on a popular series of genre books that was incomplete as of the adaptation’s commencement, it’s managed to maintain the high quality with which it began over the entire course of its run, with any points of detraction being far outweighed by the compelling narrative that has continued to, well, expand.

The Expanse

A final moment of peace

First off is the final instalment of weird happenings on Laconia, seeing Cara’s brother Xan returned to life by the strange dogs and their parent’s rejection of the zombie-like boy, which is a somewhat frustrating non-resolution to a plotline whose purpose was dubious at best. While looking towards the future is generally a good thing, when it was established ahead of time that this season would be the series’ last it seems a little extraneous to be setting up prospective plotlines now, especially when a truncated episode count left a number of other, more significant subplots excised. While the events demonstrates that the universe will carry on and that everything won’t just come to a grinding halt at the end of the current story arc, that they exists completely separate from the principal story has meant that nothing taking place on Laconia played any part in proceedings, and so now feels like it’s come to nothing.

After last week’s episode put everything in place for a grand finale, we now leap into the final confrontation where a coalition of the Rocinante and its dauntless crew, Drummer’s fleet of outlaw Belters, and the remaining Inner forces make a desperate play to wrestle control of the Ring Gate from Inaros and once again open up travel to and from the colonies. As I mentioned last week, an engagement of nothing but force of arms might be visually spectacular, but in terms of story isn’t especially interesting. This is why, for example, the climactic battle of Avengers: Endgame was comprised of a linked series of individual skirmishes each focusing on specific characters rather being merely portrayed as a gigantic free-for-all melee.

So while Inaros’ forces are distracted engaging with the main alliance, the future of humanity once again, and possibly for the final time, rests with the crew of the Rocinante. The journey is undertaken hiding in the enormous shadow of an ice hauler, and the use of such a vessel provides a certain degree of symmetry, since the saga kicked off with the destruction of similar behemoth the Canterbury and now another is being used to being it to a conclusion. En route to putting their daring plan into action, we get a final look at life aboard amidst the gearing up, psyching up, and readying themselves for the fight of their lives.

The Expanse

Grim determination

The Rocinante’s origin as a support gunboat of the ill-fated Donnager is brought up, and informs us that some Martians still resolutely refer to it as the Tachi and perceive it as stolen property that needs reclaimed. It reminds us that despite the period of massive upheaval humanity has undergone since the emergence of the protomolecule and the creation of the Ring Gate, for many the past is not at rest if there’s a single piece of perceived injustice yet to be addressed.

Clarissa hasn’t had quite as much presence or development as I would have liked, but her addition to the crew has certainly been a welcome one. A gesture from Naomi giving her a simple maintenance task might not seem like very much, but it goes a long way towards establishing her as being accepted, and shows that while Naomi might not yet be able to completely look past the things Clarissa has done, she’s certainly on the way towards being able to forgive her. It also helps that Clarissa’s attempts to atone for her past sins is exactly what Naomi attempted to do for Filip, so it would be somewhat hypocritical to not afford someone else the same considerations she expected others to grant her son. Unfortunately, Clarissa discovers she’s essentially dying due to her implants, and while the revelation doesn’t have any payoff, it does continue the series’ theme of people having to deal with the consequences of the choices they make.

The simple shot of the quintet sitting down for a last meal before the battle is an image straightforward in its strength. The group might have different origins, backgrounds, skills, and especially personalities, but in each other have found a makeshift family that life with few others could match.

Meanwhile on the Pella, Filip returns to bridge duties in a last-ditch effort to prove himself worthy of his father’s respect, while the man himself is practically salivating at the prospect of the coming fight. Although he states the ultimate confrontation to have been an inevitability, rather than lamenting the death and destruction to follow he is instead eager to prove the militaristic supremacy he believes he holds, and use it to cement his final victory regardless of the cost to those around him.

The Expanse

Boss level

Avasarala travels with the UNN fleet rather than waiting behind the lines in a position of safety. It speaks loudly of how far the career-minded politician we first met has come, now refusing to let others fight and die on her behalf while also accepting her part in how the current hostilities came about and not wishing to abdicate the responsibility for giving orders that might send people to their deaths. Hell, if she knew how to actually operate anything on a ship herself would probably be doing so. She might have spent quite some time as effectively the most powerful person on Earth, but it’s only recently that she has become a true leader after realising what it requires to actually be one.

