What’s the reasoning behind Alex’s exit in The Expanse, how does his goodbye play out, and how did his death change The Expanse season 6 from the books? The Rocinante’s second run on Amazon Prime, The Expanse season 5 is packed with shocking moments: the near-decimation of Earth, the arrival of long-awaited alien villains, Naomi’s suit-free leap into space, etc. Trumping them all is the death of Alex Kamal. Played by Cas Anvar, Alex is one of the original survivors from The Expanse‘s ill-fated Canterbury ice hauler, who are spirited away onto the Martian gunship that later becomes known as the Rocinante.
As the pilot, Alex represents a vital component of James Holden’s crew, and his laid-back demeanor is so often the remedy to his captain’s passion, Naomi Nagata’s fire, and Amos Burton’s aggression. Over the course of four seasons, Alex transforms from a glorified bus driver into a calming presence who typically prioritizes the needs of his friends above his own troubles. Viewers were anticipating further Alex development in The Expanse season 6, but real-world events have understandably taken precedence, potentially forcing a change of direction.
In June 2020, multiple women came forward with accusations of misconduct and harassment on Cas Anvar’s part. When The Expanse season 5 aired later that year, the final episode killed off Alex in sudden fashion. What does that mean for The Expanse season 6, and does the TV series line up with the books at all?
Why Alex Died In The Expanse Season 5’s Finale
Intentionally or otherwise, Alex’s death scene in The Expanse is somewhat ambiguous. Bobbie Draper exits the Razorback to rescue Naomi and upon their return, Alex has already kicked the bucket. The audience sees only a single shot of Alex’s lifeless body as drops of blood float past in zero gravity. The actual cause of Alex’s death is left for James Holden to reveal later, as he discloses to Naomi (and viewers) that Alex was killed by a stroke, reiterating how each of them risks the same fate whenever they fly.
Certainly, the possibility of suffering a stroke during space travel is not a new concept in The Expanse‘s world. When a ship is required to undergo particularly intense maneuvers or hit the gas hard, passengers are injected with a cocktail of drugs to help their bodies cope with the pressure. This happens during the Rocinante’s very first takeoff in The Expanse season 1, with Alex himself muttering “I need some juice…” before the stimulant arrives through his seat. Unfortunately, these drugs aren’t foolproof. The average human can only take so much “juicing” and continuing a hard burn beyond that point increases their chance of a stroke. The Expanse season 5 foreshadows Alex’s death when Bobbie warns him they’re already “juiced to the gills” and could “stroke out” during the Naomi rescue sequence.
Thematically speaking, Alex dies out of desperate determination to save Naomi. While the other three Rocinante members would often be at odds for one reason or another, Alex Kamal generally played peacemaker, always trying to keep his family together, no matter the cost or the hardships they endured. It’s characteristic of him to go all-out rescuing one of the crew.
How Alex’s Death Changes The Expanse Season 6’s Book Story
Unlike the TV adaptation, Alex Kamal doesn’t die in the Expanse book series by James S.A. Corey. The Expanse season 5 was largely based on Nemesis Games, the fifth book in the series, and the pilot is still knocking around long after the conclusion of that novel. The literary Alex Kamal not only survives the war with Marco Inaros’ Free Navy, but then lives through a time skip of several decades into a new conflict with the Laconian Empire. At the very least, Alex would’ve survived into The Expanse season 6, meaning some book changes are afoot.
Alex Kamal dying while saving Naomi is new for TV, but the death itself is repurposed from an unused scene in Babylon’s Ashes (book 6). Before Alex, The Expanse season 5 includes another major character exit: the assassination of Fred Johnson on Tycho Station. Fred is shot by Sakai when Free Navy insurgents activate Marco Inaros’ secret plan to steal the Protomolecule sample hidden in Fred’s office. In the books, however, Fred Johnson survives the Tycho incident, continuing to work with James Holden and the UN’s Chrisjen Avasarala against Inaros. The OPA leader is aboard the Rocinante during a fraught dogfight with the Free Navy’s Pella, and the intense flying triggers a stroke — just like Alex’s in the TV version. Since Fred Johnson’s book death is no longer required in The Expanse season 6 (for obvious reasons), the plot became available for Alex to adopt instead.
Alex Kamal’s death is one of The Expanse‘s biggest book changes yet, and undoubtedly has a bearing upon The Expanse season 6. The Rocinante obviously required a new pilot, and Fred’s former assistant, Bull, seemed primed for the job when he drank from Alex’s coffee cup. In The Expanse season 6’s premiere, however, Holden confirms he’s now piloting the Rocinante. Although Alex continues to have a significant role beyond Nemesis Games, there isn’t anything in season 6 for which his presence is absolutely essential. Alex’s stories can be cut from The Expanse‘s final season without great consequence. The Expanse season 6 references Alex’s death on several occasions — usually Rocinante characters reminiscing about their fallen friend — but never dwells on the topic for long.
Why Amazon Killed Off Alex – Was It Planned?
The in-story explanation for Alex’s demise might be relatively clear (thanks to Holden’s exposition), but the circumstances in real life are somewhat less so. We know that after the aforementioned Cas Anvar allegations began, Alcon Entertainment quickly commissioned an investigation into the matter. When November 2020 came, The Expanse season 6 was announced as the final run, and fans simultaneously learned that Alex would not be returning. Understandably, the general assumption is that Cas Anvar’s exit came as a result of the misconduct investigation, but this hasn’t been confirmed officially. Asked whether Alex’s exit was planned from the beginning, The Expanse‘s showrunner, Naren Shankar, refused to answer definitively either way. Shankar claimed (h/t Den of Geek) that a main character death was discussed early in The Expanse season 5’s production, but didn’t specify Alex was in the firing line, nor that the conversations would’ve turned into anything concrete had a lead actor not faced real-world allegations.
Since The Expanse season 5 completed filming before the Cas Anvar controversy began, some viewers have speculated that Alex’s death was inserted into the finale via reshoots. This certainly looks to be the case, with Alex’s final scene merely a static frame and a few drops of digital blood floating past. Alex’s parting line could’ve been slipped in during post-production, and even when Bobbie delivers her “juiced to the gills” foreshadowing, the camera cuts away from Frankie Adams, suggesting this too was maybe added during ADR (automated dialogue replacement) to avoid filming additional scenes with Anvar.
Given how closely The Expanse usually follows James S.A. Corey’s novels, as well as the abrupt nature of Alex’s death, it does seem unlikely the character’s exit was part of season 5’s original plan. If The Expanse had plotted to kill off Alex in advance, his final moments surely would’ve packed more impact, rather than playing out largely off-screen.
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