The greatest narrative challenge of The Expanse is tethering humanity-altering, solar system-wide events specifically to the actions of a few characters. In the first season, big shit went down in the asteroid belt, and this season saw that action expand to Earth, Mars, Ganymede, and the entire Outer Planets Alliance. Every time planetary politics has changed, it’s always been just a handful of people who sent the space-dominos tumbling. But, in the Season 2 finale, the future of humanity might be taken out of the hands of humans, permanently.
Spoilers ahead for The Expanse Season 2, Episode 13, “Caliban’s War.”
One of the slow-burn plots of the entire season (and arguably, not most exciting stuff) has been Col. Janus and Dr. Iturbi talking shit to each other on the UN ship the Arbogast. Ostensibly, these guys have been studying Venus, trying to figure out what is going on with the crashed remnants of Eros. To be clear: This plotline was very much in the background all season. Even at this point in the second book, Caliban’s War, the stuff with the Arbogast doesn’t really happen to characters that feature prominently. But, in this episode, when the mysterious alien tech of the protomolecule finally activates its abilities, the plight of the Arbogast finally becomes central.
Basically, the entire ship gets taken apart piece-by-piece, seemingly by magic. What this means is that regular physics are now officially off the table in The Expanse. This show began as very hard science fiction, tackling the hows and the whys of people surviving in the astroid belt and beyond.
But now, the alien zombies have glowing blue eyes and the magic of the protomolecule can take apart entire starships like they are tinker toys. Make no mistake, this one scene is a big game changer, and it eventually will lead The Expanse to (probably) traveling beyond just our own solar system.
In terms of character action, this episode delivered, too. Avasarala lived to fight (and snark) another day thanks to Bobbie Draper kicking some serious ass in her Martian super-spacesuit. Meanwhile, Holden and the gang got back together only to find out that Naomi betrayed everyone by giving a sample of the protomolecule to Fred Johnson.
All of these characters are poised to continue exerting their considerable influence over events in the solar system. But now that the protomolecule can dismantle entire starships, the machinations of these characters is poised to get a lot more quixotic. It’s only fitting, of course. Holden’s ship Rocinante was named after Don Quixote’s horse, meaning these humans are fairly used to titling at the windmills of the cosmos.
The Expanse has been renewed for a third season, slated to air on Syfy sometime in 2018.