The Expanse showrunner says door is open for more after season 6
Fans of The Expanse were on the receiving end of both good and bad news in November when it was announced that the science fiction drama series (which is currently in the midst of streaming season 5) had been renewed for a sixth season on Amazon Prime Video. That was the good news. The bad news was the fact that season 6 was going to be the show's last. Vernon Sanders, co-head of television at Amazon Studios, said that season 6 would offer fans "the satisfying conclusion to the series that they deserve." Ah, but is it really the end?
The Expanse, which is based on a book series of the same name by James S.A. Corey (a pen name for authors Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck) has already had a second life after it was canceled by the Syfy channel at the conclusion of season 3. Alcon Television Group, the studio that produces the show, then sold the show to Amazon, who picked up the series for seasons 4 and 5 and then renewed it for what they are billing as a final season 6. But how final is it?
Cast member Dominique Tipper, who plays Belter Naomi Nagata on the show slyly hinted at the possibility of a longer show life on another outlet when she joined castmates Steven Strait and Wes Chatham on EW Live. "Look, this is the end of the TV show on Amazon," said Tipper. "So, we'll just have to see what happens."
EW also spoke with showrunner Naren Shankar, and asked the executive producer whether there could be more life for The Expanse in the form of another channel or streaming outlet, much in the same way the show was rescued by Amazon after Syfy moved on from the project. "You know, honestly, that would be more of a question for our studio, for Alcon, says Shankar. "They control the property, but what I will say is that there's definitely more to tell and I'm sure Ty and Daniel would say exactly the same thing. But yeah, that's probably about as much as I can say at this point."
There is indeed more story to tell, but assuming season 6 ends with the events of book 6, that would provide a natural stopping point should the Alcon not find another taker, even though there would be three more books, including a ninth and final entry due in 2021, ready to adapt. [WARNING: BOOK SPOILER TO FOLLOW. Do not read on if you do not want to know about a big event that happens after book 6 (Babylon's Ashes) in the series.]
Book 7 in the series, Persepolis Rising, takes place after a 30-year time jump from the end of book 6. Obviously, that could provide logistical issues with the current cast. If The Expanse was to faithfully cover the material in books 7 through 9, the actors would need to be "aged up" via either makeup or CGI. Or, the series could take a page from The Crown — which has twice now recast its main characters as the characters get older — and find all new actors to play the Rocinante crew members and others.
For that reason, Amazon's decision to end its participation with the show after season 6 makes some sense in that there is a natural ending point there. That's assuming, however, that is where the creative team decides to end it. We asked Shankar if was safe to assume that season 6 will finish at the same point as book 6. "Look, there's a natural ending at the end of book 6, that both closes this chapter of the show and the big story, but it also leaves the door open for more to come later," answers Shankar. "But yeah, if you know the books, packing the material from books 7, 8, 9 into a season 6 would be like, it'd be 50 episodes long."
While filming on season 6 will not begin until 2021, does Shankar already know exactly what the end of that season, and very possibly the series, will be? "At the end of every season, Ty and Daniel and I will sit down, and we'll start talking about what the plan is going forward," says the showrunner. "And over the years, this show has had so many near-death experiences along the way. It feels like every season. But we've talked about many different versions of how to tell the story. We would be like, 'Well, what if we only go four seasons? What if we get to six seasons?' So we've crafted different versions of this."
It sounds like one of those versions is what fans will see when season 6 wraps up. "One of the versions that we talked about for a number of years was the six-season arc of it," Shankar says. "Would we be able to get to the end if we only got six seasons? Would we be able to do something satisfying at the end? And we all felt that that was absolutely possible. And so I think we're in that mode, that framework. So the answer is basically, yeah, we have talked about that last ending scene and we talked about it for quite some time. And I think what we've got on paper at this point definitely is that thing that we talked about many years ago."
The only question that remains is whether that ending will be to the season, or to the series as a whole.