The Expanse ended its third season with a double episode, “Congregation” and “Abaddon’s Gate.” The events in it were certainly epic enough, but did it work as a season closer?
As “Congregation” begins, Clarissa is aboard the Roci, pumped full of suppressors of her special skills. Anna comes in to have a little chat. She slaps her when Clarissa says she has killed better people then Tilly. Amos tells Anna the best solution would be to shoot Clarissa, but Anna protests.
Naomi manages to repair the Roci’s transmitters and they hear the OPA ship’s message. They realize Holden is with them and decide to go there as well.
Holden is being interrogated by Martians, but he refuses to say anything unless he knows what happened to his friends. Then acting captain Ashford comes in, and Holden tells him everything on the mere promise of information about the Roci, because I guess Dawes’ lapdogs would never lie. (It’s doubly curious because he knows Drummer is supposed to be captain of this ship, so he should by rights wonder what happened to her and be even more suspicious.)
Speaking of Drummer, she is in medical being told she should be in a healing coma to regrow her spine. She refuses and sends the doctor away, looking for a way to get herself moving again instead.
Holden is taken to the brig as the Roci crew arrives to the Behemoth. Diogo puts Naomi under arrest and takes her to Ashford, while the rest take the medical supplies they brought to the medbay. There, Amos talks to Anna, and perhaps my favorite line of the entire season comes. Anna says she “always sees what needs to be done and does it” and Amos replies, “so do I.” I also feel like from what we have seen, it’s more true about Amos than about Anna, though his ideas about what needs to be done are obviously often not in accord with anyone else.
Meanwhile, Naomi makes demands of Ashford (chiefly to see Holden) without giving anything in return. Only when Ashford reminds her than unless she helps with repairing the ship, they will likely all die, does she condescend to do something for them. Later, she goes to ask Drummer for a favor – arranging speaking with Holden. She finds her constructing a machine that would help her move, and helps out. Drummer promises to take her to Holden later.
An Inner scientist comes up with a way to break the hold they are locked in, or at least find out more information. It entails a skiff and a nuke. Ashford thinks it’s a fair idea to try.
Clarissa is locked up in a cell opposite Holden’s. When she realizes, she begins to laugh hysterically. When Ashford finds out someone is stealing medical supplies on the Behemoth, he’s very upset with Diogo, who was responsible for security.
Anna, meanwhile, takes a break from her medical and pastoral duties to go down to Clarissa. She tells her she keeps trying to find a way to care for her and keeps failing. She also says she prevented Amos from killing her because she didn’t want to think of herself as the sort of person who would support it. But in the end, she doesn’t want Clarissa dead because she doesn’t want to give her the easy way out.
Drummer has leg braces now and with them, she walks Naomi down to Holden. There, Naomi tries to convince him nothing was his fault, while he tries to convince her he is the only one who can save the world. I throw up a little in my mouth.
The “skiff and nuke plan” is a go, and astonishingly, the station got upset. It started to send out a pulse. Ashford theorizes it might be the pulse with the goal of wiping out life, like it did before when it was trying to protect the race that created it. This, incidentally, is what Holden saw in his vision. But Ashford is still “glad they did it because now they know the station is a threat.” Oh, really? In any case, Ashford plans to destroy the station with a laser, since light still clearly travels inside the ring. It would also mean trapping themselves inside. Ashford declares that dying to save humanity is great.
When part two of the finale, “Abaddon’s Gate,” begins, Holden manages to make contact with “Miller,” who tells him that the station considers them a threat because they run on nuclear power. If they cut it, things might turn out okay. Naomi, Drummer, and one other guy decide to go with the plan, and they get Alex and Amos on board too. Amos then recruits Anna.
Drummer contacts Ashford to tell him she spoke to Holden and is currently in the brig with him, so that he sends Diogo there. In reality, they are long gone. The Martian Commander tells Bobbie to prepare plans for crowd control.
Anna manages to recruit the documentarist that used to be on the Roci to broadcast an explanation of what everyone is doing while Holden and company head to the reactor to cut power.
Ashford notices what is going on, and sends Diogo to the reactor. Anna’s broadcast reaches the bridge and one of the people there tries to argue Holden’s plan should be given a chance. Ashford shoots him, arguing that even if they survive, the ring will stay open and other people and ships could still come into it, not knowing it was a death trap.
Bobbie is sent to end Anna’s transmission. There is a bit of a standoff with three marines minus suits (which were stolen by Diogo) on one side and Alex and Amos on the other. Then Alex and Bobbie put down their guns to talk. While they’re in the middle of doing so, the Martian side starts shooting. They are taken care of with Bobbie’s help, but she’s hit in the process.
In the meantime, Diogo in his new suit arrives at the reactor. Holden and company run to the airlock to put on space suits and try to get to the bridge. Clarissa then gets herself released from prison because they needed her expertise. She intentionally messes up and uses her chemical suppressants as an excuse so that Ashford removes them.
