The most politically charged and daring science fiction series of the 21st Century is coming to an end. After two different networks and numerous twists and turns, The Expanse will start to wrap up the entire TV series.
Season 5 premieres on December 16, with weekly episodes through February 2. After that, we'll get a sixth and final season. It might seem like a clear-cut plan, but the creators of The Expanse are flying blind. Season 5 will conclude before the ninth and final novel, Leviathan Falls is published in October 2021. Are you getting Game of Thrones vibes yet?
What does that mean for The Expanse TV show? Will Season 5 have to cram in elements from four additional books, including one that hasn't even been released yet? What about Season 6 after that? Showrunner Naren Shankar and authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck tell Inverse that no such problem actually exists. Here's why they say The Expanse doesn't have anything close to a Game of Thrones problem.
“There is a graceful place to take a pause.”
Way back in 2017, when The Expanse Season 2 was still on the SyFy Channel, Abraham and Franck acknowledged that their involvement in translating their own novels into a sprawling, and super-faithful TV series was uncommon. "Nobody has as much involvement with a show that we have with The Expanse," they said.
At the time, they were also aware of the comparisons to Game of Thrones, because from 2015 until now, countless blurbs and reviews have breathlessly called The Expanse, "Game of Thrones in Space." Why? Well, the sprawling sci-fi power-struggle reminded some critics of the power-struggles in Westeros. Plus, The Expanse novels also adopt various point-of-views, a technique that George R.R. Martin didn't invent, but arguably re-popularized in genre literature.
At the time, comparing a new show to Game of Thrones was a compliment. Today, not so much. The final season of Game of Thrones obviously was released well before the final Song of Ice and Fire was even written, and for many, that was a problem. Expanse fans might be worried a similar fate could befall their show, simply because there isn't enough time to adapt all the books before the end. But Naren Shankar, Daniel Abraham, and Ty Franck say the situations aren't even remotely similar.
“The sixth season of the show is not going to include material from books 7, 8, and 9.”
"The sixth season of the show is not going to include material from books 7, 8, and 9," Abraham tells Inverse. "The sixth season of the show is based on the sixth book [Babylon Ashes] which has been out for three years. So, we don't have that issue. We're still way ahead in the books. If we do any televised material for books 7, 8, and 9, we'll never have any issues, because all the books will have been out for a while."
This doesn't mean that fans of the later books (which includes some massive time jumps) might not get hints of the events of books beyond what The Expanse is planning is translating into TV. When asked if there are any gestures toward future books, Shankar says, "Um...maybe. That might happen!"
The creative team also wants fans to know that although there's not a script cut-off for what they can and can't include from the books, it's also not a simple one-to-one relationship. In Season 1 of The Expanse, Chrisjen Avasarala appeared right away, despite not showing up in the novels until book 2. This kind of blending of novels is something Abraham says is important to understand.
"From the beginning, and I think this was Naren's decision, we've never been adapting a book and a book and a book," he explains. "We've always been adapting a story. And we are adapting a story to a place where there is a graceful place to take a pause, and a give a satisfying ending to the story we began in Season 1."
Shankar also says that the show has been weaving in backstories from stand-alone novellas for quite some time, adding to the idea that "there's more to it than just adapting the books. And we've been taking that approach for quite some time."
Either way, with The Expanse Season 5 drawing on the source material from the novel Nemesis Games, fans of both the books and the show can get ready for a lot of changes for the crew of the Rocinante and beyond. It's not quite the end yet, but when Season 6 starts to draw together the threads of Babylon's Ashes, the end, at least for the TV Expanse will be near.
"We're actually very grateful to Amazon to even get Season 6," Franck says. "It's actually going to be pretty cool."
The Expanse Season 5 hits Amazon Prime on December 16, 2020.