Drummer gets her shot at Inaros, but the attack represents more than just a simple engagement. The empty bunks of her lost poly family remind both her and us of how much she has already lost, and underscores her resolve to make someone pay for it. Additionally, although Inaros’ rise to power has personally cost her so much it’s natural she’d want to take him down, the fact that numerous other Belter crews feel the same demonstrates the flaws of his authoritarian and militaristic rule even among those of whom he has declared himself both saviour and master. Unfortunately, Walker’s mercenary insistence of going after the contents of a frigate screws things up, along with Inaros’ glory-hunting not being above some duplicity to overcome his enemies where a couple of pieces of misdirection result in the flotilla being taken out. For a few moments you genuinely wonder if Drummer has been killed, since she is best placed to become an unexpected early casualty.

Although a part of the core cast, Drummer is an amalgam of various supporting novel characters so has no real plot immunity, while Alex’s death at the end of the last season set a precedent for major departures from the books’ established fates of central characters. Plus, it’s hardly unknown for TV shows to cull their heroes towards the end when the creatives are absolved of the responsibility of following up upon them. And finally, if there’s anyone you can picture going out in a blaze of glory it would be her. However, it turns out that she remains as indestructible as ever, and even with an enormous hole in her bridge and half her fleet destroyed she still refuses to stand down, intending to ride a critical rector like Slim Pickens at the end of Dr Strangelove and shove it down Inaros’ throat. She is, however, beaten to the punch by Walker having the same idea, although his kamikaze run is partially blocked by one of Inaros’ escort ships diving in the way like a presidential bodyguard taking a bullet. Nevertheless, the impact tears through the Pella with deadly consequences and lasting damage.

The Expanse

Ultimate resolve

As you’d expect from a space-based series the majority of the action has been ship to ship, but the ground assault on the Ring Station is just as ambitious. It’s a great tactical manoeuvre to hide the strike team’s pods within a tumbling avalanche of shipping containers drawing the fire of the railguns, and the very fact that these marines are aware that there’s a not unreasonable chance they’ll be blasted from the sky before they’ve even seen the enemy is a testament to their resolve, as well as the importance of their mission being successful.

The cascade of military grunts falling towards a planet that’s shooting back is not entirely unlike the dropship sequences of Starship Troopers or Quake II, the names on screen also providing a litany of references to iconic sci-fi titles such as Aliens, Blade Runner, Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek and Dune. The visual intensity is established by a vertigo-inducing continual shot of Amos falling through empty air as explosions blast nearby and bullets soar around him, and even when he hits the ground it’s only just started.

The Ring Station’s surface looks like a latter level from a sci-fi FPS, almost as though designed as a challenge for interlopers to overcome while admiring the implausibly deeply colourful lustre of the setting. The frenetic urgency is established by frantic comms messages of unseen allies being cut down, and while generally being informed of events without seeing them is a faux pas of storytelling, in this instance it better establishes the frantic and deadly nature of the combat, interspersed with uncertainty being punctuated by the siren blare of a red alert as the Ring Gate pulses with light each time a railgun fires skyward one of it deadly slugs of metallic lightning.

Ever since her season 2 introduction Bobbie has unequivocally been the series’ biggest badass, and at the final jump it manages to find a way of demonstrating this in the most extreme way possible, striding out into enemy crosshairs with guns blazing like a power-armoured angel of death, advancing unfazed far enough to send off a group of missiles to take out the reactor powering the railguns. It may well have been a heroic last stand, since even the nigh-impenetrable MCRN armour can only handle so much sustained fire, were it not for Amos ignoring her order to fall back and using himself as a human shield. It was intentionally left ambiguous over whether or not the pair hooked up off screen in the last episode, but regardless of what happened Amos would have done the same. Physical relationships are things he can take or leave without much in the way of emotion – like when he had a brief fling with security officer Chandra Wei in season 4 despite them ostensibly being on opposing sides of the pseudo-Wild West standoff – but respect and loyalty are things he values in people above anything else, and Bobbie has proven herself to him on multiple occasions to be someone worthy of both. Unfortunately, the railguns’ inoperability means they can’t be used to take Inaros out when he gets too close.

The Expanse

Red alert

Speaking of whom, back aboard the Pella Inaros tries to get some help from Duatre, only to be knocked back with the news Laconia is cutting itself off. If he realises the fundamental irony of being rejected by someone he thought an ally now that they no longer have any use for him, it goes unremarked upon. Additionally, his indifferent reaction to Rosenfeld’s death reminds Filip of his father’s inability to care for anyone but himself and his own ambitions, the bodies he clambers over on the way to attaining them merely minor obstacles. Inaros’ speechmaking has somewhat degraded from the charismatic oratory that allowed him to become a leader in the first place, and now sounds more akin to the desperate rhetoric of a cult leader trying to convince his followers to drink from the poisoned cups that will let them ascend to a higher plane of existence.