Drummer gets ready to sacrifice herself to stop Diogo, but Naomi manages to take him down with an elevator she sends down the shaft they are climbing instead. Naomi and Holden then reach the bridge and try to convince Ashford to try their way. He orders them shot instead. Clarissa interferes and manages to shut down the reactors. Somehow.
All the ships are suddenly free to move, and scores of other rings open, just like the one all our protagonists came in through. These rings lead to new, unknown parts of space beyond our galaxy. Everyone sets off towards them as we get parting shots of different characters. Bobbie and Alex are side by side, as are Amos and Naomi, Anna and Clarissa, and Drummer and Ashford. Holden has a vision of Miller once again. We also get a glimpse of Chrisjen contemplating the situation, which is honestly the best final gift they could have given me.
And that’s it. That’s season three finished, and with it, the last of The Expanse we will even see on SyFy. Let’s see what the new network will bring.
So. This was season three finale. How did it do?
For me, it wasn’t bad, but it certainly could have been better.
Chiefly, all the major plot points felt rushed. We were presented with the danger of human extinction within the same episode this danger was also solved. The trajectory of their approach to the protomolecule was a little strange in general. For the longest time everyone is convinced it means to kill them, only to maybe change their mind for a short while, so that we can dramatically get back to killing everyone in the last episode. Then the very end tells us that – wait – it might not actually want to kill everyone after all!
The rushed pacing intersects with the strange decisions we see people aboard the Behemoth making. For one, the “let’s try firing a nuke plan” was mind-numbingly stupid. This is the part that was perhaps the most harmed by the rushing of the finale. As it played out on screen, such a plan would obviously only provoke the station into a more severe reaction. Belters especially, with their knowledge of Eros, knew exactly how dangerous the plan was. Risking a severe reaction from the station just to see what might happen was in no way worth it. Not unless they were facing some sort of desperate situation along the lines of, “we’re running out of food, we’re all going to starve unless we find a way to move.”
Moreover, why did anyone believe a word Holden said?
Specifically, why did Bobbie and Drummer him? Yet even with Holden’s crew members I had to wonder a little at their trust. I don’t know how exactly their ships are built, but I would assume that the reactors powered a lot of very essential things. Turning them off would be a huge vulnerability. They knew Holden was in contact with the protomolecule somewhat; there were even suspicions he could be controlling it. Under these circumstances, risking such vulnerability on his say-so seems like an extremely bad plan.
At least in this case they were driven to extremis with the magnetic signal the station was giving out. Though I would like to point out no one actually knew it was about to wipe out humanity. Presuming so stemmed mainly from a vague notion of Holden’s visions. The same Holden most people didn’t trust. There is a contradiction in there. One that could have been solved easily by getting some sort of external confirmation.
All in all, the grand thematic finale fell sort of flat because of this. Add to it that I didn’t at first realize what the other opening rings were and needed Holden’s voiceover to explain it to me – which might be just me being slow, but it decreased the impact the finale had on me as well.
Holden’s story here didn’t exactly fill me with enthusiasm either. He continues his career path as a white savior. It’s getting more and more extreme, actually. This time, we had two women of color following his word, and Naomi even reassuring him that nothing was his fault. Why? How does she know it wasn’t?
The scenes with the two of them and Drummer also felt a whole lot like a love triangle. By now I realize that it was likely not intentional, but still. Pick Drummer, Naomi! Pick Drummer!
Anna’s character journey, too, wasn’t ended very satisfactorily to my mind. Yes, she gave her big speech, but we never really saw much of an effect when it came to calming people. Maybe she motivated Clarissa to act? But it looked more like Holden did, which, eh. The hero to the rescue once more. I would have appreciated seeing clearly how Anna’s talent for speeches helped in a concrete and particular way.
Also, I was very confused by her interaction with Clarissa in the brig. Was it meant to imply that as long as Anna doesn’t prevent Clarissa form being killed because she likes her as a person, it isn’t ethical? Um, that’s not how this works. The point is that you don’t want people killed, even people you don’t like. Yes, there are theories that say there is no true altruism because it’s always just us liking the idea of being “a good person,” but the ethical choice doesn’t require you to actively be a fan of the people you are saving. I feel like Anna’s education would have covered this somewhere.
Speaking of incomprehensible motivations for people on the ship, why would Ashford make Diogo responsible for anything? Where in the entire story did Diogo give the impression he was ready to be responsible for the security of the entire huge ship? Seriously.
There was a lot of minor irritations like that, like the fact that not giving the Belters any information about Clarissa was damned dangerous, especially with Holden on the same ship. But ultimately these are minor details.
What is crucial is that neither the central story nor individual character arcs felt like they had enough space to develop in the finale. There were good points too, naturally. The acting was superb, as always. Once again I mainly appreciated Ashford and Drummer. Anna is well acted too, when she has some material to work with. But the material was exactly the problem. Thus, while the double episode wasn’t bad exactly, it was certainly rather disappointing for me.
Let’s hope a new producer will make this better, not worse. A slim hope, I know. But it is there.