This The Expanse article includes MAJOR spoilers for the ending of Season 5, Episode 10.
Much like Marco Inaros, The Expanse Season 5 finale writers used a bit of misdirect to distract from the fact that, while (most of) the crew of the Rocinante were finally reunited and Acting Secretary General Chrisjen Avasarala was gathering her team in preparation for war, the culmination of Marco’s deal with a rogue Martian fleet was coming to a head. In the final moments of “Nemesis Games,” the shape of the alliance between Inaros and the rogue Martian fleet (including the Barkeith) comes into focus, and it is not good news for Chrisjen & Co. But, before we get into that, let’s recap what happened with the Barkeith and the rogue Martian faction this season, and how we got to The Battle For the Sol Gate and the alien worlds beyond.
The Barkeith’s Season 5 Journey
The Rogue Martian Faction Storyline has been a slow-burner all season. Early in Season 5, Bobbie began to suspect that Martian Admiral Sauveterre was involved with the black market sale of some major Martian military equipment. When Alex shows up on Mars, she convinces him to try to get information out of Sauveterre under the guise of looking for a job. Sauveterre blows him off, but Alex does get a date with Lieutenant Babbage, who is obviously also planning on pumping Alex for information about what he knows. During the encounter, Babbage lets slip that she will soon be shipping out on the Barkeith for a “supply run.”
Bobbie and Alex decide to follow in the Razorback, trailing the Barkeith to a group of asteroids where the supply ship and its two escort Frigates meet with a group of Belter ships. Team Razorback eventually realizes that the Barkeith isn’t just delivering weapons or other, smaller military materials; it is delivering the Frigates themselves to the Free Navy.
Who Are the Rogue Martian Fleet?
While we do get to meet Admiral Sauveterre and Lieutenant Babbage early in Season 5, as it is often commented upon throughout the season, this isn’t just a few rogue Martian officers; it is a large group of people. In the Season 5 finale, we learn a bit more about what the faction believes in, through Sauveterre and Babbage’s conversation before they enter the Laconia gate. Disillusioned with the current state of Martian politics and culture, which they believe to have become diluted and weak, this rogue faction of Martians wants to create a more “pure” Martian society, on Laconia.
As The Expanse showrunner Naren Shankar described the group to my colleague Michael Ahr: “We describe them sort of as a splinter group, the more-Martian-than-Martian notion, that they’re the ones dedicated truly to the idea of Mars. Their view of Martian society in present day is that it’s fallen, is that it’s become corrupt. Mars was founded with the sense of getting past Earth and the sins of the past and starting anew. It’s this group going, ‘We’re going to start anew.’”
The Battle for the Sol Gate
In the final act of “Nemesis Games,” we see the three battleships of the Earth-Mars Coalition Army guarding the Ring gate attacked by the Free Navy command fleet and the rogue Martian faction. They are easily destroyed, and the Free Navy takes over control of the Ring gate. Chrisjen & Co. deduce that Marco traded his sample of the Protomolecule, stolen from Fred Johnson, in exchange for the rogue Martian faction’s backup in the battle. Now that Marco has secured control of the Ring gate, the alliance is seemingly over. Admiral Sauveterre informs Marco that there will landmines on the other side of the Laconia gate to keep the Free Navy from entering.
What Happens to the Barkeith in The Expanse Season 5 Finale?
After The Battle for the Sol Gate, we follow Admiral Sauveterre and Lieutenant Babbage as they transit into the Ring Space and then move to pass through the Laconia gate, with the plan to join their comrades on the surface of Laconia. Unfortunately for them, something unexpected happens when the Barkeith passes through the Laconia gate. The ship—and everything in it, including Sauveterre and Babbage—appear to be disintegrated by an unknown force, vanishing altogether. They seem to be very dead.
The scene is reminiscent of the wonder-horror that occurs in The Expanse Season 2 finale, when the scientific team aboard the Arborghast descends to above the Eros crash site on Venus to better observe the Protomolecule structures below. Upon their descent, the Protomolecule dissembling the Arborghast into parts, its crew along with it. In our final shot, we see the members humans crew suspended in space as part of the Protomolecule’s latest display of alien power.
Laconia: What is the Rogue Martians’ Plan?
Before Admiral Sauveterre and Lieutenant Babbage bite it, they have a conversation with Cortázar, the Protogen scientist last properly seen in Season 2. Cortázar is already on the surface of Laconia, where he has been using the Protomolecule sample to activate and study the Protomolecule artifacts in orbit there.
When Den of Geek’s Michael Ahr asked Shankar about the new location, the showrunner replied: “Now they’re on this world with these structures in orbit which they haven’t seen before. They’ve got the last living true expert about the Protomolecule, Cortazar; they’ve got the last active sample of the Protomolecule that they know to exist; and they’ve taken that through the gates, and they’ve taken it to the planet. And the last time that happened, shit started turning on on Ilus. So maybe not good for people on the receiving end of that.”
Who is Admiral Duarte?
Book readers will know that this Laconian effort will be led by Admiral Duarte, who Shankar calls “the prime moving force of this [plan for Laconia].” He’s not featured in the Season 5 finale, but he is mentioned by both Sauveterre and Marco by name, implying he is politically important. Without giving too much away about what’s to come in Season 6, Duarte is a major antagonist in the story moving forward.