The Expanse’s Thrilling Season Finale: “Caliban’s War”

The Expanse had a lot of threads to tie together in last night’s season finale, and I’m pleased to say most of them were tied! I’m even happier to say that with a renewal from Syfy, we’re going to get to spend more time with these characters. Join me as I dig into the finale, which will obviously include spoilers.

OK, it takes some great characters (and great actors) to keep an audience engaged while they’re trapped behind a table, but the banter between Avasarala and Cotyar was riveting as always. And now more than ever I want to be Avasarala when I grow up. As Mao’s people fire on the trio, Cotyar returns fire, but it’s Bobbie who yanks one of the tables out of the floor and holds it up as a shield. She’s also the one who thinks to access a map of the ship, and figure out an escape route. Unfortunately Cotyhar’s been shot, so she reluctantly agrees to leave them, get her armor, and attempt a rescue. Things get even more interesting after she leaves—Avasarala presses her hand to Cotyar’s wound, and the two attempt to negotiate, first with their captors, then with each other. At one point Cotyar passes out, so Avasarala digs her hand into his wound until the pain wakes him up, and snaps that he can’t go into shock yet. You kind of understand a few minutes later when he considers selling her out.

Shohreh Aghdashloo’s performance contains wonder. She’s clearly hurt, and terrified, but you can see her compartmentalizing and moving chess pieces even as she accepts her own death. She asks Cotyar to go back and deal with Errinwright after she’s gone, so that at least the Earth might be spared the war he’s pushing. It might be this that stops Cotyar—he decides not to give her up. And then of course she jumps up and surrenders, asking that Cotyar be allowed to leave before he bleeds out. Having thought of a way to protect the earth, she acts, even at the cost of her own life. But since this is The Expanse, Mao’s men immediately renege on the deal and train guns on both of them.


Meanwhile, Bobbie crawls through the ducts, scuffles with a pair of guards who make the mistake of sassing her, and finally comes to the docking bay. But no! There’s an engineer standing between her and the bay, threatening to put the airlock in full lockdown. Sure, she’ll beat him to death, but she won’t make it to the drop ship. She makes a solid point, “You’re about to lay down your life for an unworthy master. That’s not an honorable death.” He considers this and moves out of her way, then thinks better of it and asks her to shove him into a locker so they’ll think she forced her way in.

Can the show keep this guy? He seems neat.

Bobbie gets back to Avasarala and Cotyar just in time, although it seems like rough going for our poor gutshot spy.

Meanwhile, on Venus…well, not much happens here. They try to descend to check out the proto-molecule, which invades and explodes their ship. Again, puny humans, the proto-molecule is not playing.

Most fraught of all is the action on the Roci. Everyone has come back together: Holden apologizes for being a big growly jerk, and gives Alex the credit for rescuing the Weeping Somnambulist. Naomi apologizes for tranquing Amos, who in turn apologizes for trying to hold Naomi back when she wanted him to let her go. But of course this togetherness can’t last. Naomi spots the Caliban in the cargo hold, and they all spring into action. Meng still wants to try to make contact, but Holden and Amos ignore him in favor of blundering in, guns blazing.

This does not work. The Caliban is annoyed by their attack, so it hurls a piece of the Roci at them, pinning Holden to the wall and crushing his leg. The Caliban is attracted to the radiation in the ship’s core, so it starts digging into the floor panels. Holden is trapped against the wall watching it destroy his ship while the rest of the crew try to come up with a rescue plan. The plans all end in Holden dying along with the Caliban, a fact he seems increasingly OK with as the pain in his leg gets worse.

Amos doesn’t want to kill Holden, but he’s pragmatic about it. Naomi is beside herself, literally walking in circles hoping to see a piece of tech that will spark an idea. She and Holden speak through his comm, and for the first time he refers back to the events on the Canterbury. He asks Naomi to take over and get herself and their makeshift family somewhere safe, and not to do what he did by seeking revenge. He doesn’t regret their time together—he regrets spending so much of his energy on anger rather than building a life with her.

Finally, it’s Meng who sees a different way. He notices the way some of the kitchen plants are growing toward their artificial light source, and realizes: if it’s radiation the Caliban wants, can’t they chuck a nuclear torpedo out into space, and then bolt as soon as the creature jumps after it? Luckily he takes his plan to Alex, the only one with the patience to listen.

Also luckily, once Naomi and Meng are out on the hull with the nuke, Meng shakes off his lingering fear that the Caliban is Mei, and throws the bait just in time. The Caliban goes full Gollum and dives after it, and, sadly, continues its Gollum impression by being incinerated in the Roci’s thruster fire.

The family comes back together again, with Alex making sure to give credit to Meng. Things are great! So obviously Naomi has to finally confess to Holden that she never destroyed the proto-molecule they found. In fact, her betrayal has gotten even worse. Given that both Earth and Mars each have proto-molecule now (not to mention Dawes and Cortazar, who are still AWOL) she weighed her otion, her loyalty to the Belt, and her desire for peace, and finally decided to give the proto-molecule to Fred Johnson. Now at least the Belt will have a chance to defend itself.

Miller is spinning in his Venusian grave.

Holden is shocked, but the scene cuts away before he can fully react, because now we have to watch SNAKE IN HUMAN FORM Dr. Strickland load Mei into a cryochamber, and load that cryochamber into a giant Raider of the Lost Ark-style warehouse full of children, who may or may not be teeming with proto-molecule.

Ugh. Thanks for that, show.


Random Thoughts Floating in Space

  • THE PROTO-MOLECULE MURDERED ADAM SAVAGE. Jamie is going to be pissed.
  • Or maybe it’ll just bond with him? Make a Cali-Savage? Did I just think of the greatest spin-off ever? Cause I think I did.
  • I enjoyed all the subtle emotion going on between Cotyar and Avasarala. The two have so much history, and I appreciated that the show allows them to layer anger and resentment into the fact that they genuinely enjoy each others’ humor, and then to puncture all of that with the fact that Cotyar in fact doesn’t owe Avasarala a thing. He’s doing this for his own reasons, and she doesn’t get to manipulate them.
  • I love that Avasarala tries to manipulate them anyway.
  • Can Bobbie give us a reenactment of Die Hard every week, please?
  • What are they doing to Mei? Is it what I think it is?
  • …actually, don’t answer me. I don’t want to know.
  • Finally, completely serious note: my favorite thing about this show is the way is consistently rewards intelligence, particularly the intelligence of people who are often overlooked. Bobbie is the one who finds a way out of Errinwright’s trap. Meng is the one who saves Holden’ life. They’re both able to think quickly and come at problems from unexpected angles. Most importantly for Meng, he’s able to use his expertise to come up with a creative solution because Holden and Amos aren’t there to bluster at him.

Did Season Two live up to your expectations? Who’s excited for Season Three?

Leah Schnelbach will choose to believe that Adam Savage is frolicking happily on a farm in Upstate Venus. You can come talk to her on Twitter!


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