The Expanse concluded its second term with a typically strong episode, wrapping up a season that showed considerable improvement upon its already-promising debut outing. Cementing itself as arguably the premier science fiction television show currently airing, The Expanse's second season offered a mix of thrilling action, tense set-pieces and a huge dollop of confounding conspiracy set in a fictional world full of mystery and intrigue.
With the show already confirmed to see a third season, the season 2 finale - titled 'Caliban's War' - needed to both tie up the loose plot threads of this term and sow seeds for the future narratives The Expanse's next run will focus on. To that end, the finale was a complete success and managed to answer some of the show's lingering questions whilst also introducing some new elements, particularly surrounding the mysterious Protomolecule. But how exactly did it all go down?
The episode begins with a good, old-fashioned stand off. Representative of Earth's United Nations, Chrisjen Avasarala, was attempting to reach an agreement with the man behind the various Protomolecule experiments, Jules-Pierre Mao. However, her colleague Errinwright decided to put his own interests first and force Mao to rekindle their previous secret partnership, with Chrisjen acting as sacrificial lamb. In the resulting gunfight, Chrisjen's security officer Cotyar takes a bullet to the stomach and in a last resort move, Bobbie Draper is sent through the elevator shaft to get her Martian Power Armor and save the group.
The back and forth between Chrisjen and Mao's people runs largely as you could expect, with the businessman keen to protect his own interests and the gang from Earth simply attempting to find a way out of the situation alive. Unexpectedly however, the thus-far loyal Cotyar proves willing to sell-out his employer and save himself, pointing out that the debt he owed was to Chrisjen's son, not the woman herself. Even more intriguingly, it's former Martian marine Bobbie that refuses to abandon her new friends and despite having the opportunity to get away, she nobly saves Chrisjen and Cotyar in the nick of time.
This leaves The Expanse with an interesting dynamic. After his surprising - yet somewhat understandable - betrayal, Cotyar's partnership with Chrisjen is likely over. Luckily, Bobbie is a ready-made replacement and although it's unknown what role she'll play in season three, a job as Chrisjen's new personal security is perhaps the most likely option at this point.
Crucially, Errinwright's plan has failed and the writing is on the wall for one of the show's most smarmy characters, as when Chrisjen gets back to Earth, there will no doubt be hell to pay. Will he be able to slither out of this predicament?
The Rocinante Crew
The core of the season 2 finale centered around the Rocinante crew attempting to rid their ship of a Protomolecule Hybrid that had sneaked on board during the previous episode. After confronting the creature, Holden is pinned against a wall and is willing to sacrifice his own life to destroy the Hybrid and protect his crew, displaying the character's continued growth as a leader. Everyone but Naomi seems willing to go along with him if necessary but eventually, the group manage to lure the monster out of the ship and incinerate it, saving Holden in the process.
'Caliban's War' sees quite a few of the show's protagonists develop their personal arcs. Captain James Holden has been heading down a darker and more violent path in season 2 but the finale makes it clear that he's attempting to correct this, with Naomi tellingly stating "it's nice to have you back". Naomi also rights some wrongs of her own in the episode and finally comes clean to Holden about the Protomolecule sample she lied about destroying.
Another crew member who gets a big push forward in the episode is Amos Burton. In the season's penultimate offering, Naomi forcefully tranquilized her friend and many would've expected him to be angry. Instead, Amos is filled with self-regret, chastising himself for forcing Naomi to put him down and continuing this season's slow-burning insight into Amos' background. Any lingering tensions between Amos and Holden were also put to rest in several heart-warming buddy scenes.
All of this development was designed to bring the Rocinante crew to a unified place as season 2 ends. Although the various members have had their disagreements - and will no doubt have more - the finale strove to demonstrate that the protagonists are now all on reasonably good terms with no secrets between them. Botanist Prax also seems to be staying with the group for the time being, although as the most expendable character on board the ship, he should watch out.
One arc dealt with fairly conclusively in the season 2 finale was the fate of the scientific team above the Eros crash site on Venus. It seems clear that the Protomolecule infested station is thriving on its new home planet, building structures that are growing steadily and one scientist even described the crater as "moving". When the Earth vessel Arboghast descends to take a closer look, the Martians follow suit, only to disappear from all sensors when it overtakes and the Mars ship presumably meets the same fate as their Earth counterparts - complete cellular disassembly. The Protomolecule then plucks the Arboghast from its descent and infests the vessel before instantly tearing it apart.
Interestingly, the humans on board appear to still be alive after the incident and will most likely be absorbed by the Protomolecule just like Julie Mao and a raft of other characters before them. With the Protmolecule presence on Venus seemingly growing in strength, this will most likely be a key focal point of season three.
The season 2 finale offered the show's most detailed insight into the Protomolecule Hybrid soldiers yet. Viewers already knew of the Hybrid's strength and durability (although it's not completely impervious to bullets) but this episode revealed that each creature is fitted with a fail-safe explosive device placed there in case the humans controlling the Hybrids need to quickly put down their genetic soldiers.
By not finishing off a trapped Holden, it was confirmed that the Hybrids aren't inherently violent, rather they are primarily concerned with sourcing their preferred nutrition: radiation. Admittedly, the monster didn't seem too concerned with the welfare of the human crew it would kill in its attempts and was even destroyed itself in the process, perhaps demonstrating that the creatures are mostly animalistic in their will to survive despite their obvious intelligence. Interestingly, when the Rocinante did power down, the Hybrid turned its attention to Holden and this is most likely due to him and his suit being the next best source of food. It is known that raw Protomolecule can infest and absorb humans but it's still unclear whether Hybrids can also perform this feat.
One of the final big reveals of 'Caliban's War' was that the Protomolecule sample Naomi had stashed away in space is now in the custody of O.P.A. member Fred Johnson. The Expanse has avoided showing conclusively whether or not Fred 'The Butcher' Johnson is trustworthy or not but he certainly seems more on the side of the good guys than the bad. The scene of him collecting the Protomolecule sample suggests he plans to use it, rather than destroy it, and with Earth and Mars both already in possession of Protomolecule-based weaponry, Fred will surely make sure the Belt isn't outgunned, bringing about a scenario of mutually assured destruction.
The final reveal of the episode was that, firstly, Prax's daughter is still alive on the moon Io with her pediatrician captor from Ganymede, Dr. Strickland. And secondly, the moon is apparently being used for Mao's Protomolecule experiments and Prax's daughter is being stored away alongside dozens of other subjects. The storage facility appears to be built for the humans involved in Project Caliban - the codename for the efforts to create Protomolecule Hybrids. The scene teases a potential army of the creatures the Rocinante crew struggled to dispatch just a single one of and could well be giving viewers an early glimpse at season three's big threat.
The Expanse season 3 has been confirmed, but is currently without a premiere date.