Between a tense fight with a genetically mutated hybrid alien and a standoff involving a Martian soldier switching sides, viewers may have missed the other big scene in The Expanse Season 2 finale, which aired Wednesday night. But they should take another look, because according to executive producer and writer Naren Shankar, the shocking deconstruction of a starship called Arbogast is the key scene for not only this finale, but the forthcoming third season of The Expanse, too.
Spoilers for Season 2 of The Expanse ahead.
The destruction of the ship was the pivotal moment that stuck out to Shankar when he was reading Caliban’s War, the second novel in the Expanse series. In the book, this scene doesn’t take place in real time; rather, it is through the surveillance footage gathered by foul-mouthed UN undersecretary Chrisjen Avasarala. In the TV version, this event has not only been dramatized for the finale, but it is built into a slow-burn storyline that began with the sixth episode this season.
The characters of Col. Janus and Dr. Iturbi are on a fact finding mission throughout the second half of the season to figure out what has happened to the crashed moon of Eros, after it was possessed by the alien protomolecule and crashed itself onto the planet Venus. This story is mostly in the background of the second season, but it is a huge, game-changing moment in the final episode.
“We don’t even say it in the show, but the book readers will understand it, that all of the pieces of the protomolecule are talking to one another,” Shankar explains. “When the hybrid is destroyed, that triggers a little bit of the events that happen on Venus, which is already percolating. And that’s what pulled the Arbogast apart. And that’s also tied into Fred Johnson getting the sample of the protomolecule.”
The hybrid creature Shankar mentions is an evolution of the “zombies” from the Expanse novels. “We don’t call them [zombies],” Shankar says, “we call it the hybrid.” As an antagonist, the hybrid is the physical representation of the protomolecule being fused with human bodies: alien biotech being retrofitted to make super soldiers by dumb humans. But because this alien biotech is coming to life on Venus, the protomolecule clearly has plans beyond just blue-eyed monsters who can breathe in outer space.
At the end of the book version of Caliban’s War, the alien structures on Venus transform into something called “the Ring,” which moves out to the edge of the solar system and becomes a gateway to other star systems. Because The Expanse has been limited to only our solar system thus far, the concept of travel to other star systems would be a big game-changer for the TV series. So, now that the protomolecule is dismantling starships by magic, will we see the Ring Gate and interstellar travel in season 3?
“I don’t think that’s a gigantic spoiler,” Shankar says, “But, let’s just say this for now: We’ll get a really good idea of what the protomolecule is really trying to do in Season 3. At the very beginning of the season, we talked about this actual last sequence, where all of these events were happening simultaneously. What we were trying to do was, over the course of the season, plot together these intertwining threads of what the protomolecule was doing. That was what the Arbogast story was for.”
Shankar also reveals that the final shot of the episode, in which we learn that Prax’s missing daughter, Mei, is still alive but in some kind of sleep pod, was added at the last minute. “That was a really late addition to the script, and the network essentially prompted that,” he says. “They wanted to get some sense of what had happened to her. So, what we ended up doing is kinda like what we ended up doing in Season 1. The attentive viewer will even tie it back to the very beginning of the season. It’s ending the season, but having this scene keys up for what’s happening next.”
The Expanse Season 2 is streaming on SyFy. It has been renewed for a third season and is scheduled to air sometime in 2018.