The Expanse Review: “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes”

The Expanse leaves the airways and it also leaves a number of plot threads resolved, at least outside of the novels.*

Titles: “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes”

Cast and Crew

Directed by Anya Adams, Breck Eisner

Written by Mark Fergus, Naren Shankar, Ty Franck, Daniel Abraham et al.
Adapted from the novels by Ty Franck and Daniel Abraham (as James S.A. Corey)

Steven Strait as Jim Holden
Dominique Tipper as Naomi Nagata
Cas Anvar as Alex Kamal
Wes Chatham as Amos Burton
Frankie Adams as Roberta “Bobbie” Draper
Nadine Nicole as Clarissa “Peaches” Mao
Keon Alexander as Marco Inaros
Jasai Chase Owens as Filip Inaros
Shohreh Aghdashloo as Chrisjen Avasarala
Cara Gee as Camina Drummer
Kathleen Robertson as Rosenfeld Guoliang
Anna Hopkins as Monica Stuart
Joanne Vannicola as Nico Sanjrani
Samer Salem as Josep
Ted Dykstra as Gareth
Beau Dixon as Martian Prime Minister
Stuart Hughes as Liang Walker
Gabriel Darku as Yoan
Vanessa Smythe as Michio
Conrad Coates as Admiral Sidiqi
Krista Bridges as Admiral Kirino
Craig Arnold as Lt. Hannu
Daniel Jun as Gary
Dianne Aguilar as Dot
Emma Ho as Cara
Ian Ho as Xan
Felipe Aukai as Martian Diplomat
Todd Thomas Dark as UN Diplomat
Hannah Gallant as MCRN Fleet Liaison
Jordan Dawson as UNN Lieutenant
Andre Colquhoun as Ceres Medic


Several characters converge on Ceres, make plans, and forge alliances. On Laconia, meanwhile, Cara brings her dead brother to the “dogs,” which restore him to life in some form.

The Rocinante takes on difficult mission to assist in the battle with Inaros.

High Point

The finale features the battle that has been coming, and it has been staged effectively, with several characters completing important character arcs.

Holden recognizes the reality of the situation. Demagogues are inevitably self-serving, duplicitous, and evil (in effect if not always intent), but the people who support them often have legitimate grievances which have been ignored.

Low Point

The unfinished nature of the series loomed large as a low point, long before we arrived at the finale. They manage to resolve some matters and set up future plots, but the situations on Laconia and with the proto-molecule continue to hang over future earth.

The Scores:

Originality: 3/6

Effects: 5/6 The series manages an incredible range of effects, and I have always lauded them for that. I suspect they were pressed a bit for the finale; a few of the battle scenes incorporated some problematic CGI.

Acting: 5/6

Emotional Response: 6/6

Story: 5/6 The story holds together, and “Why We Fight” gave us some interesting character moments. The finale, however, was rushed and confusing at times and, out of necessity, left significant plot threads dangling.

Production: 6/6

Overall: 5/6 The Expanse has set the new standard for SF series set in space.

In total, “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes” receive 35/42


*Of which I have read two.

Curious language note: For a show with its own Belter language, it sure manages a lot of “F” words in the final season. Before they reached (and passed) a dozen, my wife and I were joking about the poor person who might be playing some sort of drinking game with that word in the finale. I suspect he or she would have missed the final act entirely.

9 replies on “The Expanse Review: “Why We Fight” and “Babylon’s Ashes””

  1. With so little time given for this last season, I’m confused on why they spent any time on Laconia. I have to imagine that the season was written as not the last or it was cut short (previous seasons were 10 episodes long).

    Folks that haven’t read the books had to be confused as all get out by that plotline. Having just finished the book series, I knew their significance, but that’s only for books 7-9 (and this season wrapped book 6).

    Fingers crossed we can get a trilogy of movies or something like that in a few years to cover the final voyage of the Rosinante crew. (Heck, the ring gate in the end credits kind of alludes to more story. Watch it carefully.)

    That being said, it was very well done and really packed a punch. I binged the whole season in one day, so it was something to behold. Few Sci-Fi TV series have managed to be this consistently good for their entire runs.

    I’m kind of hoping Amazon “steals” the production team for their upcoming Mass Effect series. Ty and Daniel have both said they are fans of the games. Indeed there’s a lot of crossover between the two, thematically. Paragon Shepherd is, effectively, James Holden.

    Bonus: Freeze frame Naomi’s screen that lists all the marines before their drop. The names are chock full of Easter Eggs from other Sci-Fi franchises.

    • Bonus: Freeze frame Naomi’s screen that lists all the marines before their drop. The names are chock full of Easter Eggs from other Sci-Fi franchises.

      Missed that completely. I’m going to have to go back and take a look.

      • I caught “Hudson” and “Hicks” so guessed there would be a lot of others (and got a few), but need to go back and check properly, so thanks for the reminder! I expect other than Burton and Draper all the others will be a reference of some kind.

        And yes, it was “Game Over” for Hudson. :)

    • I thought they did very well with the ending, but agree it could have done with an extra 20-30min or so. Not quite the same as the book, but a much better way to wrap up if you don’t get to tackle the final three books in some form or other.

      Amazon did give them an early heads up and an opportunity to look at other options, so hopefully the decision to include the Laconia arc, subtle hints from some of the cast/crew, and especially the tweaked the credits at the end, are a not-so-subtle way of saying that negotiations are underway and going well, but we just can’t announce anything official yet.

      I’d absolutely take a trilogy of movies over nothing, but I’d definitely prefer it to be via a full series pickup commitment, even if it means a smaller budget. There’s an *awful* lot of material in the books, and likely requiring a fair bit of exposition as well, so trying to cram it into a trilogy of movies could be challenging without hugely simplifying the plot and/or have it too fast paced.

  2. I got the distinct impression that they had intended to spend a bit more time on the aftermath of the final battle. It also felt like they had intended to split the final battle across two episodes. Say an extra 20 minutes or so of screen time would have taken the finale up to a double length episode would have allowed for a decent cliffhanger point.

    The Laconia stuff was likely included “just in case”. With it there, it won’t seem like an ass-pull if they do get to continue the story in some form. And they might have put it in as a hail mary to drum up support for a continuation, spinoff, movie series, or whatever.

    • Yeah, there’s a point in the finale that feels like an episode end, and it hits at right about the 42 minute mark. So I think that might have been an intention.

  3. It was a great episode.

    …but it felt like about an eighth of what I would have expect to have been wrapped up in a season finale, much less a series finale, much, much less than a series that has been this good.

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