Season 3 / Ep 6, Immolation / SyFy
The Protomolecule was about to hit the exhaust fan when we last left our friends and most hated enemies on The Expanse in episode 5, Triple Point. Most everyone is on/near Io now: The Roci crew, Bobbi and Avasarala, the Martian fleet, the Earther fleet, Mao the Indecisive, and Strickland the Mad Scientist. There are some endangered children, Cotyar the Spy, and one confused hybrid. One would think that Io is the most populated spot in the outer planets. The SecGen, Rev. Anna, and That Motherfucker Errinwright are still at UNN headquarters on Earth watching everything unfold from an uncomfortably powerless distance away. They stay powerless for the whole episode as control has shifted completely from Errinwright to Avasarala in this episode. How long will it stay that way? Let’s start with them.
Earth, UNN Security Room
This scene really serves two purposes: 1) to catch you up on the status in case you were still getting yourself together during the minute and a half episode review, and 2) to show you exactly how far out of touch the SecGen and Errinwright are from what’s going on out in space. It continues to be shown that while Earthers can kick off hella shit from the Inner Planets, once that shit makes it to the Outer Planets all bets are off. You know that saying about how no plan survives contact with the enemy? It is doubly so when that contact happens millions of miles away across a communication lag of 39+ minutes.
As SecGen realizes that everything has gone pear-shaped, he himself crumbles, like he does pretty much always. My lord, who elected this guy? (don’t answer that, we know exactly what future MAGA hat wearing concerned citizens elected him).
Away Team Holden can only watch helplessly as the hybrid pods shoot out of Io, sent by Admiral Ngyuen. He orders Alex on the Roci to get to shooting, Tex (I do hope in the book, someone says that to Alex at least once). He does an a’ight job of it, but there are lots of pods and only so many bullets. Up in space, the Martians are shooting some down too, but the pods are covered in stealth tech. They’re on the way to Mars and there’s no way to track them as they fly.
Inside the station, Mao and Team Evil Science debate giving up to who *they think* are Martian Marines. Strickland argues against surrender and convinces Mao they should all run for the shuttle and use the remaining children as human shields to get them off Io. Because his streak of classiness knows absolutely no limits. Mao goes for it because he, like the SecGen, will simply agree with whatever the last person said. Strickland releases the hybrid formerly known as Katoa into the halls of the station, to buy himself time.
Away Team Holden takes the elevator down…hold it, who gets in an elevator in an enemy station? Why can’t Team Evil Science just shut off the elevator and leave them stranded? I’m no Marine, and certainly not a Martian one, but I sure as hell wouldn’t get into an elevator in hostile territory that is still controlled by Bast knows who up to Bast knows what. Sometimes, take the stairs.
The Agatha King
Cotyar wakes up in zero-G, listening as the crew of the Agatha King is slaughtering each other. One of the protomolecule pods hit the ship. Once in contact with the human body, the protomolecule takes over and causes the infected to attack. Cotyar, the most unlucky guy in a solar system full of unlucky people, has to talk down a sailor who’s just become infected. It isn’t pretty, but it is sincere the way Cotyar and the sailor realize the pointlessness of the war.
It is truly creepy the way they filmed the sequence of Cotyar walking alone through the ship. Everyone is wearing magboots, but they’re dead, so they’re floating. They look like kelp, their roots stuck to the sea floor but flowing with the current at the top. I’m sure it would be lovely, if it wasn’t haunting.
The Away Team is following the heat signatures now. Bobbie spots something…The Hybrid! She decides to lead it away from the team as they continue further into the station to find the kids. She continues to earn the respect of everyone she comes into contact with. Bobbie Fucking Draper. In the sequence that follows, she displays stamina, athleticism, strategic thinking, and deadly shooting accuracy. It is almost enough to make me switch to #TeamMCRN, except Bobbie left them in the red dust, so I’m #TeamDraper all the way.
Rev Anna has finished praying and goes to confront the SecGen. He has the unmitigated *nerve* to suggest that she apologize to him, which would be enough to make me end that spineless bureaucrat where he sits. But that’s why Rev Anna is a better person than me. She reminds him of his original sin — when he sent the protestors onto a military base, knowing they would be fired upon and killed. Those protestors became martyrs, galvanizing his following and propelling him to the seat he now occupies. He traded their lives for power, and both Anna and the SecGen knew it. That’s the shame that Rev Anna has been carrying. Now it is time, Rev Anna says, for him to get clean and do the right thing.
She shows him the footage of That Motherfucker admitting to all his crimes. What’s he gonna do now?
