If you’re about to be in a fight in the universe of The Expanse, who would you most want on your side? Who would you least want to see on the other side?
This is just one fan’s opinion obviously, but I have a high regard for experience and training. To me, characters who are experienced and trained in how to fight are given the edge over those who aren’t, no matter how fierce they may appear. With that out of the way, let’s have some fun.
I’m mentioning Clarissa Mao in part because there are only a few episodes of The Expanse left and her ability in combat shouldn’t be written off. When she’s using her mods she’s arguably the strongest unarmed fighter out of anyone and might even give a protomolecule human a fight for a short time. Even Amos would stand no chance against her enhanced self in any kind of physical altercation. However, outside of that, I don’t know how much she can do. She’s the less feisty and passionate of a rich guy’s two daughters, has lived a mostly sheltered life before becoming a mechanic and killer, and I’m not even sure she can handle a firearm. Still, she’s committed violence, more than once, and can do it again. (Post-series edit: She did not fight again).
Anderson Dawes, Fred Miller and Clarissa Drummer are all leader types who in Epic Duels, would have commander-types of decks where their minors dish out a lot of the damage. At the same time, you have certainty that all three are tough as nails, can handle a firearm, and can handle themselves in a fight. Drummer is known for her legendary temper, and we’ve seen her gun down others because of it, plus she survives a gunshot wound, so I’m including her over the other two, but also as sort of an amalgam of the three of them. Drummer is probably my favorite character in the series for how her slender frame, dark eyes, dark hair pulled back, and accent remind me of my wife, but she belongs here just the same. We know she can command a ship, but I also think she might play a combat role before the end. (Post-series edit: She did).
As far as what we actually see Fillip Inaros accomplish, he’s mostly a bully, including killing off the unarmed, frightened members of a science expedition who might have warned Earth about his father’s meteor attack, and gunning down his unarmed friend in cold blood. Still, he helps his father overcome Ashford and ultimately uses violence to accomplish quite a bit for his father’s cause. If a fight is going down, Fillip is definitely up for fight.
I could see some fans saying he should be higher on the list, while others might say he shouldn’t be on it at all, so I’d say he’s right about here. Josephus Miller introduces himself to the crew of the Rocinante by turning the tide of their fight on Eros against trained black ops killers sent by Erinwright. Miller is clearly not a great cop, but he’s not an incompetent one either. He carries a weapon, knows how to use it, and will use it without hesitation like he does in disposing of Dresden. Even if he stands no chance in a fistfight against Amos, Miller isn’t afraid to throw down. Miller is not the toughest of characters in this series, but he’s a tough guy.
The “Ghost Knife” himself is quite a legend, and I love David Straithairn as an actor, especially in Lincoln and L.A. Confidential , but what do we really see Klaes Ashford do? He seems to get the best of Marco in their firefight, so why doesn’t he pull the trigger? He must know, after seeing his marines all killed, that he isn’t getting out alive, and if he could kill Marco at this point, wouldn’t that benefit the system and the Belt, his whole purpose for going on this mission? He’s already disarmed Marco, so even if Fillip has the angle on him, why not take a few shots into Marco while stepping forward, instead of merely surrendering? It really doesn’t quite make sense the way that whole sequence goes down, but I guess Ashford loses the contest and we have to place him this high just on reputation alone.
While there might be an urge to place Marco Inaros higher for his ruthlessness, we don’t really see him do a whole lot in terms of fist fighting or fire fighting except for getting wounded by Ashford. Still, having Fillip and the entire Free Navy on his side has to count for something, as it ultimately does help him overcome Ashford. Marco is the most feared man in the solar system, even by his own troops.
James Holden not just a pretty boy who drinks coffee and gives orders, Holden has been in countless tough scrapes, tough situations, both in space and in person, and he’s always a tough customer. He goes one on one with a protomolecule human and lives to tell. He helps take back Tycho Station for Johnson and Drummer. He has singlehandedly slain mammoths. He’s not quite as trained or cold blooded as the characters I’ve ranked above him, but I still wouldn’t count him out in a fight against any of them.
Bobbie Draper in full Martian Power Armor is probably the toughest entity on this list, a one woman wrecking crew that may be the only single entity that might be a match for a protomolecule human. With power armor on, she’s bulletproof, has automatic weapons, enhanced running and jumping abilities and even limited flight, and she’s trained and proficient in all of it. Even without power armor — which is what this ranking is assuming for everyone — Bobbie is a trained marine who is as tough and fearless as they come. Actress Frankie Adams is tall and athletic and can kick butt almost as well with her arms and legs as she can with a gun.
Now, I know what you’re thinking: In what solar system is this guy not No. 1? I’m not saying he’s not. In a straight fight, with the same guns and outfit as his opponents, Amost has got as good a chance as anyone we’ve seen. What separates him from everyone above him on the list is his physical presence and ability in fisticuffs, whether it’s bailing out Alex when he gets in trouble, or beating up Murtry, or outmatching Miller so badly that he toys with him. What separates him from even Bobbie is his unflinching willingness to kill. He kills Miller’s friend, Sematimba, without a moment’s hesitation, something I don’t think Bobbie would do. After convincing his friend Prax not to kill the evil but defenseless Dr. Strickland, saying “you’re not that guy” he turns around, tells a momentarily relieved Strickland, “I am that guy” and coldly kills him. He kills his own girlfriend, Wei, at the point she declares they’re not on the same side. Amos is a self-proclaimed killer. “I’m free now,” he tells Murtry in regards to them potentially killing each other. Murtry is a cold blooded killer himself (and I love actor Burn Gorman) but I’d definitely bet on Amos over him, over anyone on this list, even over Firefly’s Jayne Cobb, anyone except perhaps…
It’s a tight race, but Cotyar Ghazi wins it by a neck, the one he snaps. When shit goes down between Avarasala, arguably the most powerful and important person in the entire solar system, and Jules-Pierre Mao, one of the wealthiest and most influential people in the system in his own right, it is Cotyar who steps up. Even in a room with Bobbie, plus Mao’s trained killers in it, it is Cotyar who is the alpha, a trained operative who is trained and experienced in killing others with training and experience. He’s clearly proficient with a variety of firearms, as he’s always playing with guns and checking ammo, plus he’s ultra quick, highly intelligent and as ruthless as anyone on the series. When Mao’s goons trick and then stun Bobbie in her power armor, Cotyar guns them down with a quick draw. When Mao’s fairly innocent working class crew member is a threat to expose Avrasala’s location to the Martians, Cotyar snaps the poor guy’s neck just to keep him quiet. Even by Amos’ standards, that’s cold.
So who did I leave out? Disagree with seeing Cotyar at No. 1? Let me know what you think in the comments!