DANGER! DANGER! DANGER! That alert is for the people of Earth, considering that the last shot we saw on season 4 of The Expanse was of Belter villain Marco Inaros (Keon Alexander) sending cloaked asteroids hurling toward our fair planet.

The impending arrival of those asteroids in season 5 of the show — which premieres Dec. 16 on Amazon Prime Video — is especially bad timing given that one of our favorite Earthlings, burly Rocinante mechanic Amos Burton (Wes Chatham), just happens to be on his way to Earth himself. And judging by this exclusive first-look season 5 photo we have of a blood-splattered Amos (above), things are not looking too hunky-dory for the bearded wonder in his hometown of Baltimore.

What awaits Amos down on the surface? What will happen when Naomi (Dominique Tipper) finds out her long-lost son Filip (Jasai Chase Owens) is an active part of daddy Marcos' team? And why should we be keeping our eyes on Mars for clues as to what's to come? We chatted with Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar to get the scoop on season 5.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So is season 5 just going to be book 5, Nemesis Games, or are we going to see some book 6 in there, or some new bridge material like you did last season? What are we looking at?

NAREN SHANKAR: You know how it's worked over the years. It's like certain story lines get pulled forward, other stuff gets pushed back sometimes. Character elements get combined into other stuff. There's definitely some elements of book 6 in this season, I would say, but it's largely drawn from book 5.

Let's start big picture, and then we'll drill down on a few things. If I just walked in and said, "What's the big crux of season 5? What's the big story you're telling here?" What would you say to that?

I'll give you the theme, because that's probably the easiest way to look at it. The theme really is about the sins of the past. To one extent or another, that's every single story line, whether it is Naomi personally confronting the fact that she had a son with this very charismatic, and now quite violent, revolutionary-type leader. Whether it's Amos connecting to his past, or going back to Earth for reasons that we're not quite sure of. Whether it's Holden's past with unleashing the protomolecule. Whether it is the past geopolitical history of the Belt, and its relationship with the inner planets, which we see through Avasarala.

That's really what the season is about. It is connecting all of the things that we have done in our lives to the moment of the present that we are in. It's like everything comes to a head all at the same time.

We ended season 4 with Marco letting these asteroids off towards Earth. What do you want to say about that impending arrival?

Well, it's coming. It's coated in stealth, so it's very hard to see, and there's a whole bunch of them. From the end of season 4, the last image that we left with was Marco looking at the plotted trajectory of all of these asteroids. The last image that you see is a whole lot of them that are lined up to hit Earth in its orbit. So, they're coming.

The Expanse
Credit: Amazon Prime Video

Let's segue from that to Naomi. What's Naomi's mission here? We see a little bit in the trailer with Marco, and her son. What is she going to look to do here in season 5?

Well, I think at the end of season 4, the message she sent to Fred Johnson was, "I need to get in contact with my son. I'm calling in that favor that we set up way back in season 1. I'm calling in that favor. I really need to find my son, because I'm afraid that his father is going to get him killed."

It's that she understands, or she's seeing that Marco is on the rise, and she knows the kind of person that he is. After years of feeling like, "I can't reconnect. I abandoned him. I left my kid," she's determined to reach out to him, and try to save him from somebody that she thinks is really a terrible person.

What is awaiting her when she gets in contact with her son and sees who he has become?

Well, I think maybe the way to answer that is, the reunion that she is hoping for is probably not the one that she's going to get.

I mean, we saw what happened with that airlock at the end of last season.

He doesn't bake her a cake.

What's Holden's take going to be on Naomi and the spot she's in, and this mission that she's on?

The two of them are together. The question marks of, "An Earther and a Belter, can we be together?" They have chosen each other. They've chosen to be on the Roci. They've gone through a tremendous amount. That's true for the whole family. That's true for Amos. It's true for Alex, the group. It's like the most warmest and connected beginning for them that we've ever seen. I think that that's an interesting outgrowth of the fact that we really took our time building up that family unit from season 1 on.