The SecGen sends for Errinwright and accuses him (I’m shocked, honestly, I thought the SecGen would be too chickenshit for that). Errinwright admits to it (I’m less shocked, there’s a point where the truth is the only option). Now what’s *amazing* is what Errinwright says next, when he snaps and goes full bore truthiness on the SecGen. Errinwright turns to Rev Anna (and I’m paraphrasing here):
“Was he always like this? Spineless? He doesn’t care about treason. He’s just parroting you because you’re the one who talked to him last. If he’d just talked to a janitor he’d be passionately exclaiming about a fucking mop.”
Rev Anna can’t even deny it. She does, however, believe that the SecGen has actually changed for the better. That’s her job. She’s supposed to be eternally optimistic about the possibilities of salvation. She’s wrong tho. Oh so wrong. All the SecGen does is throw over Errinwright as the scapegoat for an unpopular war, he has no intentions of actually don’t what’s right by any of the parties involved. Just going to prove that the only thing more dangerous than a principled person, is an unprincipled one.
The Away Team finds the lab, empty, and confirms that yes, Mai was here. Now where have they gone? Team Bobbie, she don’t need no one else on her side, drops several clips from her arm cannon direct into the Hybrid and keeps it moving, up, out, away from the kids. Team Evil Science splits up, with Mao going to pick up the data cores while Strickland leads the kids to the shuttles. Alex and Naomi decide to go up to the Agatha King and try to figure out the whole pod situation themselves.
Strickland, Prax, and Amos come face to face. Prax is tearfully reunited with his baby girl. It is the third most touching moment in the episode. Strickland tries to convince Prax that is all good, that Mao was the mastermind, that Strickland always had Mai’s best interests at heart.
Elsewhere, Holden catches up with Mao, the bonus prize of the whole operation. Remember, they didn’t know Mao was there at all. Mao tries to convince Holden that this was all in the name of discovering how to protect themselves from the protomolecule. But…they didn’t actually figure that out. So…STFU and get to steppin. Holden is going to take you to the new center of power in this system.
Prax ain’t falling for none of that. He introduces Mai to Amos, saying: “Mai, this is Amos, my best friend in the whole world. He’ll look after you.” This is the 2nd most touching moment in the episode. With Amos watching the children (a strangely comforting situation), Prax faces down Strickland while Strickland hits his knees and just.keeps.lying. Why can’t he take it like Errinwright took it? To the chest and without regrets? Damn Evil Scientists.
What Prax is about to do is put a bullet in Strickland’s chest. Or at least he’s gonna try. He lines up, puts his finger on the trigger. In comes a hand…Amos. He steps real close to his new best friend and says: “Prax, you ain’t that guy.” This is the single most touching moment in an episode filled with moments designed to make you feel all the feels. They know each other, they trust each other, they save each other. Amos lets Prax leave with Mai. Strickland thinks he’s made it out, that Amos has saved his life. He gets up, smiling. Amos turns to Strickland, raises his gun and says: I am that guy.
Damn I love this show.
The Agatha King
Well, ain’t this shit show we got here. Alex and Naomi land on the CiC and it is full of dead floaty rooted bodies oh, and Admiral Ngyuen, the unkillable. Now that Strickland is dead, someone has to take over the ranty manic person job, which Ngyuen does admirably. It is bigoted nonsense.
While Naomi is trying to reprogram the pods, they get a call on the radio from Cotyar, the almost unkillable. He’s crawling around in the ship’s core, about to overload the reactor. He’s warning all the nearby ships so they can get away. He’s clearly been infected by the protomolecule. Cotyar goes out like a boss. Even Avasarala almost cries.
In what is becoming a familiar ending to these episodes, Naomi feeds Fred Johnson the location codes for all of the pods. The Belters step in and shoot down the hybrid pods, strengthening their position in the system and saving Mars. At least this time, she got permission first.
The rest of the episode wraps up almost wordlessly. Bobbie bruised and victorious. Mao on his knees between Holden and Avasarala. Prax and Mai at bedtime. Holden and Naomi reunited. For a time. Amos surrounded by those he can protect. The protomolecule completing The Work and floating up out of Venus’ atmosphere in a ship of its own making. It is beautiful, haunting, suspenseful.
The ending of the episode says a lot about the show in general:iIt is full of touching moments, unifying moments, ones that reflect our present, as all Sci-Fi should. I’m sure you know by now that The Expanse has not been picked up for a new season by SyFy. It is being shopped around to other places, NetFlix, Amazon, etc. to find a future. With an ending like this, with so much great storytelling already in the bag and so much potential in front of it, I’m sure it’ll be picked up soon.
*Cover Image credits: THE EXPANSE — “Immolation” Episode 306 — Pictured: Terry Chen as Prax — (Photo by: Rafy/Syfy)
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