The Expanse brought the middle point of its third season, titled “Immolation.” And let me just say, it was the bomb.
We start with Alex trying to shoot down the protomolecule pods from orbit, but he doesn’t have enough ammunition. Some get through and go into stealth mode. Chrisjen hypothesizes they’re probably going to Mars, which effectively means eradicating its population. Holden and company come into the base. Mao and his team take them for Martian Marines and give an order for the scientist to fight to buy themselves and the children more time to get away. So, Bobbie and the others shoot them, and Dr. Meng waves away any ethics concerns with “they chose to shoot.”
One protomolecule pod hits the USS Agatha King—serves Nguyen right, not so much the rest of the people on board—and Chrisjen’s spy barely saves himself from a protomolecule hybrid.
Meanwhile, the UN command is all aflutter seeing what is happening in orbit above Io. Ana goes to confront the Secretary General, and shows him the compromising video of Errinwright.
Holden finds evidence that Mei was present on Io and tracks the children through cameras, trying to slow the departure down by depressurizing the shuttle bay area. Meanwhile, Bobbie leads the Katoa-hybrid on a chase after her. Alex decides to take Razorback and fly to Agatha King to stop the pods from getting to Mars, since they’re controlled from there. Naomi goes with him, leaving Chrisjen in charge of the Pinus Contorta.
The Secretary calls in Errinwright and confronts him with the video. Errinwright, knowing he lost, tells the Secretary what he really thinks of him—that he’s pitiful, only caring about his popularity. Guards take him away, then the Secretary pretty much confirms what Errinwright said when he thanks Ana, declaring he was afraid his legacy would be war and millions of lives lost, but now that’s all on Errinwright.
Dr. Meng finds Mei, and she tells him what happened to Katoa. Strickland tries to pretend he’s been protecting her the whole time, but no one’s buying it. Dr. Meng tries to shoot him, but it’s a struggle for him and Amos comes and stops him, saying “you are not that man.” Strickland begins to thank him, but that is before the door shuts after Dr. Meng and Amos turns to him, saying “I am that man.” Then he shoots the bastard.
Meanwhile, Holden finds and captures Mao. While leading Mao, back to the ship, Holden discovers that Bobbie was pushed off a great height by the Katoa-hybrid and goes to look over her. It seems like he is thinking about disassembling her, which gives her enough time to shoot him.
Chrisjen’s spy is preparing to overload the core of Agatha King to blow it up and eliminate the protomolecule danger. Chrisjen wishes to speak to him, but he took control of the comms. He gives his goodbye message to her, and Naomi and Alex manage to get off just in time. They didn’t have enough of it to disable the pods, but they did manage to get them off stealth mode. Mars will see them coming, but given the enormous danger they present, the Pinus crew is still worried. Naomi comes up with the solution of giving their location to Fred to shoot them down with the missile stolen from Earth. This time, she asks the rest of the crew, and they all agree.
The very end is a series of happy ends where Dr. Meng tucks in his daughter, Chrisjen is faced with a captured Mao, Alex gets injured Bobbie into medbay, and Holden and Naomi are together in bed even as Fred’s missiles shoots down the protomolecule pods. Happily ever after, right? Only Amos, taking care of the rescued children, notices the news. Something happened on Venus. I’d say Venus and Eros had a baby, but given Venus is Eros’ mother, you know, gross. But at any rate something was born there, and it’s unlikely to be friendly.
This was an absolutely amazing episode.
And not only because we got a series of endings, mind you. It’s sort of easy to please with those, unless you mess up completely. But even mid-episode, I was thinking it was amazing. I usually watch in increments to jot down notes, but this time I didn’t want to pause for a moment.
I particularly appreciated the moment of Strickland’s death. Like another character before him, he needed to be shot, and it was done without harming Dr. Meng’s character or being unfaithful to him. On the contrary, it deepened the bond between Meng and Amos. When the doc called him his best friend, I was as moved as Amos was!
The handling of Mao was a little less fortunate, though I was mostly irritated by his interactions with Strickland. I understand Mao is meant to have lost his surety at some point. It is still an issue we weren’t quite shown how or why, but let us say I accept that. It went well beyond tiring to see that he always came up with an idea only for Strickland to convince him otherwise. Wasn’t Mao supposed to be the boss?
It is the same principle we saw with the UN Secretary, but for him, it is in character. He always acts in response to the last person he talked to. Mao is the exact opposite of that. It was his complete lack of care for what people would think that led him on his road in the first place. And suddenly he is this docile old man listening to Strickland’s every word? How did that happen.
Well, at least that’s over.
Speaking of the UN Secretary, that was another brilliant moment. What has been missing in Erringwright this whole season, some depth to his character, finally came back. Because the thing is, he was right. Not in what he did, but in everything he said about the Secretary, he was right. We can see it in Ana’s face exactly when she realizes it.
It was also my only issue with that scene, the Secretary’s almost-admission to his weakness was too obvious. I think he sees himself as enough of a good guy that he would not say anything like that out loud. Sure, he would feel the relief at not having the war on him. But right after Errinwright accused him of only caring for his public image? He would not say that out loud.
I feel it was scripted this way to make it more obvious for the viewers, but they should frankly give us more credit. We know Errinwright is right. We have been watching the Secretary for three seasons. A smaller reminder would have been plenty.
We could also finally see something of what Errinwright was feeling when he heard about the situation in orbit above Io. That, too, was a nice reminder of what a complex, impressive character he used to be. I will miss that guy. Not so much the villain from this season.
I was very sad to see Chrisjen’s spy go—he was one of my favorite characters—but at least he got a good death. Frankly, I was afraid the price for stopping the disaster reaching Mars would he higher. I’m particularly relieved Bobbie survived. Taking out a hybrid would have been a good way for her to go as well, but perhaps one more impressive than the half-functioning Katoa. Plus, of course, if I had my way I would rather not see her go at all.
Also, Alex taking her to medbay was a sight for my sore eyes. As was Naomi and Alex working together.
I’m mostly intrigued about what happens to Mao and Chrisjen now. And Fred Johnson, too. He was mostly in this half of the season so that we didn’t forget him. That makes me think he will have more of a role in the latter half. Looking forward to it, and hoping they will keep the level of quality they set with this episode.