After the events of season 4, after everything they went through on Ilus, it's like they are a bonded group that… It's just their chosen family. It has that feel to it. There's a connectedness and warmth to the relationships of all of our four main people on the Roci, and that's reflected in Holden and Naomi.

It's part of the fun of getting into deep runs of shows if you do them properly, is that you really do develop the relationships. If you think about where these guys started in season 1 to where they start in season 5, it's a pretty interesting change. And it feels believable, because you're taking the time to actually set it up. We're starting Holden and Naomi from, I think, a very warm and supportive place at the beginning of season 5.

I want to ask you what's happening on Mars, and if there's anything there that might be something that might connect later to, say, book number 7 and what we may be seeing down the line a bit on The Expanse? Obviously, there's some long-term stuff happening on Mars that you may be planting some seeds for.

Yes! Absolutely. See, this is spoken like a book reader. There absolutely is, and we actually teed it up at the end of last season, as Bobbi got involved in the black-market arms trade. There are little pieces of it that are popping through the surface even then.

Part of what was going on at the very end of season 4 was they were selling stealth composites to Belters. Those are the stealth composites that Marco uses to coat the asteroids. And, if you look really carefully at the end of season 4, it's Filip who's one of the Belters that is blowing up things on Mars.

Bobbi doesn't know who that is, but that's Filip who helps blow up that salvage yard at the end of season 4. But, absolutely the tip of that conspiracy that we started at the end of last season plays an incredibly important role in season 5.

As you talk about the Belters, I gather that we are going to be seeing more Belter factions. What it was like to think of all these different subgroups that we're going to see, and the different motivations and things they might have? I imagine that was pretty fun to put together.

It really was. Again, I think one of the things that we've really tried hard to do to really dimensionalize the conflict. It's like, you're seeing every side of it. We've driven down into Earth. We've driven down into Mars. We've driven down into Belt. We've driven down into the independent faction of Holden and the Roci gang.

In terms of the Belt specifically, at the end of season 4, Drummer walked away from the OPA. She walked away from politics and Fred Johnson, and didn't take Ashford up on his offer of being his XO. She struck out on her own, trying to create a life for herself in this very tumultuous world. Well, politics, and war, and strife, they have a way of finding you. It's hard to avoid them. What we're going to find from her in season five, her story line speaks to that very directly.

One of my favorite stories in all the books is Amos going to Baltimore. I'm really excited to see that. What can you say about his time back on Earth?

I think you're going to love it. It's one of the things that I have been looking forward to doing for years. We talked a lot about it because The Churn is a fantastic novella. What we've done over the course of the series is, we have found a way to express these novellas into our narrative in a way that they're not really done in the novels proper.

You're going to get that. I think people who have read that novella, especially, but I think fans in general, even people who've never seen the show, they're just going to love this. It really is one of my favorite story lines we did this season.

What can you just say about what he's facing there, or why he's going there?

Well, without giving too much away, there have been times when Amos has had a chance to go back to Earth, even at the beginning of season 4, when the Roci was in orbit around Earth. Amos didn't go back down there.

Reaching back into season 3, when that reporter Monica Stuart was interviewing him. She was talking about, "Isn't it funny that you got the name of a mob boss?" He said, "Oh, it's a common name in Baltimore." And, "Oh, yeah, how'd you get out there? You ended up in the lottery really fast." There's a lot of mystery attached to Amos' backstory around Baltimore. Without telling specifically why he heads back, you're going to get a lot of answers to it. Things are going to feel really, really satisfying because it illuminates a side of him that nobody else on the Roci gets to see. Nobody else really knows, but the audience is going to get to go with Amos to experience it.

Speaking of Amos on Earth, what can you say about the possibility of seeing Clarissa Mao again in season 5?

I don't want to spoil anything. [Laughs] She's down there, I suppose.

I think I know where she is too.

We did see at the beginning of season 4 that she's in prison. The story lines in particular this season have such depth to them, and it feels like you're just getting really into these characters' skin in a way that we haven't done to this extent before. So we're really excited for people to see it.

Related content:

The Expanse
  • TV Show
  • 4