The following contains spoilers for the series finale of The Expanse, S6E6, “Bablyon’s Ashes” (written by Daniel Abraham & Ty Franck and directed by Breck Eisner) but no book spoilers
As of this writing, we don’t know if The Expanse might find a new home and continue on or if S6E6 is the end of the show forever. Of course there is a wealth of material in the books that could be adapted. I know that even if I haven’t read them. And of course I could go read them. Maybe I will. But for the moment I think I want to take “Babylon’s Ashes” as the end, and these six seasons of TV as the whole story, pretending as it were that there is no more of The Expanse than what a TV viewer like me has seen. I hope this may be of interest to at least a few souls out there.
Let’s start at the end, and I don’t mean the last shot we see with people in it, but after that, as the credits roll over the Ring. We have gotten used to this by now, but right at the end on S6E6 spots begin to flash red and there is an uptick in the tension of the music. It crescendos and we cut to black (with some more credits).
The protomolecule is the biggest hanging question at the end of Season 6—what’s happening on Laconia (what did they build, is that kid a zombie, etc.), but further what happened to Inaros and all of the other ships that disappeared is a mystery that hangs over the finale as it closes.
When Naomi suggests waking up the Ring entities on purpose to defeat Marco, Holden worries they might stay awake. Is this what we’re seeing at the very end of this title sequence?
There is a pleasure in not knowing, as here the imagination can take flight. Fill in the possibilities of what might happen yourself, with nothing to shut them down. In a meaningful way I always wanted the protomolecule to remain such a mystery, to hang out there beyond the limits of human comprehension as a possible boon and a potential threat.
Perhaps the story here is about how humanity gets so caught up in its own bickering unto death that it fails to grapple with the larger cosmological stakes. You might take that as an analogy for global warming, or something along those lines.
As Avasarala says, too little too late is the sad story of our species.
Or perhaps it is something else, something more benevolent or terrifyingly neutral. Maybe whatever these entities are doing is for its own sake and they just don’t care about us.
It’s fun to think about.
The series finale of The Expanse also of course wraps the Inaros storyline, and sees the creation of a Transport Union under independent authority at the end of the day. After much bickering about the issue, they settle on putting James Holden in charge of it, and honestly Avasarala’s argument that he has acquitted himself with honor with regard to all involved parties, showing himself to be above petty fractiousness, has been pretty well shown over the course of The Expanse.
I have had my issues with Holden precisely because he always wants to keep his conscience clean even when concrete reality calls for a harder decision, but I have to admit that I think he was a good choice for this position for the very same reasons. Yet, after insisting that Drummer be his Vice President as a condition of the agreement, he resigns so that she can lead the Transport Union.
James says the fact that he’s an outsider is a problem as he abnegates his position, but I’m not sure this is correct, and as much as I love Drummer I cannot express confidence that Holden made the right call. It seems to me rather that he shows himself once again to be afraid of taking on real responsibility, which is always going to include the negatives that can come with difficult but necessary choices.
Yet, at the same time, insofar as I have always felt solidarity with the Belt when it comes to the politics of The Expanse, I can’t help but celebrate seeing its power established through this move. Indirectly, this has given the Belt a government where it didn’t have one, and a meaningful place at the proverbial table as opposed to a merely nominal one.
The series finale of The Expanse ends with a monologue from Naomi, which is intercut with scenes of Filip leaving the Pella before it began through the Ring and disappeared. Her remarks are thus general and specific, as there is no indication in S6E6 that Naomi has learned anything of her son’s survival as of yet, and she is instead talking to James about how he can’t know whether he’s done the right thing resigning so that Drummer can lead the Transport Union.
You can’t know. You just have to try anyway, and the important thing is not whether you succeed but that you tried. It’s a nice message, particularly with all of the uncertainty that “Babylon’s Ashes” leaves us with.
We have to learn to be OK with not knowing. We cross paths with countless others and can only hope that we’ve affected them positively, or trust that by and large we have insofar as we’ve tried to. And their stories expand far beyond the scope of what we’ll ever be able to know.
All stories do. Of course there’s more that will go unseen, unheard, and unknown.
But let’s just be here for a minute.