The Expanse season 6 is confirmed to be the Rocinante‘s farewell run, but why is this acclaimed sci-fi series being wrapped up now? The Expanse launched on the Syfy channel in 2015 and immediately found itself topping critics’ end of year lists. Based on the series of novels by James S.A. Corey (otherwise known as Daniel Abraham and Ty Franck), The Expanse delivered grounded, intelligent science-fiction, with high production values and impressive visuals underpinning the political and social themes and multi-layered characters. After 3 seasons on Syfy, The Expanse was cancelled, but Amazon Prime swooped in to save the day, rescuing the much-loved series from an abrupt conclusion.
Mercifully, The Expanse season 5 was able to finish filming prior to lockdown measures coming into force, and the adventures of the Rocinante will resume later this year. The Expanse fans are eagerly anticipating the emergence of Marco Inaros as a major threat, the split of the main crew, and other exciting elements of Nemesis Games – the book that provides the basis for The Expanse season 5. In a bittersweet announcement, however, Amazon recently announced that The Expanse had been commissioned for a further, final season to conclude the show. This is disappointing news, with The Expanse still attracting rave reviews, so why is the story ending with season 6?
Amazon hasn’t provided an official reason for jettisoning The Expanse, but considering there are 9 books and each season adapts roughly one written installment, season 6 can’t be considered a “natural” ending for the show. As with anything in the TV industry, money is likely a factor. The Expanse‘s per-episode budget has never been made public – one producer confirmed on Reddit that the figures were high, but not Game of Thrones levels, as some suspected. Alas, those visual effects and futuristic sets don’t come cheap, and The Expanse‘s Toronto stage is around 80,000 square feet. Counterbalance this with The Expanse‘s popularity, and the prospects of running into double-figure seasons begin to look slim.
Like other streaming services, Amazon doesn’t release viewership figures in the same way network TV ratings are measured, but estimates suggest The Expanse season 4 performed well for the platform. Unfortunately, the switch from Syfy to Amazon wasn’t enough to turn The Expanse into a mainstream juggernaut befitting of its IMDB score. In the modern era, only the most popular shows survive long enough to reach a seventh season and, put simply, The Expanse clearly didn’t attract the kind of numbers that Amazon would’ve wanted to keep the show running. On the bright side, The Expanse evidently performed well enough to warrant a proper ending with season 6, rather than the immediate smiting Syfy attempted following season 3.
Away from business, other factors might’ve played a part in The Expanse‘s Amazon cancellation. As per the source material, The Expanse season 7 would’ve comprised a 30-year time jump, posing a huge narrative hurdle for writers to overcome. In past interviews, The Expanse‘s producers revealed they were considering ways of handling this timeline leap, but ending with season 6 and avoiding the problem altogether arguably makes more sense. The main cast can’t spend entire seasons in old-person makeup or being digitally aged through CGI, but the time jump is vital to the overarching story, and can’t be ignored completely without deviating wildly from the books. Wrapping things up with season 6 allows The Expanse to sidestep these potential pitfalls.
With Amazon forcing The Expanse to end ahead of the books, it’s very likely the two mediums will conclude in different ways. This might disappoint some viewers, as The Expanse TV series has always broadly followed the path of its source material, but must now find a way to resolve each lingering plot thread several chapters early. With that said, The Expanse was always unlikely to reach a ninth season, however much fans and critics might’ve hoped, and Amazon’s early season 6 announcement ensures the stories of Holden, Naomi Nagata and Amos can wrap up in a satisfying and meaningful way.