Knowing full well the madman’s wrath will soon fall upon them, the Rocinante’s crew are out of options, and make a gamble to awaken the Unknown Aggressors by flooding Ring Space with mass and explosions as Inaros enters it. It’s a desperate move, intentionally incurring the wrath of beings who have demonstrated how effortlessly they can tear entire starships from reality, but in this one moment when it’s literally the only thing that can prevent him from both coming for them and regaining control of the deadly armaments, there’s realistically no other choice.

Naomi can only scream in despair as the ship is swallowed by the swirling red lights and obliterated from the physical universe, knowing that her son is disappearing with it. It’s not until later we discover Filip ducked out before the engagement while his father was spewing his final motivations and escaped in the repair skiff his demotion taught him how to operate, his disgust at his father’s callous disregard for even those most fiercely loyal to him finally becoming too much to endure. It’s the first time he’s made a decision that was purely for himself and not a result of wanting to appease the whim of someone else, and to signify the new life begun from under his father’s shadow, he takes on Naomi’s surname as reference to someone whose legacy he would much rather now be associated with.

The Expanse

A new beginning

Although this is the end of the action there’s still a bit more story, around a negotiating table of the Solar System’s three societies trying to move forwards by splitting control of the Ring Gate and establishing a Transport Union to keep passage safe. The Belt, represented by Drummer and Sanjrani, are naturally sceptical of the promise of equal representation. Even though the series has repeatedly shown that Earth and Mars are typically far from united in culture and ideology, they still form one side of the us-and-them dichotomy that perceives the Belt as lesser citizens, and are reluctant to relinquish control. When you’ve been the ones on top for so long anything less than that feels like you’re being asked to make unreasonable compromises that jeopardise the integrity of everything you stand for, regardless of just how much subjugation of others has been required to maintain what you perceive as the natural order. When you’re accustomed to privilege equality feels like oppression, you might say.

Of course, it all comes down to Holden, someone trusted by all sides. His arc throughout the entire series has been defined by forever finding himself in the wrong place at the right time, and with a final historic moment about to be lived through it would be remiss for him to not be at the centre of it. It puts an appropriate end to the cycle for him to want nothing to do with it, and manoeuvring things to leave Drummer in charge is a final example of the out of the box thinking that has generally been how those aboard the Rocinante have survived time and again against overwhelming odds.

As the crew soar off for new adventures, Holden gives helpful rundown of loose ends, as although this is the series finale it isn’t the end of the book series, with there being a three-decade time skip before the next one picks up. So, if the groundwork pointedly laid down is eventually required, it will be straightforward enough for The Expanse to expand even further.

The Expanse

A happy ending


“Babylon’s Ashes” balances the unenviable task of acting as a conclusion to a two-season story arc and a full series finale, while also functioning as an excellent episode by itself. The increasing desperation ratchets up the tension with almost each passing minute, while the resolve of the heroes to see their mission through to the end no matter what sustains the portrayal of exactly what we love about them. The acknowledgement that a conflict isn’t over at the cessation of hostilities maintains the realism, as does the recognition that things ultimately need to change lest the mistakes of the past be repeated.

Overall, this final season of The Expanse has been pretty much everything we could have hoped for. The character work that has always been its focus has been as superlative as ever, while the complementary action sequences have escalated in intensity and elaborate structure. It would have been nice had it been a little longer, but the fact it managed to reach this point at all is something to be grateful for. The Laconia sequences seem a little extraneous; while they do well to expand the scope of the wider universe into which humanity is continuing to stride, their detachment from and ultimate superficiality to the primary plot leaves them seeming like tacked on afterthoughts. The series has come to a definite conclusion, but the seeds have been intentionally planted for a revival at some vague point in the future, and right now either possibility seems equally satisfying.

  • 9/10
    Babylon's Ashes - 9/10


Kneel Before…

  • the final confrontation’s various aspects keeping things exciting
  • the intensity of the assault on the Ring Station
  • Bobbie’s greatest badass moment
  • the plethora of nerdy references
  • Filip taking control of his own life
  • Holden outmanoeuvring politicians to leave Drummer running the Transport Union
  • the sense of final closure bringing the series to an end


Rise Against…

  • the Laconia subplot ending without resolution or purpose


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User Review
4.5/10 (1 vote)

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